“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
― Mary Oliver
I lost two nights of sleep. I did the worst thing you can do when you notice troubling health symptoms — Google them. I had noticed pain and a decline in the ability to grip in my left hand. I also noticed a twitching or pulsing in the muscle between my thumb and index finger.When I entered all of those details into Dr. Google the first diagnosis to pop up was ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease.This was especially scary because there is a history of ALS in my family (although only 10% of cases are familial). ALS/Lou Gehrig’s is a motor neuron disease that progressively
weakens the muscles in your body eventually leading to swallowing and breathing failure. Stephen Hawking has ALS. As my head flooded and panic rose I thought about what I would do if I only had a few years of quality mobility and living left.
Live status quo or do something totally different?
The first priority would be to spend time with the kids. Would I want to keep things status quo and live as long as possible with them in the suburban setting we have currently established or would I want to do something different? My heart said, do something different.
I envisioned taking them on trips to the other side of the world. I’d pull them out of school but who cares, it’s just school and this is living. When I’m gone or incapacitated they can go back to their highly rated (overrated?) public school curriculum. We’d ping-pong back and forth between home and travel as I know the kids would miss their father and friends.
I would take them to see both beautiful and typical settings. Opulence and reality. During our travels I’d love them with all my strength as they experience different cultures and meet individuals with unfamiliar traditions but similar souls. They could see first hand how much we are all alike despite our varied lifestyles. Their new worldly connections giving them perspective to buoy them when hard times inevitably fall and rich stories to make them faceted and interesting beings. Their new worldly experiences changing them forever, opening their minds and hearts in such a way that they can never close again. An education in meaning and humanity, to me the ultimate education. I think my heart would burst with joy sharing this experience with my kids, as I love novelty and travel and never tire of deeply connecting with others.
Where would you live if you could live anywhere?
While freaking out over my short future, I thought about where I’d want to live out my last years. For some time, I’ve had a gnawing sense of I don’t belong here when it comes to my current dwelling in suburbia. It’s lovely and I have friends in the neighborhood, but I long for something else.
Family support maybe.
I spent five days with family in Tennessee over the 4th of July, and since returning I’ve had a lingering sense of loss. Loss of what?
I felt at home in Tennessee.
It was wonderful to be surrounded by family — my people, the ones who think and act similarly to me, somewhat unconventional, idealistic and good. Living in the hills of Tennessee, due in part to my dad and step-mom’s choices, is less complicated and slower paced. People rely on and know their neighbors. You work hard when it’s cool outside, then take it easy when the temperature climbs. Granted, my dad and step-mom are retired and they live away from the hustle and bustle of the city and suburbs. They chose to live that way.
They live in the country. I grew up in the country. I think I miss country living but I also know I love the amenities of the city. The truth is it’s simple living, free of game playing and pressure to impress or achieve, that I crave. I want to focus on relationships, ideas and being. I really don’t care to tend to a big house or jam-packed schedule. This Tim McGraw song recently found its way to my attention. It explains my desires and feelings well.
Anything you want to finish before you go?
I have a deep desire to give introverts and intuitive feeling types the courage and confidence to be the extraordinary beings they are. I want them to know they are magnificent and valuable.
I have always wanted to write a book. I would glean the greatest satisfaction and sense of accomplishment from completing and leaving behind something (hopefully) helpful and meaningful. With the thought of only a few years of high functioning living left, the pressure to complete a book took on an increased degree of urgency. I’m already working with an incredible writing coach to give me a proper push to write but I would have to step up my efforts.
What about love and romance?
I allowed myself to mourn briefly the lost chance to have another romantic relationship. Who would want to take on a relationship with such a short and difficult shelf-life? As I wrote in, Introvert Stops Searching for “The One” and Gets a Life: Being Your Own Amazing Soulmate, it is possible to live vibrantly as your own amazing partner. I was already in single living mode, this health issue just sealed the deal. I would have to let go of happily ever after with a partner.
I contemplated taking a few more opportunities to make love, while I still could.
A couple of days after my Google search of death, I decided to dig a little deeper. I noticed my actual bone/knuckle hurt. It wasn’t all in the muscles. I read more material on carpal tunnel syndrome. The symptoms didn’t quite fit. Damn.
Then I stumbled upon this website on tendonitis which led me to this revelation about magnesium deficiency. Because of all the driving and typing I had been doing lately the tendon in my hand was tweaked in a bad way. I had all the symptoms of magnesium deficiency including muscle twitches and spasms. Tendonitis and magnesium deficiency often go hand in hand (pardon the pun). Magnesium supplements can get the muscles relaxing (after firing) properly again and reduce tendon pain. Icing the sore tendon can help as well. I did both ASAP. Two days later… significantly reduced pain and muscle pulsing.
I can’t even explain the relief I felt.Tremendous full pure JOY! A second chance at life.
What did you learn?
“Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.”
― Mary Oliver
I found a lot of clarity around living when I thought I was dying. I experienced a heightened sense of who I am and a heightened sense of living. What I want got more specific. I realized it is not necessarily where I live but how and with whom. I want to live freely, meaningfully, and simply with loved ones. Family, world travel, writing. Now that I am not limited to a few years of breath (or am I? We never really know), I realize I can’t galavant all over the world with the kids indefinitely but I can incorporate into their lives as much travel and acceptance of others as possible. I can pare down my own obligations so that I can live simply with fewer energy drains (material possessions and negative social entanglements), do profound work and partake in quality experiences with those I adore. Which, interestingly enough, is what I was doing anyway.
How would you live if you didn’t have much time left? Status quo or completely different? Has a health scare or threat ever changed your way of living? If so, what did it clarify for you?
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*This post dedicated to LMK