Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

The Unpredictability of Life

One of the things we are all learning as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic is that Life is so unpredictable.

Many of us have been so busy working hard, creating wealth and accumulating savings for the future that we have forgotton how uncertain life is.

I am reminded as I pen thsese words of my friend David, a busy and successful obstetrician who for many years used to visit our clinic every Thursday afternoon to see patients. One evening, shortly before he retired, we had both finished seeing our patients earlier than we expected, so we poured ourselves cups of tea and sat chatting in his consulting room – a rare occurrence, because he was always rushing off after he finished seeing his patients to some hospital where he had a patient booked in for operation. He told me enthusiastically that day of his plans to go on a long trip to Europe the following year with his wife – something they had wanted to do for many years but had put off until he reached the age of 65 and was able to retire from the consultant staff of our large public hospital. David’s wife had just obtained the appropriate brochures from the travel agent and had obtained the relevant Lonely Planet, Insight and Footprint books from the library – and they were eagerly looking forward to spending three months the following year travelling through England, France, Italy and Germany in the European summer.

I will never forget that evening with him.

The next time I saw David was in hospital two months later – where he was a patient. He had just been diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer. The disease had silently spread throughout his body while he was busy working as an obstetrician – and by the time it was discovered neither surgery nor chemotherapy could control it. David died six months to the day that we had our Thursday evening conversation about his planned post-retirement holiday – a holiday that he never got the chance to take because he was so busy working.

What happened to David is not uncommon among many business and professional persons who are so busy working hard and remaining focused on running fast along the relentless treadmill of success. They postpone living in favour of making money or achieving promotion – and so are unable to enjoy the legitimate fruits of their labours.

You cannot postpone living until the bank balance is built up and you have achieved the pinnacle of success in your field – because life is so uncertain. By the time you reach retirement age you will not be as fit and healthy as you are in your thirties and forties! So set aside time to enjoy life with your family, to travel, to do the things that you have wanted to do before you get too old – or too dead – for it.

One of the best bits of advice I received when I was younger was from my friend Dr Buddy Reid, who first told me about the Rule of Threes: Set aside three hours every week, three days every month and three weeks every year to take time off your routine work. Use this time to do something you really enjoy – listening to music, reading a book, playing a game or spending quality time with your loved ones.

Life is too short – and too unpredictable – to postpone living.

 

 

 

4 comments on “The Unpredictability of Life

  1. Ranjith
    April 24, 2020

    Now you are telling this, I have been planning to spend at least six months in the southern hemisphere travelling the antipodes and I have been saying when I turn 65 that will be March 2021.

  2. Guy Thatcher
    April 24, 2020

    Sanjiva,
    I was very lucky when I was in my mid-teens. An older family friend came over for a visit. He ran a very successful business and was, in my view, wealthy. He might have been 50 and was walking with two canes. He told me that his plan had been to postpone travel that he wanted to do while he earned enough money to make travel easy. Now he was crippled and couldn’t travel. His earnest advice to me? “Don’t wait until the perfect moment to do what you want. Seize every opportunity to travel, to paint, to enjoy your life in the moment.” I heeded his advice and that’s the way I have lived my life. As I look at photos of the camino while I sit isolated (and safe) in my home, I am delighted that I took his advice all those years ago. Be well, stay safe, my friend.

  3. Ranjan Rodrigo
    April 24, 2020

    Sanjiva Life is unpredictable. Now am an Octogenarian. I contact Buddy on phone How can i ccopy your article to Email to send t my friends>
    Rannjan Rodrigo

  4. Mahendra
    April 28, 2020

    Nelun and I have in 48 years of marriage never sat still, we have covered three quarters of the world as my job afforded us that travel and the chance to make friends all over the world. Now as age related problems crop up I doubt I have any regrets if perchance we are halted in our tracks.

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This entry was posted on April 22, 2020 by in Health Matters and tagged , , .
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