A speaker I once heard said, “The key to happiness is wanting what you have, not having what you want.”
I thought about this a lot after I was diagnosed last year with a rare and aggressive form of uterine cancer. Suddenly I knew I wanted the life I already have–just more of it.
Right before they wheeled me away for a full hysterectomy, I turned to my husband, Jonathan. I expected to wake up from surgery, but you never know.
“I don’t really have a bucket list,” I told Jonathan, “Because I’ve already had everything I’ve ever wanted—this great life with you, our girls. . . ” I did not add that the things I still longed for were beyond my control—seeing our daughters settle into adulthood, spoiling our future grandchildren with too much chocolate.
Almost a year before my cancer diagnosis, Jonathan and I had stood in line at the Marsh Theater Box Office to pick up our tickets for Marga Gomez’s solo comedy show, “Not Getting Any Younger.” The woman in front of us had the bloat and stubbled hair of someone for whom chemo has nothing left to offer. She lived in the neighborhood, and had just spontaneously dropped by to see if she could catch the show.
“I’m afraid we’re all sold out,” the man behind the ticket counter told her. “But our run has been extended, so you should come back!”
“I’m not sure my run will be extended,” the woman replied.
“Hang on,” said the man, waving her to the side, then disappearing for a moment. He came back and fetched our tickets from the Will Call box, and we went to find our seats in the tiny, crammed theater.
Just before the show began, someone came in and set up a folding chair on the edge of the stage. The woman whose run was up sat down.
I watched her almost as much as I watched the show. She, like all of us, nearly fell out of her chair laughing as Marga Gomez switched from character to character chronicling the vagaries of aging.
Sometimes it seems unimaginative how little I thirst after adventure. But looking at the woman whose bloated face was beaming, I realized that I’d want to be like her if I knew I had limited time. Not off climbing peaks or having peak experiences in foreign lands. But to be right in my own neighborhood, among friends and loved ones, laughing my ass off.
I’m fine now, no longer contemplating a limited engagement. What would you want if you knew time was running out?