Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this’ll help things turn out for the best

And always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the light side of life

If life seems jolly rotten
There’s something you’ve forgotten
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing
When you’re feeling in the dumps
Don’t be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle, that’s the thing

And always look on the bright side of life
Come on!
Always look on the right side of life

(“Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” - from Monty Python‘s Spamalot

Sometimes it ain’t so easy to look on the bright side of life.

I haven’t decided whether to give my condition a name. I am undecided at the moment between “The Beast“ and “Louis,” but whatever you call it, it is wreaking its slow havoc upon me.

Every damn thing is a bigger challenge every day. Standing up and walking across the room takes all my energy. Climbing and descending stairs requires monumental effort. Taking a shower feels like running a marathon – not like I ever actually ran a marathon.

It is depressing to think of the things I can no longer do. And so I think of the things that I still can do. There are plenty of those.

I can wake up and get myself out of bed. I can brush and waterfloss my teeth. I can shower. I can shave. I can still attend to my most personal matters. (That’s a polite way of saying that I can still wipe my own ass.)

I can still dress myself, as long as I’m not dressing in anything more complicated than shorts or sport pants and a T-shirt. Beyond that, a little help is necessary.

I can still walk. I use a cane for balance and to help me stand upright, but at least I can manage to get from one place to another – as long as those places are not too far apart.

I can still get in and out of a car. And I can still drive, although I am about at the point where I should give it up. (Automotive independence is nice, but I refuse to endanger other people.)

I can eat. I can drink. And – provided someone handles the mixology for me - I can enjoy a fine cocktail.

The idea of being unable to read is completely untenable for me. Happily, I can still manage my huge stack of books. Hardcopy literature is a bit more challenging on account of the need to turn the pages… but electronickal books are eminently workable.

I can play with my kitties. I can carry on conversations. I can type on a computer. (Typing is actually getting to be a challenge, but the iPhone is a handy device and its dictation software, while imperfect, does a respectable job. This post was actually dictated on an iPhone and then ported over via email to a MacBook for final clean-up.)

I am still able to scratch myself and to pick my nose. Don’t get all judgy on me – everybody does that. (Imagine if you couldn’t. I not only must imagine, but plan for it eventually.)

I can still go to synagogue. I can still function as a gabbai, one of the people charged with the responsibility of managing the Torah readings and gently correcting the readers when they err.

There is so much that I can still do and enjoy. And that’s the stuff I’m going to be paying attention to.


  1. As I read this, it strikes me that this could be a sermon on any life. Of course, you are faced with a terminal disease and it's progressive march. But,at the age of 64, I find the nuggets of wisdom written here to apply to my own aging limitations. The old "Age is only a number" bullshit surely was written by a chipper 30 year old.

    Just you wait, 'Enry 'Iggins.

    And as usual, you are a wise and poetic scribe.

  2. You forgot that you can entertain the many of us out here in the Internets who enjoy reading everything you share!


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