So here we are, 2014… I recall as a teenager in the early 80’s thinking about the mid-teen years beyond the year 2000… I used to read the comic 2000AD and Popular Mechanics so my head was full with marvel as to what life on the blue planet would be like by now. I especially remember thinking about what I’d be like, outside of the obvious thought that… I’d be old! (in my late 40’s… lol!)
I kind of hoped that I’d be flying a space fighter, and living on the Moon or Mars, that science and technology would have advanced to the point where there were no diseases and everything was curable. Sigh… Oh well, it would be nice if the powers that be had at least built a space fighter for me to pilot. 😉
Of course the years since then have pasted by with ever increasing speed, and as we grow and experience life in all its colors, shades and textures you come to realise that you may not have a space fighter to pilot, but you are definitely the pilot of your own ship.
Now as I look back over 2013, I’d have to say my ship sailed through dark water last year, and I’m glad to be seeing the back of it. I know that it may be hard for some to understand this, those who have seen the oceans I’ve navigated over the past few years… But the truth is, 2010 with its initial diagnosis of cancer, and the speed of starting Chemo and then surgery left me a little sucker punched. While 2011 was just intense Chemo, healing and mind numbing. 2012 was a recovery year, but again my mind was still shot from the Chemo and I was learning to adapt to a new kind of normal.
Then 2013, starting with such promise… the cloud was lifting from my mind, there was the hope that we’d seen the back of cancer and I was looking ahead to some promising business ventures and partnerships coming together. Then of course came the news that the cancer has metastasized and a tumor was discovered within a lymph node in my abdomen. Along with that all the promise just seemed to evaporate… retrospectively I’m glad they did as you’ll soon discover.
Fighting cancer (or any illness), in my view is 80% mental, 10% physical (looking after yourself), and 10% medical. The medical option for me was to radiate the node, with the knowledge that the doctors were 100% certain they wouldn’t be able to kill it. While at the same time the risk of missing and frying something like my bowel, aorta, spine or other organ was very high… My call was to not go with the treatment. It’s not a call I regret making because I would much rather have quality of life over quantity any day. It is of course funny how, when you say no to a medical professional they seem to take it rather personally. So now apart from my rather cool GP, I’m playing outside the system.
I think mentally last year was harder, because I now understand more of what’s happening… its a little like your first parachute jump. Mine was a 3000 ft static line jump from a Cessna 120. They had taken the doors off and one of the seats out, we went up 2 at a time. One crammed in behind the pilot, and the other sitting on the floor with their ass hanging half way out the door, holding on for dear life to the pilots seat. My first time up I was the one behind the seat, so when it came time to jump I moved forward to the door, and remember thinking the ground looked like a massive painting… of course I was high on adrenalin as well, so I hooked on, foot onto the tyre, swung out to get both hands onto the wing strut and let my feet go so I was flying like superman. Before I really knew what was happening I had let go, the chute had opened (thank God!) and I was landing safely on terra firma.
The second jump was a completely different affair all together. This time my mind had had the time to process what was happening, and I was the one sitting with ass hanging out the door… absolutely shitting myself, and holding on for dear life with a white knuckled vice grip on the pilots chair. At 3000 ft the pilot instructed me to get ready to jump, to which I retorted, “you, fuck’n nuts?” It actually took some coaxing to get me to make that jump.
The news that I was now stage 4 came with the full impact of what that really means… If you’ve seen any of my videos I tell the story of getting my initial cancer diagnosis. I asked the Doctor, “what level of fucked am I!” The conclusion was it was pretty bad, which to me meant ‘mostly fucked’ and I said, “I’d take mostly fucked, over totally fucked any day”. For a time there, stage 4 meant “totally fucked”. This is a new level of mental game, because its not about surviving or even winning any longer… this is the stratosphere of mental play… its thin, clean air, but you are in the thick of opposing forces between which is a very narrow slipstream.
On one side is gravity, wanting to pull you back down and send you into a free-fall into the deck… on the other is space, wanting to suck you out into the emptiness of it and a kind of lala-land as you desperately seek some kind of cure. It’s a place where you would claw at your own flesh for one more breath… To me, both are dangerous. But maintaining this level of thought is hard. What thought is that? Living! That is the slip stream you are trying to get into. The hardest part of understanding how to live, is coming to the realization that most of what you understood living to mean… is meaningless. Solomon was right! ( Ecclesiastes 1)
Find your slipstream
What does this really mean? “Find your slipstream…” To answer this you first need to understand that the slipstream is not static, its fast moving and to sail it you need to get up to speed, you have to go through the turbulence and match its momentum… then like a speedway driver you have to find the line so you don’t spin out or bounce off a wall.
I think Aristotle was right about the purpose of life being the pursuit of happiness. The problem we face in our age and our society is that happiness has now been largely defined by the ad agency and the conformists. Although even 2300 years ago he saw living for position, power and money as pursuits that would not necessarily add to our happiness. Such a wise man.
Happiness then is the central theme of life… if you think about all the new year resolutions and goals you have set for yourself over the years, the net result for you in almost all cases is that you believed that in achieving them, they would either bring you, or add to, your happiness.
What happiness is however can only be defined by you, and it is a pursuit not a destination… like the slipstream it is a state that you have the power to maintain. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be happy at a situational level but then you understand that the state of your happiness isn’t dependent on situations.
The turbulence you’ll face will come from two major and opposing forces… drag and gravity…
Drag is simply your own mental objections to the momentum and thrust you are creating to move into the slipstream. Getting over drag requires you to know who you are and why you need to move to this higher altitude of thinking in the pursuit of happiness.
Gravity is the external forces that act on you… and we all know who they are in our lives, be they family, friend or circumstance. Obviously you need to try to minimize the affect of gravity. whether that be by distancing, cutting off or resolving these situations.
Getting into your slipstream is not a matter of trying… it is a matter of doing, as Yoda so wisely states, “do, or do not… there is no try!”
I do need to add this to the mix however, that in life there is no golden ticket, no magic formulas or fairy godlings. There are only the choices you make and the actions you take. Similarly then all failure can be condensed to two primary causes… (i) a lack of knowledge or understanding, and (ii) either failure to act or inappropriate activity. (That is action which does not contribute to the success of a goal or outcome).
Moving into 2014
For me this year is simply going to be moving into living life in the pursuit of happiness, that means focusing on those things that contribute to my sense of well-being, joy and contentment. It also means moving away from those things that don’t contribute to my happiness… This I think takes more courage than anything else because you start to move outside of what you’re used to.
What I know is that what used to excite me and motivate me, no longer does, so I’m looking forward to a year of discover and perhaps re-discover of things that make me happy, bring me joy and enable me to share, help and encourage others.