Your Time is Gonna Come

Get busy with life’s purpose, toss aside empty hopes, get active in your own rescue — if you care for yourself at all — and do it while you can.
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The last two weeks of 2018 brought stark reminders of how fragile life can be, and how important it is to make the most of the time we have.

The details, while not unimportant, are not especially relevant. People get sick all the time, and some of them will die. But when death brushes up against you unexpectedly, when someone you care about is cut down prematurely, it can feel like the earth has been knocked off its axis slightly.

I lost a dear friend a little over a week ago, just before Christmas. Although he had been in declining health (and it was worse than he let on to even his closest friends) his passing was sudden and I didn't have a chance to say goodbye or to tell him how much his friendship has meant to me in the time we knew each other. In the blink of an eye he was gone, leaving a short, roundish hole in my life, one that only he could fill with his boundless loving kindness and gentle sweetness.

A week before this friend's passing I learned that another friend, someone I've known since childhood, is in the fight of his life against the most cunning, ruthless adversary (something I have some experience with). His diagnosis came out of the blue, as these things sometimes do. One day he's living his life, a hale and hearty and youthful and vigorous man in his mid-fifties, and then he's lying in a hospital bed trying to decipher the onco-jargon being spewed at him by the doctors arrayed around him.

My two friends' approaches to their health was a study in contrasts. The friend that passed away suddenly ate and drank whatever he wanted and didn't seem overly concerned with the potential consequences of his choices, even as his worrisome medical problems mounted. My other friend has always treated his body like a temple; he eats well, is very active and has always been lean and fit.

The progress of their respective illnesses couldn't have been more different either. The illness that took my friend's life suddenly developed over years and years, maybe decades, and he sped through all of the warning signs and wake-up calls that, if heeded, might have arrested or even reversed his illness.

My other friend's illness developed in stealth mode, quickly, and gave him no warning, a rare and random genetic mutation that affects fewer than seven out of 100,000 adult Americans. This illness has no known cause -- or cure -- and symptoms typically only present themselves after the disease has progressed to its later stages. My friend's diagnosis came less than a year after his annual exam, including a blood panel, checked out as normal.

Here's the point: your time is gonna come, eventually. No one escapes. The longer you live the greater are the chances that you will make the unwelcome acquaintance of one or more humbling, age-related illness. Father Time, as they say, is undefeated.

Maybe there's something you can do about it and maybe there isn't.

Maybe the best you can do -- the best that can be done -- is to draw a thick border between what you have no control over (genetic mutations, accidents, hereditary conditions) and what you can control (your attitude, your diet, your support network) so you're better prepared for the inevitable challenges, and so that you can live your life, with purpose and intention, until you no longer can.

Here are some other things you can do:

Hug your kids, often, and tell them you love them all the time.

Tell your friends you love them too. Don't let them forget that you've got their backs.

Know when to listen and when to talk, when to learn and when to teach.

Take more risks. Don't settle for mediocrity, to the disease of "good enough."

Visit unfamiliar places. Drag yourself out of your comfort zone to see what you're made of.

Smile more and be angry less.

Find someone that needs help and help them. Make your life less about you. Be a force for good in the world.

Be more grateful; stop complaining about shit that doesn't matter.

Resist victimhood. Be the author of your own salvation, the hero of your story.

Do it. Now.