A couple of years ago, a friend introduced me to a doctor who was a trailblazer in natural medicine. The MD, in his early eighties, was thinking of writing a book, and our mutual friend hoped that by working together, the doctor and I would accomplish the goal.
Naturally brilliant, the physician seemed to have a second sense when it came to diagnostics, which grew sharper from years of assessing and applying his practical knowledge. As a result, the nonconforming internist probed and took approaches that made many of today’s standard protocols seem inept.
For instance, as he continued to practice medicine with acuity, the doctor expressed to me that his colleagues were too quick to categorize a patient’s medical conditions according to “arbitrary” norms that were not relevant to an individual’s unique makeup. Additionally, while he prescribed drugs when doing so was the most prudent action, the doctor opposed the medical community’s heavy reliance on pharmaceuticals as primary courses of treatment.
Although the doctor and I scheduled a meeting to discuss his book, he came down with a cold virus, so we postponed—indefinitely. Frankly, I sensed that the prospect of writing a book overwhelmed him, and I backed off. (I never push my services; instead, I seek clients who will be committed rather than waste my time and theirs.) A couple of years later, however, the doctor contacted me regarding a different project. Coincidentally (or perhaps by fate), I had been considering a visit to a naturopath, so I asked him if he would see me as a patient in exchange for my work. He wholeheartedly agreed.
When I visited him twice this past spring, he shared insights about my physical wellbeing that no other doctor had ever bothered or knew to reveal to me. This is what a medical exam is meant to be, I thought at the time. From my personal, eye-opening encounter with this physician, I realized that I had barely scratched the surface of his knowledge.
For a man of any age, his capabilities were impressive, but for an 83-year-old, he was downright remarkable. Yes, senior citizens today are doing more in better health, but not many run medical practices and personally see patients who depend on them.
Even so, the good doctor would never write the book he would have authored a decade earlier. His plate was full. Consequently, I encouraged the physician’s son, also a medical professional, to set aside some time each week to interview his dad on camera. Rather than creating a big production, I suggested conversational meetings. Book or no book, while spending precious time with his dad, the son would preserve insights as well as facets of a man who should be remembered. At best, I hoped the recordings would one day become the basis for a documentary or medical research.
Unfortunately, the doctor, who seemed as if he would continue to thrive for another decade at least, passed away last month.
For whatever reason (I think it’s our unwillingness to face the inevitability of death), we humans trick ourselves into believing that we’ll have time—next month, next year, five years from now—to pursue our dreams. We allow them to become someday projects rather than priorities in life.
The wise doctor is not the only person I’ve encountered in the past few years who should have written a book or two, but by waiting until they had “the time,” an elite group of should-have-been-authors missed their windows of opportunity. The process, even with the help of a ghostwriter, became too daunting in their final years.
If I had met them sooner, would they have written their books? I cannot answer that question. Instead, I attempt to encourage others to get going while they can.
If you aim to make your goals more than distant dreams, now is the time to spread your wings. Fly past the barriers while your windows of opportunity are open!
Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady