As I was driving to the hospital to visit my terminally ill mother, (stage IV cholangiocarcinoma) it dawned on me that there are situations in life when “staying positive”, or “focusing on the positive” isn’t going to happen. Where the weight and burden of life’s problems can overwhelm the best intentions of any feel good mantra. In fact there are times where you, I should say I, just don’t want to feel good. And are incapable of it.
But what is a son to do after he promised his dying mother, who he loves with all of his heart and soul, he would live his life, do good things, and make her proud, even though after watching her suffer every fiber of his being has had enough of life?
And then I thought about my code. A set of principles, a guiding philosophy, or standards I have tried to hold myself to, and live by. This code is not designed to make me happy or sad. Promise me a good life, or the prevention of bad things from happening. It is to remind me of who I am and who I strive to be. To keep me in check when I feel myself slipping. Or in this case, hanging from the pique of a mountaintop by my fingertips.
I think it is good to have a code. One of my favorite TV characters, Dexter, has one. His sister, Deb, once told him it sounded like something a child would have. Childhood reflects a time of innocence. So maybe that is not such a bad thing.
With information overload, and external influences coming from so many different directions from the time we are born, a simple code can be a safety valve. It can:
- Help you resist against being corrupted by temptations, and success.
- Keep you from being anchored down by the traumas of life.
- It can be a base by which to maintain your sense of self if you feel your sanity ebbing away.
- It can help you on your path without being a rulebook to run your life.
No matter the reason, when tidal waves of pain or pleasure arrive, it can be there for you when you feel like nothing else is. When you don’t want or feel like you can accept anyone’s help. Not etched in stone, this code can be adaptable as you adapt and experience new people and situations.
As part of your daily life, or kept away for a rainy day, I would encourage you to develop a code. Root it in meaning and principles that you strongly identify with. That can stand the test of time, and the good and bad challenges ahead. It, and you must be strong.
Surviving an emotional earthquake that would register a 2.0 on the richter scale is not so tough. But if you live long enough you may experience something closer to a 10.0. And at these times it may be nice to have something to fall back on to help you through. To keep you from crumbling as the earth rips apart beneath your feet.
A code doesn’t replace the love and support of family and or friends. It doesn’t offer the insight of therapy, philosophy, spirituality, or support groups. But it may give you the strength to seek those things out, or help get you, or keep you on your feet. The idea is to know yourself and prepare yourself, as best you can, for un-preparable situations in life.
When the time comes for my mother, I hope my code, a few hospital bed promises, and the fact that I know my mom, with all of her heart and soul, would want me to be happy and go on, are enough for me. Time will tell.
Update: Though published today, I initially wrote this blog on July 6th. I didn’t have the strength to publish it then, though I knew I might not have the strength or clarity to write about it later. That turns out to be an understatement. My mother passed on July 23rd. The funeral was on the 25th. She was my guiding light.