I am beyond excited to run full on into our Uncomfortable January series. Examining what we want and taking the risks getting there is what this month is all about. I could think of no better way to start it off than by getting really uncomfortable with the reality that our life is short. And we are taking risks because we know that another opportunity is not guaranteed to come our way.
I’m happy to introduce you to my friend and our first guest in this series : Robert Fuller. He is a master storyteller, igniter of laughter, and very much a dreamer. Robert writes at Fuller Stories and is going to remind us today why we are risking big in 2014…because we are here now. But not forever.
Lets start out with a simple fact : I almost died last summer.
It’s safe to say few things are as risky as standing on the precipice of death.
I’d gone in for a standard hernia surgery and ended up with a gnarly post operative infection that inflated my abdomen to almost Jabba-like proportions (gross, I know.) The doctors were perplexed (never a good sign), and pumped me with so many antibiotics I languished in hazy delirium for days. In the process I underwent two additional surgeries that left me with a gaping wound the size of a butcher knife on my belly. I looked straight out of a slasher movie – like one who wouldn’t survive.
As I lay there with all those tubes and i.v.’s and beeping machines my mind began to ponder the possibility of my demise. Who would teach my children about love and courage if I was gone? Who would write them stories at night, their eyes wide with wonder before drooping toward sleep? And what of my wife? She’d always told me she could never love another man if I left the earth before her. But I found myself hoping she would not be alone for the rest of her life. And what of me? Was the curtain to be closed so soon? There were so many things I wanted to do. So many dreams left unrealized.
In that moment of agony, when everything seemed ready to be stripped away forever, I could only weep. But my tears came not from fear, or pain, or anger, or despair. But gratitude. All I could think of was how good God had been to me. That He’d given me thirty-seven years of blessing: a rich childhood, loving family, friends upon friends, adventure, joy, laughter, love, children, and most of all, Himself. My life had been a gift. And if this was all there was to be, I was thankful.
But, as this post attests, I did not die.
My fever abated as the infection was driven back like a vanquished horde. Soon the doctors were smiling (always a good sign) and I slowly returned to the land of the living. My recovery would be a long one, considering the gaping chasm on my abdomen. But I was alive. There was breath in my lungs. And the curtain hadn’t closed after all.
This experience was a crossroads for me. A kind of wake up call. In the following weeks (when I wasn’t high on pain meds) I thought much about how I wanted to live in light of my survival. So in honor of the New Year, I present my top ten lessons learned from almost going to the grave. May they propel you to greater heights in 2014.
1. I am not the center of the universe. As obvious as this sounds, I need reminding. Selfishness is a plague.
2. Timidity is not humility and confidence is not pride. How do I help the world by being so paranoid about looking arrogant that I don’t take initiative with things I’m passionate about? As long as I’m loving, who cares?
3. Fear is not your friend. It might seem a protective ally, but the only thing fear will do is keep you hiding in your foxhole. It will tell you not to do anything that rocks the boat. It will convince you to play it safe. Lame.
4. Consume less, create more. Instead of trolling on Facebook or being on YouTube or obsessing over Pinterest…add something to the world. Write someone a note. Cook someone a meal. Write a poem, a story, a song.
5. Failure is an option. Face it… you will fail. And the more you risk, the bigger the failures will be. It’s a promise. Whoever said that failure wasn’t an option was either delusional, or a flat out liar. If you want to do anything in life more than watch T.V., of course failure is an option. But giving up is not.
6. People will fail you, give them a break. Make forgiveness your bottom line. Giving grace to others is a pleasure. Try it.
7. Spend time with those who love you. There will always be more work to do. More rooms to clean. More money to make. But the best moments are spent with friends, family, and children. I will relish bedtime with the kids, for one day they will be gone. I will take my wife on dates, because let’s face it. She’s hot.
8. Journal. If not for yourself, then at least for your kids. Document your life for someone down the road. It will change them.
9. Never underestimate the power of laughter. People take themselves way too seriously. Help them. Tell a funny story. Play a prank. Poke fun, in love.
10. Live like it’s your final day. Who will you talk to? What will you say? What are you waiting for?
If it all ended now, what are the things you wish you would have done? So, then. What are you waiting for?
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