I was never exactly free, but when I was a kid, I could go with the flow.
I went on adventures with my friends as we rode bikes and played games that stretched across the neighborhood. We would all meet in my backyard every day and play for hours.
We were the last of a dying breed. For better or worse, we were the last generation to know the joys of childhood without iPhones and iPads and the internet. It was a beautiful time.
But things have changed and I haven’t been able to go with the flow for a long time. After I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, my life became far more calculated. My routine and careful planning helped me get my symptoms under control. But it was at the expense of spontaneity.
I’m now far more introverted than I used to be and my memory is littered with missed opportunities and regret. It’s hard to think about all of the things I’ve missed out on. But it’s especially hard to think of things that I didn’t do because I was afraid.
Meniere’s disease can take so much from us. Even if you can get your symptoms under control, it never truly goes away. It lingers in the background of your mind and can affect your decisions if you let it, like I did. But life is short and it’s important to take risks. I just wish I had realized this sooner.
The problem is, with Meniere’s disease, everything can feel like a risk. Even the little things like getting out of bed or taking a shower. The fear can permeate your life in a way that persists even on your best days. It can cripple you. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.” – Albert Einstein
Of course, taking care of yourself always has to be your first priority. Ultimately there is nothing more important than your health. But when an opportunity presents itself, sometimes it’s better to take a chance. To make the decision that maybe, just maybe, it’s worth the risk. Even in the face of uncertainty, fear, and possible consequences.
We only get this one shot at life. We can’t change our circumstances but we can choose to make the most of them. Just two weeks ago, I found myself facing this very situation on a trip to Maryland to visit my family. I didn’t know it at the time, but my brothers had planned a surprise bachelor party for me.
On that Saturday morning, my fiancée Megan woke me up early and told me that my brothers had a surprise for me. She had packed me a bag with everything I would need and I left shortly afterwards with my youngest brother Brett. I thought we were meeting our other brother, Kevin, for breakfast in DC. My terrible sense of direction kept the surprise intact and the next thing I knew we were pulling into a harbor in Annapolis.
Up until this point, for several weeks, my symptoms had been completely in check and things were good. But I hadn’t been on a boat since my Meniere’s diagnosis. I was really nervous it would trigger my symptoms. And I didn’t know what else they had planned for the day.
As we walked down the dock, the next surprise was waiting for me. One of my closest friends, groomsman, and former college roommate, was there too. We speak often but I hadn’t seen him in 3 years. I had no idea he would be there.
I’m not sure how it happened, but something clicked. In a moment of happiness, I decided to let go of the fear, and for once in my adult life, just go with the flow. We boated on the Chesapeake Bay, went tubing, and ate Maryland blue crabs for lunch. After a quick shower and rest at Kevin’s townhouse in DC, we went out to dinner and a comedy show.
By the end of the night, I was thoroughly sunburned and completely exhausted. I was very dizzy and felt the pressure building in my ears. My tinnitus was cranked up to 11. To be honest I’m not sure how I made it through the show.
But it was all worth it. I had an incredible day with the people I love, and Meniere’s disease can never take that away from me. Physically I felt horrible, but I also felt unstoppable. I was filled with gratitude. In all my years with this crazy illness, I had never faced my fears like I did that day.
I learned an important lesson, too. I realized that when the right opportunity presents itself, I’d rather be dizzy than deal with regret.
“Regret for the things we have done will be tempered by time. It is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.” – Sydney J. Harris
I also learned that it can help to prepare for every contingency. Megan had packed me a bag with all kinds of medications and supplies to cover every possible outcome. If you take a moment to define your fears and analyze the worst possible scenarios, you can prepare accordingly, and release the fear.
See that’s the thing; even if you end up facing consequences or an outright failure, you will still learn something valuable from the experience. And in some small but meaningful way, you will always win, even if you lose.
So the next time you have the opportunity to do something amazing, take it and don’t look back. Meniere’s can take so much from you, but sometimes you just have to say “to hell with it”, and have fun.
I highly recommend taking a minute to watch this incredibly inspirational video: