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[cancer] Special dying person wisdom - Lakeshore
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Jay Lake
Date: 2013-08-23 07:12
Subject: [cancer] Special dying person wisdom
Security: Public
Tags:cancer, culture, health, personal
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?

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User: joycemocha
Date: 2013-08-23 15:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Excellent essay, sir. You still have the words for nonfiction. Well said.

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asakiyume: turnip lantern
User: asakiyume
Date: 2013-08-23 15:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:turnip lantern
That's very excellent wisdom. I really love you more and more (I mean, given the limitations of this being an only online interaction etc. etc. etc.) the more I know [of] you.
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A wandering fellow on the long road
User: tsarina
Date: 2013-08-23 15:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That dovetails pretty well with one of my favorite quotes (and books):
"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — God damn it, you’ve got to be kind."
-Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater
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Matthew Hughes
User: Matthew Hughes
Date: 2013-08-23 15:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I second the motion. Six years ago, when my doctor and I agreed I probably wouldn't live much past 70 (too much sickness and poverty growing up), I gave up home and hearth and started traveling around the world as a housesitter. I'm usually close to broke, but tonight I had good pasta and sausage and a fine local wine (8 euros a liter) while sitting on a balcony four stories above Athens' anarchist district. Tomorrow I'm going down to Delphi.

You've got to live life while you've got it, because for any of us, it could all end tomorrow -- or ten minutes from now.

It's been good to know you, Jay. Maybe we'll meet up again wherever folks like us get put, if there's anywhere to go on the other side of the curtain. I wish you a smooth passage.
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2013-08-23 15:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
There are always reasons not to do something, but it only takes a little more work to figure out how to do it.

In my case, the #1 item on my Want List was to collaborate on a book with my uncle, the man who got me interested in writing in the first place. I got permission to do so but kept putting it off and putting it off, certain I didn't have the skill for such a challenge.

Finally, in the middle of writing another book, it suddenly struck me--as if someone had knocked on my skull and then yelled in my ear--that it was now or never. I dropped the WIP and started writing my uncle's book. I still wasn't convinced that I was good enough, but I began by retyping everything he'd already written to get the hang of his style. Two weeks later it was finished. Two years later it was published.

Two years after that my uncle died. And I realized the instant I heard the news that if I hadn't jumped in (even belatedly) and worked on that book, it would've left a deep black place inside me that never would've been filled.

So yeah. I say go for it.
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Emma Bull: Damn Fine coffee
User: coffeeem
Date: 2013-08-23 15:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Damn Fine coffee
Warren Zevon said, "Enjoy every sandwich," but he meant the same thing, about the opportunities.

And the kindness: yeah. Especially that it's most important when it's hardest to do. I'll keep working on it.

Have I thanked you lately for your very existence? Thank you. You've put good things into my world. I'll try to take care of 'em.
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Cat: Tired or sad
User: willowisp
Date: 2013-08-23 15:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Tired or sad
First, I'm sorry for your diagnosis/prognosis. Cancer has taken away far too many people I care for, and it saddens me to see that it's going to claim another.

Second, I don't know you from Adam (I followed a link from John Scalzi's tweet), but I love what you have to say. I instinctively have felt that way, especially the kindness part, for a long time. I've tried to act on it, though I'm afraid I still fall short on a regular basis. Your post is just one more thing which will remind me at times when my kindness well has run dry for the day.

Finally, my best wishes to you and to those for whom you care, and those who care for you. I hope you can live your life to the fullest for as long as you have left.
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User: TheNetworkGeek
Date: 2013-08-23 16:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I got here because of John Scalzi's tweet and post as well.
I, too, am sorry that your prognosis isn't better than it seems to be.

I was diagnosed with diffuse, large "B"-cell lymphoma in 2007 and spent the rest of that year doing chemotherapy to fight it. I survived and, I can tell you, I felt all those things you wrote. I was sure that I wouldn't waste any more time doing things that were foolish or hurtful or that I just didn't want to do. Then the bills came and life continued on and I had to keep doing those stupid, mundane things. And, I had to start eating better and exercising and... Well, you get the idea.

Surviving can be hard, and it's an especially sharp pain when I watch others go, many of whom are, frankly, better people than I could ever hope to be. And, I read things like this to remind me that, no matter who we are and how old and what our dreams may be, time is *always* short.
And, yes, the greatest thing I can do is to be kind, right now, today. I hate that things like death have to remind me of that, but I thank you for writing this to do so.

If you're in pain, now is a great time to ask the doctors for drugs. They were the second best thing about my treatment!
Seriously, hang in there and I hope the doctors are wrong, but even if they aren't, I hope you're passing is as easy and pain-free as possible.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2013-08-23 17:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
One thing I firmly believe is that everyone's reactions belong to them. Which is to say, if this bothered you, that botheration does not in turn bother me. I'll be curious to see your response.

Be well.
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User: johnpalmer
Date: 2013-08-23 17:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
If you don't mind, I'll disagree - there's plenty of wisdom, it's just not the kind that is recognized as wise, because it's not deep and heavy sounding. Most of what's important is really very simple.
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♡ Floof ♡: Trinket
User: lolitalockhart
Date: 2013-08-23 17:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Your post really touched me and I can't agree more with your words on kindness, I think it's more important to be kind, gentle and merciful rather than anything else you could possibly be.

I'll pray for you, sir, love from the Netherlands.
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User: epj
Date: 2013-08-23 17:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My goodness, yes. Kindness, or love for others, in my Christian-speak, is my life project. I've discovered that if I put my energy into being kind to others and assuming the best of them, I'm so much happier than if I just complain about how they're not kind enough to me. Strangely enough, others do in fact seem kinder as well. :) Thank you for sharing your wisdom; my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2013-08-23 19:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
BTW, related or not to this entry, Live Journal just listed you as today's #2 popular journal.
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shelly_rae: Jay & Me
User: shelly_rae
Date: 2013-08-23 19:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Jay & Me
Yep. Carpe diem dude.
For my part all I intended was to help someone I didn't know, who was afraid of the unknowns of chemo--been there, done that, got the tshirt--everything else was a surprise. I had time to share so why not?
This year Egypt, London, later Brighton, south east England, Bath. Next year Machu Pichu, and exploring the Galápagos. For the time, being.

Everyone has this wisdom. Live for now.
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mordicai caeli
User: mordicai
Date: 2013-08-24 12:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The wife & I have been talking about an Antarctica cruise.
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