More On Rule #1: Don’t Die

At the original time of this being posted, mortality is weighing heavily on my mind. About a week ago, Lyndae, a former co-worker, and all around bad-ass woman passed away after a short bout with cancer. The bout was short because there wasn’t much of a bout. She was a free spirit and set the terms for everything she did, so she just wanted to have a little more fun before her time was official done. Her wake-of-sorts was last night, with lively music and dancing and mandatory shots of tequila. Yes, mandatory.

Today, the world woke up the news of the death of Scott Weiland, the former lead singer for Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver. He was 48, and he fell asleep on the tour bus after a gig in Bloomington, Minnesota, with his current band The Wildabouts, and didn’t wake up. That’s all we the public know.

So let’s go back about five weeks. I have been bummed about not releasing a book this year after releasing three last year. Even though most of my books (and the work I post on blogs and Medium) are basically retreated older material, I didn’t have the capacity due to life-circumstance-beyond-my-control to get any work out. And I was extremely bummed about still not having a book to showcase my ‘Rules of Life,’ which at this point is a 13-year-old project in the making.

My Rules of Life is currently a list of 12 life tips that I’ve been trying to puff up into a book-length something. The rules have changed over the years, with the main constant being the original rule, and standing Rule #1 was, “Don’t Be A ______,” with the blank being replaced by your personal expletive of choice. After a two-week health scare, I looked at my barely year-old daughter fumbling around my hospital room, and shifted “Don’t Be A ______” to a permanent Rule #2, and replaced it in the top spot with “Don’t Die.”

I wish I could say I have worked seriously at the process of not dying in the 2+ years since it became my supposed main rule of life. I would like to say it is not my fault, and ‘life’ has done a hell of a job trying to ensure my demise, but I know I can’t honestly blame my lack of focus and discipline on a bad cosmic poker hand. It’s been a rough few years, but I am still in the game, and playing the game is about playing the cards you are death to the best of your ability, not just folding while the pot is low and hoping for a hot hand to show up eventually.

Another current event that has me questioning my usefulness as I am feeling the effects of aging is the treatment of NFL quarterback Payton Manning. Manning owns many league individual records, but only one Super Bowl Championship title. His generational rival Tom Brady has won four with the New England Patriots, and his younger brother has won two with the New York Giants (both against Tom Brady’s Patriots).

What that has to do about not dying? Lyndae’s death gives a view of choosing your terms in your contract with Death, and Weiland is proof that when your time comes, Death is going to collect, Manning shows what most of us truly fear. Lyndae lived a long and adventurous life and didn’t want to soil the memories of last ditch efforts to extend life only to live a newly limited one. The story given on Weiland is that he passed away peacefully in his sleep. Manning is being publicly ridiculed as a 39-year-old man who is ‘too old’ to function at a job where he spent years setting the standard.

The sports cliché of ‘Father Time is undefeated,’ has been said about Peyton Manning a lot this season. And he is proving the cliché to be true. In the end, we all lose our mojo. We all slowdown, and we all will die of something.

There is something to be said of doing more good things and less bad things to enjoy a healthy and hopefully long life. It is foolish to think that even with all that effort, you’ve got all the time in the world. You don’t. No one does.

I just turned 41. I’ve been dealing with not dealing with serious medical issues for years. I’ve got a 20-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter that would like to have a father to be annoyed by/annoy for more time to come. I have a wife who is insisting that we ‘grow old together,’ whatever that mean. And I’ve got an ego to feed, that isn’t ready to let go of a dream, despite that dream being one of the co-conspirators trying to kill me.

My name is John Cleveland Payne. J Cleveland Payne is a horrible pen name, and Jay Cleveland is an even worse radio alter ego. I have been trying to be a successful writer for over 20 years and trying to make a successful effort with a list of ‘Rules of Life’ for about 13. A few years ago, after almost dying, I decided to make a concerted effort not to die. Or more specifically, not be the direct cause of my death.

That’s why rule number 1 is don’t die. Like all my rules, I can’t say I have mastered any, but they seem like good guidelines to ensure a pretty good life.
But I’m really glad to have Miss Lyndae as an example of just how to live. And that when the end is approaching, I too can negotiate exactly how I want my send off to be.

Even more to come on Rule #1, and all twelve current Rules.

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