A New Lease On Life

I got back from the Dermatologist’s office this morning, where the doctor informed me that the skin cancer he removed from my leg earlier in the month showed no sign of spreading. It was a Squamous Cell Carcinoma, which is generally not dangerous if caught early, which, thank goodness, mine was.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I was afraid of what the news could be going there, so I didn’t think about it much. But when he said, “All clear” I was greatly relieved. So I drove home, thinking about errands and other things I might have to get done the rest of the day. So simple, so routine, so non-concerning. Then it struck me: What would I be thinking if the news had been different? That the cancer had entered my lymph system and spread? And I thought about Jimmy Buffett, whose skin cancer eventually killed him. I knew that I needed to capture the thoughts and emotions and write about them.

The truth we all know is that life is fragile, and the line between life and death is often thinner than we care to think about. We couldn’t think about it all the time or we’d all go insane. So we don’t. We laugh, we cry, we love. We do the mundane things of daily life.

As I write this I’m in my 67th year and wonder how did it happen that I got this old? True, it’s better than the alternative (I often think about one of my best friends from my neighborhood who died suddenly at 18), but still, it’s stunning when I stop and think about the speed of time’s passage. When I discuss the subject of our ages and time flying with my friends from my youth or my brother, they all feel the same way. How did that go by so fast?

I’m retired from my corporate job and doing consulting and writing, and I’m loving it. But there is so much more I want to accomplish in the time I have left. Who knows how much time that is? Twenty years? Twenty days? Twenty minutes? No one knows. What I do know now more clearly than ever before in my life is that time is life’s most precious commodity, and must not be wasted. So what can I do about it? Well for one thing I must be much more mindful of time and things to accomplish in it. I don’t want to be crazy about it, but yes, more mindful of it.

I know I want to write more in my waking hours, days, and years. Lately, the struggle has been the paralysis of what to focus my writing on, and that has been wasting enormous amounts of time. I grow upset with myself that I seem like a spoiled kid in a candy shop who doesn’t want to choose one thing because he’ll miss out on all the others, forgetting that if he doesn’t decide soon the shop is going to close. No choice is perfect, but it’s probably going to be pretty satisfying.

I think I will try to follow the suggestion of my favorite writer: Ryan Holiday (Daily Stoic). Ryan is a modern-day Stoic popularizer and philosopher in his own right. He suggests to get out in nature and let the thoughts come to you. It’s where he got his idea for writing about courage in Courage is Calling. Ryan’s mentor is the writer Robert Greene (The Blog of Robert Greene), who teaches us that ideas will come to you if you listen (he suggests quiet meditation). He instructs you to pay attention to the voice of your inner youth when you were naturally drawn to things that you were called to do — things that you warmed up to and felt comfortable with as a child but somehow got away from as you got older and gained responsibilities on the merry-go-round of life. He reminds us that the word “vocation” has its roots in the word calling, as in what one is called to do in life. The best news is that it’s never too late in life to “hear” your calling.

How lucky am I, aren’t I, that from this simple procedure and its positive outcome, I feel a new lease on life? I don’t have to worry about a cancer diagnosis like those who didn’t get an “all clear” report. “Get busy,” I tell myself. Choose something to focus on, and do it! Don’t look back. Time IS running out always.


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