One month ago I stepped onto a plane for the first since COVID hit back in March 2020. Destination, Vancouver. Beautiful British Columbia.
This trip was squeezed into a small window in the calendar. It was tight, but it worked.
With the kids back to school and before a scheduled surgery, the timing was perfect. I would be able to sneak away for a week, visit some old friends, return to prepare for surgery, then recover in time to play my first show with the band since COVID shutdowns restricted our ability to play.
This past month has been interesting. Travel itself was a breath of fresh air, and cathartic to one who is restless on the best of days. Seeing old friends, some I haven’t seen in decades, and meeting new ones on the journey, was so good for the soul. It was also an opportunity for reflection and connection as I prepared to go in for a surgery that portended a possible bout with cancer. I do not offer this lightly, this weighed heavily until only recently.
I do not have cancer. It would have been bone cancer. It was instead, a noncancerous bone tumor. That tumor has been removed. I recently got the official ‘all clear’. I am thankful.
A Month Of Reflection
This past month had me reflecting deeply on many things: the need to get my affairs in order, the joy of life, mortality. In keeping positive though, I reflected mostly on the good fortune I’ve always enjoyed; the people that have come in and out of my life, their impact on me in being a part of my story. From the oldest of friends to the newest, the ones that have been there perpetually and those more ephemeral.
I got to thinking how the people we meet throughout our lives all leave their mark on us each. Sometimes it is foundational; a worldview, a self-confidence, a conviction. Other times it is something as simple as how they might influence the brands we wear and styles we adopt.
The Little Things
For example, I always cut toast a specific way when I accompany it with soup, but only with soup. That peculiarity I picked up from a high school crush. Another idiosyncrasy I’ve noted is my preference for a Staedtler draft pencil for daily use; introduced to me by a peer whom I respected, and still very much do. To complete the tricolon here, my love of stickers and obsession with layering them on my water bottle can be attributed to more than one individual, but most certainly is a compliment of imitation to the outdoor, adventurous spirit of those I have sought to emulate. A lifestyle I passionately pursue and am grateful to be healthy still to continue.
More significantly though, my interests in philosophy, for example, were nurtured from an early age – high school and into my twenties – by the group of friends that most fully accepted me for my truest self. Musically, my tastes too were established at an early age by those same people. Those friends were the same that first showed me a chord progression I could grasp – Hendrix’s Wild Thing I attribute as one of, if not, the first of these. My capacity for, and understanding of love comes from a lifetime of strong and intimate friendships and family; my wife being the one to whom I am most grateful to in this understanding – a constant companion, and the bedrock from which I found my footing this past month. I can’t neglect my children here, and the joy and wonder of youth they give me – and through them, immortality.
I could have followed any number of paths – that of ‘jock’ would have been natural, or I could have been a better student, collegiate in my presentation. I could very well have gone down many a detrimental one as well. Instead, it was a journey in creativity and art, self-expression and contemplation, which won out as a result of these early, and persistent influences.
My love of the outdoors and physical challenge, adventure and spontaneity may be innate to my nature; attributable to my being a Sagittarius I suppose. However, it is also a choice, and one that was influenced. There were those I looked up to, sought as mentor and wished to emulate. These are those people that have, likely unwittingly, shaped my course and direction in life. The ones that introduced me to an activity or concept that I otherwise did not know about, or didn’t think I could access or do, but that after being introduced to, ran with. My mother’s free-spirit and wanderlust, my father’s active lifestyle and pursuit of excellence in sport need mention here.
Influences. Past And Present
There are those people that, even after decades of absence or distance, hold their sway on one’s spirit and soul. Those relationships that are difficult to describe in the typical category of friend or lover, peer or superior, mentor or mentored. Some are all these, perhaps a confluence of but a few. These people intersect the watershed moments of a life. Some are never seen again. Others come back into a life, if only momentarily, sometimes more permanently. Still others are daily influences – my wife, my children, my co-workers and community. All though, have made their mark.
Then there are those reciprocal influences. I know I have shared my passion for music with those that have benefited from the exchange. Reciprocity can be found in the fact that my influence, be it encouragement or accompaniment, then gave to me a boost of passion, perhaps a focus, but most certainly a renewal of purpose and desire to continue in my pursuits musically. When the benefit is mutual, the fabric is stronger and more textured. These are to be cherished.
The good, the bad, the ugly. I am grateful for them all. When the trajectory of a life provides an opportunity to reconnect or intersect, the universe is talking to us. Synchronicity? Perhaps. Doesn’t matter. It is welcome. I suppose one’s interpretation of what the universe is saying to us depends on our attitudes, experiences, predisposition, beliefs.
Appreciating The Fabric Of A life
Life is an incredible journey. It is fraught with challenges. No more is guaranteed us than is what is immediately before us. Grab hold of it, each moment – the good, the bad. Reflect on the idiosyncrasies and parts of you that were influenced by another. Attach a face, a name, a spirit to it. Relish and wrap yourself in the fabric of existence that is the human connection (pets too).
A friend sagely advised that these moments, where one’s mortality becomes evident or where there is a prompt for reflection, are great opportunities to make change. Change that when one is presented with an image of true finality might otherwise be too late. Reflection is a first step. Recognizing and acknowledging friends, family, and their impact and value to us is the next.
“Change before you have to.” – Jack Welch