“For the truth is that I already know as much about my fate as I need to know. The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.” – Richard Bode
So if you’ve been following my exploits and have been able to read into my philosophy at all, you’ve probably gathered that I’m one of those “die with memories, not dreams” kind of people. Or insert some other cheeky cliché.
A philosophy like that sometimes requires a catalyst. In my case it was watching my twenties literally fly by, a few deployments to Afghanistan, and also seeing my otherwise healthy mom diagnosed with and successfully beating stage 4 lung cancer.
I kinda went off the deep end in the beginning, buying a small sailboat and sailing towards South America. Eventually I settled back into a more realistic & satisfying mix of flying & teaching helicopter lessons a few days a week, then exploring the outdoors during my time off, with Saoirse waiting for me in the Caribbean as a winter vacation home.
Last week I was on my way to REI to get some new toys for the summer when I was again reminded why we shouldn’t take things for granted, especially our health.
“Then there is the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” – Randy Komisar
So here’s the short story.
I woke up Monday morning with a swollen arm. Stubborn Man wanted to give it a few days to see what would happen. I was already on my way to Reno and the VA ER is right down the street from REI, so I popped in quickly just to see what was up. Spider bite or some other reaction to something?
An ultrasound revealed blood clots in my arm, shoulder, and neck. The tech said, “Oh, this one is barely attached, I can’t press too hard or it’ll go to your brain.” Yeah, I appreciate that, thanks. I’d spend the following week in the ICU with two surgeries to remove the clots. Once those were mostly relieved, a third surgery removed my first rib, which was pinching the veins under my collarbone and causing the clots. Some odd and rare condition called thoracic outlet syndrome. A musculoskeletal deformity I was probably born with but never knew about until now.
That was the longest and most painful trip to REI ever. Yeah, I like to keep things exciting.
“Live passionately, even if it kills you, because something is going to kill you anyway.” – Webb Chiles
I sat alone on the ER bed with all sorts of things going through my mind. First of which being, “how is this gonna go down, as a stroke or a heart attack?” And then, “how long are we talking, like minutes, hours, or days? If I get through this without being permanently disabled, will the FAA ever let me fly professionally again, if at all? Are you happy with everything you’ve done with your life?” After stewing over those things, I finally thought, “fuck this, you’ll be back home to your normal life next week.”
That was my final thought as the ambulance carried me to another hospital, and the one I tried to keep with me until it was all over. But it was enough to renew my vows to myself.
Less late nights at bars, more late nights under the stars. Less Facebook, more faces. Less drinking but more happy hours. Sunsets and campfires. Sunrises and coffee. Less noise from pop culture and more sounds from nature. Save grimacing for physical pain only, otherwise smiles all around.
Freak things can and do happen! Unknown medical conditions manifesting themselves, car accidents, an airplane crashing into your house…strange, unexpected, wild shit. So ask yourself, what will I do today?
“If you are going to do something, do it now. Tomorrow is too late.” – Pete Goss
I kinda have to rethink my summer plans now!
During my long weekends I was going to hit the trails like a madman, spending a couple nights a week in the many wilderness areas surrounding Lake Tahoe. Well, that’s not gonna happen any time soon. And circumnavigating Lake Tahoe in my kayak won’t happen when I had originally planned to do it, but at least it’ll have more meaning when I’m able to paddle again.
Good thing I just bought a brand new car…let’s put some miles on it! There are thousands of miles of nearby California & Nevada roads that I haven’t seen yet. The destination list is growing rapidly. State parks, national parks, historic towns, quiet seaside villages…you get the idea.
Now I just have to get back to the point where I can operate a steering wheel and a gearshift…maybe next week…
“We all have two lives. The second one starts when we realize that we have only one.” – Tom Hiddleston