I catch myself in the midst of my laughter.
It was something they said on the Cleveland Show. It feels like V. and I have been through all three seasons this week, in the midst of endless football and a steady diet of Kronenberg’s. I caught myself because I had two realizations. 1) That the week after the week after chemo was so freaking sweet and 2) That I was genuinely happy.
I think back before this all happened. Months before I had cancer I found myself in the CCU (Cardiac Care Unit). I was on call for cardiology, on night float and I walked in to see the nurses there, and even though the night ultimately turned out to be completely crazy as can happen in CCU, I remember the nurses laughing at me being excited to be on call, saying I was one of the happiest residents they knew. The truth is that this was partially because I loved being on for cardiology. I find it much more straightforward than being on call for medicine, I enjoy the responsibility it entails and I knew if things ever got really dicey I could call Anand in a panic. Yes, having a brother who is a brilliant and some might say “workaholic” Cardiologist has its benefits.
I absolutely adored the nurses working in the hospital and they took such good care of me, from emerg, to the CCU, to the floors and now in ATP- there was always a kind word for me. You know what, more than that, throughout this whole cancer journey and my residency they’ve been loving, funny and kind to me- and if anyone has a word about these people to the contrary they are cordially invited to go fuck themselves. When residents start off one of the big worries is: will the nurses like me? Will I have to fight with them and other docs? I’ve always found that in 95% of cases no one needs to fight with each other and people you work with are truly wonderful. Sure there are 5% of cases when people fight- it’s healthcare, there is stress, there are personalities- sometimes people fight. But you got to pick those battles for when 5% is someone’s life or quality of life- that’s the only thing worth fighting over. Everything else is a pissing contest or pass the buck bullshit I have no fucking time for. It’s healthcare and patients- if you don’t want to admit the patient because you’re a lazy shitty doctor, I will admit the patient and look after them. And if you think that not admitting or passing on patients to other services is ‘winning’ then you live a small and very sad life and I hope you get an anal fissure and have intense pain while defecating.
But as usual I fucking digress. The point is that when they told me in CCU I was one of the happiest residents they knew it was both true and untrue. The truth is that I’m a pretty happy guy, that even when all the shit hit the fan I was pretty positive and upbeat about the whole thing. But the thing is being happy isn’t something that’s happened to me naturally.
I wouldn’t describe myself as a naturally happy person. As you can guess, like many writers, I’d actually be more of a grey melancholic. I mean Hemingway seems like he’s the happiest guy in the world in “Moveable feast” and then later BANG! I don’t know what it is about writers, but I’d say in my case it would be my perceptions of people, my endless need to think and dissect situations- these traits are not exactly conducive to making one happy.
But I am truly and genuinely happy now. And I think it’s because I insist it of myself incessantly. I insist that I be happy. Why? Because no matter what it’s the best choice of mood. Because you can either be unhappy or happy- so be happy. Life is short, and no one wants to fucking cry with you all the time. Life is hard for all of us, we all have our own shit, so yeah from time to time you can lean on someone, but to constantly just drop shit on someone- your wife or best friend or co-workers doesn’t matter- it’s fucking selfish and shitty. Now I’m not talking about depression here- I’m not talking about actual biological mental illness- that’s something different. I’m talking about the everyday existentialist shit we all go through, life and love and loss and parking tickets. That’s what we must rebel against, against the thousand reasons we have to be unhappy but the one reason we must be- because to choose anything else is cowardly and ultimately more difficult for ourselves. Because even though we all get shit, if you’re using a computer and reading this you are more fortunate than 90% of the world. But even, perhaps especially when your life is shit, and we all get shit on eventually, that’s when it’s really most important to be happy paradoxically- because if you can be happy and laugh during your worst days, then all the rest of your days are just so easy by comparison. And to be happy during your worst days is how you form character, show grace, and attempt to make the world a better place.
Today’s a day I choose to be happy despite the fact that I have cancer, and am about to get chemo. And chemo’s going to lead me to a dark place, and it’s going to be bad- there’s really no use lying about it- but that’s later. I’ll deal with that when it comes to me. Today and this breath, that’s all that’s given to me, and it’s my responsibility to make sure that’s enough for me and to put a smile on my face. And the person I owe this to is myself. Because one day I’m going to die, and that day is not up to me- it might be sooner but hopefully later than I think it will be. And when I do go I’m going to have to ask myself if I filled my days with joy to the best of my ability. And if my answer isn’t yes, then I will have wasted my life. And I can’t fucking afford that. No one can.
Lots of Love