Having a hole in your brain isn’t all terrible. Dare I say I’m grateful for having the opportunity to endured such a misfortune.
For I’ve learned my attitude about such stark truth is simply a matter of perspective.
Like this one time when I was having a PET scan– which tests for Multiple Sclersosis. I had to drink barium and let it run through my body 4 hours prior to the test. To kill time, I went to the bar and drank a few pints of the strongest stout they had. When it came time for the test, I returned to the testing room, laid on the testing bed, asked for a blanket and fell asleep for 45 minutes. When the test was over the nurse, who told me earlier that day that he was from Pakistan, couldn’t wake my up. When he did, I asked if I had been snoring.
He looked up from a clip board and in a loud, rolling Pakistani way said, “Very much.”
I remember how tough the first Christmas after the doctors discovered the hole in my brain was. How I spent nights upon nights talking to Cindy about the plan if I were to die soon. And how, instead of doing a Pollyanna at our annual Christmas Eve party, my extended family gave Cindy and I a card full of money and signed it “Love”.
Or like the time a friend texted me minutes before having surgery: “I was nervous as hell but I’m reading some of your stories and I’m okay now. Thanks for keeping me company.”
Or one particular night that knees ached so bad that I was just angry at everyone and everything and how my daughter drew a family of smiling stick figures, holding hands and under a pair of puffy blue clouds and gave it to me and said, “It’s okay daddy, you’ll be smiling soon. I just know it.”
Or all the times mom took the day off from work and rode the train with me into the city just to sit next to me at a doctor’s appointment. And how later that day dad would call to hear about the appointment and remind me to keep my head up.
Even now, I sometimes lay in bed, stare at the ceiling, digest the stories of my life, and wonder if they were a dream. Or if they were someone else’s stories. Or if maybe the hole was meant for someone else’s brain.
Then I reminded how tragically human those empty thoughts are. We all think we deserve better. We think we don’t deserve our misfortunes.
But in the seas of such self-pity I’m reminded of the Latin phrase: Amor fati–a love of fate.
Good and bad, happy and sad, planned and unplanned—to truly understand all that we’ve endure, we must make the best of all we’ve endured.
I know it sounds strange: Make the best of your misfortunes. Because those misfortunes are here to make us try harder, love harder, understand deeper, celebrate louder, and live a fuller, richer lives.
And when we have the courage to do that—we learn that gratitude and happiness are just simple tilts of perspective.