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Live with passion

I promised this blog would never devolve into a touchy-feely self help thing, and I intend to break that only very, very rarely. This is one of those times, so you've been warned.

Sunday was my birthday, which capped four fabulous days at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Walking back to my hotel Sunday evening, I collapsed in the street and began having seizures. The ambulance came, and I spent the night in the ER. As I slipped in and out of consciousness, I thought I was going to die.

I probably wasn't in any serious danger once I was in the care of the paramedics, but that's not what it felt like. The point is that I truly believed that I might not come out of it.

The next morning, when it was clear I was going to be fine, everything looked a little more beautiful. Trees were greener. The sky was bluer. People were nicer and better-looking. And all I could think about was how damn lucky I was.

The ER doctor thought it was probably just a weird combination of high altitude and lack of sleep that triggered my usually very controlled epilepsy.

So here I am, appreciating everything in that way that you do whenever you've had a close call (or at least thought it was a close call). We've all had them... a car accident that happened only moments after you safely made it through the intersection. A bad bit of rope in your climbing gear that you discovered only after you made it down the side of the rock. Those times in college you drove home way too drunk.

And we know that if we can hang on to this feeling, our lives will be richer. Or as Tyler Durden says in the movie Fight Club after threatening to kill the shop clerk unless the clerk pursues his original dream of becoming a vet, "tomorrow his breakfast will taste better than it ever has..."

But somehow, it's so easy to forget. So easy to slip into that daily world of things that seem important, but that if faced with the last day of our life would seem ridiculously trivial.

You probably saw this already, but the Standford commencement address given by Steve Jobs last week expresses this much better than I can. You really need to read the whole thing if you haven't, but here's a small piece:

"...for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."

I hadn't realized that he was originally given 3-6 months to live when first diagnosed with cancer a year ago.

If each day we could all remember a close call, or imagine what could happen, it would certainly change our perspective. My mother died of breast cancer at the very young age of 40, when I was a teenager, and I remember wondering if she would have lived her life differently if she'd known it would end so early.

I will always remember this last Telluride for the fabulous music and scenery and weather and new friends. And I also hope that I never forget to live each day the way I vowed I would as I was lying in the street thinking, "If I make it out of this..."

Here's to living each day with passion : )

OK, back to our regularly scheduled content.

Posted by Kathy on June 21, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

Wow.

Kathy, thank you so much for sharing this. It was certainly the last thing I expected to read when I decided to procrastinate a bit tonight and check in on the CPU blog. Between your blog and the commencement address, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed...but in a good way.

Tomorrow's bike-to-work day here in Colorado. You've definitely given me lots to think about as I dodge the traffic between Denver and Boulder.

I'm so glad to hear that everything turned out OK this weekend...what an amazing story.

In the words of perhaps the greatest athlete of our time...Live Strong.

-Dave Wood

Posted by: Dave | Jun 21, 2005 9:51:38 PM

Hi Kathy,

Sorry to hear what happened, but again you are showing us the way by grabbing the positive out of something bad.

Thanks for that, and you turning out ok :-)

- Johannes

Posted by: Johannes de Jong | Jun 21, 2005 10:38:22 PM

Hi Kathy,

Glad to hear you are OK, and that this has ended up being a positive experience.

Fortunately you found a limitation when you were walking, and not while driving or something similar. Now you can use this knowledge to avoid the problems and live longer.

Best wishes. Andrew

Posted by: Andrew Monkhouse | Jun 22, 2005 12:11:11 AM

Glad to hear you're okay - what a thing to happen on your birthday too!

Posted by: Matt Moran | Jun 22, 2005 12:48:34 AM

Kathy - I'm glad you're ok and everything turned out fine.

Posted by: Steve | Jun 22, 2005 7:30:59 AM

Great post, I hope you stick around to keep up the great bloggin :)

Posted by: Evan Erwin | Jun 22, 2005 8:27:22 AM

I am really glad that you are OK. We all would have really really missed you.

It is amazing how much we always lose track of what we are here for, and that life shouldn't be taken for granted.

I remember once, in one of those self-help seminars, that we had to do a task that was a real stretch, something that you never would have thought you could do, or even ever attempt. We had this meal afterwards that was one of the best meals of my life. It seems that we need to take chances (I don't mean betting lots of money on one blackjack hand, although if you win, you would get that feeling too) and face our fears to truely understand how blessed we are to be alive.

Posted by: Mark Spritzler | Jun 22, 2005 10:13:08 AM

I don't have much to add that hasn't already been said. I'm genuinely glad you're here.

Posted by: Keith Handy | Jun 22, 2005 3:14:46 PM

It always seemed to me that you were doing pretty good job of living passionately - keep doing what you've been doing and thanks for the link to the Jobs speech - it hasn't been covered over here and really should have been

Posted by: john dodds | Jun 22, 2005 3:22:02 PM

you hopefully will live to write another 'head first...' and have me learn a new language and paradigm; and most of all teach me to *think* differently.

on the topic of living each day as the last, all i can say is that i'm an agoraphobic that spent years pretending to be living without leaving home, but each day i get better and do a new thing (last one was to change countries, so i think i'm doing pretty well) and if i've learned anything all these years was that the things i missed were never coming back.

and now to our regular schedule.

Posted by: pfig | Jun 22, 2005 3:27:36 PM

Hope you will feel better soon. I had similar experience(coming out of my recent bout with IBD). It definitely shows life in a new persepctive.

Thanks for sharing your positive thoughts during this tough period.

Posted by: Kishore Dandu | Jun 22, 2005 4:15:09 PM

Hi Kathy,

My wife and I recently had a beautiful baby daughter. She's now 2 months, but on her 3rd day of life she had tonic-clonic seizures. I felt awful and really worried if she would be handicapped growing up.

Hearing that you have epilepsy has helped me realize that I have nothing to worry about.

If someone as smart and brave as you can handle it, then my daughter will have a wonderful life.

Thanks for sharing!

Regards,
-Peter

Posted by: Peter Tran | Jun 23, 2005 1:02:40 PM

Kathy,

I would recommend this book as food for thought:
http://psy.ucsd.edu/chip/pdf/Gone_Haywire_NY_Times_Rev.pdf

Not only because he describes multiple people with similar profound experiences following seizures, but also the professor uses passion as a key measurement of defining consciousness.

I was afraid you weren't going to make it even though I knew you had to be reasonably alright to make the post.

We're all glad to have you back with us.

Posted by: Shaded | Jun 23, 2005 5:15:16 PM

Kathy, great blog. I am glad you were able to walk out of the ER Ok. Keep blogging.

I know what you mean about life changing events. I was recently arrested and jailed for the first time in my life for doing something stupid... I didn't physically hurt anyone.

I spent 11 hours in jail. After I emerged on the other side, I was so thankful. I finally arrived back at reality. I finally made it back to a matteress, a pillow, and a blanket. I was so thankful to be back. I cried myself to sleep.

Strangely enough, I haven't beat procrastination even though everything in my personal life pushes me towards my business idea. Strange.

Take care!

Posted by: Brandon Doyle | Jun 25, 2005 7:34:20 PM

I'm truly sorry to hear that, Kathy. I wish you the best recovery ever. Keeping Jobs' wisdom masterpiece in the back of your head will most definitely help you go through this difficult experience. Build on it in order to make your future better as it would have been otherwise.

Posted by: Val | Jun 25, 2005 10:56:58 PM

great post (and great overall blog btw).

i had a moment like this over the weekend, but it was with my 2-year-old son. we were at a very crowded aquarium on saturday morning, and he got away from me...lost in the crowd. those were the most frightening 5 minutes of my life, and the thoughts that raced through my head are ones i hope to never think again. i was almost unable to speak, and certianly couldn't think. when they asked me what he was wearing, my first response was, "i don't know". all ended well...my little magellan had made a b-line for the elevator, and went up to the second floor.

i am telling you all of this because the incident has made every moment since then absolutely wonderful (not that it wasn't before). his laugh, his smile, all of it seemed that much richer, that much more precious. a similar effect as what you described.

glad you are OK...keep up the good work!

Posted by: Chad | Jun 27, 2005 11:20:37 AM

Wow! What a wonderful birthday gift! Hope the feeling lasts.

Stay passionate!

Tom

Posted by: Tom Asacker | Jun 27, 2005 2:05:51 PM

It seems like I (and I would estimate that most people) have to constantly remind ourselves that life is only temporary in order to motivate us to get our asses up and moving to do what it is we want to in life. I always wondered if there was a better way to get this motivation a different way than being hit by the reality that life is temporary by being ill, or having a friend pass away.

Posted by: butch3r | Jun 1, 2007 7:01:28 PM

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