Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Near Life Experiences

If there is anything less satisfying than buying new tires, it is buying a new furnace. But that is exactly what I did this last weekend.

My Grandpa Mustache always said that I should always sleep with the window cracked so I didn't wake up dead. As it turns out, he was onto something. When Furnace Guy was loading my old equipment into the back of his van to make room for my shiny, new, energy-efficient Amana, he showed me a giant crack in the heating element. That crack--as it turned out--allowed the escape of toxic carbon monoxide gas into the basement of my house. Where I sleep. 
Furnace Guy said: I’m surprised you woke up.

You know that feeling you get when you ALMOST get into a car accident? That surge of adrenaline that makes your heart race and your head spin? That was my reaction when I learned that my furnace was trying to kill me. I experienced a crazy high. I had escaped a near death experience without even knowing it.

Even though I was fully awake and upright, and even though I was watching the murderous furnace being hauled away, my adrenaline surged through me.

And that surge--my friends--is caused by a chemical compound called epinephrine. This is a drug conveniently manufactured and delivered by our very own bodies. Let’s all take a moment to thank our medulla for bringing home the good stuff.
Like our fellow vertebrate animals, we experience the flight-or-fight response when we are faced with a threat to our survival. We are programmed to want to survive. It’s hard-wired into our brains.

Aside: How fascinating would it be if the MS chewed up my fight-or-flight wiring? If that ever happens, I am totally pitching it as a reality TV show. It can be a cross between Fight Club and New Yankee Workshop.

Anyway, I’ve been called an adrenaline junkie more than once. And maybe I am that. But I am not really a daredevil. Are those things mutually exclusive? I’m not sure. I think I can define it like this: I love roller coasters but hate heights.

Yes, I know. It’s weird.

But I understand why I love coasters. They make me feel…well… alive. I feel alive when I am cresting the peak of that first, can’t-turn-back-now hill. I feel the exhilaration overpower the fear. And make no mistake that it is real, true fear. Instinctual fear rooted in the back of all of our caveman brains.
Maybe the thing that gives us that adrenaline high is feeling the fear that something stirs, and then doing that thing anyway. What if the reason we stand for an hour in a line to ride the coaster is not for the actual ride? What if it is about overcoming the fear enough to step into that metal car and strap in? That is where the true victory lives. Not in the passive act of sitting still while the coaster cars click their way up that hill. It’s in the basic act of committing yourself to the ride. It’s quite a simple thing, really. Courage is just deciding to do it, then doing it. That’s it.

It felt a little scary knowing that my major home appliances had taken out a hit on me. But I’m not too worried. That furnace better get in line behind brain plaque, derby girls, and fifth graders.

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