Sunday, August 23, 2015

What Happened

Yesterday I gave the script of my play to a friend of mine, who I not only love dearly as a friend but also respect as a playwright and actor. I've been doing that a lot lately. And it's not at all like me.

I'm not what I would consider a brave person by nature. I always cross the street at designated crosswalks. I don't unbuckle my seatbelt on an airplane, even after the captain has turned off the "fasten seatbelt" sign. I have no desire to skydive, get a tattoo or balance my checkbook. So as I'm talking to my friend I'm pondering this transformation. What happened to the reluctant, self conscious, self critical guy who has a fifteen year old novel and two volumes of poetry sitting in a box at home collecting dust? 

Four years ago, about this time of the year, I was sitting in a doctor's office and got some bad news. It wasn't like in the movies where there is a moment and music and tears and an embrace. It was before Affordable Healthcare so I was at the free clinic. My doctor, who seemed only mildly interested in me, told me my blood test was bad and gave me the number of a local specialist. I went home, kind of numb and confused and spent the next week before my appointment with the specialist Googling my blood work numbers and following the results down one rabbit hole after another until I was even more numb and confused. It seemed, as with most of my life, my bloodwork was in somewhat of a grey area. I could have cancer or not. That was less comforting than it should have been. 

To make a very long, gross, painful story short, today I am fine. Four years, dozens of blood tests, three biopsies and one MRI later I am one of the lucky guys. Despite some very scary test results I do not have cancer. I'm likely to get it but I am monitored very closely, very regularly so that when that does happen I am almost certain to survive it. 

During those four years, however, something happened. As I was going through this strange journey that seemed so foreign to a "healthy" person like me, I lost six people very close to me, most of them around my age. In those four years, while I was wrecked with worry, getting one awful blood test after another, these beautiful people were dying in a matter of months, seemingly healthy one day and gone before a year was out. It made my own worries seem less immediate but more real.....but I kept being "OK". I always got better news after bad news and I was beginning to understand that no matter how much I allowed fear to overwhelm me, it didn't make one bit of difference in whether I lived or died. I could spend my life worried. I could be gone tomorrow. I could live another fifty years. What was it again that I was supposed to be doing anyway? What was the point of this living business? Was it just what I was going to be doing between doctor"s appointments for the rest of my life? A perpetual cycle of worry and relief as I sat helpless? I spent four years worrying about dying as I watched people die and I lived. It was a perspective that was life changing. 

So I don't care so much about whether or not someone likes me. I'm not so caught up in trying to be perfect. I've silenced the voice that told me over and over again that I'm just not quite good enough for what I want. I don't have much time for that voice anymore. What I've always wanted to do is write. I wanted to tell stories and explain the world as I see it and maybe make a connection with someone else who might feel the same way. I don't need to be a famous writer. I just need to do it and I have begun to realize that there is no more perfect time to be who you always wanted to be than right now. Nobody is going to give you permission. There will be no email or overture announcing the commencement of "your time". It happens now (or whenever you are ready to hear it.)

Yes, life is short but not always in the way you think it is. It's not the length of your life that matters but the amount of time during that life that you spend on your purpose, your great desire. It is the amount of your life that you fearlessly and unquestioningly allow yourself to be who you are........that grown up you imagined as a kid, doing amazing things and dreaming even bigger dreams. 

I'm going to be OK today. In the midst of thinking my life was over I found a new way to live and to be alive. I learned lessons from people who were not nearly so lucky as I am. I honor them by using my gifts and learning how to be the best person I know how to be and allowing myself to be imperfect without judgment. I'm still not going to go skydiving. But I wrote a play and I love sharing my work with people I love, people I respect who love and respect me in return. I get to feel that great feeling today because I am alive. That's what happened.