Why I do the Things I Do

Why I do the things I do...

After I posted briefly on G+ about a motorcycle incident, an accident that did not happen, I received various responses from folks, and that was a good time to reflect on why I do the things I do, and then, of course, write it down.

It’s funny about the post (which in retrospect I should not have made), because to me, this whole situation was a very happy one, an affirmation that training and practice pay off, that I had the presence and skill to deal with a situation that potentially could have turned out differently. I did an analysis and figured out what must have happened--in short, it was probably a case of two vehicles in each other’s blind spots shifting into the same lane, something that is less likely by looking further across the lanes before switching. This is good advice for driving any vehicle.

I've been thinking about all the injuries I've sustained in my life, and by far the most are (in increasing order of severity and permanent handicaps) from ... riding bicycles, walking, and interacting with children; the latter resulted in a disabling back injury that, though improved, has been affecting me all my life; and my right sholder is permanently wrecked from bicycle crashes. I’ve almost died in a kayaking accident; from undiagnosed appendicitis; from septicemia brought on by a 2 mm skin crack on my foot; I tore up my knee slipping on grass exercising; and working in an office environment has caused me more pain over time than any of these.

Statistically, my chance of dying in a motorcycle accident is about the same as dying in a bicycle crash. And, adjusted for age, my relative chance of dying--period--from any cause at all, is about the same as dying of a motorcycle accident. I don’t want to die. But at this point, the statistics argument is a weak one. And if I do die, I’d rather die doing something I love, than from cancer, dementia, vegetating in a nursing home, or a meaningless freak accident--all of which happened to beloved friends of mine.

Equally shaky is the danger argument in my case, as many kinds of activities I enjoy the most also have various levels of risk associated with them. I do not choose them because of the risk, I am not an adrenaline junkie, and I don’t have anything to prove, at least not in that way. I choose in spite of the risk, because the benefits and enjoyment I derive from them are much greater than the statistical and perceived risk. I am a timid person overall, even a coward, and tend to approach these things conservatively, systematically, and maybe that’s why I don’t get hurt seriously very often.

I do have to address the classic stereotype for attributing getting a bike to midlife crisis. In my case, I did two far more liberating and radical things for my midlife change of direction. (Besides, what's bad about making a big change in midlife?).

Finally, I don’t buy into the “you have responsibilities” or “your friends care” argument, though I consider it. There are things I chose not to do while I my children were young. Financially, my loved ones will be better off if I die (yes, this is true). I truly appreciate and seriously consider the concerns of others, but in the end, it’s my life, and what I do for myself will ultimately be the most beneficial to my friends and family, because as a happy, fulfilled person, I can be the most loving and generous.

I do not believe that my memories and self will survive the death of my physical body, or will matter to whatever aspects of me will continue after my body and self have ended. Once I am dead, it will not matter to me how or how long I have lived, because there will be no me. This frankly scares the shit out of me, and I don’t handle it too well. As such, the things that matter most in life are our experiences, and the experiences we create for others at every moment, not by being perfect, but by being true to ourselves, and our humanity.