When I was 3 my mom came running from the other room when she heard me screaming. My hand clutched my face and blood was streaming out. She thought I’d lost an eye but I’d only slammed my forehead on the corner of the coffee table.
When I was eight I fell right down from the top of a set of monkey bars – it seemed so high at the time – and slammed my head on the ground. I don’t remember much of it but it didn’t seem to do any lasting damage.
When I was 19, I left a Phish show at Great Woods Amphitheater in Massachusetts with some kids I’d met. I was in the passenger seat when the front tire blew out and we went careening in circles across the highway stopping inches from the guardrail. I’d like to think I was wearing my seatbelt.
When I was 20, I landed on the blunt end of my ski pole and my spleen exploded inside of me. Bleeding internally from major arteries, I was rushed to the hospital and what remained of my spleen was removed and I was stitched back up. After a brief teetering upon the precipice and sent back out into the world. I was back skiing a month and a half later and, after a summer of cross country adventuring, spent the following winter doing the same along with some indeterminable amount of concussions.
When I was 25, I was on the beach of the Kalalau Valley and a wave crept up behind me and slammed me face first into the sand. I felt every vertebrae twist and turn and crunch. I pulled myself back up, slightly dizzy and still able to breath. Everything looked brighter. My back, though twisted, wasn’t broken.
When I was 39, I looked away from the road for a moment and drove head first into a stopped car at 50 mph merely. I veered ever so slightly to the left and, on the driver’s side, the engine was practically in the window. I was able to open my door and stumble away.
There’s a thousand other things. There was the time in Canada. That time in Vermont. Probably a dozen other times in Vermont. There was the weird dude who picked me up hitchhiking and showed me his home, his greco-roman style indoor pool, how he likes it when young men come over and swim. There was that other guy in Spokane. There were multi-day backpacking trips by myself in the middle of nowhere clambering over cliffs and along the faces of steep waterfalls without a care. There were too many late night drives to count. There were times with a blade, a flame, an everything… There are so many times that life zigged instead of zagging. Life went one way and I went with it and I – and my life – was swept in one direction instead of another.
I share this not to say that I’m lucky or blessed or whatever. Those are stories to ascribe to the action and they are of no real use other than to make me feel special or unique.
When life looms large on my horizon and every moment feels like a Titanic-meet-iceberg slow crumbling sinking ship and I don’t know where to turn, I think about these moments and, more than anything else, they remind me to be grateful for the ability to see, to feel, to think, to breath, to stand, to walk, to live, to keep going, to keep moving onwards. I’m grateful that I still have this life to live and the better part of my body to live it with.
At the moment, I am comfortable. My body is at ease. There are no great aches or pains that call my attention. My cats are sleeping peacefully. There is rain falling outside. I think about all the seemingly endless close calls and I think about all that is yet to come. Life isn’t done yet and there’s cards yet to play, dangers yet to face, and dances yet to dance. I am ever grateful for these moments and movements, this dance, this breath. In the end, it’s the only thing I really have. That is, until I don’t.
I am just one more blade of grass on this vast plain and at any given moment, something could come along and mow me down. I’m grateful for each next breath and my vow to myself, to the world, every day, is to use that breath as wisely as I can.
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