The Zen of the Grasshopper

For the better part of the last month, I couldn’t do this.

I sat down on Sunday, June 14th and I tried to write a blogpost on my forty eight hour adventure through time that began with a routine six month checkup and went off road from there. I rambled on to the tune of a couple thousand words that proved messier than Picasso’s sketch pad. After which I cried. Sobbed was more like it.

Before I go further, you can chill. I’m not dying. Whatever’s ailing me isn’t likely to be life threatening. A sobering testimony to the fragility of this thing called life? Yeah, it’s been that. Inside the last several weeks I’ve had an ultrasound, a CAT scan, an echocardiogram, an electrocardiogram (Admittedly, I didn’t know the diff before now). I’ve had more blood work done than a vampire on commision, not to mention a couple of new doctors who continue to poke and prod me for answers. I halfway expect them to start sending me Hallmark cards if these relationships go any further. Or at least flowers . . to which I’m partial to sunflowers if they’re reading this.

My official diagnosis is hypertension- the gift that keeps on bitching. Unofficially, I consider this period of my life to be a huge pain in the ass. It’s been months since I had a decent night’s sleep, or since I could have a drink (the kind that puts hair on body parts) without suffering through a headache from Hades. I’ve moved through several different BP meds with little change in my elevated levels.

It’s wait and see.

Soooo, my blogless existence hasn’t been the result of a lack of trying. That Sunday morning attempt last month, the one that ended in a great big bawl of delete was followed with a few more attempts at a post. Each and every one of them was more incoherent and rambling than the last. Until I decided to right my brain before I took another shot. Because I wanted to post something and I wanted to make some kind of sense. And most of all, because I wanted to let you all know that I think about you. And I appreciate you. And yes, you all are something I look forward to.

The irony of these last couple weeks is that I have been gravitating to all the things I look forward to. In between work and dates with doctors, I’ve been taking advantage of the moments. Hugs have become akin to breathing. Saying I love you carries the same effect as an adrenaline shot. Travailing the big ideas is one thing, but trespassing into the simple moments of a day is what makes you realize how amazing life truly is.

That original post involved a trip to the ER and the perspective you gain when you have absolutely no control over what is happening to your body. I wrote the post as if an epitaph to the ordeal, rather than what it was- my introduction to a different way of living. Because the truth of the matter is that I’m still not certain as to what is really going on. All I really know, for absolute certainty, is that I will never . .and I mean ever take my health for granted. It’s not cliched to admit this, but that whole thing about health being the most important thing? Alls I would add is this- your health? It’s the only thing.

Over the last several weeks, the material worries have been marginalized into a little corner. It’s what happens when you do an inventory; you peel away the meaningless and you cull those moments I was talking about earlier. The complicated world you find yourself walking through suddenly becomes a simple piece of work. You become the author of the book you’re writing with each waking day, and so the words you pen with everything you do matter. Lots.

Naturally, I’ve done a lot of thinking recently. My search for answers to the things going on inside my body has led me into this metaphysical journey that has proven to be a merciful oasis when my spirit gets tired. I think back to a time when I was five years old and my world went black and I think back to a time in 2001 when I spent a sleepless night in a hospital room after surgery to remove cancerous growths. Life was trying like hell to beat me down and in both instances, I kept my balance well enough to keep moving forward. Because that’s the whole thing. As beautiful a thing as this life can be, it has an ugly side that will kill you long before the lights go out. It’s easy to feel as if life has become too arduous, that it’s easier to just give up. And to this very real and dark place, my advice to you is this.

Don’t.

I was reminded of just how great a thing this life can be yesterday. A day that began with me rescuing a shrieking coworker from, of all things, a grasshopper. I scooped up the little guy and moved him outside, after which I contemplated the karmic exchange rate of such a thing. Grasshoppers are a mystical embodiment of the time and space we encompass seeing as how they can only move forward; a trait we all aspire to, really.

It took all of a day to receive my answer. As my daughter and me were trying- unsuccessfully- to cram a couple of steel frame chairs I’d just purchased into my car and I was cursing up the fact that I’d sold my truck by using words that very much rhymed with fuck.

“Do you live close by?”

The voice came from a girl inside a Rav4 who was passing by. I replied dumbly with “Yeah”, after which she parked in the space next to mine and offered to load it up and follow me home.

Who does that?! Hadn’t she heard that the world is going to hell in a handbasket that was made in China? Where did she come off doing something so fool as a random act of kindness? Especially on a night when storm clouds were moving in fast and they were lugging tornado warnings along with them. I mean . . . who does that?!

This woman, that’s who. A young mother with rings under her eyes, dressed in the workaday clothes of a job that never ends. She opened the back and she moved her stroller and we loaded up the chairs and she followed me home and she refused the ten spot I offered and then we shook hands and then she left and shortly thereafter, as if by some cosmic production, the curtain fell and then so did the rain.

If not for this woman, I would have been schlepping the chairs back into the store after a losing battle with my compact. After which I would have been driving through a storm whilst cursing the fates, despite my newly found perspective inside a trying month.

And that’s where the morning came into my head, and that grasshopper. That beautiful little grasshopper I had delivered to safety. Payback. Just like that. I had granted him the ability to keep moving forward inside the plush grass and weeping trees, and in return, he let me know, “Hey dude, I got your back.”

My advice to you all is simpler than Simon. Keep moving forward. Pay attention to the moments. Be thankful for the smallest favors and always remember to pay them back in kind. It’s all you’re promised, and it’s really all you can ask. I have to go for now, because I’m weeping all over again. I notice that I’m more sentimental than usual of late. I’ll be hitting you back when I get home tonight, but I wanted to post something that ended in publish rather than delete. If you happen upon a grasshopper, feel free to introduce yourself.

Trust me on this.

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32 thoughts on “The Zen of the Grasshopper

  1. Beautiful post, sir. I’m sorry to hear about your struggles, but it looks like you are getting through them well. You will be in my prayers, going forward. And I’ll look out for those grasshoppers. 🙂

    • Thank you Jeff. And yes, I have learned a lot- all over again and for the first time- about wanting to stick around for as long a time as I possibly can. That’s always a good thing.

  2. I had to look it up. Hypertension is high blood pressure. Very treatable. My dad’s had it his whole long life. What blew me away is you had cancer!

    I stopped drinking alcohol last August after a friend reminded me that it was directly correlated to breast cancer. I never was more than a “one glass of wine at dinner a few times a week” kind of girl. I don’t miss it and my eyesight improved. What???

    That was very cool how that lady helped you. I’m glad you turned a corner.

    • Quite treatable, indeed. We’re just crossing off all possibilities as to why this came out of nowhere. My BP has always been perfect till now. It can happen like that, of course, but we need to make sure it’s not the result of something else going on. I had an abnormality in my electro, which is why they ordered an echo. Things look good. The BP is still too high and the headaches frequent but I just started a new regimen, so maybe this brings it down and we move forward.

      It’s just a pain in the ass, you know? Plus, it DOES humble you to know that you can’t do what you used to do when you were younger. I needed an attitude adjustment on this count.

      By the way….you are looking GOOD In that hat! Hope your summer is kicking, Mrs Colorado.

  3. Great post, Pilgrim. I wish I was near you when the tears start over health. I have been there and got a nice t-shirt that says “It’s hell to keep living sometimes.” I have seven doctors on speed dial for everything from Cancer to heart to lung to bones to blood to plumbing. All of them check with me before making any major purchases. Not for advice but to make sure I’m still contributing to their bottom line. “Yes,” I reply. “I’m still here.” (the sound of my voice is comforting to them) I also have the bike shop owner making sure I’m still riding the eight miles and wearing out the bike at a rate he has programmed into his financial model. (he needs me to buy another) So health is important but you have to fight for it. Prayers to you.

    • Amen to all of what you’re saying, Sheriff. I’ve relearned the value of being an advocate to my health. I can’t just take this shit for granted anymore. The rules have changed, and so I’mma fight for a clean bill of health. The only diff is, I might just settle up with a club soda as my beverage of choice.

      Peace and love to you, mister. And thank you for always getting better at the voodoo you do. It’s what we count on.

  4. A grasshopper can only move forward. A perfect metaphor for life. This is a stunning post, and you have no idea how much it means to me (having recently fallen off the face of the earth — metaphorically speaking). I am going to print it out so I can read it over and over as needed to keep moving forward.

    I’m glad you have a diagnosis. My brother had a similar experience with the same diagnosis a while back. He is fine now. You will be, too. Of that I have no doubt.

    • We’ve been peeling away at the original diagnosis, in the event it’s the result of some other, underlying situation. Moving forward is everything, for sure. To tell you the truth, what I would give for a full night’s sleep and no headaches.

      Your writing always inspires me, Wild Words, you know this, right?

  5. Duuuude this was such an inspiring and heartfelt post and what’s so amazing about it is that you were and are going through a tough time and you managed to find perspective and just the right words to help those of us trying to turn the corner. I love the fact that a random act of kindness helped change the direction of your day and how you found gratitude for that. I love your grasshopper experience, I recently read a passage in Wild that has a similar analogy but using a a bull instead. It blew my mind then as I practically highlighted the whole chapter, and you just reminded me of that. You are amazing my friend and even during your lows you Rocky Balboa your way out. I’m so thankful you don’t have cancer bud, and wish you a healthy recovery with your BP and hope the mysterious ailments are no longer mysterious. Sending you good vibes from Cali and a bouquet of the best sunflowers we have to offer 🙂 Buen Camino.

    • I was so incredibly fortunate to have found the right doctors back when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. We caught it early and my surgeon removed everything, he was absolutely sensational. I think, no, I KNOW, that I forgot the lessons learned during that time. Because I slowly gravitated back to things I swore I would never, ever do again.

      This time is different. Because I can honestly admit that I’m not getting any younger now, whereas before I believed I was bullet proof. I learned a valuable lesson in this time. That fear is natural, a good thing even. Because truthfully there have been times when I was scared as shit. But I keep moving forward anyway. The fear reminds me that I’m human, and not bullet proof. Moving forward reminds me that I don’t have to settle for being afraid when I can continue searching for answers.

      Thank you for the inspiring reply to this post, hermana. Much love and peace to you.

  6. Dear Cayman,
    I’m so happy to hear from you – I truly was starting to wonder and worry (that’s what mama’s do!).
    I have no doubt you’ll be able to manage your hypertension very well – it was one of my areas of expertise when I worked in the hospital. Call me if you need nutrition advice!
    I was also touched by your outpouring of gratitude and shout-out to Karma. I’ve been trying to live in that space, too. Some days I do better than others…like we all do.
    Thank you for posting this – I don’t want to live in a Bloggy world without my Cayman. xo

    PS: My husband had a stress test last week. All is good, but he, too has been quite the giver outer of hugs and kisses since then.

    • Hey KC!

      Don’t worry your pretty little head about me, I’m gonna keep on keeping on. I have been moving my mind into the peaceful places I wasn’t visiting nearly enough before this episode. It’ll get understood eventually, after which I plan on never forgetting how great it is to have your health, your full health and nothing but your health. It’s THE gift of all gifts, from which everything else becomes a simple ‘lil detail that can be solved.

      You rock the casbah with every comment, post and thought, and I thank you for that. Your husband and your children are blessed to have a mama like you. They know it too, believe me.

      You know what I REALLY want? To get to October with a clean bill of health and then, to settle in to a Royals vs Yankees matchup. We’re thirty five years from the last postseason showdown between these two clubs. Back inside a time when I swore they would battle in October forever.

      How cool would that be?

      • Royals – Yankees! What I wouldn’t give to see that live in your stadium. That would be the coolest ever!
        That said, I’m not sure that would do anything to lessen your BP!!
        Ah, Cayman. So good to talk to you again. I hope you have a wonderful, stress-free week. I’m going to try to do the same.
        You are so good to me 🙂

  7. Cayman, I have so much to say in response to this post. First off, I’m sorry to hear about your health troubles. It sucks getting old, or at the very least, getting knocked around by life and feeling the consequences in your body.

    Second, you are my hero. You bothered to save a grasshopper. Who does that?! Only those of us who know all creatures, great and small, matter just as much as us oh-so-important humans. I’ll never forget the time I was in the gym locker room, and a little girl and her mother were freaking out over a spider. It was one of those bad-ass spiders, with tattoos on its back and looking like it was about to transform into something not of this world. I just scooped it up in my empty water bottle and brought it outside. They stared at me in shock. The mom’s like, “How did you do that?” and the girl’s like, “Why are you saving it?” I shrugged. “I like spiders.”

    Third, I’m a big believer in Karma. If we give positively to the universe, it returns the favor. Likewise, when we put out those ugly, negative thoughts we get our asses kicked. It’s up to us how we want to be treated.

    Fourth, my mother’s health has been failing recently. She’s been seeing ghosts of her parents and childhood friends who are long gone. While it’s terrifying and heartbreaking to see her going downhill, this slow pace has allowed me to think critically about growing old and how to treat myself as I move forward in life. We always have choices, even when we think we don’t. And it’s so easy to believe one day is just one day and it won’t make a difference either way. Until we have hundreds upon hundreds of “one day” and suddenly we find ourselves up shit’s creek without a beer.

    Take care of yourself and keep saving those grasshoppers, you big lug.

    • Bahstahn,

      You never, ever fail to give me something amazing. This comment….well, you did the unthinkable. You outdid the amazing that you do, and how…

      It’s funny how two peeps from different sides of the baseball tracks- and you don’t get more different than Sox/Yankees- can be simpatico. But we are that, without a doubt. People look at me like I have a hole in my head when I tell them that in saving a grasshopper, you can feel the power of the universe, but it’s true. It’s human nature to equate power with bottom lines and skyscrapers, when nothing could be further from the truth.

      I love this comment. I’m gonna have to re-comment on your comment. It’s that good.

      Love, peace and baseball.

      • Thanks, Cayman. It’s pretty much a whirlwind of emotion but also a lot of deep thinking. In some ways it’s good though. If there’s one thing I’m learning it’s that we’re better off not living with regrets because they will haunt you as you close in on your later years. But, that’s for a someday-later blog post. Take care of yourself!

  8. Ok here’s a strange but true thing. Just this evening I was outside with the dogs, and I notice a big green grasshopper on our patio. He was laying on his side and looking like he was in quite the pickle. While I wasn’t so noble as you–I didn’t pick him up barehanded–I did slide him off the patio into the grass with my flipflop. He was happily upright, and I swear to god, he looked up right at me before hopping away.
    Then I came in, had dinner, and decide to check in on some bloggy friends, and here’s your post…my grasshopper Karma in full swing. That’s gotta mean something, right?
    I like to think it means, “dude. You’re gonna be just fine.”
    But what a gift to receive–the appreciation of life and our finite time–while we still have a bit of time to enjoy it.
    And hey! Who knew one could enjoy life without drinking? 😉
    Not to get all grasshoppery on you, but the “first, do no harm” applies to ourselves as all sentient beings. Living without alcohol greatly reduces the harms we do to ourselves.
    My husband was on meds to reduce his blood pressure for a while after a heart issue. The meds gave him horrible headaches. Hope you find answers soon. It’s scary not knowing.
    Very cool about the lady and the chairs. 😉 keep paying it forward, Soul Man.

    I saw these guys in concert a couple weeks ago. Two songs for you.
    One is “The Once and Future Carpenter.” Key lyric, “if I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.” Give it a listen.
    And the next, “Murder in the City.” Have a Kleenex handy. I hope you like them as much as I do.
    Wishing you peace and health and all good things,
    Christy

    • C- Your comments never cease to amaze me. The grasshopper connection is a real thing, I believe it with all my heart and soul. There are signs posted everywhere, which is why we need to slow down some times. I have come to that place in my life where a re-invention is necessary. This has been a summer of complete upheaval. My health continues to be a concern, I came out of a six year relationship and the kids . . .I can see their moves into next phase status. It was enough to send me off the deep end and into a pit, and that’s exactly what happened. I asked myself “Why go on? Why do it?”, and of course this was whinier than I like to get, but it was also a real question and the serious consequences of me asking it sent me into a not so good place from which I had to retrieve myself, bit by bit.

      I always thought I was living the life I have just fine. Not perfect, by any stretch, but just fine. And on this other side of things, I see a guy who was working his ass off and not believing it was ever good enough. I see a guy who was coming home and having a couple three healthy glasses of whiskey and several beers. . . every night, until it put me to sleep. I see that and I see so much more, and I wonder how it could be that I ever thought that was just fine. And now I go without the things I thought mattered, and I realize how they didn’t matter at all. I had constructed something out of nothings that gathered and prospered. And so now, I know that it’s not enough to re-invent myself, I have to de-construct my old self first. And it’s a process, and it’s humbling as fucking hell. But it’s a matter of doing it or not being around, so there’s that.

      The songs are AMAZING. I needed Kleenex….

      You’re an amazing person, Christy Anna Beguins. I am better for knowing you.

      • Oh I don’t know if it’s deconstruction, Cayman. I mean, everything you need is inside you already. Maybe it’s a refocusing of attention. You can’t deconstruct out all the “bad.” You need the bad, just as you need the good. A friend sent me a Hallmark card once. On the cover was a picture of a battery. The inside said, “In life, there must be positive and negative. Otherwise stuff won’t work.” You can’t reach the positive without understanding and appreciating the negative (and really, positive and negative are just labels anyway.) I mean think about it this way. Every single moment in your life had to happen the way that it did for you to be right here right now growing and understanding the way that you are now. Some people never ever get to figure this shit out, and that’s kinda the point of this whole life thing. It’s just a test. Just an experience.

        Something out of nothings…. no. Something out of the life and experiences you had then. You did the best you could back then. Now…you are opening your eyes to a new way of seeing things. As Maya Angelou said, “now you know better, so do better.”

        It’s all part of the process, and if you’re getting itchy and uncomfortable that means you’re on the break of something. 98% of the time, that’s when all the good meaty marrow of life stuff happens.

        I’m glad we met. You should shoot me another email sometime.

        Here’s one more piece for you. I think you know I’m doing the weekend words as more of a daily words thing this year. Here’s one from this week:

        http://wordsfortheyear.com/2015/08/13/the-journey-by-david-whyte/

        (PS: Fear the Walking Dead… August 23. Looks pretty awesome.)

        • C- This is copy and paste stuff, for me. And you’re right, the bad is a part of me. I like that whole thing with the battery, never thought of it that way. I find myself humbled by the fragility of it all, and I find myself inspired by the love and grace of those around me.
          It’s funny because I was going to ask you about Fear the Walking Dead but I forgot to, and then you mention it. Same wavelength stuff, yet again.

          Thank you for the link, for the love and for the words. I’m glad we met too. And I’ll shoot you an email.

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