A Different Kind of Courage

Death is the topic of today’s post. If that bothers you, now is the time to stop reading.

I had COVID-19 earlier in the year, and wound up with long haul COVID symptoms. Mostly, it was confined to a slight shortness of breath and racing heart rate. Then came September and October, when most of the west coast of the US was on fire. The extended smoke inhalation made things so much worse. Since October of last year, I have been so severely short of breath (and energy) that I got winded going up a flight of stairs or walking a block. Gasping for breath, sweating, I was in severely bad shape.

I’ve lived a rough life. There have been many times where I was pretty damn sure that I was going to die. An unavoidable fight with a gang. Black ice on a cliff road with no guardrails. Getting robbed at gunpoint. Getting shot with a hunting bow and arrow. I have learned how to face death with a certain amount of equanimity and courage.

This was different. Suddenly being almost completely incapacitated, and facing the possibility that the damage was permanent, I came face to face with my mortality in a new way. You see, no matter how bad the odds I had faced before were, I still had a fighting chance each time. This? This was no chance at all. I’d never really faced death like that before. Seeing nothing that I could do to change my fate, my equanimity and courage deserted me.

After an initial bout of depression that followed this, I got into learning what I could about my condition. And I learned that some COVID long haulers do get better with time. I also learned that scarring from smoke damage can be healed, in some cases. I have been doing what I can in the time since to help these processes. And I am a lot better now. I am not healed. But I am improved enough that I have hope that I will fully recover, in time.

And I have learned something, and that something is what I am trying to talk to you about today. After all, I am a man of Odin. It’s kind of my job to try to teach about and help with death.  Obviously, even if I do fully recover from this, I shall someday have to come face to face with this again. I will, after all, one day be old enough for my strength to start failing. Just like everyone else. And there ultimately won’t be anything to do about that. I can see that I need to start cultivating the traits that will allow me to face mortality in that way with equanimity and courage. Not really sure what those traits are. I guess figuring that out is where I start, then. I advise you all, no matter how young you are, to start figuring that out yourself. You don’t want to come face to face with all of that unprepared.