I haven’t written for a few weeks because for a couple of them, I was sick. It all started with some symptoms that looked like Lyme disease. I’m from Pennsylvania, which is one of those tick-rich states where Lyme is a threat. I went to the doctor’s office and he thought it looked like Lyme, so he prescribed an antibiotic called Doxycycline and ordered a Lyme test.
Had I known what Doxy would do to me, I would have declined. But I didn’t know, so I followed the doctor’s orders. It took about a week for the side effects to manifest. The original symptoms that sent me to the doctor were nothing compared to what Doxy did to me.
I won’t describe the details, but they were pretty terrible. This little turquoise pill picked my life apart, and I was a man undone. Pill vs. Man. Victory goes to Pill. Man feels obliterated by Little Turquoise Pill. I didn’t think I would ever feel better again. Really. I’m an uber-positive guy, but Dastardly Little Pill would not relent.
So I just stopped taking it, and played the odds that I didn’t have Lyme (the test said negative, but apparently Lyme tests aren’t that reliable). I had to take my life back. It took about a week to feel like myself again. And now that I do, I have to say—I’m actually thankful for getting sick.
Sometimes you have to get sick to get well. My time down led me to some important insights, and I see much clearer now.
I’ve got to say—life is fragile. You can be going along swimmingly and suddenly, you’re taken out by the smallest of things. Do you know how small a tick is? Do you know how small a dastardly little pill is? Big, Busy, Important Man. Little tick, little pill. Down for the count, no contest.
So here’s what I learned, how getting sick made me better:
Life is fragile, treat yourself kindly.
Life is fragile, you’re not really sure what’s going to happen. You follow the doctor’s advice, you feel worse. Who knew? Life is fragile, and life is also hard. Hard things happen all the time. Here’s what you don’t need—you don’t need to be cruel and unkind to yourself. You don’t need to beat yourself up, be all harsh and rattled when it comes to you. Life is fragile, treat yourself kindly.
Life is fragile, you are not your work.
I remember during the sleepless nights at 2 AM, grabbing my phone to see what emails came in. Then I’d tell myself, it’s 2 AM, what are you thinking? Then I’d check again in case anything arrived in the meantime. Then I’d tell myself, it’s 2 AM, what are you thinking? I realized then that the connection between myself and my work was too tight. Work is something you do, work is not something you are. When your identity teeters on your work, there’s a problem. Life is fragile, you are not your work.
Life is fragile, do what matters most.
Being incapacitated makes you evaluate what matters most. When I feel better, what do I really want to do? Whom do I want to be around? What does matter most? We don’t often ask ourselves such questions. We mainly float around in life, being knocked around by circumstances or pushy people or deadlines without giving attention to what matters most. But our lives are defined by what we deem important. Life is fragile, do what matters most.
Life is fragile, be you.
I keep coming back to a quote by Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy: “Ain’t no thing like me, except me!” It’s true—how many of you do you think there are? There’s but one. There’s but one of you who will ever grace the earth, walk this trodden soil. And since life is not only fragile, but also short, that means you becoming you is one of the things that matters most. You don’t want to come to the end of your life with the regret that you never became you. Life is fragile, be you.
So, like I said, terrible as it was, I’m grateful for my time with Dastardly Little Pill. It taught me some things I needed to learn—and just maybe you’ll pick up some things, too. If that happens, it was even more worth it.