Being “Okay” is a Fragile Thread

5398red_threadDo you have a sense of well-being?

Does it seem that everything in your life is going along (mostly) the way you’d like it to?

Perhaps you have a calm inside that all is as it should be. Particularly going into the holiday season, that feeling of contentedness is something we all hope for.

But this week, I’ve had several powerful reminders that health and happiness are fleeting.

Unwelcome Reminders

I spent Thanksgiving with a close relative who was recently told that his cancer has become more aggressive and is spreading.

“I’m 80 years old,” he told me, “and I have never before considered my mortality. But now, what it means to be alive has hit me with full force.”

A few days later, I took my little 8 year old friend, Miracle, to see the Nutcracker. Miracle’s mother died last spring of lung cancer and she lives alone with her father. After the show, Miracle’s father joined us for supper and told me that he too has had cancer. And though he is okay now, Miracle’s future hangs on the fragile thread of his continued health.

And then — as if two such reminders weren’t enough — I spoke with a very close friend who has had breast cancer. She told me that she has developed another large, rapidly growing lump. She was waiting to hear from her doctor about the test results.

These three events, in quick succession have rocked my sense of confidence. It no longer seems wise to take my health and untroubled life for granted.

Fragility of Life: Shifting Values

Perhaps tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, I too, will be among those who find out that life as I know it will not last.

Atul Gawande, in his most remarkable book, On Being Mortal, talks about the shift in perspective that comes when the fragility of life becomes apparent.

According to Atul, when people learn that they may not have long to live, rather than seeking to achieve and acquire, they seek instead the comfort and companionship of the people they love.

The changes taking place in the lives of my friends and relatives have reminded me to pay more attention to the aspects of my life that matter most.  It’s time to stop fretting about what I do or don’t get done and instead to do my best to be kind and caring to the people I love.

TryTry ThisThis

Consider What You Value Most

Think about the things you would want to do if you knew you didn’t have much time to live. Make a list of the things you’d want to attend to. Would it include adventures and travels? Or would it be a quieter, more reflective list?

Have you ever had an experience that forced you to confront your own mortality? If so, and if you’re willing to comment below, please share how it changed your perspective.