“What I’m really thinking: the survivor of serious illness
The Guardian, Saturday 23 February 2013
If you knew you were going to die at eight tonight, would you want to have spent today doing what you’re doing? That’s what I’m asking myself every day. All through my recovery people said, “Bet you can’t wait until you can get back to work.” No, I’ve no intention of ever going back to paid work. I’m 59 and I nearly died from a perforated bowel. Work isn’t everything. Family, friends, films, art, literature, even TV soaps can turn out to be much more important than what you do to earn your living.
This could happen to you. One moment your life is routine, the next you’re in intensive care and there’s nothing you could have done to change that – it’s an arbitrary and unexpected life event.
You tell me you’re working an extra year to improve your pension, you’re saving for all the exciting things you’re planning for retirement, but the only time we have is now. How cross are you going to be when you realise you’ve had your last day and never reached your goal of retiring?
When I say I’ve retired now, a little early, you give me the look that says, “How sad – not tough like me.” I’m really thinking you know nothing about me: the four surgeries, the five years getting my strength back.
I know you’re judging me because my wounds aren’t visible. But when I ask myself the question: if you knew you were going to die tonight, would you want to have spent today doing what you are doing? I can honestly say, yes.”
What would your answer be?
I believe that mine would be ‘yes’ but if it wasn’t for the dramatic change of direction my life has taken, because of serious illness, I’m not sure that would be the case. I believe this article demonstrates a wonderful way to look at life but it can be a hard ideal to uphold. This new perspective is just one example of how I choose to see that every cloud has a silver lining. I feel so lucky that I can look at life in this way.