Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ten Years

A lot can happen in 10 years. Adolescent children pass through their teens and into adulthood in 10 years. Some investment accounts and US Savings Bonds can reach maturity in 10 years. And a 12 year-old Scotch whiskey need only an additional two years to make it so. But in all seriousness, 10 years represents a considerable stretch in the context of one human life. If we lived to be 100 years old, 10 years represents a solid 10 percent of that life – it is not insignificant. Ten years is also a nice round number to do some reflection, perhaps a targeted self-assessment and acknowledge that I am but one man and I cannot do this life thing alone. The last part of the preceding sentence would be the likely answer if one were to ask, “Which one of these things does not belong?” Read on, it more than belongs; it is pivotal.

I wrote a post in January 2006 titled “Five Years.” In October of the same year, a sequel of sorts was written titled “Six Years.” In October of 2007 and 2009, the predictably titled “Seven Years” and “Nine Years,” respectively, graced this space. What happened to “Eight Years?” I am not exactly sure, but despite the absence of a dedicated anniversary installment, the theme was picked up in other posts. I hyperlinked the "n Years" series for a couple of reasons: First, I do not want to rehash what I have already written. Indeed, in rereading those posts, I see that has happened too much already. The details and the “facts” of this particular event have not changed. Second, this anniversary is likely the last in the “n Years” series – not that there is nothing left to write about, but from this time forward this anniversary will be remembered with some quiet reflection and contemplation. Words will flow from that, but not in dedication to the anniversary of my death.

Yes, death. Those that know the story and/or hit those aforementioned links before reading this already know the details. For those that don’t know, I was involved (okay, I caused) a head-on collision with a logging truck on October 17, 2000… at about 9:00 a.m. Or so I’m told by very reliable sources – I have no recollection whatsoever. I fell asleep at the wheel of a Jeep Cherokee while driving my then 13 year-old son to school near Squaw Valley, Calif. My son and the truck driver suffered relatively minor injuries – mine killed me. And then I stopped being dead. Repeat. I don’t know how many times. The records are a little unclear – not surprising considering the nature of the emergency medical attention I required. I guess they did not spend a lot of time writing things down in those early moments. For the details on my injuries and what some of that surreal “near death experience” (I hate that term) was like, hit the above links (and this link). This is not about that.

In less than 12 hours, it will have been 10 years since I should have died. Whether or not one believes in being at death's door, or crossing over and coming back, or the ubiquitous “near death experience,” one fact is indisputable: Based upon the nature and extent of my injuries, I should have died – but I didn’t. I am not only still here, but by a sizable margin – 10 percent if I live to be 100, a higher percentage if I miss that mark. In the context of one human life this is a considerable length of time; in the context of my life it is virtually an eternity. It should be quite obvious that without the help of many, many others I could not have survived or recovered. And many of those who helped I’ll never know.

But that whole idea of not being able to walk this life alone has become so much more prescient as I have navigated these last 10 years. It’s way more than thanking all those who stood by me (especially my family), and it is way more than being grateful for every single day since waking up in the hospital some time just prior to Thanksgiving, 2000; it has become apparent to me that constantly pulling away from and creating barriers between myself and humanity (as impossible as totally succeeding at such a plan is) had become my life’s perspective. I was becoming socially antisocial. And the crazy thing is that getting into that wreck and even recovering (mostly) from my injuries was not enough to make me grateful for the people around me, to say nothing about having my life spared. I was alive, but not all that happy about it.

That attitude began to change – slowly – when I finally came to the realization that life is a team sport… and I was not a team player. I’d like to say it hit me like a bolt of lightning, but I’m not so sure my psyche could have handled that much truth that fast. It happened over days, weeks, months and, in some respects, years - since the day I was born. I guess I had to come around to it on my own – maybe it had to be my discovery, who knows? But I finally figured that if I went along, followed some rules and became a team player, I would be, at the very least, less agitated (read "angry") all the time. I found not too much later that the team I joined was the winning team. Together it appears that we cannot lose. By this time I was around 40 years old and losing was a living place for me. Now almost 48, I have not had a losing day in many years.

I can’t begin to relate or recall all of the people who have come into my life and touched it in some way. The relationships I have even with strangers have an authenticity I could never fathom, and the relationships with those close to me? Absolutely priceless. Friends, colleagues, professors, family (not exclusively, some fill more than one category) all play a pivotal role in shaping who I am and what my life is. And life is good. All I had to do was join the winning team… and participate. Perception is everything.

Queue the music…

We are the champions, my friends
And we'll keep on fighting - till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
Cause we are the champions - of the world*

*Freddie Mercury, 1977


~Easy said...


Belizegial said...

Ditto....spoken like an adult finding his place in thix world; and, I love that song.

Kathleen Jennette said...

"...should have died". Nope. I'm glad you are here and in this place called life. I'm also glad you can't remember that day.

Kathleen Jennette said...

"...should have died". Nope. I'm glad you are here and in this place called life. I'm also glad you can't remember that day.