Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Savouring life, like a glass of fine whisky

I remember my first sip of whisky, and the intense feeling of disappointment I experienced when I discovered that this was what all the fuss had been about. I had expected it to be smooth, sweet and soothing. But it tasted dry, bitter and acrid. Not what I had expecting at all.

Life is not like a bowl of cherries. And nor should it be. It is not always attractive and sweet. Its pleasures are not always immediately accessible to grasp. Sometimes things don't go the way we plan, or the way we might have hoped.

I certainly hadn't been hoping for cancer. But the experience of treatment and recovery added a new layer of depth, meaning and intensity to my life that I am profoundly grateful for.

I remember one day when I came back from hospital, having heard that the chemo wasn't working, my tumours were getting larger, and that I might need a stronger treatment. It was the moment when I first realised exactly how serious my situation was, and I started to anticipate my own death. I sat down on my bed and wept. My partner rushed home from work, and held me. That moment sticks in my mind intensely, to this day. And whilst, in one sense, it was one of the lowest points in my life, I also cherish that memory. It brings tears to my eyes now, just remembering it - but they are not tears of sadness.

Whisky is a complex blend of flavours, some bitter and some sweet. It is this rich combination of accents that come together to produce a warm, rounded harmony. You can't enjoy whisky without its bitter notes, any more than you can enjoy life if you attempt to overlook adversity: the setbacks, challenges, moments of despair and loss.

We can't control what will happen to us. We need to let go of our expectations, and experience our life for what it is, finding the meaning in each moment as we go. I truly believe that the secret to happiness lies in learning to savour our lives like a glass of fine whisky - embracing the bitter notes along with the sweet - and recognising the exquisite perfection of our life as it unfolds. One sip at a time.