For the last six months, I have struggled with whether or not to give up this column. I love my relationship with you the readers. I am honored by your trust when you write with your life stories and ask advice. And I treasure being put in the position of teacher.
Being invited to share my thoughts and ideas by The Inquirer is something I have treasured for 15 years. But it is also hard work, time-consuming and sometimes stressful. So this may be my last column. And as of today, my thinking is no longer conflicted. The recent facts of my life helped clarify this decision for me.
It started as a minor chest cold in October. But with quadriplegics, chest colds are never minor. That's because we don't have the muscles needed to cough properly. So after a week of benign neglect, followed by two weeks of antibiotics, my condition continued to get worse.
Finally, I was admitted to Virtua Voorhees with a severe case of double pneumonia. By that time, I was terribly ill; every inbreath produced a lifeless cough as the fluids in the bottom of my lungs remained stagnant. Ten days later, after receiving wonderful care, I was discharged home to continue my recovery for the next several weeks. And today, as I regain my previous level of strength, I feel gratitude for each clear breath I take.
At 63, I reflect on my life quite often. I think about what my life is about and what is most meaningful for me. But like most of us, I resist changes. Still, there are just some times, some events, that make the status quo terribly uncomfortable. And this is one of those times.
Not only have I been ill, but yesterday was the 30th anniversary of my accident.
For nearly half my life, my body has required extraordinary care. In return, it has kept me alive and vibrant through several near-death experiences, and every time (so far) I have returned to a state of health and gratitude.
This body has allowed me to travel to many countries over three continents mostly in the last five years. For the first 10 years after my accident, when my health was quite volatile, I saw my body as an enemy, almost as a terrorist striking me down without warning. I feared and hated this body.
But as things stabilized medically, I ignored my body while secretly resenting the demands it made. And over the last decade, my bladder has been requiring more care. I had an experience with a MRSA infection that almost took my life, and now this.
Over these years, my relationship with my body has changed again. I have become grateful to this tired and broken carriage, and I care for it now not with resentment but with compassion.
Just as I would for a fragile lover or partner, I care for my body as an act of love. I shift positions, increase my fluid intake and take my medication because I care. I meditate every day, and despite the fact that it is sometimes incredibly boring or inconvenient, I do so as an act of love for my body/mind.
But I haven't been doing one thing for my body, and that is giving it the rest it needs. I have been allowing the loud voice of my thoughts and ideas to drown out the quiet voice inside.
No, I am not going to retire, not by any stretch. I will still be doing most of what I always did, but I will be doing it more mindfully and with more care - and compassion.
Knowing how my mind works, I am sure I will be writing an occasional column or commentary. And although I cannot answer every e-mail, I would love to hear from you at DrDanGottlieb@aol.com.
How do I say goodbye to a column I have loved, to readers I feel a trusted and intimate relationship with, to editors who have mentored me, befriended me and taught me so much?
Today I listen to that quiet voice that says "let go, rest, open yourself up to see what happens." And, who knows, one day that quiet voice might say: "Hey, Dan, don't you think you should be writing a column about this?"