I was waddling around Daily Kos this morning, feeling good about the fact that I have jury duty in Federal Court tomorrow. I found two quotes that matched my hopeful happy mood as I face the rest of my life ahead.
The first is by someone dying of pancreatic cancer. 2009 will be his last year, yet he has this message for the rest of us:
As for the last part — people feeling sorry for me. I do appreciate your good feelings, but please know this: The last number of weeks as I was building toward the obvious answer of my condition has been a time of astonishing clarity for me. It is almost as if the world is brighter, the grass is greener, the sky is bluer.
While I have tried to live a fulfilling life, and as much as I dedicated myself to things that mattered, I now see that I also wasted time on things that really weren’t important. The things that matter are so clear to me. I have come to recognize that life is divided between those things we can control, and those things we can’t. The secret of life is to recognize and accept those things that cannot be controlled, but to work like hell on the things that can be controlled to insure they come out as the most fulfilling as possible.
That is why I made my post. I cannot control my cancer. I know this. There really are no options that would not entail wasting my last months. But I can, in my own small way, contribute to making sure our community never loses sight of the things that matter, of the things we can change. We have total control over what we fight for. We should never waste time. Our world has been so damaged — we have to direct our power toward helping people — through health insurance, jobs programs, justice for all. Those are the big items. And we have the power to make sure things change.
But we also have the opportunity to change our own lives. Life is a glorious, wonderful thing. There is so much beauty and awe in this world. Please, whatever you do politically, remember to find the joy in your life. It’s there, and it is in your control to reach it. Grab hold of it and never let go. And if you do, it doesn’t matter when you die. Yours will have been a life well lived.
That is some seriously sage advice. I could not have said it better myself. As I take stock of my life well lived this morning, I am fulfilled by something that started exactly one year ago yesterday. Barack Obama had just won the Iowa caucuses, and America was beginning to remember what it is like to hope for the future while toiling in the present.
“I know you didn’t do this for me. You did this because you believed so deeply in the most American of ideas: that in the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it…
“My journey began on the streets of Chicago doing what so many of you have done for this campaign and all the campaigns here in Iowa: Organizing and working and fighting to make people’s lives just a little bit better. I know how hard it is. It comes with little sleep, little pay, and a lot of sacrifices. There are days of disappointment but sometimes, just sometimes, there are nights like this…
“You’ll be able to look back at this night and say that this was the moment when it all began… when the improbable beat what Washington said was inevitable… This was the moment when we finally beat back the politics of fear and doubt and cynicism, the politics where we tear each other down instead of lifting this country up. This was the moment. Years from now, you’ll look back and you’ll say that this was the moment, this was the place where America remembered what it means to hope. For many months we’ve been teased, even derided, for talking about hope. We always knew that hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, to work for it, and to fight for it.”
So, today and every day from here on, let’s remember to reach for it, work for it, and fight for it. Whatever “it” may be for you, this quote from a dying man can guide you through. It’s so nice, I want to hear the same song twice.
… remember to find the joy in your life. It’s there, and it is in your control to reach it. Grab hold of it and never let go. And if you do, it doesn’t matter when you die. Yours will have been a life well lived.
(“Joy” by sa-cool.)