Where the Hell Have I Been?

by stephancox

Hello, STSM gang! Before I started this post, I just went and glanced back over some previous posts, and I noticed that I’ve started by recent blogs by tacitly apologizing for how long it’s been since I last posted. You know what? Screw it. What am I, P-Diddy with a Twitter account? Who cares? Let’s just jump in.

First off, I had planned to take on the granddaddy of my STSM challenges, skydiving, during my birthday weekend back in August. I really tried. My dad and I had it all planned out: We picked our day, signed up, and were all ready to go that morning, but when we got to the place, it was totally fogged in. Well, not totally, but the people who run the skydiving place said they won’t do any jumps if there’s even a single cloud in the sky, which makes good sense, I suppose. And besides, what the hell was I going to do? Argue? “Dammit, I’ve paid my money! Now take me up in your almost comically tiny plane and endanger my life! Right now!”

They told us we could wait around until it cleared, but, having grown up in the Monterey Bay area, I knew that August fog doesn’t burn off. It just hangs there. In fact, I now wonder if maybe I subconsciously planned my jump for August knowing this very fact. Anyway, we decided to come back the next day, which, also was totally socked in. So it was a bust. But what I can tell you is this: it’s really freaking hard to gear yourself up mentally to override every single instinct in your body in order to jump out of a plane. Particularly when you’re prone to anxiety like I am. And then, to have to do that two days in a row, well… let’s just say I wish I could have done it and gotten it off the list. My dad and I have rescheduled the whole thing for December, which, ironically, tends to be pretty fog-free. Naturally, I’ll keep you posted.

What else? Well, in sadder news, Lori and I learned that our beloved 11 year-old dog, Baxter, has cancer. Three weeks ago, he basically collapsed, so we immediately took him to the vet ER and left him for observation overnight, which turned out to be a good move, because in the morning, he had a seizure was immediately rushed into surgery. They removed his spleen and discovered that he has an aggressive cancer called hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessels. The prognosis is not good: three to six months.

While this was pretty devastating news to Lori and me, it did put things into pretty stark perspective. One of the many side effects of having an anxious personality is that you tend to be hyper-ambitious. And one of the side effects of hyper-ambition is that you live your life in an idealized future state, one in which you have achieved all of your goals and you can finally allow yourself to relax and be happy. But when everything went down with Baxter, all that stuff went away. We were forced to focus on what was happening moment to moment, because, in a very real sense, we couldn’t see the future. In fact, we weren’t initially sure if he was going to make it through surgery.

Now that he has, and he’s home, it’s like a bonus round. For Baxter, it’s basically the greatest time of his life. Not that his life sucked before, because it in no way did, but now? He gets absolutely everything he wants. What’s that, Baxter? You say you love tuna and sardines mashed up in a bowl? Well, guess what, pal? You’re getting that FOR EVERY MEAL, as much as you want. And all the arthritis pain meds that we’d been holding back on because it’s hard on your liver? Down the hatch, big fella! Plus we finally broke down and got him some tranquilizers for all those frequent East Coast thunderstorms. Essentially, our dog now lives on a cloud made of medicine and fish.

And for Lori and me, it’s been a chance to just be present with the dog, and with our own lives. We know, in a very real sense, that he could go at any time, so we’re trying not to get caught up in all the meaningless stuff we fill our days with. Sure, I’m still working on all of my many projects: I just released a book, I’ve got an animated series that’s starting to take shape, on and on. But I find that I’m taking that stuff less seriously. And that’s good.

As far as the other challenges on my STSM list go, I’m getting to them. I’m still three-quarters of the way through “Ulysses”—turns out I was reading a lot of it on the stationary bike while I was triathlon training, and now I’ve been training up for the Portland, ME, marathon that’s coming up in a couple weeks, and it’s hard (as in impossible) to read and run. Probably I missed my window to surf and water ski, what with the summer coming to a close. I guess I’m realizing now that I won’t be completing my list by the end of the year, and that’s fine. I’ll get to them. But for right now, it’s September, the leaves are staring to change, and I think I’m going to take my dog for a walk.