It has been several months now since my last post. Sometimes I look back and it feels like an entire lifetime ago. Sometimes it seems like that time has passed in the blink of an eye. In February I was lying in a hospital bed and my doctors were apologising to me for having made the decision to go ahead with transplant, saying they regretted it and it was the wrong decision, given where I had ended up. Only… that wasn’t the end was it? That hospital bed, those disappointed doctors, those dull, confusing, incomprehensible weeks… that wasn’t where I ended and they certainly weren’t the conclusion of my story.
I guess the question you might have now is why has it taken me so long to get back here? There’s no good answer really except that it is good. I have been busy, very busy, living. I have been walking up the mount and making plans and writing (not for the blog), seeing friends and travelling and doing jobs that have sat on my to-do list since forever. I have started projects and finished them, built things, cooked things, planted things, created things. I haven’t had to miss out. I haven’t had to leave early. I haven’t been in hospital. I haven’t been substituting for a pin cushion at the path lab. I have been well.
That seems such a bland way to put it when I wake up every day feeling the magnitude and marvel of it. To be able to say yes without hesitation, anxiety, fear, without provisos or qualms… to be able to say yes at all. Yes I will come. Yes I will go. Yes I can, I can do that. Yes. Again, such a bland word, such a little word, but oh, such a powerful one. In the last weeks I have felt so empowered and emboldened by that ‘yes’. I have done so many things that as little as three months ago we would have said would never be possible. The doctors have called it a miracle. And it is a miracle. Life is a miracle. Every single, boring, banal, exciting, happy, sad part of it. I will never not feel the extraordinariness of being able to do things; the utter magic of ‘yes’.
So… what next? What do I do with this miraculous life of mine? What do I say yes to next? I have spent almost a decade waiting for this moment, going quietly and gently and carefully through my days trying to get to the next one.
When you spend as much time facing the precariousness of your life as I have you inevitably have to think about its end. Mortality makes you contemplate… what will my immortal actions be? What is my legacy? When Death sits right next to you, you are forced to make conversation with it and answer some questions you’d maybe rather avoid. If I left this world today, how would I be leaving it? Not in the sense of “how will I die?”, I’m not picturing fiery car crashes or solemn, noble deathbeds; I mean, what sort of impact have I made in this world with my life? What would my eulogy say about me? Where would I have left my mark? Which, though it might seem morbid, is actually a brilliant and illuminating way to see how wonderful and beautiful and full of potential every single moment that we live can be. We don’t have to be perfect, God knows I’m not. But we can be good. We can be kind. We can be courageous. We can be compassionate. None of those things demand we don’t make mistakes, that we don’t fail, or that we sacrifice everything for them. These are values we can, and should, create our lives from and ones we can consider in almost every moment and every decision that we make.
I don’t pretend I manage that all the time. Sometimes I am thoughtless or careless; sometimes I think mean things; sometimes I throw stuff in the rubbish bin that should be recycled; sometimes I buy pad thai with prawns even though I know prawn farming is incredibly environmentally damaging. I don’t always do the right thing. Honestly, sometimes I’m not even sure what the right thing to do is.
Every single day though, in as many moments as I can, I try to be good. I try to be patient. I try to be kind. I try to be gracious. I try to forgive. I try to always remember that my story is just a tiny part of a much bigger and infinitely complicated narrative made up of billions of stories. I try to remember that the points at which my story intersects another are the moments in which I can make a positive impact, no matter how small.
I try to be better. Every day. I attempt to live as honestly as I can, both in being who I am and in making the effort to be the way I want to be. I spend a lot of time thinking about where my life should go, how I will be best to spend it, what I can do in our world in order to make it better. It can confuse me, it can overwhelm me, it can seem so big and so hard and so pointless sometimes. But I persevere because even in my own tiny story I know how much of a difference those little things can make. The cheery good mornings from my neighbours, the time my nurses spent with me just talking even as I knew they had many more hours work than they could achieve in their shift, the gentleness of my specialist as he discusses something difficult, the flowers from my friend’s garden picked with me in mind. I have been the recipient of immeasurable and uncountable kindnesses from others and I know from my experiences how valuable and meaningful they can be. If you feel insignificant it’s only because you haven’t realised yet the potential you have to be a part of something bigger. I don’t want this to sound preachy but truthfully, even a small gesture can make a big impact; it can be life changing for you or the person you make it towards. Now that I (finally) have some energy, most of all I want to use it to pay those kindnesses both back and forward.
I feel like I worked to survive every single year of the last ten years. They were difficult, complicated, limited years. But now that I can think beyond surviving, I plan to work to deserve them. I have a good life, a very good life. My ambition now is to make it a worthy one.
The title is derived from a line in a song by Arcade Fire called Wake Up. The original goes “… we’re just a million little gods turning every good thing to rust” which talks about our tendency to ruin, corrupt or destroy everything around us. Sometimes that is accurate but I believe the converse is just as true; we also have the infinite capacity and power to make the bad into good and the good even better.