Over-the-counter life lessons

I’ve recently started working at a clinic whenever I’ve time to spare, and took away some absolute gems of wisdom from my patients through our conversations. We don’t need to live a thousand years through every possible combination of events to figure life out – we can simply learn from others who have been there. I like to think of these as over-the-counter life lessons, because I can get them simply by asking instead of having to look for them when I’m sick and it’s too late.

Lesson #1: If you haven’t already made it your profession, always keep your greatest passion in life as a hobby.

Chris walked into the clinic and immediately said to me, “You’ve changed the radio station! This music is beautiful.” He’s one of my favourite patients, and we share a similar passion for music and for jazz.

While removing electrodes from his back – strong but exhausted from 20 years of painting walls – I asked if he regretted not pursuing music professionally.

“Not at all”, he answered with utter conviction. “I play my guitar and my piano whenever I’ve time to spare, and I’m a composer on the side. Music has pulled me through depression and all the tough times I’ve had to go through, and I’m so thankful I didn’t give it up.”

Life can be a total jerk sometimes. We all have that one thing that we can take and wrap around our hearts and our fists, so that we can smash right through our pain. For Chris and I, it’s music. For others it’s reading, or cooking, or dancing.

Find your shield in life, and always keep a firm grip on it.

Lesson #2: Don’t go into someone’s room and start moving their stuff around because you think it could use some tidying up.

Rachel scattered the contents of her purse across the counter in exasperation. I needed her private health insurance card but she just couldn’t find it. That’s almost $40 of her treatment fees that she wouldn’t be able to claim.

Rolling her eyes while mouthing a silent curse, she handed her credit card to me.

“It’s probably my boyfriend. He was cleaning my place this morning. He thinks he’s doing me a favour, but he really isn’t,” she complained.

As someone whose mess constantly compels her OCD friends to lay their hands on her things, I completely understood how she must have felt.

Don’t touch my stuff – there’s order in my chaos.

Lesson #3, #4 and #5: Marry the right person.

One day, we’re going to wake up and wonder where those lines on our faces came from. We’re going to sit up in bed, only to cry out from the pain in our back. We’re going to look over at the person next to us in bed, and the lines on that face, and wonder how youth could possibly be so fleeting. And we’re either going to thank, or curse, the heavens depending on whether we had chosen the right person to be with for life.

Helen and Tim are both in their eighties, and they come into the clinic together every week for their routine chat with the doctor. He opens the door for her and puts a hand on her shoulder. His eyes are filled with nothing but love and adoration, even though she needs a walking aid and mumbles her sentences due to a stroke.

They know every single drug the other is taking, how much and when it needs to be taken. They hold hands and whisper to each other, and laugh, and come over to tell me how they feel better that day, and how they’re helping each other to stay positive.

Don’t marry for money, or looks, or convenience. Marry the person you compare everyone else to. Marry the person who makes you laugh and cry at the same time. Marry the person who will still be your best friend when your eyes grow dimmer and your knees grow weaker. Marry the person you want to fight through all the ugliness of old age, cancer, toothless grins and weak bladders with.

Marry the person you’ll look at and think, “if I ever lose you, I’ll never stop searching for you for the rest of my life.”

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