I watched Everything is Copy, the documentary about Nora Ephron’s life and I can spend days quoting her charm and wit, but a line in the movie has stuck with me: “Eat your last meal when you’re alive.” She means it’s rare to know you’re eating your last meal. In jail, being executed is one of the few ways you can know it’s your last meal. Otherwise, if you’re old or sick, at the end you’re not eating at all and you could have had your last meal months ago without knowing it was your last.
Do I eat my last meal every day just in case? How do you find a happy medium where you can feel like you’ve sucked the living quota out of life while not taking to the reckless extreme? If my last meal is a triple steak, butter, bacon, and cheese sandwich with eight scoops of ice cream; I couldn’t possibly eat that every night and maintain a healthy diet.
The quote resonated with me because I thought back to when I was younger, I always instructed my younger sister to eat her dessert first in case she choked in the middle of her meal and couldn’t get to the best part. [My morbid thoughts started firmly in fourth grade; is that normal?]
There is a fine line between being able to absorb as much joy out of every day and living each day as if it’s your last. It’s fun to imagine engaging in reckless behavior while balancing logic with the hope that you’ll make it another day. For me living life without thinking about consequences is an impossibility. Mortality eliminates repercussion and leaves a blinking NOW in its place. Society’s rhetoric reminds us to “live in the now” and “be here now” and tattoo a “NOW” on our wrist because we have become too anxious focusing on the future.
I was raised to believe too much of anything is no good. Overdosing on pleasure never leads to a happy ending (think heroin, steak, booze, fucking without a condom), the “live-fast, die young biographies” warn. The trick is to fill the days with enough happiness, leaving no room for regret. Until they develop a magic formula that can create the perfect balance I will have to savor the minutes and spare the butter.