Most folks that know me well know that I have a broad, eclectic, arguably an ECCENTRIC taste in music. I love opera, alternative, hair and glam bands, classic rock, blues, jazz, rap, pop, classical…
The one thing that is not usually on my playlist is country. Generally, I am not the biggest fan. But I heard a song the other day that stopped me in my tracks. It is an older song (nearly ten years old- released in 2004) by Tim McGraw that I had never heard before. I only heard it now because apparently one of the radio stations that I used to listen to often is now a country station. I was not paying much attention as I was focused on the road and my navigation app, but somehow… I heard it. Truly heard it, and it gave me goosebumps. The song is titled ‘Live like you were dying’. Mr. McGraw is speaking to an older gentleman that had a serious health crisis in his early 40′s.
Lyrics and information on the song can be found at http://www.lyrics007.com/Tim%20McGraw%20Lyrics/Live%20Like%20You%20Were%20Dying%20Lyrics.html
“I was in my early forties
With a lot of life before me
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime
I spent most of the next days
Looking at the x-rays
Talkin’ ’bout the options
And talkin’ ’bout sweet time”
I asked him
“When it sank in
That this might really be the real end
How’s it hit you
When you get that kind of news?
Man, what’d you do?”
“I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Blue Manchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”
And he said
“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying”
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you’ve got eternity
To think about
What you’d do with it
What could you do with it
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?
I pulled to the side of the road, downloaded the song from iTunes, and listened again. And again. One more time before I pulled my little sedan back out into traffic. I cannot say that I have often had a song ‘hit’ me that way, and it was like a physical strike.
In late July, I had the scenario Mr. McGraw sang about. I was in the eye of the health crisis tornado. I went into the ER with a complaint that I thought was no big deal- although uncomfortable and needed intervention- and walked out at 3:30am with my first appointment at 10am, and that set things into motion with lots of tests, a visit to surgeons and oncologists and the like. I was in surgery approximately 70 hours later to remove a massive tumor that was on my Fallopian tube. Somehow, this 11 pound monstrosity did not kill me by rupturing, and I beat the odds, it was not malignant. However, if it would have ruptured, death would have been almost instantaneous. I had from the wee hours of Tuesday morning through the early hours of Friday morning to prepare for surgery, to talk about the potential for cancer, chemo, poor 5 year viability projections, a colostomy… and somehow I dodged all that. THIS TIME. I had a long and hard recovery, repeatedly passing out, dropping to under 110 lbs and some other issues that may or may not resolve. I have a very, very scarred belly. A skirmish was fought there in 2007, and an all-out-battle occurred in 2013.
I have had near misses before. But I did not learn the lesson, and many folks have apprised me that you will be provided the lesson over and over until you ‘learn it’. Now, I am not sure about that, but I am sure that with this just happening 5 months ago, and with the change of the year from 2013 to 2014… I am READY.
I am doing more for myself. Taking more time off, working a bit less, and doing things outside my comfort zone. A couple of days ago I did something I would have NEVER have done since my hysterectomy in 2007.
I scheduled a spray tan to utilize a certificate I had been given before it expired. I was apprehensive about looking like an oompa loompa from the Wizard of Oz, and I also knew from friends that spray tans, even the best of them, really enhance scarring. And I have a ton of them… scars, that is… but only one area caused me anxiety…
Standing before a young woman in my bikini underwear and bra, exposing what I call ‘Frankenbelly’ is something I would not normally ever consider doing. And honestly? I just wanted to throw up and die. My intention prior to this experience was that no one, NO ONE save essential medical folks would see my abdomen. I had no intention of ever, ever EVER letting someone see my belly casually. And dating? Not been interested in a long time, and it is certainly not happening now… Or that was my self dialogue in the early days of my recovery. Someone seeing me intimately, naked? NO WAY.
The technician was kind, and sensing I did not want to talk, did the spraying quickly and gently, and had no reaction to ‘Frankenbelly’. No reaction to the weight I was ordered to gain back, plus the 5-7 pounds I gained in addition to the 15 lbs I was to gain. It hit me at that moment… being obese in the not too distant past due to health issues, losing 134 pounds over 4 years, then losing 20 without wanting to… that I have a lot of body image things to sort out at the age of 44, almost 45. I have lots of ‘self talk’ that is not affirming, and I would not talk to my worst enemy (if I had one) about anything like I often speak to myself about my body, my strength training goals, my running goals, my weight, etc. I have got to walk the talk. I will wade into someone for body shaming, but I do it to myself. No more.
As the days have turned into weeks, and weeks have turned into months after my near miss, I am realizing that all of the awkwardness about my body is unnecessary, and drains focus from the important things. ’Frankenbelly’ is a badge of honor, that I did not succumb to something that could have ended me. Now as a reader of this… you are probably thinking… so you have a scar? GET OVER YOURSELF!
And I am doing my best. I am not looking back, I am staying in the present. Thus far my life has been a progression of wonderful, terrible, affirming, frightening events that continue to whittle away at the things that are simply not important. And I received a second chance that I cannot even begin to articulate… Where I am now, it is a true gift. I damn near did not make it to 2014. Returning to work? Uncertain to unlikely. Returning to the gym and training for races? Definitely not likely. And I did not lose those things…
BUT…The important things in my life are not things. They are my friends, my cats, and the relationships that make life worthwhile. It is not about how many miles I can run in a minute, how many pounds on a scale, or how scarred and marred my abdomen is. My work is important to me, but I am working to find balance. I used to live to work. I now want to honor my work in the way it deserves, but work to live. I am still figuring that out currently, but I will continue to keep my head up and eyes on the horizon… when it comes to that. For everything else… I want to, I have to, be here in this minute.
None of us know the future. We know we might have 70, 80, 90 years or more… or we might have 44 1/2. I never had a ‘bucket list’ … finding the whole concept contrived, Hollywood, and honestly, a touch silly. I cannot say that I now have a bucket list. But I am determined to do several things and soon. Some are easy, like skydiving (which terrifies me to the depth of my being, but I will do it!) and ziplining… and some are more difficult, like finding work life balance… and in doing so… perhaps opening myself to the possibility of a romantic relationship again.
Onward and upward… I am living this life the way I want to, and I am done with the expectations of others playing in my head. I will do this my way, and I want to make whatever time I have COUNT. I never have been one to keep to the sidelines or the safe space, and I do not intend to do so now. I just intend to be a little kinder, a little gentler, and a little more accepting of me. I constantly remind myself that what used to be is no longer. What I have is now.
Best wishes for a fabulous 2014. Thank you for reading.