I just found out that a doctor/healer I admire, Dr. Lee Lipsenthal, who coached me through a brief but difficult moment in my life, has metastatic cancer with a 10% chance of surviving. My heart broke when I heard this news. And yet- no surprise to me- Lee wrote about this experience on the Huffington Post in a characteristically uplifting fashion. He found himself, rather than depressed, free. With only a small chance to live, he no longer feels tied to obligations he didn’t really feel like doing in the first place. After a life of watching his weight, he can indulge in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. And after raising his children to be people he deeply admires, he realizes that he must let them go, trusting that they will thrive, even if they have to do it without him.
Blessings, Prayers & Healing Juju to You, Lee
After I wiped away the tears, I thought about how we respond to bad news. The characteristic Kubler-Ross stages, as Lee reminds us, are not linear, but chaotic and circular. We jump from denial to acceptance to anger to bargaining and back to denial again. Ultimately- hopefully- we accept what is and release the rest, but even then, the old stages may pop up from time to time.
In my personal life, there has been so much good news lately. My dreams of Owning Pink are becoming real. Two of my books will be published in 2010. My private practice is growing. My family is thriving. My long-awaited art show is about to open in January. Life is good. It’s easy to fall into fear, wondering when the other shoe is going to drop. But I don’t see a reason to go there. Yes, bad news will come. But as Tama Kieves said in yesterday’s post, if goodness is a bubble about to burst, so is sadness. Why wait in dread for what might go wrong when life is peaceful, joyful, and full.
When bad news does strike, I can only hope I will face it with the inspiring courage of Dr. Lee Lipsenthal. I hope I will revel in life’s joys and face the bad news with grace. I hope will be able to realize that the rough times are fertile periods of transformation, not only for me, but for those who face the rough times with me- my family, my friends, even you Pinkies. I know that, should I be diagnosed with cancer or lose a family member or go bankrupt, you will walk beside me, just as we all walk beside each other in our Pink Posse community when rough times hit any one of us.
Hearing about Lee got me thinking about what hit me when I lost my beloved Dad almost four years ago. If I knew I was probably going to die, what would I do differently in life? Four years ago, when I asked myself this question, I was shocked at my answer. If I knew I was going to die, would I be doing what I was doing then? The answer was a resounding HELL NO! If I knew I had only one year to live, I would change almost everything about my life. But why must we wait for catastrophic news? Why do we spend so much time and energy living lives that don’t suit us? Life is simply too short.
If I Knew I Was Dying, I Would Keep On Keeping On
Which is why I quit my job, moved, launched Owning Pink, and began this path of exploration that has led- four years later- to the life I am living now. Now, I can honestly say that if I knew I was going to die in a year, I would do exactly what I’m doing now (only I might do it in Italy, just for the hell of it. But then again, on second thought- no. My tribe is here).
Did you see the movie Last Holiday? Queen Latifah is working a dead-end job and pining over a guy who doesn’t even know she’s in love with him, when she finds out she has a fatal disease. She decides to spend her life’s savings on a trip to the Czech Republic, where she stays in a suite, goes base jumping, and confesses her love to the guy who chases her halfway across the earth. In the process, she finds the joie de vivre she lost long ago. In the end, she discovers that her doctor made a mistake- that she was not going to die- and she had just spent her life’s savings. So did she do the right thing, or not?
Do You Consider Taking Risks Reckless?
You might argue that Queen Latifah was reckless. After all, what is she going to retire on, now that she blew it on a grand European adventure? Of course, in the movie, it all ends happily, and you know she’s going to be okay. But in real life, we ask ourselves these questions. We fear. We limit. We shrink. We skip the grand adventures in favor of safety. Then we wonder why we live lives of quiet desperation.
When I found out Dad was going to die, I decided to go for the adventure and take a Pleap (Pink leap of faith). I spent my life’s savings to buy my freedom, and I don’t regret a penny of what I no longer have in the bank. Instead, I have faith in the process. I have confidence that I will land butter-side-up. I believe that the Universe will meet my needs. And every day, I feel blessed to know that I would change nothing if I knew it would all end soon.
Wow. Things have changed. When I think back to four years ago, I have to smile. What a long, strange trip it’s been.
What about you Pinkies? If you knew you had a fatal diagnosis, what would you change about your life? It’s a very clarifying question. Maybe some of you have been there before and survived. Maybe you’ve lost something or someone dear to you and it had the same profound affect. Must we wait for tragedy to strike? Can’t we start now?
Living like I might die tomorrow,
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