Appreciating what we don’t know we have

Four hours and 10 minutes ago, I walked out of my office, not to return for three months.  It was very odd.  It was sort of like quitting a job, but not at all the same.

As I left I saw a coworker who was still working, promising she’d leave soon.  She works a lot of hours, and seeing her working made me sad.  I understand why she does it; I used to work a lot for the same reasons.  There’s the sense of responsibility, the pride in work well done, and other such feelings.  She is not forced to stay late, but she feels an obligation to get the work done.  I understand that.  Like I said, I used to do the same thing, but that was before.

For years I worked too many hours.  I’m not talking about 80 hour weeks (well, maybe once or twice), but I was working too much and enjoying life too little.  One of the good parts of illness is that it’s forced me to slow down and appreciate life.  Then again, I now feel too lousy to enjoy it as much as I could have several years ago when I felt better.

It’s frustrating that we don’t know what it is we could lose.  Even now, very aware of what I’ve lost, I can’t appreciate what I have.  I try, I really do, but I know that I won’t really understand what I have until it’s gone.  There’s a lot that I’ve lost temporarily, and I’m always grateful to get it back.  That’s a start.  But then there’s the rest.

As I walked out the door, I tried not to sound preachy when I suggested that my coworker enjoy life while she can.  She gave me that pitying look that we all know too well.  She thought I was just projecting my situation on to her.  Maybe I was.  But that doesn’t make it less true; she’s healthy now and should take advantage of it, because no one ever knows when that will change.  I wish I could have made her see that.


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