4-18-11: A Matter of Priorities
Dudley Clendinen is an award-winning author and journalist who lives here in Baltimore. A former reporter and editorial writer for The New York Times, he found out in November, at age 66, that he has Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, more popularly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
There is no known cure for ALS, and once a person is diagnosed, they usually live between 1.5 to 3 years.
Over the past few months, Dudley has been speaking with Tom Hall about living with ALS. In this conversation, he talks about how the diagnosis has shifted his priorities, both professionally and personally.
“The thing about a terminal diagnosis is that it turns your life upside down. You find you look at everything from a new angle. All the old stuff is still there, but you’re looking at it differently. So, old issues take on a fascinating new perspective and possibility, and all these new things occur to you because you’re in a dimension you’ve never been in before.”
Dudley says that being diagnosed has given him an idea for a book, a teaching course, and a series of editorials–but he only has a certain amount of time to get it all done–and he has to balance the work with personal relationships.
“The discovery I made at the same time I was having these ideas is that I have a growing list of visions, rosy visions, which includes taking my daughter Whitney on trips, and in contrast to the list of rosy visions, I actually have a diminishing store of energy. I have a certain amount of time each day in which I’m really frisky, and full of ideas and energy. . . and then I start to feel nappy.”
Dudley also says that as time goes by, he realizes that he probably won’t get to everything he wants to. And that can be hard: “One of the new recognitions, in addition to visions, is the recognition that the ground in front of you is shifting and shrinking. Life is, in fact, closing down in small ways, each day, a little more.”
You can listen to all of our conversations with Dudley Clendinen here.