The most moving speaker at the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) convention I went to in Denver a few months ago was a doctor with Stage 4 cancer who had survived well past all expectations for his disease. While talking about achieving happiness through balance in life, he pulled out of his wallet a card made for him by his daughter, a preschool teacher.
“This is the C card,” he told us. “It says: ‘I have cancer. I can do whatever I want.’”
What a great idea, I thought. As much as it resonated with me, though, I couldn’t help but feel there was more to it than that.
Recently I was comforting a dear friend who had lost her mother. Remembering this handout from the AAFP, I held her close and said: “You’re a mourner now. You can do whatever you want.” I might as well said: “You have the M card.”
There’s this crotchety old guy in his eighties whom I’ve known for years. He does whatever he wants. I don’t think he actually carries a card in his wallet that says: “This is the O card. I am old. I can do whatever I want,” but he might as well. He is indeed old, and so he is entitled.
Please understand that I am not speaking about total abandon: Freedom to rape, murder, pillage, stay home in bed all day, refuse to pay taxes, and so forth. Within the broad context of fulfilling one’s obligations to society — caring for one’s family, body, and finances — I think the secret of true happiness is discovering sooner rather than later the freedom to do whatever you want.
Call it the “H card.” Just being human ought to be enough to do whatever we want. We can wear purple. We can paint our fingernails black (and any other parts of our bodies as well). We can eat cake for dinner. We can ride shopping carts through the parking lot. I don’t think we should wait until we have cancer, or lose a loved one, or blow out some arbitrary number of birthday candles, to do whatever we want — and to be happy.
*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*