Monday, October 26, 2009

Lightening up

Man, those last two posts depressed me. I figure it's time to lighten up for a minute here.

My 10-year-old, Owen, is sick today. I think it's probably strep (my Google medical degree at work here), so I'm taking him into the doctor in a couple of hours to see what a 'real' doctor has to say about it. The last time I took a child in with strep, I asked over the phone if I could just get a prescription called into the pharmacy. "I have four kids," I said. "I've seen strep dozens of times. I'm sure that's what it is." "No, we need to see him," the nurse told me. So we went in. The doctor had him open his mouth, and she said, "Yep. Looks like strep. I'll write you a prescription." I said, "No test?" She said, "No. We don't do the quick tests here, and since I think he should start antibiotics now anyway, there's no reason to do the long test." My child promptly threw up on the doctor's shoes. I thought it was a fitting response.

So I was thinking this morning that I often wish I had a medical degree--not so I could take care of other people or actually *be* a doctor, but so I could diagnose my own family and write prescriptions for them. Then I thought, if I had all the time in the world, I *could* go to medical school. Then I thought, okay, how much time would I need to know I have left in my life in order to find a medical degree worth pursuing.

Stay with me for a minute here.

The young adult novel I'm working on getting published right now is about eternal youth. (No, there are no vampires in my book, so don't sigh and roll your eyes at me.)Several of the characters have been alive for anywhere from 500 to 2000 years, and they're not necessarily thrilled about it. That's a long time to live, you know. We often say, "Life is short." But really, how long do we want it to be? I used to scare myself to tears when I was growing up (and I'm talking through high school) at the thought of living forever. I'd start to shake and panic at the idea of year after year after year, unending, eternal. Okay, so it still freaks me out a lot.

But how long here would suffice? And if we knew for sure we had another 100 years left, what would we do differently? Anything? What about 200 years? Or 1000? We think all the time about what we'd do if we knew we only had a day or a week or a year. But what about the other end of the spectrum? Would we stay in our current jobs? Would we become more careful or more reckless? If doctors found a cure for cancer and heart disease and every physical ailment out there, leaving us with only violence as a means of dying (wait... did I say I was trying to lighten up my blog?), what impact would that have on us on an individual level? On a societal level? Would we be happy? Happier? What would happen to our relationships? Would we cling to our loved ones as tightly as we do now?

Okay, so, yeah, that wasn't so light after all, was it? But I think the point I intended to make was this: Life is short. Sometimes much shorter than we'd anticipated and shorter than we want it to be. But all in all, it's a pretty good deal. Part of me is very glad I'm forced to pack in all I can to each moment, each day, each year. It's nice to be able to treasure what we have, because perhaps abundance would lead us to take too much for granted.

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