Six Months to Live

DecemberApologies if the title’s a little dramatic– I’m just like that sometimes.

I’ll begin by reassuring you that I have absolutely no intention of dying in the next few months. To steal and re-contextualize a line from Elizabeth Bennett when she finally succumbs to Mr. Darcy’s non-charms in Pride and Prejudice, “My feelings are so different– in fact, they are quite the opposite.”

The headline, if a tad misleading, is accurate. Over the past several months, I’ve been listless, depressed, disinterested in the things that used to give me joy, and totally burned out. My sense of creativity withered and nearly died like the neglected and unclassified houseplant I placed high on a bathroom shelf, hoping it would find nourishment solely from the steam of my daily showers.

Blog? Who gives a Flying Wallenda about my blog? Well, I do, actually. But the only idea I’d had for months turned out to be unusable.

I’d been at a loss for quite some time as to how I might shake things up, life-wise. Diet? Exercise? Actually having sex with another person once in a while? Those are fine for people who give a damn. The post-surgery/post-Holiday/Post™ Sugar Crisp blues were and are rather difficult to ditch.

When my friend and co-worker George died a few months ago, however, things began to change, though not immediately. He suffered a stroke last September and died of a heart attack in February. People often eulogize their departed loved ones as being “full of life”, but I don’t think I’ve met many as full of the thing as he was. He was very loud, very affectionate. He seemed to get excited about everything, which I envied a bit. He spoke with great passion about the evening’s specials, even though he usually got most of the pertinent details incredibly wrong. “Tonight we have the most AMAZING dish cooked in a wooden oven and made with a goat stew stock! Oh my GOD.” I could never be entirely certain he wasn’t climaxing in front of his guests. If a minor television network had commissioned one of its new-hires who had once briefly visited Paros while on a cruise with his parents as a child to write a stereotypical comedy Greek waiter to inject life into one of its flagging sitcoms, he might have come up with a less colorful version of Georgie.

He was hyper, he was full of joy, he was sometimes very annoying, and I loved that man to death.

And now he is dead. It took me a while to realize that, if a doctor hadn’t accidentally found that blood clot in my heart last year, I might have beaten him to the grave. That moment of realization was when it truly hit me that I’ve still been just bracing myself for the next terrible thing to happen after telling myself not to. And writing about it previously, for heaven’s sake. Sometimes, it takes an annoyingly long time (and an awful life event) for things to sink in.

So I said to myself, “Fuck it. What in Fuck’s name am I waiting for now?” I have a filthy inner voice. With an alarmingly limited arsenal of swear words.

And, with that, I decided to take exactly six months off from work and do all the things I’ve been wanting to. I’m already a week or so into it. I been taking long walks in the morning. My apartment is shaping up nicely, thank you. I’m not hiding from friends as much. I’ve actually gone to the gym and plan on doing it again. I’m spending three weeks roaming around France this summer. I’m sleeping a lot. I’m thinking a lot about a week in Ireland. And I have two major-but-realistically-acheiveable goals to accomplish before December: lose 22 pounds and finish the book proposal (and start writing said book in earnest) by the time I return to work for the Holidays.

Oh, and I’ll be keeping up with this blog. I’ve promised myself to put my butt in my writing chair for 3 hours a day, Monday through Friday. Most of that will be devoted to the book project (you’ll be seeing work from me soon, dear agent), but I’ve got a couple of things up my sleeve for this website, too.

I’m hoping a summer spent leaving my apartment (and country) frequently will serve to get my creative juices going again. But I realize that takes actual slogging and effort as well as the occasional tap from the Inspiration Fairy. Last week, I cut back the dead leaves from my neglected bathroom plant and gave it a bit of food and water. I even sing to it in the shower, though I’m uncertain if Johnny Cash songs are conducive to healthy leaf development. I’ll let you know how things go.

I won’t, however tell you if I somehow wind up getting laid over the next few months. I’ll have to save that tragedy for my memoirs.


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About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
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58 Responses to Six Months to Live

  1. Diane Leach says:

    I wondered where you were this very day. But we really don’t know each other so that’s weid, right? Please write your book proposal so I have an intelligent, non-pc book to look forward to. Please.

  2. Mrs. McSorley says:

    Dear Michael,
    I’m very happy to hear your voice. Bravo for taking care of yourself and thanks for keeping in touch. You mean a great deal to a wide, odd swath of strangers.
    Mrs. McSorley

  3. Lana Watkins says:

    Epiphany or not, I am glad you took the plunge! We owe it to ourselves to explore our dreams and use our gifts. Looking forward to reading your musings, as usual!

  4. Matt Knittle says:

    I blame me for the limited vocabulary of your filthy inner voice. But, I’m happy to hear it’ll be around longer than 6 months.

  5. Sharon H Miro says:

    I can tell you from first-hand experience that not working is the best ever thing…takes a bit of getting used to but when you do, yowsa! I cannot wait for that book that I know is hiding within you—it is sure to open the door to many.

    • It’s pretty damned great so far!

      • Sharon H Miro says:

        Travelling is the best thing…you can be yourself, or create the character you want to be that day. I officially retired in 2010, ( although I just really stopped working even part time) and took a long trip I called the Saving Myself tour…it worked wonders… ALWAYS bring one cashmere sweater no matter what time of year…France will be lovely–which part are you going to?

  6. j says:

    So glad to hear from you. Sending you the best with everything.

  7. Tina Docharty says:

    Sounds like a fabulous plan Michael, looking forward to hearing your adventures, may the next six months be full of wonder and joy and more taps from the Inspiration Fairy, Cheers Tina

  8. Jackie Joniec says:

    So happy to see you back in the saddle. I am remiss in that I always MEAN to leave notes about how your blog brightens my otherwise mundane, ordinary and challenging days. My favorite things to read are usually short, funny and leave me wanting for more…..much like my dates from long, long ago. I often ask our mutual friend, Jay, about how you are doing. He told me that you were taking some time off. Glad that you are back and on the road back!

  9. kelly says:

    Always a fan. Glad to hear you are feeding your. Relative spirit. I’ll look forward to whatever comes, limited foul vocabulary and all.

  10. MaggieToo says:

    Hurrah for you!

    It’s so peculiar that just today I realized I hadn’t seen an email notice from you in ages, so I *manually* (O, the pain of it) found my way to your webiste to re-register in case I’d fallen off your subscription list.

    And then — this. I’m thrilled for you, and eagerly await any digital postcards you care to send from the Lands of Inspiration where you wind up wandering. Bon voyage!

  11. Mary says:

    Helloooo Michael,
    I’ve been waiting for you to post something! I’m so sorry that things are a bit fucked for you right now. ( I’ve got a filthy inner voice too, but secretly don’t we all. Mine unfortunately is not so secret!) Please travel, go places you love and places you’ve never been. Eat foods you’ve never tried before and then come back and tell us all about your great adventures and misadventures. I am not able to do any traveling right now due to lack of funds and unfortunately there are no free flights, so I will travel in my mind. Btw, Johnny Cash is good for a whole lot of things, so you keep singing! Looking forward to your next post, book, etc! Good luck and happy trails!

  12. Becky Miller says:

    What a fantastic plan, and I’m so glad you are doing this for yourself. Have fun in France this summer…we went last summer and didn’t pack warm clothes because it was summer vacation and then it rained all week and was chilly and I had to hunt around a French version of Wal-Mart for three hours trying to find leftover winter sale clothing in vaguely my children’s sizes. Pack a sweater.

    • I have a deep, abiding love for sweaters and, from what I understand, they don’t exist in France. I very much appreciate the warning.

      Last time I was in France, it rained almost all the time and I loved every second of it.

  13. Christine says:

    Welcome back! Missed you.

  14. Christian Adams says:

    Sobering yet hopeful read, Michael. You touched on several things I shouldn’t have needed but nevertheless needed to be reminded of, not the least of which is my own mortality and penchant for procrastination. Sort of a kick in the ass. Much appreciated. Rock on.

    • Hello, Mr. B. Sunshine!

      You know, I’ve never thought of anything I’ve produced as “sobering”. Funny how, when death stares one in the face, the kick comes from behind.

      You rock on yourself, buster.

  15. Gladys says:

    Such a nice read. Welcome back 🙂

  16. about ten years ago I took six months off, after a decade of full time working with three chronic health conditions (one being partial deafness, which is a bit of a cheat, but still annoying). Turned out I really really liked to paint – and now I work part time, paint three days a week and have been shown in the NPG, amongst other achievements, and the chronic conditions have settled to the point of being almost undetectable. Just saying . . . . . (also, I’m going to Dublin and Cork next week, so will be very interested to read what you write about your probable trip)

    • Jane,

      First off, I take pride in the fact that I, a silly American, actually knew what you meant by the NPG without resorting to Google.

      Second off, what I did Google was “Jane Gardiner painter” and am SO freaking glad I did because I think I am in love with your work. To Sense What Is Coming speaks to me on a very deep level. I look forward to a more thorough examination of your page.

      In all seriousness,


  17. MaggieToo says:

    Please acquire a mariniere (Breton sailor) shirt and photograph yourself in it, and share the photos with us:

  18. Alles says:

    So glad you’re taking the leap; show the rest of us how it’s done! Just don’t get married in a fever.
    All the best, always,

  19. Carrie says:

    i’m so happy to hear you’ve committed to writing! and i’m happy that you’re taking care of yourself. i recently lost a dear acquaintance to a “senseless act of violence”. i can’t say “friend” because he made only a very brief appearance in my life, but it was profound. now he’s gone. yeah, what’s up with that? well, you’ve answered that for me…

    • I’m sorry to read of your acquaintance. I had someone very much like that– someone I only spent very little time with but who, through a deep conversation in one of the most dramatic settings possible, helped to change my life. And he’s gone, too. Far, far too young.

  20. Naomi D. says:

    I’m a lurker – I’ve yet to come up with something for “About You” – but I’ve been concerned. So, congratulations! This is such a great plan, you smart man. I’m looking forward to your words of wit and depth about your adventures. Here are some words to carry (along with that f one you used above which I also use too much, in too many inappropriate groups, for too many years) gifted to me by a friend at my studio months back: The mind cannot create and critique at the same time. You really don’t need that criticism, your writing is wonderfully enjoyable. Have a great time!

    • Thank you for stepping out of the shadows, Naomi. Unfortunately, I *am* my own worst critic, which has gotten in the way lately. But it won’t stop me from writing. Promise. And thanks for the kind words.

  21. You may want to check out The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. All you need is the workbook which is the perfect 12-week program to jumpstart your creativity. I know quite a few people who say it changed their lives. I’ve just started it and loving it already. And in case you are wondering….I have no connection to the author. She wrote it 25 years ago.

  22. Lynn says:

    Welcome back and go for it!

  23. Marie B. says:

    I could hear your heavy heart in your blog, and even though I don’t know you, I was concerned. I recognize that voice well. It’s so hard to slog through depression and anguish, and poor health to boot is the icing on an unwelcome goddamn cupcake.

    This sounds like a wonderful shakeup, and I’m very happy for you! Your words are treasured by many–looking forward to hearing and reading many more. Wishing you every happiness and success in your sabbatical! Sending a big hug from a relative stranger. 🙂

    • You are very, very kind, Marie. Thank you. Working through it is exhausting, but very much worth it. And I am REALLY looking forward to my three weeks in France starting Tuesday. I’m hoping that energizes me. And my writing, which will continue…

  24. You don’t know me, I don’t know you (but I read you) so don’t feel the need to respond. Just go and continue your “months off” hiatus. I write this just because I have been feeling EXACTLY the same way. Listless, bored, fat, unremarkable, unproductive, unresponsive and uncaring. I don’t like this, but it’s the truth. I have not much money but I am thinking I would rather spend the little I have and be happy for six months instead of continuing with a job I hate forever until I die. And therefore, thank you for telling us you are doing just that. Not dying, of course, but taking some months and doing what the fuck will make you happy. Thank you…. over and over for the inspiration.

    • Dear Julie,

      The way you’ve been feeling is precisely how I’ve been feeling. And I thank you deeply for the comment– I sometimes find it incredible that I could ever be the source of anyone’s inspiration.

  25. MaggieToo says:

    I can NOT believe I’m the first person commenting after this essay came in as second runner-up in Saveur’s blog awards, in the “Best Single Essay” category.

    Much-deserved recognition, Michael! It was a marvelous piece of work.

    (I started to make a snarky comment in the “bridesmaid again” vein, but I figure you have enough ugly tulle dresses in your closet that you really don’t need another reminder.)

    • Second comment, actually (I had a lovely one waiting for me unapproved). So it looks like you’ve fallen into the runner-up category as well. I don’t mind the “bridesmaid again” ribbing in the least. But, as you know, weddings can be hideously expensive and I had to opt out of attending this last one. I honestly don’t give a tinker’s dam about winning (although it is a nice feeling. It’s always the nominations that cause the most delight.

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