Having had a few near brushes with death, particularly the one I wrote about earlier, I came to reflect on my life. I almost drowned a three times, once in the bathtub when I was about six years old, and twice in the ocean in my ‘tween years when waves knocked me over and under and I couldn’t get back to the surface. Does getting stung by a man o’ war jellyfish count as a near brush with mortality? Long purple tentacles continue to wrap themselves around you and as fast as you pull it off you, your hands burning and stinging, but the tentacles just keep coming? My legs and arms swelled to twice their original size and I got a fever so high I didn’t think I would make it.
I’m very fortunate. I survived. Not once, not twice, not even three times. I survived a bad accident when I about six or seven. No one was killed fortunately, but I did have a head wound that could have been a lot worse. Near misses on the roadways, where I stop short in the nick of time, or that time when my car careened in circles at a traffic intersection, and by some sheer miracle came to a stop at the curb, when it could have easily flipped over, or smashed into oncoming traffic – and no other cars were involved – DURING RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC. I walked away shaken but unhurt. And then came the pulmonary embolism.
After all these things happen, you sort of lose the fear of dying as really, any day could be the last. So why waste time?
Why haven’t I been afraid to get back in a car, or in the ocean, or get into a tiny plane in bad weather and turbulence to fly over the mountains and glaciers of Alaska? One time while flying over Iceland on my way back from London, we experienced such a long period of terrible turbulence that I was literally flying out of my seat (I’m a big girl, so flying out of my seat is somewhat difficult). I’m not reckless, and I am not fearless. In fact, I get scared watching horror films, or when I hear odd noises in the night, or when I get a pain somewhere that I cannot explain. I won’t go on a rollercoaster, at least not the huge ones at the theme parks – I may go on one if it is indoors and I have no idea what the course looks like (like The Mummy ride at Universal Studios or SpiderMan at Islands of Adventure).
I like to think that it’s because I realize that I have just this one life to live and I don’t want to have regrets. I don’t want to say I should have done such and such when I had the chance. I think it’s so important to live every day as if it was your last. When I’m at death’s door, I’m not going to say, boy I wish I’d watched more horror films, or rode the biggest baddest rollercoaster. But I probably will say I wish I had gone to the ocean more, or driven 100 miles per hour on the Autobahn. (Still on my checklist of things to do). Despite a fear of heights, I want to climb to the top of a mountain, walk across a glacier, and skydive. I really want to take a hot air balloon ride into the sunset. I’ve gone atop the Empire State Building, the CN Tower, The Hancock Tower and worked in many of New York City’s skyscrapers. (I was a temp for a long time).
I travelled to the US at 17 by myself, intending to migrate. I’ve travelled to Egypt and France alone, though I met friends once I arrived. While these may seem insignificant to some, and everyday occurrences to others, for me, it was truly facing my fears. Fears that include language barriers, as I speak neither Arabic nor French. My people anxieties, because interacting with people and making small talk is not me.
I am grateful for my life and the opportunities I have to realize some of my dreams. I am continuing to pursue those dreams, much of which include traveling the world, having culinary and cultural adventures. I want to spend my twilight years living in the UK or Europe, somewhere in a small cottage in the country, with lots of land and a garden and maybe a few chickens. There’s everything about the romance of Italy, the beauty of the rolling English countryside, the spice and excitement of Spain, or the joie de vivre of living in the South of France. There’s too much to do and see and only so much time before I am too old, too blind, too deaf, or dead. The only time we have to live and love is now!