“The problem is…you think you have time.” – The Buddha
This quotation has rolled around in my head for the many weeks since I first read it. But this weekend, it really settled into my brain.
Working in the field that I do, I am too often confronted with the realities of life and death. I am acutely aware of how fragile life is when I spend my afternoon sedating children with leukemia for bone marrow aspirates and lumbar punctures. But usually, I carry on and keep those thoughts at bay by focusing on the task at hand. And it is SUCH a privilege to work with those families and the team that cares for them.
Every now and then I am caught, though. Caught at work or at home by stories about life changing events or the diagnosis of a life changing (or life ending) disease. This weekend 2 of those came to me back to back.
The first story (and by story, I do not mean fiction I mean the information shared with me by a friend) came while chatting with a friend while we watched our children’s skating lesson. He was telling me how a young friend (30 ish) was recently diagnosed with an aortic dissection or aneurysm, he wasn’t sure exactly. He only knew that his friend had been in the hospital for over a week, on many medications in attempt to avoid surgery (which is the likely outcome). He was worried about his friend, his friend’s young family, and also himself. I mean, this is the type of thing that happens to older people, not to our friends!
The second story was shared by a very close friend about a close relative. Her relative was just diagnosed with a form a dementia at a very young age – barely 60! Her children are just starting out, there are no grandchildren yet, and she has so much life to live, but already has trouble making herself understood. I, personally, am terrified of this diagnosis. I can’t imagine not being able to understand the world around me. I feel nauseous thinking about requiring personal care. But it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone.
That is the point, anything can happen at any time. And yet we live as if we have all the time in the world. We can take that trip next year; I can finally learn to speak french fluently when my kids are older and I have more time; I can spend more time reading and writing when I am retired; my husband and I can really reconnect later; we can take our parents on a trip of lifetime in 5 years when our debt is more manageable; and so on…
So back to the Buddha…the problem really is that we think we have time. But we may not! A sudden medical calamity could occur tomorrow. Or dementia could steal our brain from our body far too soon. I am almost 40, and these thoughts occur more frequently to me. I have so many things I still want to do, to learn, to share. I feel like there is time, but maybe there isn’t. I feel like this weekend was a call to arms for me to once again evaluate my priorities. And not just my priorities for being mindful with my children and work/life balance. But also my priorities for my own personal goals. What do I really want to have accomplished during my time here? What is important to me? Who is important? These questions become urgent if you start thinking about time running short.
Wishing you a peaceful, mindful Monday, filled with grace and gratitude for living this day healthy and happy.