The other issue with not knowing what is ahead is that we have a tendency to assume there will be plenty of time for all those “other” things beside work……family, dreams, travel. A very wise man once asked “What do you want on your gravestone once you are gone? Right now you are behaving like you want it to say He was a great workaholic.” Intellectually I understood it at the time but when you are chasing getting your “piece of the pie” it’s hard to internalize the unpredictability of life. There’s nothing like a serious illness to take a 2x4 to your sense of invincibility and reset your life priorities.
Here’s the thing (I’m going to get philosophical so feel free to stop reading here, I won’t be offended)…when you are faced with your own mortality how will you react? Will you panic and try to scramble to make up for lost time? Will you wallow in self-pity and woe is me? Will you become self-centered and demanding of the people around you? Or angry, obstinate and crotchety? With all the time I’ve spent in hospitals over the last 5+ months I’ve seen them all. But I’ve also seen the best of people. Patients who have chosen to ignore their illness and reach out to help others. Nurses who have survived cancer and are now giving back with a sensitivity that only comes from having walked in their patient’s shoes. Best of all, terminally ill people who have faced their disease with such grace that to be in their presence make you believe you can be a better person. One great example is a person I know who is in the final stages of his fight. He blogs about his journey and his last blog brought me to tears with his insights and grace. You can read it here:
It’s easier for me to talk about this given I’ve had my life stopping 2x4 up the side of my head. I’d like to believe that we don’t have to face a life changing illness or event to find a way to provide balance in our lives but I’m more realistic than that. But for me, I’m trading the goals of getting ahead and getting more, for a greater recognition of what I already have and enjoying the hell out of it. There is a tremendous peace to accepting the way things are and striving to find peace in how I deal with it and what I do. Finding that peace has become my new goal.
I’ve realized however, that just because I can come to grips with my circumstances doesn’t mean my family and friends can. I worry more about them worrying about me than I do worrying about myself (if that makes any sense). I can only hope that my acceptance and peace lightens their worries and my circumstances in some small way helps them recognize the value of seeking balance and peace in their own lives.
As for my tombstone, I don’t particularly want one but assuming others feel the need, something like the following will do just fine:
He had fun and didn’t piss off too many