Assuming whimsical gods favor your continued existence, there eventually comes a time when the bulk of our lives lies in the unalterable past. Compensation for this injustice is said to be “wisdom.” And though it’s not a fair trade, wisdom for youth, it beats the cold earthen alternative.
Life is a lot like the canyons Bobbie and I hike around Zion, full of complications, snags, and cliffs. After several trips to the ER for pulmonary embolisms over the past few years I was finally diagnosed with a chronic blood clot disorder, all due to one little defective gene.
I've been told by ER nurses and Docs De Jour that I dodged the proverbial bullet(s). I'm still here, but now on blood thinners for ever and ever. I was also told to sell my mountain bike and to let up on the "gas" a little when it comes to bouldering and climbing, seems a crash or fall while on blood thinners can cause an internal bleed-out.
As you might imagine, I didn't take it very well. Neither would you if the life you knew and loved—pretty much your reason for living—was suddenly off limits. It's difficult to explain, especially to those who can't identify or understand what a significant role "active outdoor lifestyle" plays in my life. It's who I am, as opposed to "Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief. Thus, to lose my "identity" to a little mutant gene, just as I fully embrace retirement and free time? Well, it's akin to telling Einstein that his "Golden Years" would be racked with sudden onset Alzheimer's and would no longer be able to do what he loves… his reason for being. Oh the gods, how they love to watch a good and earnest man die slowly or before his time. I learned this at the tender age of 25 when my father died, suddenly, just as Social Security was about to give him a few options beyond working, working, working.
|Everett Milo Johnson|
Now older and wiser (theoretically) I see the irony of Life, the Catch 22, that chasing "success" can land one off trail. What one thinks might set them free ends up having them chasing their tail, a little counterproductive to happiness and contentment.
From the Kingdom of Geezerhood, knowing that the "deck" has been stacked against me, I can only decide to focus on Quality over Quantity—to embrace life to its fullest each and every day on my terms—blood thinners, bleed outs, and all. Having already outlived my father by four years, I figure I'm playing with "House money." Adopting this new attitude pulled me out of a post-diagnosis pity party. It put me back in control… back riding my mountain bike and back climbing the "mountain," at least till I crash or fall. "Now" is all we have. It's the only time we can "spend." Don't waste a second, and realize, Quality trumps Quantity every single time.
Ask anyone in a nursing home about "regrets." Most will express that they are risks not taken, places left unexplored, relationships given up on or choosing success and career over a more meaningful living. Author Donald Miller wrote, “Every human being is searching for a deep sense of meaning, and yet we're all chasing success. We've confused one for the other.”
Gratitude. I have so much to be grateful for and where better to begin than with Bobbie, my constant companion, ever at the ready for an ad-lib adventure… to explore, to climb mountains high and descend into canyons deep. My Son, Caleb, who I couldn't be more proud of, the man he's become… intelligent, sincere, kind, and loving. He will make a good father if and when he chooses to become one. My Family… scattered as they always seem to be… my older and smarter brother, ten years my senior and still going strong, making a difference in his world. His sons, my nephews, and their families, all so smart and good looking you'd think they came from Lake Wobegon. Friends, so many whom we've grown to treasure and care for as extended family. Readers, always supportive… always those few who take the time to leave a comment of appreciation for one of our boring "home movie" stories. Health, so important, perhaps the biggest gift of all, for without it life begins to diminish, and often purpose, as well.
Gratitude. I just returned from this year's final bike ride up the grueling and precipitous Flying Monkey Mesa Road, and beyond, to the Zion Overlook. I recall 15 or so years ago, on my first attempt, the disappointment of only making it half way, how it pissed me off. Today it is a piece of cake. Defeating the "Monkey," getting him off my back, so to speak, is a yearly ritual I look forward to. It is a "yardstick" of sorts, something aging males seem to need, something to measure success and viability in whatever happens to be our chosen realm of endeavor. Why put myself through it? Well, because I still can, and I realize that the day soon cometh when I can not. I choose to postpone that "turning point," when the "Dominos" begin to cascade and topple, one into another, diminishing life as I knew and loved it, while inching toward the inevitable.
In some ways, life is greatly simplified in Geezerhood. As I've said before, "Something challenging to do, in a place that inspires me to do it, with a friendly face or two to do it with." That's all I need; it's all I ask for.
Gratitude, baby. I'm full of it.
Upright and breathing on this Thanksgiving Day, and wishing you all the best in your endeavor to maintain meaning and purpose in Geezerhood, whatever it may be.
Mark and Bobbie
On a beautiful, windless day, we decided to show Suzanne Guacamole… a notorious mountain bike trail on a mesa top just a few miles from the Zion River Rv Park in Virgin, Utah. Jim and Gayle, Boonie, along with Bobbie and I, rode this once upon a time (year before last), in fact, we rode up to the mesa top, and thus began with tired legs.
Guacamole is memorable because it's where Jim survived a horrendous crash that landed him flat on his back, on a rock, still clipped into his pedals. It would have killed most men; perhaps the water bladder in his backpack saved him. After untangling Jim and accessing the damage, we rode on. But a diminished spirit as well as a possible broken thumb made it difficult for "crash" to go on and we decided to turn around.
Suzanne has yet to pick out her mountain bike :), so we were forced to hike Guacamole's 7 plus miles. This is what we found…
Now go Live Life on the edge… to it's fullest, and show some gratitude :).