Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘live’

Don’t Exist, Live.

After my first foray into Spinning my back seized up. Pre-CrossFit this was a rather common occurrence, but it’s been some 10 years since my last episode and I’ve been feeling a little sorry for myself. For as long as I have been writing these little ditties I have exhorted (both of) you to get out and actively live your lives; don’t just exist. ┬áMore than that I have tried to impress upon anyone who would listen how important it is to have people to live for. People who truly care that you are living among them. What follows is a re-posting of one of the saddest, most powerful stories I’ve ever heard.

 

“Billy Ray (not his real name, of course) turned off his implantable defibrillator (ICD) yesterday. Billy Ray is 44.

In my day job I was asked to evaluate him for a problem in my specialty. I was told he was about to enter hospice care and assumed that he was much, much older and simply out of options. I admit that I was somewhat put out by the request, it being Saturday and the problem already well-controlled. Frankly, I thought it was a waste of my time, Billy Ray’s time, and whoever might read my report’s time, not to mention the unnecessary costs. I had a very pleasant visit with Billy Ray, reassured him that the problem for which I was called was resolving nicely, and left the room to write my report.

44 years old though. What was his fatal illness? What was sending him off to Hospice care? I bumped into his medical doc and couldn’t resist asking. Turns out that Billy Ray has a diseased heart that is on the brink of failing; without the ICD his heart will eventually beat without a rhythm and he will die. A classic indication for a heart transplant–why was Billy Ray not on a transplant list? Why, for Heaven’s sake, did he turn off his ICD?

There is a difference between being alive and having a life. It’s not the same to say that one is alive and that one is living. It turns out that Billy Ray suffered an injury at age 20 and has lived 24 years in unremitting, untreatable pain. Cut off before he even began he never married, has no children. Each day was so filled with the primal effort to stop the pain he had little left over for friendship.

Alive without a life. Alive without living. Billy Ray cried “Uncle”.

I have been haunted by this since I walked out of the hospital. How do you make this decision? Where do you turn? Billy Ray has made clear he has no one. Does a person in this situation become MORE religious or LESS? Rage against an unjust G0d or find comfort in the hope of an afterlife? Charles DeGaulle had a child with Down’s Syndrome. On her death at age 20 he said “now she is just like everyone else.” Is this what Billy Ray is thinking? That in death he will finally be the same as everyone else?

And what does this say about each of us in our lives? What does it say about the problems that we face, the things that might make us rage against some personal injustice? How might we see our various infirmities when cast in the shadow of a man who has lived more than half his life in constant pain, a man alone? The answer, of course, is obvious, eh?

The more subtle message is about people, having people. Having family, friends, people for whom one might choose to live. It’s very easy to understand the heroic efforts others make to survive in spite of the odds, despite the pain. Somewhere deep inside the will to live exists in the drive to live for others. The sadness I felt leaving the hospital and what haunts me is not so much Billy Ray’s decision but my complete and utter understanding of his decision.

Billy Ray gave lie to the heretofore truism that “no man is an island”.

Go out and build your bridges. Build the connections to others that will build your will to live. Live so that you will be alive for your others. Be alive so that your life will be more than something which hinges on nothing more than the switch that can be turned off. Live with and for others so that you, too, can understand not only Billy Ray but also those unnamed people who fight for every minute of a life.

Be more than alive. Live.”

 

Sitting here in the airport with Beth, headed home after celebrating our Anniversary with Lovely Daughter Megan and her Handsomedon Prince, somehow my back doesn’t feel all that bad anymore.

Where Do You Live and Why? From Sunday musings 6/24/18

Why do you live where you live? Do you ever give any thought to that? We have, over the years, for sure. Beth and I are in Cleveburg because of a good job opportunity many years ago. When that changed we stayed because our kids were in school and reasonably wished to finish where they started. Where once we gave serious thought to leaving once the chicks fledged, the return of our sons followed by the arrival of our grandchildren put all such talk to rest. Casa Blanco is home for now.

How about you? Both of our boys have extended family in the area on both sides of their marriages. We hope that anchors them a bit, but our own experience teaches that golden opportunities must sometimes be grasped. Lovely Daughter and The Prince describe their own “golden handcuffs”, a combination of terrific jobs, great home and wonderful friends. They seem ever on the lookout for a similar vibe in a terroir more in tune with their inner muse, but those golden handcuffs are also lined with fur. Their home is likely to remain on our frequent flyer speed dial, and ours on their’s.

One of my closest professional friends finds himself at a crossroad. He is in a particularly stressful job situation with what he feels is an ever darker future ahead. While extended family lives nearby his children are just beginning their journeys, destinations unknown. What to do? Where to go? More importantly, why to go to any particular “there”? My bid to him echoes the wise and kind words of my friend Hari: after half-time the rest of your life is about taking all of those things you prepared in the first half and putting them into play for yourself (and if applicable your spouse). The second half is now about you.

It should be all about ending up in a place where it’s just a joy to live.

Like the surfer who does whatever it takes to eke out a living on Maui. Same thing for the boarder who works 2 or 3 jobs so that he is right there when the next epic dump lands on the mountain. Your bag is threadbare and your grips like racing slicks, but you are a 2 minute drive from a golf course that makes you smile just thinking about playing it. An on and on. At some point you break free of your golden handcuffs and you are no longer just in the place where you make a living, but the place where you are alive.

Think about it. Why do you live where you live? Whatever the answer, what can you do to make that place somewhere where you feel alive?