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Don’t worry, be happy!

Bobby McFerrin is a genius, ladies and gentlemen. Go on, watch that, it's only three minutes long and you're guaranteed to get a smile. For those of you who didn't study an exact science: the blue underlined text is a link, if you click on it, with your mouse, or your trackpad, or whatever else makes the little arrow on your screen move, it takes you to a place on the big worldwide web, also known in popular fashion as the "Internet". This is not a useless paragraph as I have at least one reader that I needed to explain this concept to. But really. Watch it. You'll need it to get through the rest of this post.

 

So I go to the hospital for another research project. Grip strength of my right hand is now 25% of what it once was. No wonder masturbating is getting difficult. But don't worry, you're married to Iris, be happy! Sing along folks! Don't worry, be happy man. I'm here in the hospital to do a baseline measurement and from then on every three months, to chart my decline. Like a photographer getting some nice stills of the El Al boeing descending into the Bijlmer.

 

Lung capacity is at 6.6 liters. That's a lot. Only 200ml less than the first measurements. But hey, these measurements are not an exact science, so don't worry, be happy man!

 

You do it to yourself. And that's what really hurts. Radiohead. If I just took a bit more time to rest, to meditate, to work out, to go spinning, etc. Etc. But I'm so.. yeah, we heard that, tired. C'mon. You do it to yourself. I believe that. I also believe more and more what my fellow patient Robbert Jan told me: ALS is more a mental than a physical challenge.

 

I made a lot of notes that will make a nice happy post – just not this time 'round. I am happy, though, really. It sounds odd but I am, underneath a small layer of cynicism that'll rub off soon. I still stop to enjoy a breath of air. Thich Nhat Hanh gave a lecture to a bunch of kids. Asked them: What's better than a scoop of ice cream? Two scoops of ice cream. And sometimes, what's even better than two scoops of ice cream? A breath. Hearing that I could taste that he was right. I don't think I've had a real enlightenment experience yet but that speech gave me a lot of peace, right there. He explained it in a way that only he could, to make me understand. A lungful of breath can be better than the best Italian ice cream you've ever tasted. Why whine for more if you have that?

 

One funny closing story to wrap up with. Sometimes I'm not sure if I really informed everyone that I should – in particular, people that once meant a lot to me but that I'm now out of touch with. I mean, if the situation was the other way around I'd like to know. My first zen teacher for instance. Or coaches. I had a bunch of them, people who help you figure out how to find your way in life and listen to your own inner beautiful sunflower. It helped me, I owe them a good chunk of my mental wellbeing (although yeah, this post isn't the best example 🙂 ).

 

So this one coach (NOT a Zen teacher), I hadn't spoken to him in a few years, I thought he might want to know. Turns out: he didn't. In his reply he explained to me why he was angry at my email: why am I bringing more suffering to his life that is already SO hard: "I mean, really, Garmt, you have no idea how painful it is to live a life like a Coach and a Teacher, I don't mean to sound ungrateful that all my muscles are fine, but really, it is just SO DIFFICULT for me!, so stop bothering me, oh and here are some canned words of wisdom that are supposed to help but really only convey my own despair." So guess what I told him? Can you hear the tune in the background? C'mon guys, you gotta know by now, let's go, stand up, wave your arms, sing along, top of your voice, start a polonaise, involve the whole block, here we go, as loud as you can, make him hear it: DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY! Ah, that was good for a long laugh.