Most of us are familiar with the old saying, “When it rains, it pours.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about that adage recently because there’s been quite a lot of pouring rain in my life over the past few months.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about needing to take a leave of absence from writing for this blog after being diagnosed with a degenerative condition. I was vague in my original post. I’m now willing to tell you that I have been diagnosed with Macular Degeneration. (There’s plenty of stuff on the internet if you want to know more about this sickness of the eyes.) By the way, if you’ve been diagnosed with this disease and are willing to talk about your situation and maybe meet someone who has what you have, I’d love to hear from you. Please reach out.
By the way, I am not ashamed to admit that I have this malady. Getting sick is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s not an indication of any kind of moral failing.
So, I was depressed about this diagnosis for a few weeks during the first couple of months of 2023. Then, suddenly, I lost twenty-two pounds during February and March. Ironically, I was wanting to lose a little weight, but when I went to my doctor and he looked at my charts, he was alarmed by this dramatic loss. He immediately ordered a few tests. When the results came in, there were clear indications that something was wrong with my thyroid.
I was referred to an imaging center that would provide sonographic pictures of the gland in question. The results came back and three growths were found. The doctors felt like one of the “nodules” needed to be biopsied, so they did a procedure called a “Fine Needle Aspiration.”
The biopsy was done and then I waited several days.
Luckily, the results came back two days ago and there were no indications of cancer. Honestly, I was never worried, not because I was certain that the test would turn out the way it did. I wasn’t worried because I’m getting older and have been mentally prepping myself for years for this precise sort of occurrence.
You should know that I’m not the sort of person to shake my fist at the sky and ask “Why me?” when things happen. I’m more the “Why not me?” type.
In the overall scheme of things, why would cancer (or whatever scary thing you can think of) not happen to me? There is nothing about me that is special. I’m made of flesh and blood and bone just like everyone else. Things can easily go wrong with me; horrible things go wrong with people (who are better and nicer than I am) every single day.
This has been an interesting experience for a lot of reasons. I had family members who would get upset with me when I would say, for example, “It could easily be cancer.” They felt like I was being too negative, that I was surrendering, that I needed to muster the power of positive thinking.
I sometimes think there is very little difference between positive thinking and wishful thinking. The great Barbara Ehrenreich wrote an interesting and renowned book called Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America, which made this same argue several years ago. (Call me a contrarian if you want. I don’t mind.)
Don’t get me wrong. Positive thinking is better than gloom and doom. But we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about and think about endings that aren’t “Happily ever after.”
What I see in many Americans—the same is likely true of people elsewhere—is this need to suppress thoughts related to scary things like death, dying, and mortality. I hope I don’t shock anyone when I say this: We are all going to die.
I can see the Stoic in me is coming out strong in this one.
I’d like to finish with a recommendation. If you haven’t already done so, read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, one of the great Stoic writers and thinkers. On just about every page, Aurelius reminds us that our time on this earth is short and that our bodies and minds are in a constant state of decay. He doesn’t write these words to be morbid or to depress; he hopes his words motivate us to make as much as we can with the time that we have.