Pushing it

My head has been a bit all over the place these last few days. I took a call from the Living Donor team. They had assessed my MRI scan results since my recent hospitalisation and concluded that they’re not willing to proceed with the transplant.

So having passed all the tests, a tiny blood vessel in my neck burst, restricting blood flow to my head, dramatically increasing the risk of a stroke or worse if I am placed under general anaesthetic. It would be pushing things too far. In some ways, I knew this was a possibility. In other’s, I had denied that this would be the outcome. I was hedging and hoping, the power of positive thinking, to get the right outcome. Sadly that wasn’t the result. I didn’t tell my sister straight away. I needed an evening to wrap my head around it.

She is in shock I think right now. She had already missed her dialysis prep appointments, I think she was trying to avoid that particular reality as we were both focusing on the transplant. Now she really does need to focus on the dialysis. When I was last there, we took a walk, her boyfriend and I got ahead of everyone, he said that if the donor centre found that I wasn’t a match, then he would put himself forward. Time to step up laddie.

Mum was in shock too I think. I had played down my illness a little as I didn’t want to worry anyone. She was at my sister’s and wasn’t seeing it first hand. Dad was supportive and on his way home from his big summer trip.

I took the bike out yesterday. I needed it. Really needed it. Probably gave it a bit more than I would normally. Pushing it closer to the edge. Sometimes, you just have to get these things out of your system. Riding a motorbike is many things. Dangerous. Exposed. But also somehow it frees you. It is just you, the bike and the elements. Everyone and everywhere there are constant threats. And yet, it is compelling to step down a gear and pop the throttle open and skim past the traffic, easing between them and the oncoming traffic.

I came upon an artic – articulated lorry – on the approach to a roundabout. Easing off, I skimmed the roundabout and prepared to slip by on the outside. Just before I wound open the throttle, I noticed movement of the rear door. I backed off a touch and it swung in a slow pendulum to pretty much where my head would have been if I hadn’t spotted it opening.

Oops.

I hung back, it swung wide open, then bounced on it’s hinges and began a slow journey back to where it belonged as the driver straightened up out of the roundabout. I dropped a gear and swung past, gesticulating with my left hand as I went past the cab of the truck. I think the driver was still oblivious. He probably thought I was just (another?) belligerent biker.

Sometimes, I need these things. Not the swinging artic door close to my head. But the feeling of being on the edge, of being alive. Maybe that’s the pull of riding.

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The Living Years

I had some bad news yesterday. I’m not ready to share it yet. I have some conversations that need to happen first.

This morning, I am still feeling somewhat reflective and introspective. I tend to listen to 80s music when I am in this mood. And I came across this classic on YouTube. It always reminds me of my old man.

In my early 20’s my Dad and I fell out. I held lots of resentment over how he had been when we were kids. I don’t verbalise such things. But they remained hidden, lurking between the surface of every interaction we had. It was inevitable. We fell out big style.

And I didn’t speak to him for a number of years. He planned to remarry and I didnt get an invite. Eventually we moved past it, kind of, but we both held resentments. I moved far away. We saw each other infrequently. Time moved on. Over a decade on. Sometimes a year or more would pass between us even talking. It had been something like two years since we spoke when I got a call to say he had had a heart attack. All bets were off. I jumped in the car, collected the wife, drove across the country to see him.

You have to admire doctors, surgeons and the rest of the medical profession. They tore open his chest, smashed several ribs in their haste to get to his heart, and spent eight hours with him on the table. He was out of surgery when I arrived. High on morphine, drifting in and out. More family turned up. Rows ensued between them. Jeez. He’s in intensive care, tottering on the edge and they cannot put their differences aside. That pissed me off. Yet it was also a reality check for me too.

He survived. And still does to this day. We have set aside our differences. We don’t talk about the things that happened in the past. He has his regrets and I have mine. Occasionally in our conversations, we might stray close to the subjects of the past, we catch each other’s eyes and move on. Or I give him a gentle reality check. We all must take responsibility for our own actions. But those actions are in the past and there isn’t anything that can change that.

We understand each other. My resentments, they were merited, but there is no point to them. All they did was eat away at me. And truth be told, when we weren’t talking or getting along, I missed the grouchy old bastard.

Life it too short for resentments and regrets. Every day could be your last. Make the absolute most of it. While you still can.

Introspection

Today’s post is a little introspective. It started out as one thing and morphed into another. You see, I’ve been pondering this expression, about your glass being half full or half empty. The more I thought of it, the more I realised I am not either of these.

The phrase is normally associated with how we perceive what we have in life. In these situations, my glass is not half anything, it is either full or empty. I’m either very happy, or very sad. I guess growing up with a parent that suffers from depression has an effect on you. I have what I consider to be “dark days”. Anyone who has ever felt the impact of depression knows what I am talking about. It’s like a dark cloud surrounding you, enveloping you and there isn’t much you can do about it.

When it happens, I only really have one tactic. Focus on the very next task. Focus intently. Complete it. Then repeat. Until those dark clouds start to fade. Tom Hanks summed it up well in “Sleepless in Seattle” when he said something about putting one foot in front of the other. What else can you do?

I haven’t been blighted by it too badly in recent months. Being hospitalised for a few days and finding out about some medical conditions were low points. But shit happens and life goes on. Somehow, reading blogs on here helps too. There are some truly amazing and brave people out there. And some deep thinkers.

Keep blogging folks, it makes a difference.

Guilty pleasure

I have a confession. A secret. It’s pretty shocking really…..I love watching X Factor!

Now normally, I don’t watch much TV, if I want to watch something, it’s normally something on demand, like Netflix or recorded with the Tivo. And I most definitely don’t watch reality TV. It seems a cheap way to make TV shows and plays on the less pleasant aspects of human nature. X Factor though, it draws me in.

There are people you see and listen to you and think wow. Amazing voice, difficult life, your heart goes out to them and their singing sends tingles down your spine. And there are people who audition and I cannot understand what they were thinking. Did family and friends really convince them that they could sing? Simply delusional. Maybe they just want their five seconds of fame.

As the weeks progress, the emotional connection (or disconnect) becomes greater. This is perhaps the shows draw. For anyone who hasn’t watched it, here are some of the top people from this years show. If nothing else, watch the first video of young Ella, simply amazing.

Ella Henderson – Wow, can you believe the voice on this young girl, it sent shiver’s down my spine when she sang a Cher song, “Believe” and reduced Nicole Scherzinger to tears. Watch the video and tell me you weren’t affected by it. She is one to watch.

Jahmene Douglas – a dimunitive young lad who works at Asda, very shy and he has this annoying nervous laugh after he speaks, then he began to sing and became someone else completely –  he has an amazingly big voice. Skip to about 2 minutes to hear him sing.

Lucy Spraggan – I’m not sure she is the type of star the producers of the show are looking for, her style is very different, really funny, you could see the lack of confidence and yet she has something very endearing.

Robbie Hance – gutted he walked away. Living rough, he needed this break. He has an amazing voice, but lost the plot and gave up on himself this week. It’s going to be hard for him to recover from that. I hope he pulls it together and comes back next year.

There were many others worth mentioning, but time is tight and I have things to do.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Cigarettes and alcohol

Friday I went to the docs. I’d been earlier in the week for the nurse to take even more blood. I was surprised, as I had expected to see the doctor then and I thought the medical profession had ceased the practice of leaching patients some years ago. The nurse told me there where some concerns over my liver function, so I had to make a fresh appointment for Friday to see the doc. She didn’t know why she was taking blood, thought there might have been some kind of mix up, but took some anyway.

Fast forward to Friday. The doc is new to the surgery, a pretty young asian woman, who tells me I have enzymes in my liver which are causing it to work way too hard. She asks me what medication I am on. Strange, I thought she would know that. We go through the list of tablets and the doc starts leafing through a medical book, presumably looking for any mentions of side effects that might cause this liver issue. I guess it was inconclusive, as she asks me how much alcohol I drink. One to two bottles of red wine over a weekend, I reply. So she asks me to abstain for a fortnight.

I wasn’t particularly happy, first cigarettes, now alcohol. I may have to find myself some new vices! Did I mention that giving up smoking can be hazardous to your health.

Friday and Saturday evenings have been drink free. I’d like to say I feel better each morning for it, I don’t.

No worries though, I took the bike out a couple of times yesterday. The first outing was a short trip around my local town. The second, 60 mile round trip to see a relative. Hence my Oil and Petrol post. I’m feeling a combination of my age and some wanderlust I guess.

I read this on Four Corners Bike Ride blog this morning and it is one of the things I love about riding – a lot of cars will ease over to let a motorbike past. I do it myself when in my tin can. Whether it is motivated by people being polite or just not wanting to have a bike sat behind them, it’s a nice feeling as a rider. Though it does encourage you to zip along a little faster.

Speaking of the Four Corner Bike Ride blog. I’m watching this fella’s endeavours closely. It’s something I’d like to do next year. Perhaps camping with the occasional hotel or B&B when I need a little luxury. The wife is up for it. I can’t see me doing it on the kwaka though. It has no fairing, only the flyscreen that I’ve added. It does help, but not enough for long distances at speed (not that I ever go over 70 officer, honest!).

So I am continuing to put my cigarette money to one side towards a newer bike, preferably a Suzuki V-Strom. It seems like my weekend wine money ought to go into that fund too.

Oil and petrol

The smell does funny things to me. It brings back times and situations of my youth.

The growl of engines, you can almost feel it resonating through you. Like a deep dark song that embodies your thoughts and feelings.

And the rush of speed, windswept, exposed. In control, yet at the edge of what is controllable.

These are the reasons why I have gone back to riding motorbikes. I read somewhere that riding a bike is the closest you will get to the sensation of flying. Someone else said that it is like steering a missile.

I’m older now, I have figured out that I’m not immortal. And control is often an illusion. I watch the road, the people, constantly scanning for warning signs.

But once you are out on that open road, there is no other feeling in the world like it.

Loosing my religion

Death to the infidels. Oh, that’s me. I’m an gaijin too. A barbarian. Things are not looking good.

I lost my religion. Or rather, I never really found it. I love the basic tenets of most religions. The way each one defines moral codes for people to live by. But history shows us that all religions have their zealots who take things a little too literally. And there are always those who will use such things for their own end.

When my granddad died, a lot of my family became pentecostal. They found Jesus! I was a cynical bugger, even then. Found him I thought? I didn’t even know we were looking for him. Doesn’t he have satnav? I was still a kid and didn’t really understand what the fuss was about. One Sunday, I went along with them. To see my cousin stand up in the middle of a sermon and shout “Praise the lord, Jesus has saved me” freaked me out a little. To be honest, he was always a bit of a knob and finding Jesus didn’t really change fix that. We just didn’t see eye to eye on many things I guess.

My aunt started quoting the bible whenever we went round. At everyone. At everything. Wow! When I was a little older, I took a girl friend around. No-one approved of her. My aunt did her preaching bit – Matthew this, Luke that. My girlfriend was a little feisty (part of the reason I liked her) and quoted something right back from the New Testament contradicting what my aunt had been saying. Ha, that was a funny conversation to listen to.

With age, I realised something. My uncle was a lovely bloke, but not so nice where his wife was concerned. Maybe that’s where his son got it from. Religion for my aunt gave her something to have faith in. It gave her life meaning. She went on to do some good things in the name of her Jesus.

I just didn’t need her preaching. Preachers, not just the religion type, cause me to turn away and I am more likely to do the opposite.

I have my own moral code, my own compass. I’m no more right about everything than the next person. I have learnt through my own mistakes, it’s a continual experience. Sometimes those wrong turns have taught me things I wouldn’t have figured out any other way.

So what do I make of the current outrage over this sub standard video? It’s much ado about nothing in the overall scheme of things. But then again, so was the shooting of Archduke Ferdinand and look where that led us!