Live joyously and be happy to be well

Published in the Courier Mail on 2 July 2005

Another article about the crisis plaguing Queensland Health; another headline, and another shocking story.

We are dissecting this issue in lounge rooms and offices around the state, for good reason. Hidden behind the big news, however, is something else we would do well to consider. It is not headline material and it doesn’t have the same shock factor as so many of the disturbing revelations we have been hearing. However, for the general public it is as real an issue as the seemingly stricken heath bureaucracy.

As we hear the terrible situations our fellow citizens have endured, we should experience great compassion for them. What we also should do is pause to take stock of our own situation. If we, and our loved ones, are well, we should consider this a timely reminder of blessing and resolve not to take it for granted, living instead with thankfulness in our hearts each and every day.

My own recent, and continuing experience with our health system has reminded me of this.
While the medical staff have been highly professional and personable (though obviously understaffed), even the best care cannot alleviate the trauma associated with long hospital admissions and the associated separation from family and friends.

And the unfortunate truth seems to be that we rarely appreciate what we have until it is taken away from us.

All of us have regrets in life, of varying types. According to author Will Henry, “Fools live to regret their words, wise men to regret their silence”.

At times of death many people carry regrets to their grave. Sadly though, the greatest regrets can be held by the living — and often for the words left unsaid.

Regret can be a slow and silent killer, for it saps the joy out of each moment and renders those still living almost lifeless.

For those of us without a personal investment in the health inquiry, we would do well to allow it to act as a catalyst to make each moment count. Much of the irritation we allow into our lives is of a relatively trivial nature.

The disagreements over household work or finances do have their place in the scheme of things, however, they often assume a place much higher than they are truly worthy of. The emotional and mental energy they consume often leaves us wanting when it comes to using our energies to build the parts of our life which are of value.

We often wait until a time of crisis to reflect upon the value of good health — whether it be ours or our loved ones — and then act accordingly. While we may wonder at our capacity to replace routine with awe, can you imagine the difference in homes and communities if we did?

There would be fewer harsh words spoken, and apologies would quickly follow if they occurred. There would be more time spent building relationships than bank balances and we would be more likely to create memories rather than a fuss.

What can the every day Queenslander learn from the current health inquiry? Perhaps firstly to be thankful for the great care that so many health professionals provide — and to verbalise that thanks when the opportunity presents itself.

Second, and perhaps more significantly, embrace every moment you have and share it with those you love. For life is uncertain, whereever you are, and the possibility each day holds should never be taken for granted. Failing to do this is another type of tragedy all together.