Posted: April 6, 2020 in: Personal Empowerment, Pain-2-Power


“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose,” wrote songwriters Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster in the late 1960’s.  The song was entitled “Me and Bobby McGee.”  Janis Joplin’s version is the most famous.

I’ve been thinking about that line over the past weeks, as Coronavirus has made a dent in the usual level of denial we exercise over the notion of our own mortality—a topic on which more than one author has written very eloquently. Those of us lucky enough not already to have faced grave illness have, heretofore, had the luxury of feeling pretty confident that our longevity would extend for many seasons to come.

Coronavirus means none of us can truly count on any number of seasons.  Cancer carries the same meaning, but it is an old enemy that doesn’t dominate the headlines of every media outlet in the world, day after day.  So, it might be time to extract some power from the pain of confronting this pandemic.

How?  Believe the headlines.  Let them sink in.  I know they’re painful, but don’t run from them.  They’re telling all of us that we should get on with it, already.  We should become the free (or, at least, freer) people we were meant to be—in terms of the work we embrace, the creative passions we express, the talents we cultivate, the people we include in our lives, the causes we join or start and the love we share with others.

No, that doesn’t mean we should all go out and quit our jobs and write poetry under trees or by the ocean.  We live in a material world.  Most of us will feel fortunate to restart the parts of our lives this pandemic put on pause.  But it does mean that—if we keep our mortality in sharper focus—some of us may well decide to change careers.  Some of us may pursue new paths of learning, whether in pursuit of degrees or simply in pursuit of enlightenment.  Some of us may revisit parts of ourselves we have allowed to lay fallow—yes, artistic talents and love of travel and entrepreneurial impulses and commitment to seeing people with whom we have lost touch.

I remember having dinner years ago with a man in his 50s who was thinking of running for a political office.  “I could run now,” he had said, “or I could run next time.”

Next time, of course, would be years away.  And I thought to myself, “Why does he assume he’ll be alive next time?”  I didn’t want to sound morbid, so I said, “No one knows the future, right? You’re healthy now.  And God-willing you will be for a long time.  But why tempt fate?  If this is important to you—really important—go for it.  Do it now.”

My advice to you is no different.  Read today’s headlines.  Don’t run from them.  And, perhaps, you will distill them down to this pearl of wisdom:  I will not live forever.  My life is precious, and life itself is unpredictable.  I will make the most of my God-given time by taking a leap of faith in the direction of my dreams.

Dr. Keith Ablow


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