Friday, April 8, 2011

Lesson #18: The Show Must Go On

On January 18, 1993, during my senior year of college, I was afflicted with a devastating and unusual strain of spinal meningitis.  I was unconscious when my poor parents and friends were informed I wasn't going to live.  Ultimately I was able to persevere and fight the illness thanks to an antibiotic called Rocephin, and my sheer Taurus stubborn will to survive.

The recovery afterward was lengthy and daunting.  I literally had to practice walking again, taking one step in front of the other.  My school gently suggested I take the quarter off to heal.  I not-so-gently suggested they piss off, though I was willing to drop to part-time status, and take some time out to get my body and mind back into working order.

This was not long after the death of pop singer Freddie Mercury. The song he recorded with Queen, "The Show Must Go On," had been playing a lot as a single.  The message in the music fed my strength and courage to keep going forward, one step in front of the other, to pass my classes, and reclaim my life.  I learned from this experience that: (1) Life is very precious.  (2) I am lucky to still be here and grow older.  (3) Being stubborn can be a strength, and (4) "The Show Must Go On" is a damn good song.

Two months ago I was shocked when one of my best friends died very suddenly from AIDS. I have been working through this loss the same way I have dealt with every tragedy these past eighteen years.  I take a time-out, assess the damage, figure out a plan, and take one step in front of the other with "The Show Must Go On" playing in my head. I remember that things have to get done, patients need to be seen, the world isn't going to stop turning because Damon isn't feeling well. 

One of the things that greatly assists me in this process is learning from others who have confronted similar challenges.  Last Fall I had the opportunity to interview Colleen Zenk, a kindred spirit in "The Show Must Go On" department.  Despite coping with the aftermath of oral cancer treatments, losing her 32-year-old job as Barbara Ryan on AS THE WORLD TURNS, and a series of personal losses, she is taking her act to a new stage (literally and figuratively).  Tonight, her one woman show, "Colleen Zenk: LIVE!" debuts in New Hope, PA, and with any luck will soon be coming to a town near you.  If ever there was a human who understood the meaning of "The Show Must Go On," it is the Divine Ms. Zenk. 

This lesson is intended to remind everyone that despite the hardships and challenges we face, we can deal with them by telling ourselves that the show must go on.  Just take one step in front of the other and ask for help when you need it.  Getting older has afforded me the luxury of trusting this lesson and finding serenity in the knowledge that this stubborn Taurus is going to persevere no matter what.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at

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