This is gonna hurt. It's supposed to.
In that way that we get to thoroughly embarrass ourselves, I took a hike with my neighbor and friend Alice and her lovely pup Hazel yesterday. I haven't hiked in three months, and worked to keep up with Alice's lively stride. I took a hiking pole along; good thing, for my right foot is still only three months post-surgery while my left is now eight.
And I got lost. We went up a road that I thought I knew, but didn't. I made Alice chortle when I said I had a lot of skills, but a sense of direction isn't one of them.
That cost me a lot of pain. We'd taken one of the many lovely, winding hiking trails which would spill us out onto my street, but the sharp downhill was very hard on my dogs, which are full of metal. Said metal bites into the feet, because it needs to learn how to move around.
My lungs were quite thankful for the workout, my hips had something to say about sitting too much, and my feet? Well. I'm in the midst of a makeover right now. D0-over, actually.
Let's talk about Do-Overs.
By the time we hit the beginning of old age, which is variously described by each of us depending on how dramatic we are, lots of us would really love a Do-Over.
First and foremost, like all of us I get to ask exactly what it is I want to Do-Over. (I overdo plenty of things but this isn't that) Past mistakes? Screw-ups? That guy I wished I'd flirted with? Water under the bridge. Oy, let it go already.
What I do have, as do we all, is the ability to choose what needs attention, why, and whether or not it's worth the effort. With the time I have left to me, which could be minutes or years, how do I want to fill that?
Am I overdue to see the aurora borealis? Is it finally time for me to get my butt back to the Svalbard Islands in fall to see the polar bears, too? What am I waiting for? To win the lottery?
I already did. I'm alive. You too.
So to that, this week I booked a hostel in a lovely city in Israel so that I get to meet Nurit Amichai, who comments on here often and whose very wise words sent a great many of my friends scuttling to ask themselves very hard and important questions. November, when the heat softens, and we get to sit on the sea and talk...stuff.
Yesterday's excursion reminded me that while the initial healing process is going well for the various parts, the hardest road is yet to come. The promised bionic feet won't work until I'm willing to force all the moving parts to accommodate the hardware, step by step. If yesterday is any indication, some of this isn't going to be much fun.
But if I want to hike, bike, and ride again, it's the price I have to pay. Nothing truly good in life comes without some form of payment, including simply our attention (try to really focus hard on something for a while these days and tell me that's not a challenge). We give something up to get something.
Ask anyone who's had to rehab after a terrible accident. Healing is just the prelude.
As for the Do-Over, the price we consider paying is changing how we choose to see.
Part of my Do-Over begins with this busted-up body, which is still reeling and healing from all the surgeries. The other part of it is how I want to live the life I've chosen, here in Oregon, at least for now. How I want to continue some part of the travel, expand other areas, grow new parts of a different life, release or redirect habits that don't work?
And heal. We're all healing from something. Life gives us wounds. Scars are proof of life; open wounds proof we refuse to be healed.
Part of healing, a large part of it anyway, is the decision to be healed.
That decision makes each tentative step- and boy were my steps tentative this morning- a lot easier. The decision has already been made. The rest is just the work.
One habit I developed since moving here has been a true game-changer, and it's a critical part of any life do-over. This really is the first tentative step for any major change, to my mind, that we want to stick. The way I see it, it's hard to move forward without this step. See if you agree with me.
First, for contrast:
Someone close to me has been out of his normal work for several years, and has been driving for Uber and Lyft. A family member, recently married and in a huge home, invited him to live there for eighteen months to give him a shot at getting his life back together.
In his mid-fifties, what I hear are the complaints, the anger, the resentment. This person is living in a gorgeous house with plenty of privacy, family around and dogs. Several things I don't have, would love to have- like a dog- but what I hear is how bad it all is.
The Do-Over available, which this person keeps sidestepping, is what happens when you and I CHOOSE to have gratitude, no matter what the circumstances.
Research is very clear on this:
Part of what got me through this past year of brutally painful surgeries, complications, recovery and all the rest was a daily habit of spending the first and last minutes of every single day saying thank you.
For everything, including the pain. For the pain meant that I'd gotten care, and was healing. Pain meant my body was working hard to get me fully back in life.
We don't get to thank the Great Pumpkin only for the good stuff.
Can we talk?
I get to do a lot of things others can't do, whether that's because of ill family members, finances or a slew of other things. Just like other people get to be surrounded by family, a part of life which passed me by.
I get to budget, choose carefully and rethink how I spend my time, where I write and how I serve people. Just like others get to plan much more lavish lives than I do, or far less, comparatively. (Here's how that works: I will travel but stay in hostels, which is perfectly fine; others drop $500 a night or more. We both still get the experiences, but chances are I meet more locals)
I get to spend time regularly speaking to brilliant friends who hold my feet to the fire. Some folks get to spend their time surgically attached to their phones. And all else inbetween.
I get to rebuild this body so that the time I have left is going to be as lively as I can make it. Now that's all of us, frankly, as long as some part of us is mobile.
I get to redirect habits that don't serve, habits of mind for example, which allow me to put that energy into brand-new things. And that's all of us, too.
As my buddy JC pointed out when he spent the day with me on my deck, I get to protect not only my Hump Days at the beach, but plenty of time every single day to be in these woods. Lots of folks get to do what I've always done (til now) and be ruled by productivity advice and to-do lists. We get to make those quality of life choices, and each one requires giving something up.
And on and on.
Each of us gets to do something others can't or won't do. Therein lies an opportunity to be grateful, not only for those things we value, but also for those things which sting.
I've got plenty of those, cringe-worthy memories some folks call "character building."
More like assassination, but there you have it. But I get to be grateful for those, too, for without them, I likely wouldn't be much of a writer.
So about that Do-Over. Mine started in all seriousness when I moved here, in ways I didn't see coming. It built momentum and landed me here a year after all those surgeries started with a very different outlook, a mostly-empty house smack in the middle of some of what I consider to be the prettiest land on earth. So like New Zealand that it's as close as any American will ever get to living there.
This past year has been a PhD program in noticing.
I get to be grateful that after all that happened, I still have this house, am slowly making friends, healing this body. The future, such of it that I am allotted, is wide open, as long as I am willing to do the work to get there.
My unemployed friend's life is an open wound, and his resentment keeps it open. He may never be able to turn that train around. But he gets to choose. Just like we all get to complain about how awful life is, until it's close to the end and suddenly, we really want that last minute Do-Over.
Offering up gratitude no matter what, perhaps especially because things are tough, is, for my Do-Over dollar, where it all starts.
I could be wrong. But I think I'm onto something here.
Now I get to go sit out on my deck, read the next Virgil Flowers novel, and get ready to walk my neighborhood in the morning. Get going, as it were.
What do you get to do?
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