Today is my last day as an entire human. Tomorrow a portion of my heart will be replaced by that of a different species. I'm not afraid of the surgery. My reluctance to proceed has a deeper source.
I am an environmental biologist and ecologist - a very good one. I have an extraordinarily intuitive and intimate understanding of the natural world. Years of travel and living knee-deep in nature at our off-grid cabin in the woods, sans mortgage and watch – taught me more about deep ecology than all these years in academia.
Ecology is more than my specialty, and certainly more than my profession. Simply, I love nature's dance of imperfect perfection. I know its rhythm better than my own heartbeat. This is why every experience of purposeful destruction is like the desecration of my religion. Or more graphically, like a punch in the gut. Through deep ecology, I can make sense of the world, I can predict the future, or better yet, predict its unpredictability. When I bother to slow down, I marvel at it's complexity and I realize that it is the source of all of the greatest beauty I have ever witnessed.
So tomorrow I will contradict all of this in the most personal way. My heart suffers from a congenital defect, another simple perfect imperfection.
Ecologically, this means I should be culled from the population.
In a very general way, the society that will probably extend my life is the one that I battle against every day. It will be like sleeping with the enemy. Knowing all this gives me near-paralyzing sadness.
In sum, to undergo the surgery that will patch my heart - and for only a few years - is a true defeat. It is counter to all that I believe.
It is no matter that the doctors say I have the coronary arteries of a ten year old and the cardiovascular system of an athlete (oh, except for that one little bit that is killing me). It is no matter that I ran my last trail marathon just a few months ago at 7000 feet, and that my diet looks like an advertisement for Whole Foods. The doc says I will be running a marathon within a year, in addition to all sorts of other outdoorsy stuff. Even if that is true, and even if some of it is truly noteworthy, it all -for me- will be followed by a little qualifier. I will be a person living his beliefs, but with a footnote. Life with an asterisk.
Forget choices. I will have the surgery. I am swept along by the sum of all the decisions I have ever made, as well as the decisions and actions of those around me. It is equivalent to being stuck in six lanes of rush hour traffic while your immediate exit is five lanes over. The shift would cause extraordinary wreckage.
I will buck up and deal with this for who-knows-how-long. And you can believe I will push it, because after all, now it is just life*. I will post the journey here, from invalid to marathon trail runner, even if it's only for nostalgia. Because today feels like the last day of my life.