To Live Like You Were Dying

Tim McGraw has a song about what you would do if you knew you were dying. Bucket lists and what not. It’s a nice song. After my near miss over the weekend it made me think of that song and ask the question: what would I do if I knew I had just this one day to live?

In McGraw’s version he went on adventures, took time to do “unimportant” things like fishing, and became a better person. How do you become a better person? Forgive people, love people and read the good book. 

Those are all wonderful and marvelous things and work well if you have a couple months. If you have just this one day then you are more limited. What is important to me? Well number one is my children. If the only thing I was able to do was to spend the entire day with them and for them then that would be enough. They are only awake for half the day or so which leaves a lot of time for other things. 

Beyond my children I would want to look at my other relationships, and make sure loose ends were tied up. I would take time to make sure my mother and sister both know how much I care for them and how proud I am of them. With my father I would like to spend a couple hours in the shop building something – probably for my kids – and talking about life. A nice way to say goodbye. 

Also, thinking about the children, I would take some time to make sure things were set financially for them. Accounts were known and everything all set with insurance. While they were asleep I would want to write them a letter for when they are older. So they can know their dad. Or possibly a quick video. 

Moving on, when I think about my own bucket list it is predominantly sexual in nature. I know McGraw sang about bull riding and skydiving, but those type of adventures don’t really drive me. What I would want is a couple hours with Meredith to really have some fun in ways only we can. I would want to finish my time with her relaxing and talking about big ideas. Talk about all the things that helped us connect in the first place. 

Lastly my wife. I think I would want to spend most of my time with her while with the children. Outside of time with the children we do not have a lot of things we enjoy together that I would want to do with her. We are really good working together as parents and I think that would be a wonderful way to spend time with her. There would be no intimate connection with my wife. We just do not connect that way. Not for me anyway. 

There are a myriad of other friends and relatives to consider but with such a short timeframe I don’t think there would be time. They could remember other days. 

To summarize kids kids kids and wife; talk to my mom and sister; work with dad and philosophize; have amazing sex with Meredith and philosophize; finish with the kids and call it a day. Maybe squeeze in a little more sex? 


What does that tell me about priorities? First thing I see is that nothing trumps my kids. Second thing I see is that Meredith is still really important to me. Enough that I would hope for intimate time with her and not my wife. Maybe more than one romp if possible. Third, it’s not just the sex. I really enjoy talking with her in ways I can’t with my wife and I would want to explore parts of the day and my life with her. 

This is all very complicated. Honestly, I’m not sure what it all means. But that’s ok. I don’t need answers today. I’m going to work with a therapist to figure this out. However I did enjoy this excercise and it confirmed for me that Meredith is important. Even on my last day. 


11 thoughts on “To Live Like You Were Dying

  1. My ex, father to my little girl, passed suddenly a few years after our divorce. I’ve felt that moment the song speaks of…I still don’t know how to really explain it. But it’s definitely something that changes the way you see things because tomorrow is not promised to any of us. I’d rather go down knowing I did and said the things I wanted and felt rather than get to the end and never having had those experiences. I have no room for waste anymore.

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    1. Yeah I feel like I’m at a pivot point. Wherever I go from here is final. This thought exercise was good. I really tried to envision what would make that day feel good and worthwhile to me.


  2. Your thoughts on this theme were incredibly interesting — thank you for sharing them with us. Several things that stood out:

    1. It almost seems like your wife’s “do” and your girlfriend’s “be” relationship structures (as described by a previous counselor) have switched in your last day scenario. Do you think there may be more going on there than you previously realized?

    2. Everyone’s time and experiences with you in your last day are interconnected in various ways, except for your girlfriend. Would you enjoy sharing her in solely domestic moments your family? (Even if that would remove your wife from being present in your last day, or mean that you wouldn’t have any sexual or philosophical contact with your girlfriend because you both would be with your kids?) Why or why not?

    3. Do you consider spending the last few hours of your existence in the presence of the woman you have both recently and in the near past created life with…surrounded by the new lives birthed from that joining…intimacy? Would you take away anything from that shared experience?

    4. Could someone other than your wife or your girlfriend fulfill the items on your sexual bucket list? Do you experience sexual desire and fantasies related to your preferences outside of your girlfriend?

    Interesting thoughts…


    1. 1 – oh I don’t think so at all. Yes in this scenario I am “doing” Meredith but when we are together it is a very cerebral experience. The sex is so wonderful because we are so deeply connected in our minds. Just being together. Then afterward we stay together. Enjoying each other and discussing many different things. Talking and exploring our minds. It’s quite different than with my wife. After sex she’s usually up and on her way to the next thing on the to do list. Spending time with her parenting is doing. We are joining in an activity together. We do not have to just “be” because we have something else to focus on. If the kids fell asleep my wife would move on to the next task.

      2 – perhaps someday in the future but at this point I wouldn’t do that. Not because I wouldn’t want Meredith there for the domestic moments, she’s a wonderful mother and she makes me a better father. It would probably be good for me if she were there. But it would be a new person to the kids which isn’t fair to them and I enjoy my wife in her mother role and sharing that with her. If we were divorced and both me and the kids had spent more of our time with Meredith then this might change.

      3 – not sure what you are getting at unless you are parsing words by zeroing in on the word “intimate”. If so then you are missing the context of how I was using that word. Parsing words at the expense of the larger context drives me crazy so I’ll skip this question.

      4 – Statistically speaking yes I’m sure there is someone else out there. But I’ve not run into them in a number of decades nor am I looking to find them. There are over 6 billion people on the planet. If even a tiny fraction would be interested in fulfilling those fantasies it would still be a large number. But do they have all the other qualities Meredith has that I find so perfect about her? It would be a challenge. Also, I don’t experience desires specifically about Meredith. I just have desires. It so happens that Meredith and I found that we share these desires to a large extent. Things I’ve always wanted – so does she.


      1. Thanks for responding. It’s always so interesting to see how thought experiments like this reveal how we order information and perceive the world. They can really teach us a lot about our needs, presumptions, prejudices, priorities, fears, and wants if we really examine them, so I think it is very brave of you to open this part of your worldview to us.

        Continuing thoughts…

        1. Do you not consider thinking/discussing/having sex/philosophizing to be active “do” activities instead of passive “be” experiences? What’s the difference in your perception? Is it that the activities you consider “be” are insular and couple-centric versus the “do” of individual or larger group-focused activities, or is it something else? Is it the amount of energy expended or gained in the activity? What’s going on there?

        2. This answer really puts the inherent impossibility and difficulty of your situation into stark perspective, doesn’t it? As a good mother herself, your girlfriend must surely struggle with having become emotionally and sexually involved with a soon-to-be (or very recently…your timeline is a bit murky there…) father of a newborn, who was already the father of a young child at the time. She may even feel severe guilt for taking time and attention from your pregnant/postpartum wife and new baby, having experienced pregnancy/labor/delivery/birth herself before and therefore being familiar with that state of motherhood/infancy. Since your wife is also a good mother and you would keep her in that role…not that you could ever revoke that from her, nor would you choose to…your girlfriend’s actions have unintentionally but unavoidably transgressed against your family and your children. And presumably the same in reverse, as you seem to be a good father yourself and your girlfriend is also a mother. All this being complicated, of course, by the fact that your girlfriend’s husband already knows about your affair and possibly has retained proof, which makes your liaisons unlikely to remain a secret if the status quo is disrupted…which means your children and hers will eventually know, or you will both be at great pains keeping your families separate to protect your children from your secret…which unfortunately further transgresses against both sets of children. (Not even touching on the potential negative impacts of this knowledge on your children, which will rely on your betrayed spouses to help mitigate in ways they possibly cannot.) Unfortunately, when families are involved your children pay for your pleasure. Some parents don’t really consider the ripple effect of infidelity on the offspring of their unions, but I suspect you both really do because of how you priotitized your children in your last day scenario. It’s certainly a very complex, difficult, impossible situation, isn’t it? No winners. I know that must really weigh heavily with you both, and must be a very heavy burden.

        3. I also dislike parsing words down to nearsightedness, but not as much as I dislike discounting the greater context by choosing to avoid examining how much what we name and label things reveals of our minds. 😉 So perhaps rephrasing and restructuring will lend clarification. How do you define intimacy? What actions/emotions/experiences comprise it? What is necessary for you to feel satisfied in intimacy? Is there a difference for you between philosophizing with your girlfriend and spending family time with your children and your wife? Is one activity experienced as intimate and the other not? Does the term intimacy necessarily have a physical/sexual connotation for you, or can it be solely emotional/spiritual? Do you get the same kind of intimate charge out of sharing life as you do sharing thoughts? Why or why not?

        4. Do you think this might be part of the strength of your connection to your girlfriend — that she’s kind of your “first love” in this regard? If you met someone else who could meet your needs in a similar fashion…and with whom you could form a similarly intense connection…but without the complications/impossibilities/baggage of your girlfriend…would you divorce your wife to pursue it? If not, would you consider another affair?


      2. Understandable. There’s a lot to unpack there, plus maybe a few hard truths to uncover whenever you’re ready. That doesn’t need to be today.

        Yes and yes to your questions, although thinking about infidelity as a duality…unfaithful versus faithful, honest versus deceitful, adulterous partner versus betrayed partner…is a kind of oversimplification. There are sadly many individuals involved when a relationship implodes…from in-laws to children to close friends to employees…the ripples hit everything. When we look at it like that, who hasn’t been on one side or the other of this?


  3. Second marriages can last. Sometimes first marriages are for the wrong reasons. Too much pressure from the sweetheart, long time relationship, it is what is expected etc. are just a few of the reasons some of my friends say they left their husbands. In one case there were no children, in the rest there were and they were heartbroken. There are not going to be any winners here. You and Meredith might find a wonderful life together but please remember that these over the top “in love” feelings subside. Your romantic times will be a little less so because neither of you is perfect. I just hope you honor your wife as the person who loves you and will blindsided. It takes years to get over being told you are not wanted. Don’t be surprised at the intense hatred she feels. There is no way she and the husband will ever get past the double betrayal so be prepared.

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