Recently, a slight medical scare left me facing my mortality again. Truthfully, it doesn’t take much to scare me when it comes to medical tests. I know enough about medicine not to worry about every little lump, scratch, or tickle, but if a doctor shows concern, I head into a tailspin.
I’m not sure why I’m such a fearful person, but I always have been. I so admire people like my husband who can have a test done and put it out of his mind until the results come back. I cycle through every possible outcome over and over, mostly at 3:00 a.m. I utter morbid asides as my sorry attempt to “lighten” the situation. Rather than throwing myself into my work to “forget my troubles,” I trouble myself by wondering if work really matters all that much, considering we’re all going to die anyway. “Geez, Mom,” my daughter says, “You’re so dramatic.”
Over dinner last night, I confided in friends about some of the medical scares I’ve had over the years. They laughed at the way I told my stories, but also commiserated about the very real terror such episodes evoke for some of us more sensitive souls. Facing our mortality means facing all the unfinished work we have yet to do, whether that’s raising our kids or starting that foundation or finally writing that book. It also evokes the question, “Have I done enough, and did I do it for the right reasons?”
A couple of days ago, I had the chance to speak virtually to a writer’s group in Florida. I gave the fifteen-minute overview of my 30-year career, and even I could recognize what I’d accomplished sounded pretty impressive. No, I’ve not yet made the New York Times bestseller list. No, I’ve not yet gotten that movie deal. No, I’ve not yet made a fortune, but I’ve followed my own path and because I have, every little achievement along the way feels very personal and very intimate. My childhood dream was to write a book. I’ve written eight! That in itself is impressive.
In my mastermind group this week, we did a “Future Self” exercise, a meditation where we visited ourselves at home 20 years in the future. Given my current state of mind over this medical scare, my first reaction was to feel deep relief that my Future Self answered the door at all. She was still here! I didn’t get a sense of specifically what she had accomplished in those 20 years, but she looked happy and calm in that grandmotherly sort of way. I had a sense she was regarded and revered as a “teacher,” although I’m not sure if that meant just for her family and friends or for a wider audience, and it didn’t seem to matter. Because the work we were put here to do changes the world in ways large and small and that’s enough. I think she had come to embody that finally.
Our work is meant to bring us joy, and that joy brings us energy, and that energy enables us to serve others, and that service lays a foundation for others to pick up where we leave off. I’m not yet ready to shuffle off this mortal coil, but I understand now that in the next 20 years all I can do is what I do. Some years that may be a lot, some years it may be a little, but always, it will be enough.
To find more inspiring posts like this one, please visit the blog — “Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life.”