Waking Up to Life!

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” -Mary Oliver

About a month ago, my son, who had just moved to a new city with his wife, had a biking accident on his way to work that resulted in a broken arm. It was a jarring experience for them as they were newcomers to town and had not as yet found doctors. The people at his new job were very helpful and led him to a wonderful orthopedic surgeon who they trusted right away.

You have to know that he has been fearful of doctors and shots ever since he was born. He would cry all the way to the doctor, and I don’t think Dr. Singer was too happy when he saw us coming. As he grew older the bawling lessened, and he and the doctor even managed to become good friends.

As brave as he had become, he found himself extremely worried about this surgery. Not so much the surgery, he would tell us; it was the fear of being put under. It turns out that his biggest fear was that he would not wake up.

On the day of the surgery, he was very open to letting the doctors and nurses know about his big fear. The kind doctor tried to quell his fears by using certain metaphors but when he found that nothing seemed to work, he said to my son, “Let me put it this way. I have performed thousands of these surgeries over the years and everyone has woken up!” Having heard those words, he went fearlessly into surgery. And very, very happily, he woke up!

I actually loved to hear how much my sweet son wanted so much to “wake up”. He loves life. He adores his wife. He is close with his family. He enjoys his work tremendously. He has wonderful friends from all over the world with whom he stays in contact. He has a keen interest in politics, sports, nature, travel and board games. In short, he has many things to live for and he wants to keep enjoying these things for a long time to come.

It brought me back to a time when I was about his age. I had recently lost a dear friend to cancer and I was in a state of grief when I found a suspicious lump on my leg. I ran to my doctor in tears. Dr. Simpson specialized in geriatrics (I went to him because my mother-in-law highly recommended him). As I sat in the examining room crying and thinking that surely I was not long for this world, he felt the lump and reassured me that it was okay; it was just a cyst. “Common as dirt”, were his exact words. He told me that in his practice, he is not used to people wanting so vehemently to live. Many of his patients had kind of given up, “lost their zest”, he explained. I was dumbfounded. I had no comprehension of this at all. I so wanted to live! I loved my husband; I had a darling baby boy. I had wonderful friends and family and hopes and dreams and plans and so many things I loved. I, too, had so much to be awake for. I remember getting out into the fresh air that day and looking at everything with my eyes wide open.

So my son’s experience caused me to ponder the existential questions of life. What do I live for now? What gets me out of bed in the morning? What inspires me? How can I maximize my joy in life? Maybe it is time to call that friend I have lost touch with or take the acting class that I have always wanted or the dance lessons my husband and I have talked about for years or finally take that trip to Italy. Or maybe it is enough to notice, really notice, the color of the sky, the smell of the flowers, the sweet faces of the people that I love and to follow the advice from Lee Ann Womack’s song, “And when you get the chance to sit or dance, I hope you dance, I hope you dance.”

Call to Action:

1. Reflect on what makes your heart sing and make sure to incorporate these things into your life everyday. 2. Engage in wonderful conversations. Ask people what gets them up in the morning, who their heroes are, what has been their best life experience so far, what if they had three wishes . . . 3. Listen to music that inspires you and makes you want to get up and dance. For me it is old Beatles songs and songs from the 60’s and 70’s like, “Here Comes the Sun” and “Brown-Eyed Girl.” Of course there is always the music of Abba like “Dancing Queen.” I know you have your own favorites.4. Remember what you loved as a child and don’t be embarrassed to do those things. Blow bubbles; bring a bouquet of balloons home; run under the sprinkler; lie on the grass and look up at the clouds. 5. Do what you can today to make the day wonderful for yourself and others. Maybe it is surprising your friend with a special card or your spouse with a special coffee drink or a love note left on the counter. How about a call to an aunt or uncle or a bring bowl of soup to a friend who needs a boost.