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  • Writer's pictureEric Knabel

Thoughts From Six Feet Away: Ain't It Great to be Alive?

When I last posted about the inconveniences of middle age, my wife read my post and asked if I was depressed. It was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but it appears that to some, I failed to execute my objective. Before anyone sends the authorities to my house for a welfare check, I can assure you that I’m doing just fine. I feel no more depression than the average citizen who looks around at the sad state of our world. In fact, thanks to my last blog post, I got my hearing checked and discovered I don’t need hearing aids (thanks, Dana!).

After having time to reflect, I realized that some of my words sounded ungrateful. As I often tell my patients, I’d rather be pulling daisies than pushing them up. And even though joy is harder to come by these days, it can be found in the smallest of places. The world may seem big when viewed through the lens of the mainstream media and all its sensationalism, but it is in those times that I choose to make my world small and focus on “managing the manageable.” I’ve always prided myself on being adaptable, but it can sometimes be tricky to know when change is necessary. I’ve always thought if it violates who you want to be as a person, change is required.

I feel like that becomes even more important as we age. So many times, I’ve listened to people refuse to adapt because they’re “set in their ways.” Remaining fixed in a place that will alienate you from others is not the recipe for a happy life, no matter how comfortable it seemingly makes you at the time. We are meant for greatness, and all things are constantly changing; in our minds, our bodies, and in the world around us.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m not one to grumble about my situation for too long, so I’ve decided to alter my approach in this post; namely, I’m going to focus on the benefits of still being along for the ride on Spaceship Earth. Satchel Paige, the famed Negro League pitcher, once asked, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” He certainly practiced what he preached – he started his last major league game just two weeks shy of his 60th birthday.

It’s so important to take advantage of opportunities in this life, but it becomes more so as you get older. When I was in my first year of residency, my dad was dying of prostate cancer. He loved Star Wars, just like me, and begged me to take him to see The Phantom Menace in the theater, the first new Star Wars Movie in 17 years. His wife nixed the idea, and he died a couple of months later. I still regret not taking him, all these years later. Embrace the moments, because you never know when your ability to live them will be taken from you.

In the spirit of my theme of gratitude, I’ve decided to list the things that I’m glad I was alive to see. I’m sure there are more, but I’m just thinking of the ones that come to mind on this cold Monday:

I’m grateful to see a time where to be a nerd is celebrated rather than chastised.

I know people like to complain about the youth, but I’m thankful that they’re a kinder lot than we were as kids.

I’m glad that Hayden Christensen is now being celebrated for his role as Anakin Skywalker, after years of abuse from Star Wars “fans.”

It was inspiring to see the Berlin Wall come down and Germany re-unify.

And on the heels of that, it was refreshing to see the fall of the Soviet Union. Where have you gone, Mikhail Gorbachev?

I’m thankful that my kids don’t go to bed every night afraid of impending nuclear war.

I love living in a time where music is on demand. While it sucks for the artists, it’s nice to randomly think about something obscure, like Elvis’ Aloha From Hawaii, and be able to listen to it in just minutes.

I’m glad to live in a time where breast cancer and colon cancer aren’t automatic death sentences, thanks to early detection.

One of my proudest moments was to see my son graduate high school, knowing how much he has struggled in his short life. I’m sad that my daughter’s was taken from her, but I look forward to seeing her get that diploma from college next year.

And speaking of kids, I love this point in their lives. I wasn’t the best during the toddler years, but now I feel like I finally have something to offer. Mentorship is so important to humans, and I ask for guidance every day to be a good example and a kind word.

1996 was a big year: I got married, I started my second year of medical school. But the teenage boy in me was thrilled to see KISS put the makeup back on and start selling out big shows again.

1995 was no slouch, either…I got to hear new Beatles music. And from what I’m told, there will be another new song coming out soon. Get back to where you once belonged.

It’s humbling to see babies I delivered, held, and cared for in my office grow into adults. My allergies get really bad when their parents ask me to take pictures with them.

I’ve always rooted for the underdog, so it was great to see the end of the Curse of the Goat and the Bambino. In 2016, the world fell in love with the Cubs. I’m also thankful that I’m no longer under any obligation to root for the Red Sox.

Finally, it’s great to be alive to see my wife pursue her lifelong dream of being a writer. Fly high, you spectacular human being.


Being reminded of all these great life moments has boosted my spirits, and I hope it makes you think of your own. There is a lot of pain in this world, and it’s tempting to think that the world is getting worse. In my opinion, all the suffering has always been there, it’s just that now we can no longer ignore it. But there is joy too, and it’s worth any extra effort to find it in our little corner of the world. Be the change you want to see in the world. Be excellent to each other, and…

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