I have an active imagination with scenarios constantly swinging from horrific to heroic–I call it Paranoid Optimism. It’s the Murphy’s Law of spirituality: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, but fortunately it’s all for the best. As a kid this thinking helped me fall asleep by assuming that the monster under my bed could beat the crap out of anyone in the closet.
I don’t see the glass as half-empty; I see it as half-full–of cyanide, tipping over and shattering. Luckily one of the shards of glass slashes the foot of the thug about to mug me. As I bandage him up, I tell him it was no accident that we met. He’s been living in scarcity and should try on the notion of abundance. We become friends; he ends up selling me health insurance. Grateful for my saving his life, he gives me an affordable policy.
My current health insurance is the public option—an emergency room in Mexico. It’s a better deal than my last HMO–if I were ever diagnosed with cancer they’d send me to a taxidermist, and not even one of my choosing. For eye care they sent me to an Optimist, who kept telling me everything was fine.
I am a hypochondriac, a disease for which there is no known cure. You can’t go wrong being a hypochondriac; every week I leave the doctor’s office with good news. See, I believe every pain near my heart is an oncoming heart attack. My left arm is constantly numb from testing it every three minutes. As soon as I read about an illness or medical condition, I develop the symptoms. I’ve endured hepatitis, chlamydia, and sickle cell anemia. I am a survivor . . . of my own delusions.
I’m only able to picture the best after I’ve assumed the worst. When I get a headache I think: tumor! But then I see the silver lining. You’ve heard of good cholesterol? Well I could be the first person to get good cancer.
When I see a doctor, after the tests he’ll call to say, “Paul, are you sitting down?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Well, you’d better stand up. I’ve never had news like this before.”
“I don’t have cancer?”
“Oh, no, you have cancer; your body is riddled with cancer. But somehow it’s a good cancer. Your cancer burns fat and builds muscle.”
They will name my miraculous cancer after me. Doctors will break the news this way: “Sir, you’re lucky. You have Paul Lyons cancer. It’s an abnormal growth–in consciousness. You can get out of bed every morning and move your body any way you like.”
“But, Doc, can’t everyone do that?”
“Sure, but how many do?”
“What about my heart palpitations?”
“Why, that’s opportunity knocking! Wait till you meet the nurse who works the defibrillator.”