Eudaimonia is an ancient Greek term used to describe happiness and human flourishing. It is the realization that we know what we know, that we have good judgement, that there must be a balance in recognizing where your limits lie and when you can cross the line. It is the acceptance of death and the end to one’s living. It is important to note that Eudaimonia is not perfection, it is completeness. Aristotle believed that in order to achieve Eudaimonia you had to have “Tyche”, which is the luck and chance of being born into certain conditions etc. He also believed that you had to live an extended amount of years to fully experience life to achieve this Eudaimonia.
We talked about this in Philosophy and I couldn’t control the shaking of my leg, the biting of my lip. I raised my hand and I said “Well… what about people with cancer? Who know they are going to die?” Some people in my class argued that people with life-threatening diseases lived their life more fully and started to accept things before others. However, Aristotle would still argue that these people will never live a complete life, just that they lived their lives with more intensity. Inside I whispered “What about people with CF…”
Though I never look at my life as living to the median life expectancy of the mid thirties, though I promise to do whatever possible to live past any life expectancy, though I recognize how technological advances will change all that, I still know that CF shortens lives. Period. And I know that the lives it has and will shorten are great ones. They are lives which were lived with ferocity and determination. They are lives with old experiences at young ages. CF lives are beautiful. Each and every person I have talked to or read blogs of with CF has some sort of CF spark, a love for life and an acceptance of things which are out of their control.
So… what if we don’t make it to see our grandchildren grow up? What if our eyes aren’t wrinkled on our death bed? Does age define wisdom? Sure, we may not get to have some “normal” old age experiences, but the experiences which we have when we are young and middle aged are still just as valuable. Going to college, making lasting friendships, falling in love. Then later, having a child despite it all, being loved for you, being successful in work, enjoying what you have made of your life. Even the not-so-good stuff: going in the hospital, getting a lung transplant, being on oxygen. It is these things which shape us and teach us how to accept life.
I think CFers are unique in the way that they can live Full and Complete lives without living Long lives. We were born into this disease, we have had it all our lives (whether we knew it or not). Because of this, we have learned to adapt and accept life, as well as death, at an earlier age. All our life experienced were densified into a smaller time-span. The majority of our midlife crises happen in our 20s or even teens. We had more responsibility at age 10 than a teenager. We learned to accept certain aspects of life before most of our peers.
So Aristotle, I’d like to disagree with you for a moment. Look at every CFer living and breathing, whether on earth or in heaven, and you will see Eudaimonia radiating from every aspect of their character. We are a rare breed of human who learns to accept and love life early on, who don’t need conventional “old age” wisdom to be wise, who don’t need a Long life to learn what happiness and completeness are. I’d say that I’m on the road to a complete life, to accepting my circumstances and being satisfied with the life I’ve lived, whether that means living until I’m 100 or dying “young.” (I put it in quotes because based on our experiences we are older than most!)