Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Tyranny of the Urgent

Yesterday was a wonderful day.  I got to come home from the hospital nearly two weeks earlier than I was initially told to expect and although I had to work through a little unnecessary drama in getting a new phone number, I had one of my favorite comfort meals of chicken pot pie and smashed taters and then a quiet night *at home*.  I put in a DVD and didn’t get even ten minutes into it before I was sleepy, so I retired about 8:00 and didn’t wake up until my usual 5:30.  I don’t think I’ve had that much uninterrupted sleep in months.  I typically sleep about 5 hours a night and that works for me, but it’s clear I really needed a lot more yesterday…but I feel good (sing it, James Brown!).

Need is the word in that last thought that stands out to me.  We all are battling what Alan Lakein called, The Tyranny of the Urgent, forever giving in to the things that scream at us while ignoring the important. Sometimes, you have to give in to the urgent, but I submit to you that the important is something that trumps the urgent every time and I’ll play my own cancer card here to make the point that you don’t want to wait until you’re in a position where you’re faced with the important to see that the urgent stuff is just chaff and often meaningless bull-pucky. My sister put it rather simply that this time in my life, as disagreeable as it is to me, was meant for me to get off the treadmill for a while. It’s an apt picture, because a treadmill just uses up your energy while getting you nowhere…and that is what the “urgent” does quite literally.

I’d like you to indulge me for two minutes in a quick exercise because it will highlight what’s really important to you and I hope give you an insight into yourself.  More importantly though, I hope it spurs you to action to do something really important without the benefit of toxic chemicals and people in starched white coats smiling at you! There are actually three facets of this exercise, but because I want to cut to the chase, here it is: If you knew that six months from today you would be struck dead, how would you live until then.  Assume all the final arrangements are made and that there are no logistics to be resolved. Take two minutes and brainstorm. Write everything that comes to mind, no matter how frivolous.  At the end of the two minutes, take a look at what you’ve written and you’ll see the things that are the most important to you.  You can clarify things a bit now that you’re not in brainstorm mode, but the essence of what is important shines through. Whether it’s reconciling with friends whom you’ve fallen away from, traveling to a certain spot because it’s always been a dream, completing a project, or whatever, you’ll see the really important things on that list.

So, why wait for a death sentence to do what’s in your heart?

Write out that goal and in the next six months, go DO it. Life is not meant to be existential, it is meant to be lived…and the only thing for certain is the one we have now. Pithy? Cliché? Maybe, but you know it’s true.

I know what’s in my next six months and it still involves a lot of medical stuff, but past that, I can tell you I have a lot of things I want to do and I have a little bucket list of sorts. These things have been on my mind a lot, but even more so now that life has been so defined by blood chemistry.  Here are a few of the things I want to do:

-          In 2014, I want to ride a ‘century’ (100-mile bicycle ride) for the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society; by 2015, I want to be in good enough shape to do another AIDS LifeCycle (545-mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles with my Team OC family.

-          I want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

-          I want to set food on Antarctica and watch the orcas up close

-          I want to tour through Scandinavia

-          I want to lean Spanish and regain my fluency in French…maybe a third language in there by 2020.

There are a lot of things I want to see in my children, grandchildren, and now that I’m back in Utah, my nieces and nephews as well, but some of those things are, of course, hopes. Those are the things we live for vicariously and have less of an impact on, but we can still be there, right? I have great hopes for them all and my heart swells with pride as I see them come into the people they are meant to be. As my children have come into adulthood, I’ve had the opportunity to spend some really good one-on-one time with one of my daughters, both socially and during my first round of chemo where we got to be adults together and learn more about the person rather than the roles we play in each other’s lives. My oldest son is coming out during the transplant process and will be caring for me. He’ll see the best and worst in me and in the process, we’ll get the opportunity to know each other as adults as well. I told him, tongue in-cheek, that at least we won’t be getting drunk and fighting with each other to do it like they do in so many movies! It’ll be a really difficult time for both of us, but in the end, we’ll have the kind of relationship that few fathers and sons have. I’ve watched my oldest nephew morph from an awkward kid on the soccer field into a brilliant aspiring student who is on the verge of a promising career in microbiology. Who knows? He could be the guy who finds the cure to what I’ve got…and his sister is on his coattails. There’s so much promise in the important. And while it perhaps goes without saying that nothing of any importance is ever easy in attaining – especially when the urgent screams in our faces and clouds our vision – it’s all that really matters.

My music video this morning was something I chanced across on Facebook this morning.  The song comes from a guy named Zach Sobiech, who is battling osteosarcoma – a bone cancer – and unfortunately not doing well. His message is timeless and joyful and I hope it resonates with you as much as it does with me.

Be well, stay strong, and much love to you all!