Other, More Important Reasons

  • May 20, 2011 by Corbett Barr
  • 11 Comments

If you’ve ever regretted missing something due to work (a wedding, a funeral, a once-in-a-lifetime occasion) I have a story for you today.

When Paul Baiguerra wrote me with this touching piece yesterday, we had just lost our beloved dog Kinsey to cancer about four hours earlier. During Kinsey’s last days, I was happy that I work from home and that I was able to spend so much time with him.

So when Paul wrote me with this, I couldn’t deny the power of this message and the incredible coincidence of the timing.

Somtimes there are other, more important reasons.

And now, the post from Paul:

We’d been expecting it for so long that when it finally arrived it was a shock. I can still clearly see the Palliative Care Nurse choosing her phrasing very carefully. We were visiting for the night and would return the following week – she suggested we may want to stay.

My mother-in-law was first diagnosed around two years ago, initially ovarian cancer with some spread to the stomach. Whilst the initial prognosis was very bad we were fortunate to have a highly skilled surgeon and care team. The operation could not have gone better. Shirley was also one of those rare patients who responded resoundingly well to Chemo – it was effective and she felt no more from it than tired.

We dodged a bullet.
Or so we thought.

Several months ago lesions reappeared in the liver. My wife and her family were back on the roller coaster. Drug regimes would recommence, reassurances about how well Shirley responded last time were bandied about, and I could see my wife jump a little every time the home phone rang. Only parents ring the home phone – everyone else calls the mobile.

Yesterday what we were expecting came to pass. Shirleys life now is being measured in days, soon hours, soon no more.

My wife and I run a small digital business. Two years ago I sold out of the production company I was a partner in and we moved to the coast determined to work ‘on-line’, giddy with the concept of lifestyle design. Like everyone else who embarks on this journey we happily imagined the revenues flowing from around the globe – we wouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves, but gosh, this could really work.

The reality is we’re doing ok, we’re paying off the house, we have some exciting projects coming up, we have months where we scramble like hell to pay the bills and months where it’s nothing but blue sky. We are not successful in the sense of having a great story to tell to sell a ton of information product (but more on success later).

We’ve imagined how in time to come we’ll pack up for months at a time and travel and work globally. We dream of a two month working holiday in my Fathers hometown in Northern Italy. We tell each other stories of how we’ll enjoy our location independence.

It’s now though that an aspect of this lifestyle that I’ve never heard discussed comes to the fore and mitigates every stressful moment of cashflow problems, or fears of having created a different kind of treadmill. That placates all those times when it felt that success would remain a faint mirage.

When the nurse let us know that Shirley was in her last days the shock of the inevitable washed over us. Two years of tensions over what may be, questions about care, uncertainty about outcome was resolved there and then. We knew it was coming but it still hit like a truck.

My wife and I knew that this was no longer an overnight trip. We’ve been able to make a few calls to get pets organized and now we are able to be here, fully here, without concerns about work places and taking leave and all the complications involved in working for someone else and having to say ‘I cannot be here’. We’ve not had to guess at a timeframe away, we’ve not had to assess impacts upon careers. We’ve just been able to say,’we’re here, for as long as it takes’.

It’s the morning after, family is gathering, there have been teary conversations, there has been the practicalities of providing comfort. Yesterday my wife explained to the nurse that there was nothing unsaid between her and her mother, that she could quite simply be present for her and her father now. And I marvelled at the amazing upbringing my wonderful wife and her family have had. And I’ve seen success right before my eyes.

(This is Corbett again): I just read on twitter that Paul’s mother-in-law Shirley passed away today.

We’re so sorry Paul, and thanks for sharing this. Sometimes there are other, more important reasons to pursue the life you want with the urgency it deserves.

Paul Baiguerra runs the digital marketing agency known as PABA Media.

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Steve Roy May 20, 2011 at 11:20 am

Paul,
I’m terribly sorry for your loss. I’ve recently lost a friend to an unexpected illness and I know the pain can be unbearable.

Corbett,

These are the things that make us truly think about our own mortality and make us question how we are really spending our time.

We just never know when today will be our last or when someone close to us will suddenly pass.

We MUST look at each day as what it truly is..a gift.

Aaron May 20, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Been following you for months now, but this is the first time I leave a comment. Truly inspiring. Thanks for sharing this amazing perspective on why living the lives we want is not just important but necessary.

Adam May 20, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Thanks for providing the jolt of perspective, and I’m sorry for Paul, and his family’s loss. For me, the perfect ending someday will be with no regrets, which I think is attainable by stepping up, taking chances, and risking failure at every possible opportunity.

Ralph@Retirement Lifestyle May 21, 2011 at 10:56 am

There is no stronger argument for taking control of your life than this beautiful story. Thanks.

Scott Webb May 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Pretty touching story. In times like this, I can only find comfort in knowing they’re in a better place and not feeling anymore pain.

Corbett, I’m sorry about your Kinsey too. I know the difficulty and this reminded me of a moment in my life that still sits in my memory as if it happened yesterday. It didn’t involve my working situation; however, it was school.

I was in grade 8, 12 years old, dealing with my best friend being sick. My best friend was easily my cat. I didn’t have a big number of friends and I’ve dealt with depression for longer than I ever realized. My cat took a turn for the worst and couldn’t walk anymore over the weekend. I remember we had her in a box laying outside in the grass and she loved it. That night, she lay in the same box beside my bed. She appeared to not have slept at all. Always awake and alert – as if she knew that if she went to sleep that was going to be it.

In the morning we knew that she was going to be put down at the vet. I was a mess and we had to go to school. I cut some of her fur off to hopefully be able to remember her forever. I was offered to be picked up from school with my sister by my mom to go; but I said I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t want to see it.

At school, there was a knock at our classroom door in the afternoon and it was my mom. She just wanted to ask me again just in case. Again, I said that I can’t. I sat back down at my desk and because of the way our classroom was situated, I could see out the window at the front of the school where her old silver honda hatchback sat – with Sam in the car. I asked my grade 8 teacher if I could go to the washroom. He said yes. I didn’t go to the washroom but ran out to the car as
fast as I could and jumped in.

I know, this isn’t really the same as running a lifestyle business. But perhaps it’s this moment in my life that’s made me resist such a structured “work for someone else” system. I didn’t worry about how my teacher would react to me just up and disappearing. Talking with him a day or so later, he told me how much he respected me for doing what I did. He’s also one of the only teachers I felt that really believed in me.

It was a short moment in my list but I said There is nothing more important in my life right now than this moment. How could I not be there for my best friend when she needed me the most – she was there for me whenever I needed her. I still feel her jump from the floor to the bed.

I believe, more than anything, that it’s possible to find ways to live a life around what you value the most. I’ve been doing my best for a while now and it’s not easy.

Even today, 18 years later, I take time out of every single day to show how much I am thankful for our current cat in our life. Maybe it’s weird but I have the ability to work in ways that allows me to spend that time now. Spending important time with family instead of being stuck in a call centre until midnight.

As Ralph mentioned – the story is a perfect argument for taking control of your life.

Thanks for sharing this. And again Corbett and Paul, I’m sorry for your losses.

Amy Scott May 23, 2011 at 8:08 am

Thank you Corbett, Paul, and Scott, for the touching reminders of why we’re *really* doing this. So sorry to hear about each of your losses. It’s certainly crossed my mind that, if a dear friend or family member needed me, I could go to be with them. Of course I hope a serious situation doesn’t come up any time soon, but I feel so lucky to know I have the flexibility if it’s needed.

Diggy May 23, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Hi Corbett,
Wow, thanks for sharing this wonderful story. Sorry to hear about your mother in law Paul :(

It reminds me of how short life is, and how meaningless so many things can be. It’s way too easy to get caught up in chasing money or success and forgetting how to enjoy life :)

Hope you’re doing well Corbett!
Cheers buddy
Diggy

Armi Legge May 24, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Paul,

I’m terribly sorry for your loss. You can never fully understand how you or others will react to a tragedy like this, but it sounds like you all were, and are, amazing.

Death sucks, but one of my favorite quotes of all time for anything of a negative consequence is by Dr. Seuss:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Take care Paul, and thank you Corbett for showing the world another real life superhero.

Philipp Knoll May 25, 2011 at 11:43 am

I’m very sorry for the loss but also thankful for sharing this insight so openly. I guess it was not an easy step to take.

I talk about that matter a lot with my wife and acknowledge that it is not always as easy as saying “I quit”. Sometimes there are a lot of things to consider.

But with kids around you have to stop to 9-5 rat race. I just don’t want to regret not having spent my time with my family as much as possible. We never know how long our journey will last. So NOW is the time for adventures – not in the future.

- Philipp

Rob C May 26, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I lost my Mom to cancer in March. My freedom to spend that last year taking or collecting from chemo hospital trips, the times spent in the middle of the day just talking, the time to take the phone calls and commune with the wider family meant more to me than anything I can think of outside of the lives of my children. I am lucky to have a wife who held the fort and gave me the space to do what needed to be done.

This time doesn’t show up on a balance sheet, it can’t be explained on a term sheet, but the passing of a parent, like the arrival of a child is a special time and having the opportunity to do what I did has made me a richer man. I hope it brings that feeling to you too.

Brian Cormack Carr May 30, 2011 at 4:12 am

Wonderful post. Thank you Paul and Corbett for sharing this important message with us.

I’ve spent the past few months working on my first information product – andonline self-coaching programme for job-hunters, career-changers, and business-builders – and it has taken up a *lot* of my free time.

I’ve been very conscious that it has taken me away from time with friends and loved ones (although not entirely – they always come first). I’ve even had moments where I’ve found myself thinking “this is getting out of hand; after all, it’s just a hobby, it’s not that important.”

I realise that I was wrong about that, of course. It *is* important – because it’s all about supporting others to live a life they love and to find their ideal work (and it’s about me doing the same thing in the process).

There’s nothing more important than that, because when we nurture ourselves, we have so much more to give to others when they need it.

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