Four years ago I went skiing for the first time and it forever changed my life. Little did I know that crossing that activity off my Bucket List would create an avalanche of misfortune, that would take me three years to claw my way out of, and would throw dynamite into the center of my life, destroying everything I revered, while creating a staggeringly beautiful new life as the ash settled.
I started this blog in June 2010 after being diagnosed with Aspergillosis, the result of falling on my face skiing, which I recounted two years later, if you care to revisit those narratives. Fast forwarding to a year or so after that, I was told that the fungus was no longer growing, and then a little time later, I was informed that my illness no longer posed an immediate threat but was still hovering on the horizon.
Then last year, I got some news that allowed me to let out the leaden breath that I had been holding in for the previous three years: my illness, the one I was never expected to survive, had subsided. I was not cured, per say, but the fungus was not active, and they expected it to stay that way indefinitely, which it has. It has been 8 months since then, and in that time I've had a few sore throats, ear infections, and upset stomachs, but no noteworthy active threats! While I still experience residual effects of the ordeal, they are now an integrated part of my life and no new problems have arisen. I've actually felt ALIVE, for probably the first time in my life.
If you'll recall, I got sober a few months before I got sick. It's one of those situations where my drinking habits helped create the situation that got me sick, getting sober kick started it, and on the other hand, if I hadn't been sober I wouldn't have survived, nor been able to emotionally handle it. Life is complicated and layered and oh so weird.
I feel like I've lived five lifetimes. I'm not the person I was a few years ago. That person wasn't really alive. That person was surviving. And when push came to shove and I was face to face with my addictions and my mortality, this me, the real me, fought like fucking hell to be alive and, let me tell you, it was worth it. I don't know if I would be this person if I wasn't an Addict/Alcoholic with Aspergillosis (that's a lot of A) or not, who knows. Maybe something else would have prompted the shift. I think this me was always there, flying under the radar and popping out from time to time, so maybe I just needed a stick of dynamite to get out.
This is a really long-winded intro to what I'm really trying to get to...
When I shared that amazing, important news, I didn't know how to feel, or what to say, or how to be, or what to do. My life was moving really fast then and I wanted to grab as much of it as I could, because I could. So I pushed those feelings aside and went on with my days. Then yesterday, I spoke on the phone (can we take a moment to note the fact that the previous me NEVER spoke on the phone to anyone) with someone who went through a similar situation with their health and is also doing better these days, I learned of a young woman named Sarah Jones who tragically died while filming on location for a movie, and I looked at a calendar and realized today's date. Then I couldn't sleep. All the thoughts and emotions I'd been ignoring for the last 8 months caught up to me.
I think what I've figured out is that I don't have it all figured out, and that's okay.
I don't know why this happened to me or to others, or why some of us survive and some don't. I don't have anything profound to say today about my survival and there are even some days I completely forget that shitstorm even happened at all. There are other days when it's all I can think about, or other people in a similar situation come to me for advice and I don't know what to tell them. Some days I'm really fucking angry because health care in this country is a joke and because people in other countries don't even know what health care is. Some of the time I'm profoundly sad over the fact that my illness means I can never physically have my own children and other times I'm thankful to have something to blame if I don't actually want to have any. There have been days I was thankful for the things I've learned the last 4 years and days that I recounted all the things I have lost or missed out on.
I'm resentful toward myself for not having a more profound reaction to the news and I think part of it is fear that if I don't have death staring me directly in the eyes that I may lose my zest for life and start taking things for granted. I fear living a lackluster life far more than I fear dying. Now that I know what it feels like to be fully, deeply, really ALIVE, I'm afraid of losing it.
That's what I've been running from for 8 months: fear of losing my urgency to live. Now that I've admitted it, I am ready to confront it and I encourage all of you to confront what you fear. We can all help each other live life to the fullest, to do the things that make us happy, and to help others find and do what makes them happy. Deal?
I made an active decision along the way to find joy even in the bleakest moments, to find something to be grateful for every day, and to say no to things that don't make me feel alive. If I could turn on that mentality while writhing in endless physical torment, I guess I can summon it when I'm grumpy or uninspired. So, I guess the whole point I am trying to make is that I choose to be happy and I hope to continue checking that box every morning, no matter the circumstances. I hope you'll join me in doing the same.
I'm so grateful to be here and, as always, thank you for accompanying me on the journey.
“Have the courage to live. Anyone can die.” - Robert Cody