Maybe we are just getting to that age when we start to fall apart a bit, but these last few weeks have been eye opening. From our port in Cartagena, Colombia, I talk with friends on a regular basis to hear news of home, and I hear about three good male friends, all fit and healthy, that have had “episodes.”
The first suddenly fainted and fell down the stairs of a crowded Boston subway station. He is still recovering from significant injuries from the fall, and most worryingly, they are not sure what caused him to faint. The second, from seemingly out of nowhere, noticed that his heart rate was very low. He drove himself to the hospital, where he was eventually diagnosed with a complete electrical blockage. One pacemaker later, and he will be fine, but it was a very close call. The third, well something funky is going on with his heart, and they are not sure what.
It seems to me that in our 50’s, these kinds of episode were a rare occurrence. Now, when many of our male friends are in their 60’s, it seems like an epidemic.
These life-assessing episodes, at whatever age, cause us to pause, but when the 50s are in the rear view mirror, they seem to take on an even greater significance. In our earlier years, we might have thought, perhaps we even internalized, “There but for the grace of God go I,” or “Life can change in an instant.” But at mid-life, when we see these things are happening to our husbands, friends and loved ones on what seems like a regular basis, the pause is greater, more significant. We know we will not last forever, and it is only if we are lucky- very lucky- will we have a couple of decades of vitality to live our dreams. With each horror story, our minds scream, “live your dreams NOW, before it is too late.”
I suspect all three of our friends will be fine. They are seeing the best doctors, at the best hospitals, and are vigilant about their health care. They will quit shoveling the snow that will pile up in their driveways and they will be careful with their exercise. Some may even watch their alcohol intake and diet. And I have no doubt that each and every one of them will ask themselves if they are doing exactly what they want to be doing, given that they clearly will not live forever.
For those of us who are living our dreams, which for us is living a life on our sailboat traveling the world, we hear these stories from afar and we are grateful that our friends are going to be ok. I admit that we also give ourselves a little pat on the back for changing up our lives so completely while we were young enough and healthy enough to do so. Had we waited, I am not sure it would have ever happened.
Mike and I are well aware that living the dream does not mean we are immune from the bad stuff. We run through the “What If”s as we recall our friends’ stories. What if Mike had fainted for no apparent reason and fell down a flight of stairs while going down the metro station in Medellin? What if my heart simply decided it was time to stop beating as we were crossing an ocean? We know we do not have access to the best doctors or hospitals, and in some cases, no hospitals or doctors. If the worst happens to us, the result will most likely not be pretty.
Mike and I talk about our friends being taken care of at the best hospitals, by the best doctors. We decide that life is all about choices, and for the two of us, we are willing to take all the risks of adventure for the rewards of living a dream. If the worst happens, we will die knowing that we made choices that were right for us.
And if the worst doesn’t happen, and we don’t die? Well, it is quite the adventure.