I’ve self-prescribed a year of renewal, intent, intimacy, and reflection for 2013. Although I’m unable to etch those 4 words onto my forearm, I’d really like to keep them at the helm. Resolutions are exceedingly difficult to maintain. The bar is often too high, there’s little trigger to make a desired behavior happen every day, and the resolutions we choose typically demand profound change. I learned much of that from BJ Fogg and because I believe in his model, my 2013 resolution will have the aforementioned 4 prongs: renewal, intent, intimacy, and reflection.
This year, I’m easing into these resolutions by gradually making changes to how I work and how I live. I spent the end of 2012 bearing witness to our limited days on earth, reaping the bounty of commitment that family and friends give me, and sorting out my own role as a caregiver, writer, and advocate. However obvious it is that life is precious and limited, there are the rare instructive days in our lives that preach it to us. One for me unfolded in August.
Subsequently the end of 2012 necessitated a great deal of reflection. I’m just now ready to share it. This morning I deferred the actual start of the day–I poured an extra strong cup of coffee in a new porcelain cup, sent the kids flying down the stairs with that paper airplane, and opened up the New York Times Magazine, “The Lives They Lived” that I’ve been holding on to like Charlie’s bar of chocolate.
It was then that I ran across this little snippet about Ray Bradbury. A lesson on living, his life demonstrated how childish behavior may translate into a meaningful adulthood. He wrote an iconic book in short order on a borrowed typewriter and explained his success in wreckless terms. He said, “Every. Single. Moment. Every single moment of my life has been incredible. I’ve loved it, I’ve savored it, it’s been beautiful — because I’ve remained a boy.” It was good to be reminded yet again that’s it’s not only pain and suffering, ample time and meeting deadlines, or hard labor that produce good work. Rather, great work can emerge from boisterous dreaming, immature passion, and abounding adoration for the life we’re given however long or short it may be. It may be optimism that serves us best.
I do feel that I’ve earned a new understanding for optimism amidst the sandwich generation in which I live. See in August of 2012 I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. The phone call from the doctor took my breath away amidst a busy day seeing patients. Left trembling on the sidewalk outside the walls of my clinic, the unfolding adventure of 2 small surgeries, numerous follow-up visits, a second abnormal mole, complications, inaccessible medical records, and cancer survivorship began. It has unquestionably changed me forever.
I am renewed. I am more full of intent. I have had newfound intimacy with my children and family. My focus on what matters refreshed, I understand the need for time in reflection unlike before. Hardship, like optimism, does bring wisdom. It turns out, the terrifying experience of having an unwanted diagnosis has indeed left me with a pile of presents.
I am healthy today thanks to early detection, a ferocious doctor, a loving family, many meaningful friendships, and the freedom that comes with feeling healthy after a stumble. And the reason I share it here is not to spark dramatic flames or overshare—I share my diagnosis and unfolding survivorship here because I want to affirm publicly that I will continue to fight for improved health care, for the health of my patients, for my family’s wellbeing, and for myself with childish abandon. I dedicate energy to use what you share here to improve the lives of others. In 2013 I will also share more about what I’ve learned on this journey entrenched in the health care system, what I’ve discovered about the limits of doctoring in the midst of the incredible asset of medical knowledge, and the profound opportunity we have to save lives with the internet. I also mention this experience and resulting optimism because you, this online community, have sustained the optimist in me in ways I can scarcely articulate. My gratitude for you runs deep.
In 2013 I will devote more time for renewal, more time for honing intent, more time for intimacy with my children and family, and more time for reflection. And with this, I hope to do more than ever before. It’s obvious: we people, we parents, we caregivers, we partners — we have such a good shot at making things even better.