What's It All About?

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Too many of my friends are suffering from serious or life-threatening illnesses.  These serious circumstances are very difficult but do serve to refocus priorities. 

I remember a time as a young father.  My first-born infant son had a little bit of a croupy cough that quickly became much worse.  Soon we found ourselves in the emergency room with a child barely breathing, too fatigued to do much more than a whimper, whose lips and fingernails turned blue with even the slightest extra exertion.  He was not doing well. He was subsequently admitted to the intensive care unit.

At the time I was an undergraduate college student and was becoming more serious about my studies.  I had hopes of improving my grades and doing well enough that I might eventually be admitted to medical school.  I had a couple of major papers due and major tests within a day or two. 

My infant son's experience in the hospital brought a few things into focus for me.  It became very clear to me that even though school was important, it was trivial compared to the life and well-being of my son.  It became clear to me that in life some things are important, and some things are not.  Those papers and tests that were due in the next few days suddenly became so much less important than they had been just a few days earlier.

I had been given a new understanding of what is important and what isn't. I'm not arguing against doing well in school, and I think it is important to do a good job of whatever it is you are doing - but it is nice to have some perspective regarding the relative importance of things. 

In the big scheme of things, some things are not as big or important as we think. Of course, it is important that we pay attention to the mundane details of life, but it is also important that we not confuse the mundane details of life for the fundamental principles of our life.  Let us not lose sight of the forest for the trees. Some of those core issues that ought not to be overlooked include things such as family, faith, friends, purpose, meaning, integrity, charity, service, and fidelity to values.  Sometimes it takes a near death experience, either your own or someone close to you, to be reminded of the things that matter most.

The Point

It has now been quite a few years since that long and difficult night in the ICU.  I am grateful for the lessons of that night, even though those lessons were very painful.  By the way, my son survived that difficult night and has thrived since. 

Just of few thoughts on life, perspective, what really is important, and what really isn't.   Thanks for reading.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Smith, M.D. is a practicing Psychiatrist and Medical Director for TLC. We’re always pleased to learn from “Doctor Mike.”

Gary Dansie