I was listening to NPR on my way home from work recently and they were doing a piece about the Berlin Patient. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1995 and in 2007 he received a bone marrow stem cell transplant from someone who was immune to HIV. It turns out about 1% of white people are immune to HIV. Since his transplant, the Berlin Patient has tested negative for HIV ever since. They test him regularly and the interview with him was about how they are hopeful that they may have finally found a road that will lead to a cure for this dreadful disease.
What I found intriguing and made me go down a long and winding side road of thought was this: when they asked the man why he continued to participate in testing which was intrusive and time consuming, I anticipated that he would answer something to like "so I can help others who have HIV and hopefully find a cure for the many people around the world stricken with this awful disease" or something along those lines. Something noble and worthy, that's what I expected his answer to be. Instead, in a moment of naked and frankly disturbing honesty, he said "I am motivated by guilt." I actually gasped when he said that. Instead of a great thankfulness to be alive, he felt guilty. He carried a huge burden of self-loathing that he had lived while others had died and that was why he continued to participate in testing. He wasn't motivated by anything good or noble, he was motivated by guilt.
I was flabbergasted and vaguely disappointed by his answer largely because I could not even begin to understand it. I have heard of survivor's guilt and while I kind of "get it" at the same time I don't. Obviously I have not walked a mile in this man's shoes and have no idea what brought him to a point where he was motivated by feeling guilty for being alive so I decided to do some hard self examination and look at what truly motivates me.
I finally came to the conclusion that the thing that gets me out of bed everyday was love. The reason I get up, stagger around while feeding a dog, a cat, packing a husband's lunch, getting cleaned up and off to work was because of the love I have for my husband, my family, my home and my faith. I was a little concerned when I started down this road that I would find out that I was motivated by something really foolish like money or "stuff" or discontent or even fear. One never knows when one delves into the depths of one's soul what one will find lurking in a dark cupboard under the stairs. The more and more I thought about it, the more I realized that the thing that mattered to me was a happy life and that happy life is because it is filled with those I love.
I thought further about what if I didn't have some of the people and things I do have in my life, would I still be so motivated by love and I don't know the answer to that question. I hope so and I think so. I thought about if I were to have health trouble and had to rely and be a burden on other people, would love still motivate me. Again, I like to believe that it would. I gave further thought about the people I have lost and realized that the memory of the love I had for them and they for me continues to be a driving force in my life. I thought about why I obey the rules and laws of the land and while fear of punishment is certainly part of why I do, the thought of disappointing or hurting the people I love is the truer reason why I do. Lastly, I thought about what a large part faith plays in my life and that when one is forgiven much, one loves much.
When I finally came up for air after so much deep cogitation, I felt better about things. The mundaneness of day to day life can weigh us all down at times and to know what keeps me getting up everyday helps me continue on even when my spirits flag and the flesh is weak.
I am also motivated by a good laugh but that's another story.