Pay Now, Bye Later

Pay Now, Bye Later

Contrary to last week’s column, if I do pay for it now (things I can’t afford), then I’ll be so in debt later that I may end up saying “bye” anyway--from the stress of it. And if that were to happen; dying with a smile on my face, so to speak, would I be truly better off now anticipating that later was not going to be my problem? Do I want to be a modern day version of George Raft, the American actor from the 1930s and 40s best known for his portrayals of mobsters, who said about his Hollywood money: “I must have gone through $10 million during my career. Part of the loot went for gambling, part for horses and part for women. The rest I spent foolishly.”

My problem is that I don’t want to spend my money foolishly, just in case I continue to outlive my original prognosis. There’s plenty of things I can afford to do without, but money unfortunately is not one of them. The real question, to me, is: do I want to take responsibility for my own actions (lifestyle choices, purchases, miscellaneous financial commitments) and live within my means, or do I want to spend selfishly, live my life and let the chips--or rather bills, fall where they may? After all, eventually (if you know what I mean?), payment may be difficult to collect. And given the fact that as a stage IV lung cancer patient, I am considered “terminal,” which means my best years may be behind me, don’t I have enough problems at present whereby I shouldn’t worry too much about what happens later (somebody else’s problem by then)? Then again, if I do pay now, surely there would be a sense of satisfaction/sense of accomplishment, but would paying for any of it (or all of it) now compromise my future? Need I be overly concerned about later when the ship I’m presently steering is listing and taking on water?

Stress hardly provides aid and comfort when imposed on a cancer patient and more so than on an able-bodied, non-terminal man or woman. Finding that balance between what I need today to get me to tomorrow, versus what I need tomorrow to get me through today, is the axis on which that bane of my existence turns. Do I indulge myself? Do I deprive myself? Do I live like there are plenty of tomorrows? Or do I live like tomorrows are in short supply? Do I reach for the brass ring (on the merry-go-round of life, metaphorically speaking) or do I saddle a real horse and ride off into the sunset? Is time on my side or is it running down my leg?

Unfortunately, there’s nothing that I can do today to guarantee me a tomorrow. I have cancer. However, living recklessly, irresponsibly, selfishly may in an awkward way get me through today easier than if I towed the typical Kenny-type line (I’m funny, but I’m not fun). Nevertheless, I keep coming back to an emotional instinct I have: I don’t want to give up on myself or my future and paying now assures that I won’t. I do plenty of pretending but I’m not going to pretend that I’m the reincarnation of George Raft (besides, he was also an excellent dancer, which I’m not). He may have known what he was doing; I’m not really sure I do.