Saturday, October 29, 2005

"Read this! It's making me better!"

She's in her sixties. She lives alone. Her son lives on the East Coast. She sees him once a year.

One night she lies awake and thinks, I may live twenty more years. That means I may only see my son twenty more times...or less!

And soon, it's hard for her to think about anything else. She had felt so young before...or at least, not old. When did the future start shrinking?

So she brushes aside my questions about meds, mood ratings, and side effects. Not today, doctor! We're talking about how to live, how to get through this. She's thrusting a newspaper clipping into my hands. "Read this! This is helping me! I'm showing it to everyone!"

We read it together. It's the New York Times, quoting Joan Didion.
"I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package," she said. "I'm just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave's a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that's what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it."
My patient's eyes sparkle. "Do you know that Joan Didion uses her best silver every single day? She says that today is all we have!"

4 Comments:

Blogger Greg P said...

Whether or not we put a positive spin on it (I don't see using our silver daily as a major event in my life), will live our lives in denial of all the sudden and gradual bad things that might or definitely will befall us.

I woke up one morning with a sense of dread, when it occurred to me that by doing the math I had clearly passed the halfway point of my life. I don't know why it bothered me so much that day, and it hasn't happened since.

Back to the life of denial.

7:52 AM  
Blogger blondzila said...

I'm 100% behind that woman's attitude and can follow it, and honestly do a great deal of the time, if and ONLY if I have been religious with my medication. If not, my thoughts are incapable of make the leap from "how incredibly easy it would be to drive into that highway divider and the world would be a better place and at least then the whispers in my head would stop" to "let's use the good china just because". But positive thinking can work wonders. There's no denying that.

4:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That link takes you to a NYT login screen, not as convenient as it otherwise might be, but a great piece.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

This was an interesting post for me because I find myself, at the age of 48, thinking "what the hell...let's just do it!" much, much more than I used to. I may have aches and pains here and there but my life is so much freer now that the two oldest kids are adults and the youngest is in high school. It's like it's "me" time now. And I think I WILL get the china out......

11:30 PM  

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