It’s 6:00 AM and my alarm goes off. Like hundreds of mornings before, I get up, hit the snooze and crawl back in bed. A few moments later I hear footsteps walk into my room, feel the covers pull back and see my 4 year old daughter standing less then a foot from me who greats me with “Daddy I need to go potty.” Although this routine happens everyday I’ve come to realize that this day is the best day of my life.
There is nothing extraordinary going on this particular day. There are no vacations to exotic locations or special events. It’s doesn’t have to be a weekend or holiday. It can rain or snow.
After deciding Claire isn’t kidding I’ll get out of bed and take her to the bathroom and then get dressed and go to work. Eventually I’ll come home, maybe go for a walk or play with my kids followed by dinner with my family, bathtime and eventually bedtime. It’s really truly a wonderful symphony.
Unfortunately, not every day is this great. There have been random Tuesdays where someone got sick or died, where my world changed in a moment. On these days, I spend my time wishing I was at work or wiping crayon off a wall. I long for a game of go fish or some time at a local playground.
I came to this realization on one such “bad” day when I was at a neonatal intensive care unit feeling sorry for myself with some fellow new fathers. To pass the time we began discussing good restaurants in the area. This led to talking about the best places we’d ever eaten at. One of the insightful men said “If I could eat anywhere right now, it would be my desk at work.” At that moment I realized the best days are not those that stand out but the ones where the highlight is a hug from a 2 year old, a thank you from a patient or a kiss from my wife.
As a physician, I spend most of my time with people who are not having the best day of their lives. I use words like cancer, stroke and heart attack every day. I tell parents their child may never walk and sometimes I have to call people and tell them a loved one has died. These days remind me even more to appreciate my life. Through my patients suffering and my attempts to help them I’ve learned perspective.
Many of my greatest days involve hiking in the woods around my home. I’ve hiked in wonderful parts of the country but my favorite walks are those in my hometown and local state forest. I’ve come to realize that the highlight of these hikes are not great vistas or waterfalls but the countless miles in between. Life is a journey and the best days are those that begin with an alarm clock, a hug and a trip to the potty.