A Healthy Person Has 1,000 Wishes, a Sick Person Has Only One

3 min read

Last week, I fixed a hernia. It was an elective surgery, but while awaiting my turn to be taken into the OR, I overheard a conversation behind the curtain.

“I remember when I was healthy, I could do anything. Wish I did more with my life…” said a woman in a raspy voice.

She's now diabetic, overweight, in a lot of physical pain, and was getting ready for a back surgery.

“You'll be healthy again,” replied the nurse.

“I am diabetic, hun. Can barely afford my meds. I was a smoker, too. Never took care of myself and I lived with a lot of stress. I've been in pain for years. Don't do what I did. Live!”

Their conversation was interrupted, but it got me thinking…

People are dying around us all the time, and yet we somehow still think we have a lot of time left to do all the things that matter to us.

Change jobs, build a business, write that book. Travel. Make new friends. Fall in love again, this time with the right person. Build a perfect home.

Yet, we never know when all that might get disrupted by an illness.

We have this one life, but instead of living it fully, taking care of ourselves—inside and out—we frequently sit in fear and anxiety, overthinking and worrying about the things that ultimately don't matter.

After my surgery, I asked the nurse to take a picture of me. Not because I thought I looked fantastic, but because I wanted a reminder that I could return to that hospital bed at any point, and do so involuntarily.

I wanted a picture to remind me to ask myself: If I am in that hospital bed, how much would I care about the day-to-day bullshit that worries me now?

I wouldn't. At all. And neither would you.

As humans, we are scared of death and illness, and therefore we have this remarkable ability to ignore the reality of it. But this fear and avoidance are to our own detriment.

Not recalling our own mortality sabotages us. Makes us scared. Stuck. Distracted. Mediocre. We waste so much time on inconsequential stuff.

Instead of fearing not having lived well, we fear change and discomfort, so we tell ourselves stories to feel better temporarily, instead of facing our mortality head on.

We get outraged at the small stuff. Spend our days blaming. Fearing. Hoping. Resisting. Pretending.

All the while life is passing.

Life is so precious, but only if we remember that it is so.

Getting sick can remind us of that quickly.

What I am saying is that . . .

You can live a life you love, filled with joy and satisfaction, meaning and purpose, but only if you are intentional about it.

If you don't take it for granted.

If you live from a place of courage, nurture, gratitude, and kindness.

If you remember that life is today: your goals, dreams, all of it. It's right now.

If you think happiness is someplace else, it will never be where you are.

It's now.

And it all starts with taking care of yourself.

This means getting enough sleep, eating well, stimulating your mind by learning, moving your body, getting regular check-ups, surrounding yourself with good people and rewarding experiences. It means you contribute to making this world a little bit better, being generous and kind, and working through your own limiting beliefs, past hurts, and fears.

It also means chasing your goals and dreams, boldly and courageously.

It means living authentically without excuses or pretense. It means being real.

It means not wanting to have regrets like my hospital “neighbor” on the other side of the curtain.

I don't know about you, but when my time is up, I want to look back and not regret how little I lived, but rejoice at what an amazing ride it had been.

None of us knows when the body may give up or when the time's up, but you and I both can take care of it and live in such a way that it won't matter. Because we will have lived so well.

And we can start today.

As long as we live, each new day is an opportunity to focus on what matters most and to live well.