Two Responses To Bad News
Today I was told I could die. I was informed by my neurologist that the type of epileptic fits I have are potentially the type called SUDEP - sudden unexpected death through epilepsy.
Essentially, any epileptic fit I have could be my last.
Now the odds are against this happening. My age, my lack of alcohol consumption, the number of fits I have, all point to this not happening.
However, it could. And this possibility gave me pause. It stopped me in my tracks. I sat on the bus and began to realise there is a possibility - however small - I may not live to old age. And I had to face for the first time, the prospect of my own mortality.
I’m still coming to terms with it.
There are two ways I could approach this.
Firstly, I could get depressed, down and play the victim. I could seek pity and sympathy, and sink into a pit of despair. This wouldn’t do any good at all. All it would do is worsen my health, worsen my relationships, and would mean I achieved absolutely nothing.
The second response is more positive. I can use this to motivate myself to make the most of every single moment. To be willing to take risks. To not worry about superficial things like status, success and achievement, and instead focus on creating great work. And above all, to tell a better story with my life.
To take care of my body, to take care of my mind and my spirit. To take responsibility for my overall health in every possible sense. To invest in myself, in my relationships, and to live life intentionally. And to ensure my legacy is in place if my life is ended prematurely.
To do a will, to ensure my family is provided for financially, and other steps which will ensure my legacy is planned for and in place.
In terms of my writing, it means ensuring the messages I have to share with the world get out there. Not to rush through creating work, but to ensure all the work I create is the best it can possibly be, so that once i’m gone it can still have an impact. But at the same time, it’s a call to not procrastinate, to get on with the business to which I’ve been called.
I want to use this as an opportunity to get my life in order. I don’t think it’s a coincidence this has happened during my sabbatical, as I reassess my identity, strengths, gifts, goals and mission - not just in writing, but in life overall.
This means I can begin again with a real focus, a real plan and a sense of healthy urgency - not being rushed or panicked, but at the same time not procrastinating, and getting on with the work. This, in turn, means I’ll be able to make the most of whatever time I have left, whether that’s 5 years or 50 years.
And of course, I should also ensure I make the most of my life. Have experiences. Get good rest. Have fun. Enjoy the journey - which includes both work and rest.
So that’s how I choose to respond.
Positively. Constructively. Realistically. With a plan and a purpose.
To ensure the legacy I leave is a good one.