Friday, August 26, 2011

Food for Thought

I don't usually post about things in the news, or about other people's writings, but this is well worth it. Food for thought, and perhaps a timely reminder to live life to its fullest.

A friend sent me an excerpt from Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005. It's even more poignant now that he has retired due to illness.

Excerpts from his speech:
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. 

Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Have a good day everyone.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Just one more..

 These pics don't really go with the story either, but my excuse is it's summer (and anything goes in summer)

Being a Grandma means learning to keep your mouth shut. What worked for us 'way back in the olden days, doesn't necessarily work for our children in these new days. Besides, they need to be making their own decisions about their own lives. Just as we did when it was our turn.

Being a Grandma allows us to observe quietly. Perhaps we might learn something new about our fast-changing world. Even if things were better back then, that life is gone. Better to learn how to live today, than wish we were living yesterday.

Being a Grandma teaches us to be grateful. I'm grateful I don't have to run after active toddlers all day, every day. Only sometimes.

Being a Grandma gives us a new  freedom. I don't have to cook huge meals or do mountains of laundry any more. I can sit and read or sip tea without interruption all afternoon, if I choose.

And finally, being a Grandma gives us moments. Hugging moments, sharing moments, snuggling moments, comforting moments, loving moments, all laced together with smiles and chuckles at unexpected moments.

Okay, now here's the "just one more"......
A trip to the local public library was on our agenda that afternoon.
Bag of library books to be returned.
Water bottles and snacks.
Children in their car seats.
Seatbelts fastened (with a little difficulty as Grandma is not so dexterous as she once was, and those plastic thing-me-bobs clips that attach over, under, and between are hard on the thumbs!).

I quickly get in behind the wheel and push the "childproof  lock buttons" . Now, tiny fingers cannot open car doors while Grandma is driving.

Turning around to make sure everyone is all right, I notice four-year-old toddler is wiggling around uncomfortably in her carseat.
"What's wrong, Jasmine?"
"Grandma, " she says very politely in her little-girl voice, "will you please digest my seatbelt?"