“It’s better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way.”
Imagine waking up one day when you’re 70 – and realizing that you never went swimming with your friends on a hot summer day because your thighs jiggle and your belly is soft. Or you didn’t write that book or create some art because you were strung up on perfectionism – or you were too busy putting other people’s dreams ahead of your own.
Imagine waking up one day when you’re 80 – and realizing that you’ve never lived a life of silliness and passion and adventure because you were too busy doing all the things you thought you needed to do rather than all the things you actually wanted to do.
Imagine waking up one day when you’re 90 – and realizing that you’re about to die, yet you’ve never ever even truly lived.
Please don’t let this happen. You’ll break your own heart.
Clarity always comes at the end… and, ultimately, at the end of our lives, if given the opportunity, we will undoubtedly look back with pride or regret at how we chose to live.
The end always brings clarity. It also brings finality. When the course is over, so is our opportunity.
Unfortunately, most of our lives are not lived with that sense of finality. As a result, we live many days with the assumption that “we can always do it later” or “there is time to change tomorrow”. And because we don’t believe we are at the end, we are less forced to look back and evaluate the trajectory of our lives and the decisions we make.
Urgency is difficult to manufacture, but I believe this principle holds opportunity if we allow it.
The “end” of life’s major milestones are infrequent – for example, the end of an athletic season, the end of a career, the end of a parenting stage, or the end of life… but every day provides opportunity for evaluation.
Every time I interact with my daughter, I can look back to evaluate if I was an intentional parent.
Every time I say good-night to Rick, I can evaluate if I was a faithful, loving spouse.
Every time I end the workday, I can evaluate if I gave my best to my work.
Every time I part ways with my friends, I can evaluate if I was 100% in the moment with them.
Even with the internet – every time I close a social media app on my phone, I can evaluate if I used the time and conversation in a healthy, productive and meaningful way.
Clarity comes at the end… perhaps we need to recognize the significance of this more often?
I burned a slice of toast today. No big deal, right? But, as I threw it in the garbage can, I just had to stop and stare.
“Lady, there was toast!” …the words of a distraught man cried out in my mind, and my heart began to race. I couldn’t help but laugh, knowing all I know now – but, in that moment, so many years ago, I remember feeling scared.
I was a new E.M.T. and was working overnight. We had received a call for a psychiatric emergency in an area of town well known for its drugs and violence. As we pulled onto the scene, the housing projects were dark. Flashlights held by Police Officers illuminated the way. As we walked toward the home in which a man was screaming, our shadows before us grew larger, like monsters climbing the walls.
We stepped into the man’s home, where he was pacing in the kitchen. He was rubbing his face and scratching at his arms, beads of sweat rolling off of his forehead. He was ranting and raving, mumbling words no human could decipher. His eyes went wild as they connected with mine and I could see his pupils were dilated wide.
“Lady, there was toast!”, he cried out and stopped in his tracks. He was tall and strong, not an ounce of fat to be seen on his body. His hands so large, they reminded me much of my dad’s. He took two steps towards me and I felt a wave of panic. This man was definitely unstable.
The Officers stepped in, as did my paramedic partner, and the distance between us was restored. My mind was reeling as I prepared the stretcher for transport and they coaxed this man to cooperate. He was all over the place with his thoughts and communication. Was this Paranoid Schizophrenia or a direct result of the use of an unknown substance? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Sometimes, we’ll never truly know. The point is to treat the symptoms, support the patient, and to always remain calm.
In the absence of police, this man did admit to snorting cocaine. He told me he felt as if his heart was about to explode, he thought he was about to die… and then he found the toast.
“Lady, you don’t understand! There was toast in my garbage can!”, he cried out repeatedly, always cycling back to this same statement, in between random thoughts and occasional answers to my gentle questioning.
Eventually, throughout this transport and transfer of this man’s care, my racing heart had calmed and I no longer viewed him as a threat. Before leaving him at the receiving facility, I finally addressed the toast.
“What does that even mean?”, I asked, as he called out for the hundredth time, “Lady, there was toast!”… he stopped for a moment, then reached for my hand. He whispered loudly, as he locked his eyes on mine, leaning in close, “Lady, there was toast in my garbage can.”
“Okaaaay???”, I questioned, wondering if he was ever going to actually explain.
The hospital staff rolled their eyes and I turned to walk away. He threw his head back yelled again “There was toast in my garbage can!”.
He dropped my hand and looked away, “Somebody was in my house.”
As I reached for the curtain to close around the room behind me, he locked his eyes on mine.
“Lady, you don’t understand. There was toast in my garbage can.”
I stood there for a moment as he took a deep breath and whispered so loudly once again, “Lady, there was toast in my garbage can… but I don’t even own a toaster!”
I walked away, a little amused – but, also, a little disturbed. I laugh about that story now and have told it to several of my friends throughout the years. It’s not a memory that “haunts” me per se, but still it remains in the back of my mind, always there, ready to emerge at any given moment, especially when there’s toast – and that toast just so happens to be in my garbage can.
For those of you still working the E.M.S. life and those who consider joining the ranks – take care of yourselves, please. The memories don’t always end when the shift ends – sometimes they follow you home. The memories don’t end when the career ends either – sometimes they follow you for life.
This year is more than halfway over, but you’ll always be stuck in the fall. When the trees turn red, will it hit me then… that I’m never going to see you again?
I never got to say goodbye, and now it’s sinking in. The last time that I saw you, Cid was just a kid. I guess the hardest part of getting older is realizing that some people you love just don’t.
I always thought that there’d be more time – but, I guess, that’s just not the truth. Pretty soon it will be October yet, in my memories, you’ll always remain in June. When the trees turn red, will it hit me then – that I’m never going to see you again?
Took a drive last night, trying to clear my mind. Turns out, every road I traveled was paved with blue. And I cried when I read the last text that you sent, because I’ll never again see those three dots pending from you …
No more text on my birthday, though I’ll never forget what you said – because “A mother never forgets.” and now I know exactly what you meant.
I never got the chance to say goodbye, and now it’s sinking in. The last time that I saw you, Cid was just a kid. Sometimes I wish that we could just talk, so you could tell me what you would do. I guess the hardest part of getting older is realizing that some people you love just don’t.
Now every time someone mentions your name, I don’t even know what to say. The aftermath still haunts me. Who knew it would turn out this way?
Pretty soon the days will be getting colder, but I wish that summer would never end… because, when the days get dark and the trees turn red, I know it’s going to hit me – that I’ll never get to see you again.
I never got to say goodbye, when your eyes were still awake. I always thought there’d be more time to say what needed said. I wish I would have tried again, to heal the wounds we’d made. But now our chance is over and I’m getting older – pretty soon the leaves on the trees will turn red.
“Trust those who search for truth – but be leery of those who claim to have found it.”
Whenever I hear anyone speak with unwavering conviction that they are absolutely right about something, I immediately take whatever they say with a huge grain of salt because they have clearly left no room for the possibility that others with an opposing perspective or experience could also be right.
Much like science, the only thing I know for certain is that l don’t know anything for certain – because everything is subject to time, place, and circumstance. And, considering that most people’s mental health is often left undiagnosed, someone else’s reality is just as real to them as mine is to me; calling them delusional is shortsighted at best, and downright offensive at its worst.
So, I tend to trust those who ask questions, not those who give answers – unless their answer begins with “Maybe…” or “Perhaps…”, and then we’re good.
I often pause and ask myself, “Is this person asking me to think for myself or are they trying to tell me what to think?” – I don’t trust the latter.
With the date for my spinal surgery quickly approaching, flashbacks and memories of my accident have begun to disrupt my thoughts, as well as, my sleep.
The mental confusion, as landing that jump went horribly wrong. The physical pain upon crashing my body to the ground. The snapping of my bones so obvious that it was audible. The emotional guilt, from all the wrong decisions I made in the aftermath while under the influence of such extreme pain. The self-inflicted mental beating that has followed throughout this past year as I’ve tried my best to heal and recover, without complete success.
Who knew those final few seconds of an, otherwise, perfect skydive would change my body and my life so dramatically?
This is the part that no one really talks about.
We dance around the possibility, and I think that’s what gives the sport such an exhilarating thrill – the feeling that this moment could be your very last. No one really talks about the fact that, perhaps, it’s not?
I have learned the hard way – it’s not always so black or white, nor this or that. Sometimes you just get hurt. Sometimes the pain and damage from your injuries lasts a long time. Sometimes it lasts forever. If you knew all of this and we spoke more candidly about it, would it change your mind? If you’re anything like me, probably not. But if you are, indeed, anything like me, you also wouldn’t settle for a life of chronic pain and limited mobility – thus, my acceptance of the need for surgery.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. This is not a decision that was made easily or taken lightly. At this point though, I refuse to imagine the possibility of all that could go wrong. Instead, I choose to think positively as I take this leap of faith.
I am going to run again.
Yesterday, I broke out my old Eagle Up Ultramarathon race shirt. I was struggling to walk just 4 miles – hips aching, back spasms and muscle cramps hindering my movement. Wearing this shirt, however, brought back a lot of memories; memories of moments, deep in the miles of a race, where I have had to overcome a lot of barriers – physical, mental and emotional. There were moments when I hurt and I wanted nothing more than to simply quit – but I found the strength to keep pushing through. That’s what runners do.
Sometimes it helps to remember that I am capable of doing such hard things – and that, one day, I will be able to do them once again.
Like so many of the best people in this world, Sandos Caracol in Playa del Carmen may not look like much by way of outward appearances but, once you go beyond its understated exterior, step inside and begin to explore, a whole new world opens up to you!
This eco-friendly resort stands by its motto that “the only thing we should not be recycling is negative energy!”. The creators of this resort did a fantastic job of preserving so much of the original rainforest/jungle on this large, oceanfront property. The people who work here are not only friendly and helpful, but also some of the hardest working men and women that I have ever seen – tirelessly and meticulously cleaning and scrubbing, day in and day out, so as to keep things sanitary, amdist all of the free roaming wildlife, as well as, to prevent the jungle foliage itself from quickly overtaking this place.
They believe in protecting the environment and proactively becoming as self-sustaining as possible, with solar panels on most of the buildings in order to generate electricity and organic/inorganic recycling waste bins set up every few feet along all walking paths. They have their own free range chickens to supply their eggs, as well as, their own gardens for fresh, organic vegetables and herbs.
They invite local vendors on site most evenings, offering a variety of authentic foods, desserts, hair braiding and handmade clothing, jewelry, toys and crafts. They also prevent the “usual level” of hasseling of guests along their beachfront areas, which we greatly appreciated.
They cater to and welcome families, with multiple pools, beach areas, an indoor and outdoor play area, scheduled activities and a water park – but also provide a much appreciated reprieve from this energy and noise by sectioning off multiple pool and beach areas for adults only.
The beaches are more natural than groomed, but they do an incredible job of raking the sand of natural debris and clearing the seaweed from the water and shore. Much of the ocean is on a coral reef, which is excellent for snorkeling and discovering beautiful conch shells and sea urchins, but can be pretty painful on your feet if you choose to swim bare. They do their best to keep a few pathways clear for people to wade into the water and float on small, soft, sandy bottom sections in the sea.
We were lucky enough to view beautiful sunrises over the Carribean Sea, but sunsets were obstructed by the thick rainforest. It rained heavily late at night a few times but was beautiful, bright and sunny all day, every day, during our stay.
The restrooms at this resort are clean, the food is fantastic, and the Mai Tais are phenomenal!🍹
There is much to do here, with miles and miles of walking paths and trails – a runner is 💯 safe, day or night.
They have bikes and segways available for use and SEVEN cenotes that beckon you to come and explore, with Cenote Christalino being the largest and most popular.
There are protected mayan ruins, a sacred tree and sacred cenote – all of which you may admire and explore, but with zero tolerance for disrespect or damage.
There are multiple water sports and boats available for use, as well as jet skis for rent, if you so choose. They have scheduled entertainment in the main theatre every night and please pay attention to everything, everywhere you walk – because the wildlife, themselves, are pretty entertaining!
There are monkeys, raccoons, rabbits and coati. Cats and dogs, fish and turtles, parrots and peacock. Albatross and pelicans, lizards and iguanas. Donkey, deer, ducks, guinea hens, chickens, sheep, and some pretty spunky looking squirrels!
If you choose to visit, please take my advice, you will need water shoes, a snorkel mask with breathing tube, and a lot of bug spray – all of which can be purchased at the gift shop right on site!
The only downside we found was that the check in/check out process is lengthy and, at times, confusing. Even as vacation club members, with just one staff member working inside the Royal Elite office, it took quite some time. If you choose to book a trip here, you will need to factor this detail into your plans upon arrival and, more importantly, when planning your departure.
All in all, we give Sandos Caracol 4/5 stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“As traumatized children we always dreamed that someone would come and save us. We never dreamed that it would, in fact, be ourselves, as adults.”
I can only remember celebrating one birthday, growing up. It was my 3rd birthday, back in the summer of ‘81. Mom woke us up early, after dad had gone to work. They were not getting along too well, in those days, but they did their best not to let it show. Dad worked all day, every day, morning till night, with the exception of Sunday, when he was home by 6pm. Today was a Sunday, so “there’s no time to lose”, she said with a look of excitement in her eyes.
My sister and I crawled out of bed and followed our mom downstairs. I remember feeling confused, but in complete awe, of the pretty pink and blue streamers we found decorating the dining room area of our home. There was a white cake on the table with my name on it, next to the most beautiful purple and gold unicorn head that I have ever seen! There were party hats and favors, snack bowls and kool-aid. When we turned around, we saw a homemade clown face, cut out and pieced together from construction paper, taped to the wall behind our front door.
“What’s THAT?”, we asked, excited by our suspicion that it was some sort of game.
“THAT,” our mom said, hiding her hands behind her back, with the proudest of smiles upon her face, “is a game. Kind of like “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”, except YOU get to pin the NOSE on the Clown!”. She now revealed the items she’d been hiding in her hands – a blindfold and a big, red circle cut from construction paper. Scotch tape had been applied to the back, and we immediately recognized it as a nose to be applied to the face of the clown that was hanging on the wall.
We began to laugh and jump up and down excitedly, taking the items from her hands. My sister tied the blindfold around my eyes, placed her hands on my shoulders, and began to spin me around. I staggered and stumbled, then made my best attempt to locate the clown face and apply his nose. As I pulled the blindfold from my face, I caught a glimpse of my sister moving the red circle from the wall and placing it onto the center of clown’s face. “You did it!”, she cried out, jumping up and down and clapping.
Mom told us to “go get ready” because everyone would be here soon. I had no idea who “everyone” was, but I was super excited to be celebrating my birthday! We ran upstairs to change clothes and my sister let me try on her prettiest dress. It was silky soft and white with little pink and green flowers (or watermelons?) all over it. The skirt was full and would fly out and swoosh around my legs when I’d spin around like a ballerina. I danced in front of mom’s big round makeup mirror, admiring this dress, despite the fact that it was still too big on me. I plopped down on the floor with the telephone from off of mom’s dresser. I picked up the receiver and dialed “0”. When the operator answered, I told her that it was my birthday. She asked how old I was and I told her that “I’m THREE now!”, watching my reflection in the mirror as I held up three fingers, as if she could see. I told her about the party, the clown game, and my purple unicorn cake. I told her about the dress my sister let me wear and how everybody is coming to play and that she should come too. She said she was sorry she had to miss it, but that she had to work all day. She then asked me if there was someone I would like to call to tell about my birthday, but I couldn’t think of anyone. Just then I heard the doorbell ring so I told her I had to go. I hung up the phone and ran downstairs to see who had arrived.
The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. I remember that it was hot. I had to ditch my sister’s dress. I remember a lot of kids – some I knew, some we were meeting for the first time. I remember my mom’s friends and how they sang to me and cheered as I tried to blow out the candles – but the things kept sparking and relighting, as mom laughed and finally told me that it was a joke. The cake was a delicious marble of chocolate and vanilla that my mom had made herself, and the icing tasted like marshmallow! The clown game was fun and everybody took a turn.
My mom’s friend, Andy, bought me a ginormous purple stuffed animal snake and all the kids climbed on it as we “rode” it like a flying dragon outside and onto the sidewalk. Up, down, and all around the block we rode, and it was so much fun!
When my mom called out to us, we returned home and were told to help clean up. Dad would be coming home soon and she didn’t want him to know about the party. We bagged up all of the streamers, tore down the clown from off the wall, and emptied everyone’s plates into the trash. My sister and I went to take a bath while mom & her friends hung out in our parents bedroom, just across the hall. We heard them laughing, and could smell their beer and cigarette smoke. My sister bathed much faster than I and was already in her jammies and downstairs waiting when dad walked through the door.
I remember walking slowly down the stairs, holding an elastic hair tie with the image of a brown haired doll, wearing a pretty blue dress. It was a gift from my mom’s friend, Gina. As I looked over the banister, I saw my sister sitting on our Dad’s lap. He looked sad, or mad… or perhaps maybe both? My sister was very quiet.
“Where’s your mother?”, he asked.
“Upstairs, with Andy and Gina.”, I answered. I tried to show him my hair tie, but he wasn’t interested. He set my sister down and stood up, heading for the stairs. I started to run after him, but my sister stopped me, placing a finger over her lips. “Daddy’s mad.”, she said. “They shouldn’t be up there.”
I really didn’t understand at the time, but apparently my sister knew, that Andy had a crush on our mom and was trying to be her boyfriend. Gina was gay and, even though I didn’t really understand what that meant at the time, dad had zero tolerance for this. It didn’t change the fact that I liked Gina a lot and I knew she was my mom’s good friend.
We stood at the bottom of the stairs as Dad interrupted the party going on upstairs. We heard arguing and the shuffling of feet. Mom sounded upset. Andy and Gina exited the room, walked down the stairs, and said goodbye to us both. They left the house as my sister and I ventured up the steps. We could hear our parents arguing, as we peeked inside the door. Dad yelled at us to go to our room and, as we ran and jumped up on our bed, he closed the door and locked us in.
As the arguing continued, I began to cry. It escalated to screaming and I heard the slam of a door followed by a loud slap. Mom had gone into the bathroom, but dad had followed. I was prying on our bedroom door, trying to unlatch the lock. Mom was crying, dad was yelling and, as the lock released and the door cracked open, I saw our dad dragging our mom out of the bathroom and hurling her body down the flight of stairs. I stood there stunned for a moment, almost paralyzed with fear. But then, instead of running out there to help my mom, who I could see crumpled up on the floor at the base of the stairs, I turned and ran to our bedroom window. I climbed out onto the roof and started screaming as loud as I could, begging for someone to help – anyone to come and save my mom!
I contemplated jumping off of the roof or trying to climb down the railing and onto the porch below, but my sister was telling me not to be stupid. She grabbed my hand and pulled me back inside the house. I went back to our bedroom door and saw my mom slowly climbing back up the stairs. I ran to her, refusing to look at my dad as he stood in that hallway, completely silent. She walked me back into our bedroom and laid down on the bed, holding me as I cried. My sister climbed up and laid down too, holding our mom. Then Dad came in and laid down, holding my sister. All of us, right there, in the same bed. Our parents continued to bicker back and forth and so I started to scream. The room fell silent as mom held onto me, stroking my hair. I sucked my thumb and, eventually, fell asleep.
The next morning when we woke, dad had already left for work. Mom didn’t look so good, but she smiled at us anyway. She said we were going to visit Aunt Gale, so we got ourselves dressed and jumped in the car. We weren’t at Aunt Gale’s for very long before she was packing us up in the car again… but, this time, we wound up at the hospital. Turns out, mom’s arm was badly broken from the altercation with dad last night. The police were called and the adults were called in, one by one, “to give a statement”.
My sister was convinced that our parents were getting a divorce. My cousin said that our dad was probably going to jail. I was hungry and trying to find a few quarters on the floor with which I could buy a candy bar.
I tried to stay with my mom after they had immobilized her arm, but the police officers wouldn’t let me. They said they needed to “speak with her in private”. My Uncle had now arrived and he took me out to the waiting room. I sat in a corner, trying not to cry, scared that I was never going to see my mom again. That’s when dad walked through the door.
The entire room fell silent. No one spoke and no one smiled. They just stared at him or stood up and walked away. I jumped up and ran to him, climbing up his big body and hugging him like a teddy bear. He held me tight and whispered in my ear, “I’m so sorry, kiddo. Do you hate me?”, at which point I saw his tears. Never have I ever seen my dad cry before this very moment, and my heart ached terribly for him. I don’t remember what I said, but I remember wiping his eyes and kissing his cheek, wishing that my own forgiveness could somehow be enough to fix this. We sat together, in the corner of that waiting room, away from all the rest of our family, and shared a cup of hot chocolate from the hospital’s vending machine.
In the days, weeks, and months that followed, our parents sought counsel through their church. They credited the elders and their god for helping them to save their marriage – and themselves.
After that, we no longer celebrated birthdays or holidays in our house. Our parents chose to become serious followers of their faith, raising us under the influence of a very strict religious organization that preached all glory and honor were to be bestowed upon God, and never upon mere humans.
As a child, it set me apart. It alienated me from a lot of friends in our neighborhood and especially at school. I upheld my family’s religious standards, even fought heatedly, at times, to defend them – but, underneath it all, I really just couldn’t understand.
If humans really are God’s most prized creation, made in His image, how could the celebration of them or their lives detract any beauty, or glory, or honor away from Him, as the grand creator and giver of this great gift of Life?
I questioned this explanation on many occasions and was told that Jesus Christ, himself, never celebrated his birthday… or, if he did, it wasn’t mentioned in the Bible. According to my parents and the elders in our congregation, the only two birthday celebrations mentioned in the bible were that of the Egyptian Pharaoh who ordered the hanging death of his baker, and that of King Herod, where he ordered the killing of John the Baptist and had the man’s head delivered to him on a platter. In the reasoning of my parents and that of their church, this indicated that “bad things” were associated with birthday parties and, therefore, we wanted nothing to do with them. As a child, I just couldn’t understand… but, then again, “bad things” happened at my birthday party too, so perhaps they were right?
“I was told what was important, before I had a chance to decide what was important to me. I was given a religion, before I could decide in what it was I wanted to believe. I was told who was in power, before I had a chance to decide the type of systems I thought should lead. I was given a social class, before I had a chance to decide to class myself as I deemed. I was told what was already impossible, before I had a chance to decide what it is I’d like to dream. I’ve been told since day one what it’s all supposed to mean. But I’ve had the chance to decide it’s not what it once seemed.”
I was born wild – a bit of a rebel child, immediately questioning everyone and everything around me. Initially, I was celebrated for this… my mom often stating to her friends that I possessed the untamable spirit of a wild horse, running free. She admired me for this, calling me “wise beyond my years”. It wasn’t much longer, however, before my parents chose to become more devout in their religious faith. In doing so, they refused to let me continue on this way or to grow in just any direction.
Indoctrinating me with their rigidly dictated beliefs, I became something much like an espalier – the distance between the vine and the thing that trains it almost imperceptible. Even though I was a child, the fact that I allowed this to continue for so long perhaps speaks just as poorly of me? Whereas I was once the girl who questioned every reality and so-called truth, I quickly became silenced and, eventually, shunned.
For the nearly two decades that followed my leaving of this religious organization, even my own thinking was framed in apology. I would tip toe around others, make myself feel small, apologize for the space I’d take up. I did my best to blend in or, better yet, fade out into the background, like white noise, rarely ever drawing attention to myself. I would occasionally engage in small talk, but barely scratch the surface of anything with depth. I could accept a compliment, but never truly believe it. Trusting myself and the world around me became this never ending mountain that I have had to climb.
I couldn’t help believing that my dad was the reason for every feeling I had – the comfort, but also the anger. The silence that ensued between us that cold November night was much like the change in the weather – something that rendered us both powerless, but in a way that was hard to take personally. I could tell by the way my skin felt, inadequate for the task of holding everything in, that I was going to write that letter.
I disassociated myself from the toxic faith in which I had been raised fully knowing, yet still so unprepared for, the consequences that would ensue.
Like a person about to break the law, I felt a thrill at the decision I’d made – that, however briefly, “the rules” did not apply and I was free from the forces that had circumscribed me for so very long.
I dropped that letter in the mailbox and drove away… not quite certain that lightning was not about to strike me down, as the first taste of ultimate freedom pulsated through my veins.