I finished a book this week entitled Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal. It was a quirky memoir by the author who recently wrote an essay for the New York Times which went viral. In this essay, she discusses her imminent death and her quest to find a new wife for her soon-to-be-widowed husband. It was a gut-punch of piece, enough so that I sought out some of her other writings.
In Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal, she included a poem by Kenneth Koch:
You Want a Social Life with Friends
You want a social life, with friends,
A passionate love life as well
To work hard every day. What’s true
Is of these three you may have two
And two can pay you dividends
But never may have three
There isn’t time enough, my friends—
Though dawn begins, yet midnight ends—
To find the time to have love, work, and friends
Michelangelo had feeling
For Vittoria and Ceiling
But did he go to parties at day’s end?
Homer nightly went to banquets
Wrote all day but had no lockets
Bright with pictures of his Girl.
I know one who loves and parties
And has done so since his thirties
But writes hardly anything at all.
It’s cute. And provocative. For those of us who work with project managers, the pick two concept is not new. You want a new product? Fast, good, or cheap. Pick two.
Pick two options also lurk in everyday life, even when the trade-offs are made with no apparent thought. I think back to my days with young kids, rushing through Taco Bell on the way home from work. When life became insane, we decided that Pat would stay home. It was the pick two that ended a string of pick twos.
Some of life’s tradeoffs are much more subliminal, and impactful. Yet we plod forward in a fog of indecisive decisiveness (hang on, if that phrase doesn’t make sense, I think it will).
Six years ago, I decided I could pick two: retire early, travel a lot, keep my home. Three was not an option. What had masqueraded for years as indecision had been my decision. In the absense of picking two, I did not retire. I travelled and kept the house. In the absence of picking two, I had in fact, picked two.
Then one day, I came to grips with what I really wanted, which was to retire. And travel–a lot. The home had to go. The subsequent plan took years to execute, but at least I had a roadmap. And forward movement towards a goal.
I thought about all of this today, as I contemplated Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who passed away on Monday at the age of 51. This quirky poem. My own pick two. When I finally confronted my decision and realized the home had to go, I unleashed a chain events which brought me here, to this moment–in a coffee shop, writing, in Paris.
The longest life is still too short.