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When my mother was in her mid-fifties, about the age I am now, she was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. The specialist who gave her the diagnosis referred her to a psychiatrist, as he did whenever telling a patient they have an incurable, and possibly fatal, disease. My mother didn’t think she needed to see a psychiatrist, but being a compliant patient, she went. Once in the office, the doctor asked her if she knew why she was there.
“Yes,” she said, “It’s because I’ve got some dumb disease.”
The doctor said, “Mrs. Thomas, I don’t think you understand the gravity of this situation: this disease is incurable—you’ll have it the rest of your life, and it may kill you.”
My mother replied, “If this doesn’t kill me, something else will.”
Then, with a sly smile and a conspiratorial whisper, she added,
“Doctor, none of us are getting out of here alive.”
The psychiatrist was surprised by my mother’s answer, but apparently he thought she had a good outlook on her diagnosis, and perhaps on life in general, and said she didn’t need to see him again.
That “dumb” disease caused my mother a lot of pain, but it did not kill her. She lived another 30 years, and her positive outlook kept the disease from defining what her life looked like. She was active and productive and rarely complained about her symptoms. She didn’t seem to feel sorry for herself and she even joked about her condition, as she thought it was very funny that she had somehow contracted a disease that at that time most often affected Japanese men.
One of my mother’s favorite sayings was, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” I can’t count the number of times she said this to me (with conviction and gusto!), to snap me out of my worries. It basically means that today has enough trouble of its own, and it’s unwise to go thinking about the problems tomorrow or next week or next month will bring.
Unfortunately, I seem to worry about things more than my mother did. I worry about my health, my husband’s health, our daughters’ lives, our finances, getting older. But I’m trying to do better—doing my best to follow my mom’s example and advice. I’m trying to maintain a good attitude about the future, because the fact is:
Most of the things I’ve worried about, didn’t end up happening.
And the ones that did happen?
Well, obviously I survived them.
Sure, some bad things happened that I didn’t anticipate (some of those were VERY BAD!), but I survived those, too; and I believe I’m a stronger person for having lived through them.
So I’ll do my best to heed my mother’s wise words.
I’ll focus on doing the very best I can with whatever today brings.
And then do it again tomorrow.
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