Compromise in our personal standards is seldom a result of one big, clearly defined, decisive moment. Typically the path which leads to a position of weakness in our lives arrives as a subtle whisper and as a result of laziness, or merely inattention due to the preponderance of distractions in our digitally enhanced culture. The Moby video in my prior blogpost said a lot about being lost in a lost world.
Personally I have never wanted to be “that guy”.
So I study a lot, train regularly, and try to prepare myself and life systems in order to always be a source of response for when shit goes south.
Recently I noticed I have been slipping in my attention to what for many may seem like inconsequential details. You see, I really do “sweat the small stuff”. That extra workout, the kit preparedness for my work in Photography and Film making, my first response medical gear, swim gear, coursework training and both spiritual and mental preparedness drills.
This week a “silly” incident served to slap me alongside the head.
It was evening, days end, and I had been making a late dinner. My wife Donna came home, and had wanted to help, so I let her, and headed into my digital lab to work on a timelapse project.
Now every parent recognizes it. I call it “the scream”. It is quite different from all other human utterances and it communicates serious injury. One of my first experiences with it in my family was with my son Josh. I had been outside with his Mother when I heard it and simply said “That is not good” and followed the noise back to where he lay with his foot atop his head and a very obvious femur break. I turned his Mom around before she could see it and told her to dial 911 and get an ambulance. Then I started to work Josh up and stabilize him, all the while quietly explaining what it was that had happened, and what was going to take place.
By the time the ambulance arrived he was in shock and stable. I refer to the months after, when Josh was in a body cast as our “bonding time”. Josh and I were together a lot, as I had to attend to all of his basic bodily functions. In hindsight I was extremely grateful for having trained for that entire scenario. It minimized the potential for something much worse to happen to a person in my care.
So knowing the scream, I walked into the kitchen to see Donna holding her hand over the sink with a finger bleeding profusely. Taking a look at it, I immediately grabbed a wad of paper towels wrapped then over the wound and told her to compress them. I sent her into the office, put a film on Netflix, instructing her to hold the injured finger up on the desk and maintain pressure.
I went back into the kitchen and examined the tray of zucchini she had been grating with her new slice and grate device. First thing that I saw was that the tool you use for holding the thing you want to slice was clean. She had obviously been hand slicing. I searched the tray for her missing fingertip. I could not find it. Wounds of this sort are interesting. Typically the sliced appendage is w/o color or blood. I knew this, but still could not find it. I fixed my wife a cocktail and took it in, told her to relax and went back out to finish dinner which I brought back in to her. We ate it while watching “The Ranch” a funny sitcom type show on Netflix with San Elliott, Ashton Kutcher and Debra Winger in it. Yea, we were having Tri-Tip. LOL! (Life being stranger than fiction)
After about 15 minutes she asked me: “Now? Do you want to do this?” “Sure dear, if you are ready.” In the bathroom I scrubbed up, removed the compress, irrigated the wound, which was still bleeding profusely, and looked through my collection of ziplock bags containing some of my emergency medical supplies. No quikclot. Shit. I quietly made a fingertip bandage, and applied it with some pain killing antibiotic cream and taped everything together with waterproof medical tape.
As we sat back down together to finish watching the show, I stroked my wife’s hair, kissed her forehead and simply said this: “I am very sorry dear, this is one of those really annoying wounds, potentially they can be rather serious, so you are going to need to be out of the water for awhile” I was very calm and loving. Normally I hard ass my wife. This was not the first time I had been her first medical response. I knew what to expect. Then came the question. “How long am I going to be out of the water for?” Every surfer asks that. “Four to six weeks dear. The end of your finger is missing. The tip has been sheared off and even if I could find it, the chances of re attaching it and that working are 50-50 at best.” She whimpered. Hard news. Hard choices, but small in retrospect.
“Think of it Donna, the guys we know who have lost legs or arms, this is nothing as a challenge compared to that.” And my dear wife nodded in agreement. Inside I was sorta pissed. I had been prepared, sorta. But slack had come into the safety line I hold. That slack was on me, and the ramifications began to gnaw at my gut.
The next day, I thought about my life, and considered what I want to be responsible for in it. The list was the same as it has always been. So I resolved to begin to remove the slack I had let creep in. I made a list and ordered the supplies I needed to re fill and add to my travel medical kit. I decided to lose some of the weight that has been creeping up on me, and scheduled my PT and office work hours. I made plans. I resolved to implement those.
In a life, we all arrive repeatedly to positions that demand and reflect small inputs at the tiller. Being attentive to those requires discipline and choice, every single day.
It seems that in a culture where we are encouraged to rely on the systems which reflect our civilization’s social mores, we are encouraged to become weak, less than we want, should, or can be. The system wants us to rely on it. I am extremely uncomfortable with that.
I am an exceptionally well trained and competent guy. Spirit soul and body, I always know who, what, and where I am at any time. This is just a part of what I am. Not good. Not bad. Just Me. And being me is a responsibility. When I catch myself being or doing less, I feel as if I have let God down. God, you might query? Yes, God. That ultimately is who I belong to and serve. His people and the rest of creation are all a part of my moral obligation to serve. To fail is not acceptable to me.
So at 60 years of age, I am going to be taking up some more slack. The life I save, really, it is my own.
The other day, after all of this. I ran across a statement on my friend Shawn Alladio’s Facebook page. I copy paste it here below. She is owner-operator of K38 Rescue Intnl which is a boating safety and first responder training company. Shawn speaks to a standard that many of us aspire to:
A Post Written By, Shawn Alladio
“Cause no harm in our pursuits. It’s a big requirement. It requires deep caverns of a fight for life, not just mine or yours, but others. Every action matters to another family, a child, a child without a parent, because a mistake was made. Because a selfish mistake was made when somebody in the group, our team, your team decided it was not worthy. The time was not important to invest, the equipment was taken for granted, life was cheap. Yes, it is very cheap when it is not your life. Or your wife’s life, her hopes and dreams, her happy ending is stolen. Or your husband suffering in a silence, hiding behind deep rage. This beloved, this dead ‘person’, this fatality, this statistic whose soul is away from their body, that is if you know where their body is, if you have received their physical remains.. oh yes.. that catch phrase ‘closure’. Do not think what you do doesn’t matter. It matters spiritually for endurance, for eternity for the now. Do not think that grief is a personal badge of pain, it is a community of burden. What you do matters, how you act matters, what you say matters. Prepare. Strive for excellence, make it your strongest habit. Because somebody out there is going to need you to be that person, in that moment. You better be ready.”
Alas now that all the heavy is on the page, here is “how I am”.
The night after Donna’s finger incident I was again making dinner. She sat on the counter a few feet away while I manned a cleaver and was cutting vegetables for the pho I was making. In the refrigerator I grabbed a bottle of Tapatio sauce and wondered “Hmm could this pass as blood?” (I use it in the pho).
Returning to my task at the cutting board I splashed my right hand with a heavy coating of the sauce, grabbed the cleaver and whacked it down on the cutting board through a chunk of red cabbage and turned to my dear wife holding my tapatioed hand and went: “Uhh, THATS not good”. She almost fainted. The reaction sent me into hysterics and she realized I had set her up. I sobbed in uncontrollable laughter. She sorta eventually joined in.
I can be such a dick. But I always have my own reasons.
I love my wife, family, and community, dearly.
And I will fight for them. So I will remove that slack.
We all ought to be there when need arises. This is what will define your life. It is the strength of any Nation.
“Always watching. Ever ready.”
Be that person.
Resist the suck.