Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[cancer] Special dying person wisdom

I've been asked before if I have any special dying person wisdom. To which my answer is always, well, no, not really. But I have been thinking a lot about what life means to me, and what I see it meaning to people who seem to enjoy their own life the most. I come down to two basic concepts.

Be kind, and don't miss your opportunities.

Kindness is highly underrated. We spend so much time aspiring to or defending our place in life, from how we behave in traffic to how we treat people in the workplace, at home and out in the world. If everybody tapped the brakes on their immediate needs long enough to be kind and pleasant to other people, the world would be a much better place. Sappy? Yes. True? Yes.

The hardest part is being kind to people you don't particularly want to be kind to. Or being kind at moments when you don't have much kindness left in you, for whatever reason. I've come to realize that's when it counts most.

But in any case, be kind. It costs you nothing and makes the world around you a better place.

As for opportunities… I suppose I mean that in every possible sense. Always wanted to go to Iceland? Go to Iceland. Missing out on your favorite meal? Make it. Want to hug someone? Hug them. Declare your love. Read that book. Go to Paris, France or Paris, Texas or Paris Street in your home town. Sleep in. Get up early and hike the Gorge. Go to the therapist. Start the diet. Stop the diet. See that band. Whatever.

We spend so much time denying ourselves. There's never enough time, there's never enough money, it's too complicated, they might reject you, you never got around to it. For my own part, I'm kind of done with self-denial. I've always been more than a bit of a hedonist, and rather too much in love with wretched excess, but of late in the face of my own impending death I've become an even bigger fan than ever of consensual, harm-free indulgence. Life at its very best is short and complicated and way too hard. Already I regret far more the things I didn't do that I wanted, than doing the things I probably shouldn't have.

Spend some time doing what you want, doing it as big as you can manage. It will make you a happier person.

Not much in the way wisdom, to be sure, but kindness and opportunity become more and more important to me as my life grows shorter. How long is your life?

Tags: cancer, culture, health, personal

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