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I love my fate.
So much goes through a person’s mind during the excruciatingly long minutes spent wedged in an MRI machine. The questions that went through my mind yesterday were: Have I lived a good life? Am I living how I want to live? Am I doing what I want to do? Am I spending my time with the right people? Do they value my mental energy?
If you’ve ever been in a machine like this, I’m sure, given the amount of time spent holding still in a tight space, your mind went to the same places that mine did in searching for those answers, especially to the most pressing question of them all: “Am I focused on the things that matter the most?”
The first time I was in a machine like this, I was 41, and I discovered the answer was no. I discovered I had stopped living to the point of tears. I had stopped living as though I had not already survived several brushes with death. I had taken life for granted in the same manner my family had taken me back then, with me having morphed at some point into their plough horse, into a man who had it ingrained in him by his parents that to be considered good and useful, I would have to be willing to set myself on fire to keep my family warm.
The logic behind that was an insidious “covert contract”1 with my then wife and adult kids: if I did X, I should expect to get Y in return. Back then, after first becoming ill, I was expecting to be taken care of. I was not able to get out of bed. I was throwing up, and I was beset with a weakness that made me feel like I was dying. I took care of my family, and it felt reasonable that I should be given the same in return. What I realized was that my symptoms of multiple myeloma became an inconvenience to them. So when I was then told of my dire prognosis, instead of fear of death, I was filled with rage fueled by a soul-crushing regret.
I had made a vow that should I get lucky and the prognosis continued to not meet the criteria of a full diagnosis, then I would do what I needed to do, shed any covert contracts I may have still had, and do what I wanted with my life.
Since then, every time I have had to have an MRI done, I conduct a vibe check. I would ask myself, if I were told I had five years left to live, would I have any reason to feel that rage again, mad at myself for not living the way I wanted so as not to feel regret? And the answer to each vibe check was yes.
I have had pain in my shoulder that has become more painful over the last year. There is pain in my bones. The MRI is to make sure it’s not lesions. I am not being hollowed out by monoclonal proteins. I like to think that the simplest answer may be the correct one: as a matter of keeping my body and bones strong, I have become a powerlifter, and from what the doctors tell me, lifting heavy weights has done so much to slow the progression of that prognosis. Despite that having become a formal diagnosis in the last few years, chances are still that the pain in my shoulder is more from scar tissue in my rotator cuff, and everything else is just a feeling that comes from being in my mid-50s now.
Maybe, maybe not, but I do know one thing: after 45 minutes of being unable to move, with support on my neck and right shoulder to hold me in place, after asking myself the questions, I did pass the vibe check.
I’m okay. I have no regrets. I see with blinding sight.
I am in the red zone2 of my life. We all can’t live forever. There’s a twisted relief in knowing that I am not guaranteed many more years, and yet it is the duty I have to myself to place myself back on that path where I am living to the point of tears, which makes me want to live every second, going down swinging, until everything fades to black.
What that means at this age, with my current circumstances, is up to me now to figure out. One thing that I know is that writing is a significant part of that, so my goal now is to cultivate connections—friendships—with people who appreciate the work, and, most of all, while I am still able to, continue to find and nurture relationships with women who can become my muse.
After all, passion is the deepest expression for love of life, and I have also found that what comes along with that is love of one’s fate.
In loving my own fate, I have tapped into that primal drive that, despite the pain in my body, makes me, in my pursuit for passion, keep using it as much as I can; my extremely valid way of going down swinging.
Key takeaways from this article that I hope will help guide you to lead a more fulfilling and purpose-driven life.
Take Time for Self-Reflection: Periodically, take moments for deep self-reflection to assess your life's direction and satisfaction. This can help you realign your priorities with your true desires.
Evaluate Your Priorities: Consider whether you are living your life in accordance with what truly matters to you. Reevaluate your priorities and make necessary adjustments to ensure you're focused on the things that bring you fulfillment.
Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations: Reconsider any “covert contracts” or unspoken expectations in your relationships. Let go of unrealistic expectations that may lead to disappointment and focus on open communication with your loved ones.
Live Without Regret: Make choices and decisions that align with your values, even in the face of adversity. Live in a way that minimizes regret, so you can look back on your life with a sense of fulfillment.
Embrace Passion: Identify and cultivate your passions, as they are a profound expression of love for life. Pursue activities that bring you joy and a sense of purpose.
Cultivate Meaningful Relationships: Connect with people who appreciate your work and share your interests. Nurture meaningful relationships that inspire and support your creative endeavors.
Accept Your Fate: Embrace the concept of “amor fati” or love of fate, acknowledging that life is finite. Use this acceptance as a driving force to make the most of every moment and live without reservation.
Prioritize Physical Health: Take care of your physical health as it can significantly impact your overall well-being. Consider activities like exercise that contribute to maintaining a strong and healthy body.
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A covert contract is an unspoken or hidden agreement or expectation that one person has about another person's behavior or actions. These contracts are typically not communicated openly or explicitly, which can lead to misunderstandings and frustrations in relationships.
The phrase “Red Zone of life” is a metaphor used to signify a stage in life where one is acutely aware of their mortality and the limited time they have left. In this context, the “red zone” represents a critical or high-pressure phase in life, much like a red zone on a sports field or a danger zone.