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  • Writer's pictureEric Knabel

Thoughts From Six Feet Away: THANK YOU!

We are at our best when the heat is on.

Although stress can be an overwhelming thing, it seems to bring out the best in us. Think about a time when you were up against a deadline, or in a high-pressure situation. While we didn’t like the way it made us feel, think about how we functioned mentally. We were focused, weren’t we? Focused on the problem that lied ahead, sometimes to the point of obsession. All our faculties, all our efforts coalesced onto this singular issue. We were creative with our solutions, and we managed our time well. The hours may have been long, but when the smoke cleared, there was a period of relief. We presume that it was from the break from the stress, but perhaps it was our subconscious telling us something, like this is how we’re supposed to do things.


On a related note, happy Tax Day to all my accountant friends. I raise my glass to you today.

Unfortunately, that is how we tend to live our lives, navigating from crisis to crisis. In between, there’s a lot of Netflix, a lot of eating, a lot of drinking, a lot of <insert favorite leisure time activity here>. We do well in finding our way past adversity, but we still haven’t seemed to master how to handle those in-between moments, the mortar that makes up the brick wall that we like to call everyday life. How do we make the most of a litany of nondescript days that we describe to our family and friends as “all right,” when they ask about our day?

I really struggled in this arena for so long. Many rhetorical questions were asked and stop me if you’ve heard some of these before: is this all there is? When is life going to be fun again? Were we miserable before, because we seemed much happier when we were broke? When are things going to start going my way again? We are doing better than them – how come they’re happier than we are? If any of these scenarios sound familiar, then I have two words for you that will change your life.

Thank you.

Those were the words that got me out of arguably the toughest twelve-month stretch of my life. For those who read my blog regularly, you know that I lost two of my best friends in the world in the past year, as well as a dear family member. For those who are new, those posts can be found here, here, and here. I was struggling, caught in a rat race that is all-too common in the lives of medical professionals. The desire for better things, the desire for more, and comparing ourselves to our co-workers. My kids had a teacher that once said, “comparison is the thief of joy,” and I was a living testament to this statement. Then tragedy struck my life, and I was lost. What’s the point in all that I’m pursuing, all that I aspire to be, if it can all be over in a heartbeat? What if I die before I get there? My friend Keith truly loved his life and lived it on his own terms, and he never seemed trapped, like me. By the measures of society, I was the successful one, but in the areas that really mattered, he was my superior in all aspects. It required a change in focus (and a visit to my doctor to work these things out), from “more” to “enough.” “Someday” gave way to “why not now?” And my conversations with my Creator went from “please” to “thank you.”

Now, I practice gratitude. I’m thankful for my health. I’m thankful that I can speak my mind and not be taken from my home in the middle of the night (while understanding that ‘freedom of speech’ is much different than ‘freedom from consequence’). I’m thankful that there are people willing to make food for me when I don’t feel like doing it myself. I see the value of every human being, even if they can’t “do anything for me.” My relationships with others stopped being transactional or conditional. In practicing mindfulness, they speak of terms like “beginner’s mind” and “non-striving.” I see joy in the mundane, and while I haven’t given up on goals and dreams, the journey is now more important than the destination. I spend little time worrying about things now, largely because I have a belief that everything is going to be all right. As I told my mom just yesterday, that is the foundation of faith. I used to be someone that had to control everything, even things that were impossible to control. Now, I’m responsible for my own behavior, and everything else will take care of itself. Not to mention, it’s like holding a handful of sand, the tighter you try to squeeze it, the more falls between your fingers. In the immortal words of 38 Special, hold on loosely, but don’t let go.

I’m grateful for anyone who chose to read this today. I am thankful for you. It is validating to me that anyone would take comfort in my words. Practice gratitude and focus on what you have, rather than what you don’t have. After all, we have fun with those that come to the party, rather than moan about who stayed home. As always, be excellent to each other, and…

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