We all have a bucket list (maybe only in our heads– partially complete). A compilation of things we’d like to do, places to travel, and events to experience before we die. Or we have a path we’d like to take that seems too dangerous to go down. I’m not talking about quitting your job to “pursue your passion”. That’s mostly fairy tales. But there is something different we want to do, something that we want to try out. Usually it’s difficult and requires a lot of time and effort, and walking away from something else you’ve spent years building. When it comes actually deciding when to take that chance, the time we tells ourselves all too often becomes “someday.” But something happens in our lives where it becomes too late to change course. Maybe our brains become hard-wired to our daily routines, maybe our system of values ages and stops allowing ourselves to take lifestyle risks. It’s a common thought experiment to wonder what you’d do with your life if you were given a terminal diagnosis or were told you had cancer. What would you do with the remainder of your time? What would you change? At the end of the thought process (most of you) can say, “Well, thank God I don’t have cancer.” Hat-tip to Ryan Holiday
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. Similar to my recap of the book Thanks a Thousand:A Gratitude Journey. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say, I owe you my life as I live it today.
You’ve been so kind and generous,
I don’t know how you keep on giving….
And I never could’ve got this far without you.
Natalie Merchant, Kind and Generous
One thing I don’t give enough credit and thanks to are the many people that have served as my caretakers on my journey.
First and foremost I’m thinking of my wife and the mother of our children, Paige. Not only has she taken care of me and been by my side this whole time (even sleeping in hospital chairs so I won’t be alone). It’s also her gainful employment and health insurance which has allowed me to seek out and obtain the care I’ve needed to get to where I am today. I keep telling her to mention to the higher-ups at Anderson University that I’m ready to get my AU Trojans tattoo wherever they deem appropriate. I’m also thinking of my parents (who are always there to offer any type of support they can) and every healthcare professional who has stuck me with a needle, brought me food, administered scans, and dealt with my seemingly endless lines of questions that I write down beforehand and write in my journal before each appointment. The doctors and nurses now know to yield the floor for my many questions after their initial introductory remarks / results updates. I’m also thinking of friends and family and my church, of course, especially my friends that have taken up the duty of childcare during my surgeries and recoveries. First, in a non-COVID world (first craniotomy in 2019) and then, in a COVID-world (2nd craniotomy in 2020). I have had friends and family send practical and thoughtful gifts, I have had friends send seemingly random gifts that I’ve fallen in love with (for example, a vinyl record player), and I have had folks that are almost strangers reach out to offer material and emotional support. It’s been uplifting.
It’s reminded me of when we had our first child and then outings somehow became different. When you take a baby / child with you, Suddenly you’re not a number in a line anymore but folks go out of their way to give your kid a sticker or draw a smiley face on your receipt for them. It restores your faith in something just a little bit more.
And I feel like my experience has been like that. Folks do just something a little bit extra and it goes along way for me and our family. At the beginning, people do stuff for you, like get you a cup of coffee or a gift card for some take-out, and you think, well– when I get to the other side of this, I’m going to do something for them to show them how grateful I am and it’ll help them. But then so much happens, so much is given to us, there’s really no way to keep up. It’s grace in motion. There’s no return gesture to cover it, no perfect thank-you card, post to Instagram or emoji that comes even close to covering it. What I’ve learned is that it’s grace, and just like the divine grace we’re all given, you can’t do anything to earn it or say thank-you (even though we’ll still try both because we’re human). I think the best you can do is pause and reflect and meditate on it. Use all of those moments of grace and try to help someone else when the time is right and when it’s not forced. We’re still human and we’ll still put this some in our ledgers and somehow try to balance it all out in our heads but there really is no balancing. In a sense, we’ll always be in the red. But that’s okay. There’s something so stubborn (or maybe it’s smug?) about us, that we think we can somehow brute force our way into returning grace. And we really can’t. The best we can do is to sit there and meekly say, “Thank you.” And let that be it. So: Thank you.