A sense of urgency
I remember back in 2002, as I was recovering from my first battle with leukemia, I was gripped by a sense that I had been given a sign, that somehow I had to get out and do something of significance. Of course, being me, I never really settled on exactly what that was and the feeling sort of passed. Don't get me wrong, there is always a significant part of me that feels my choices should be governed by how I can make a positive impact on the world. It's just that part of me got a little quieter over time.
Today, now about 6 months post stem cell transplant, I also have this sense of urgency, although this time it is a little bit different. Before, my visions of what I needed to do were grand, monumental even. Change the world in 6 weeks kind of stuff. Today, I really feel a need more to do so many of the things that I have thought about doing, or started doing and never finished. I talk a lot about how important it is for people to be engaged and participate in politics, yet I have done very little to involve myself in the process. I'm always going on about writing this and that and yet when it comes to actually getting it done I do often end up paralyzed, afraid to start or to go beyond some initial conceptualizing. And while I have lots of thoughts and ideas about how the world can be a greener place, I find myself, often, not going out of my way to make the greenest choice, not always living what I ostensibly think and preach.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting I'm going to go out and swing my whole life around tomorrow. Far from it. That would be too much like I tried to do in 2002, and I could see myself sitting here stunned, overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. No, I'm looking at it more like a project of continuous improvement: I know where I want to go, and it's a question of making individual choices along the way to get there. When I'm feeling nerdy, I think of it as a kind of kaizen, whereby every thing I do, I try to do just a little bit better each time, guided by my values and and understanding of where it is I would like to ultimately be. It reminds me of the phase at the Home Depot where we all ran around with orange bracelets that said "Improve Everything You Touch" (inspired I believe by Bob Nardelli's devotion to Six Sigma) which, really, isn't that bad a way of looking at things.
So today my sense of urgency about these things is, in many ways, not as urgent. I feel like I'm doing well, can makes some good choices and feel good about what I accomplish. Still, have fought leukemia twice now (and, in some respects, I am still fighting I suppose), there remains that sense that my time might just be limited. It's not something I think about every day by any means, but the reality is many wonderful people I have met or known over the last 8 years who have fought this disease are no longer with us, and the numbers tell me it isn't just my imagination. I don't and won't let myself obsess over this, but it's hard to keep it out of the back of my mind.
I also feel a sense of resposibility. I'm here and so many who have been in my position are not. How can I not do my best to make the most of my life, whether it is significant and world-changing or not. So for those I've met, friends I've made, who fought the battle and lost, I will do my best to make the most of what I have, and to "improve everything I touch." And for Tommy and Bennett, my wonderful sons, I hope that in living my life this way I can provide an example of which you can be proud, regardless of what may come.