The following was originally published in the September 2012 edition of Wild Sister Magazine. It’s the story of how I died, came back to life, and embraced the healing power of creativity.
Lessons Gleaned from Death’s Bittersweet Kisses: Learning to Live a Life Powered by Fearless Creativity
The summer of 2012 did not go as planned. I had surgery on my severely damaged Achilles’ Tendon in late May. Complications from that surgery lead to: multiple blood clots in my lungs and right leg; a near-death experience; five additional surgeries; several weeks in the hospital; and a recovery that was nothing short of miraculous. It’s three months later now and I have learned to walk again – both literally and metaphorically. Today I walk through this world as a woman transformed. I am powered by fearless, creative energy and a fierce will to explore life. It wasn’t an easy summer of picnics and fireflies, it was an enlightening summer of magic and spiritual revelations. It changed me forever.
A second chance at life is a heady thing. Since my near-death experience, everyone tells me how lucky I am. How blessed. How fortunate. They look at me with sympathy, love, and expectation. Somewhere in the telling of the story, there is an odd “my-God-Melinda-you-were-meant-to-do-amazing-things” moment when the person I’m talking to looks up at me and tilts their head as if they expect to notice that I now wear a golden halo. At first, these moments freaked me out. This second chance at life seemed so mammoth and so portentous that my heart became heavy with the weight of expectation. The thought that I had some special mission to accomplish overwhelmed me. I remember lying in bed in the ICU thinking groggy, medicated thoughts about how great it would be if the universe sent me a message with clear guidelines and goals. And then I realized – it already had.
As crazy as it sounds, on the afternoon of June 5th, 2012, the universe sent me a somewhat silly and cryptic, yet ultimately profound message about who I truly am. I laid in the back of the speeding ambulance while worried-looking paramedics scrambled around cursing and attaching me to various machines. I was calm. My body began to shut down and everything was cold and peaceful. As the reality of the physical world grew ever more distant, I thanked God for giving me a life full of adventure, love, and art. I thought about my friends and family and I said goodbye to each of them in their turn. I looked up at the silvery texture of the roof and I tried to maintain focus on it as it winked in and out from bright silver to black nothingness. “That’s just like me,” I thought. “I’m the girl who loves crows – I focus in on the shiny bits even as death closes in.”
Here’s where my story becomes surreal. Somewhere in the background, I heard the paramedic curse again as he tried to find a pulse. I could no longer feel his hand on my wrist. This was the moment when Death arrived. Perhaps it was the musings of my oxygen-starved brain, but there in the Grim Reaper’s embrace, I had no idea if I’d live to tell the tale of his bittersweet kisses. My last three thoughts were an attempt to convince Death that my unfinished business warranted a second chance.
Whew – that’s a lot of build up for what will very likely seem ridiculous. I found my arguments silly at first too, in fact the paramedics later told me that I laughed out loud and frightened them all just as they began to lose me.
1. I can’t die today, I still haven’t been to Paris!
2. I can’t die yet, I’ve never had sex in a car!
3. I can’t die, I’ve got more dancing to do!
More dancing to do? Really? Clearly Death is wiser than I am (or maybe he doesn’t know that I’m a mediocre dancer) because on the surface, those are three very silly reasons to grant a reprieve. Maybe he’d met his quota for the day. Maybe I was just really lucky. Maybe I’m meant to change the world. Regardless of the reason, a week later as I lie in the ICU, I began to understand the deeper meanings of my protests and see them as gifts from the underworld.
Each protest represents a power that I’d lost along the way.
– The fiery passion of my wanderlust.
– An open mindset regarding romantic love and intimacy.
– The physical strength of my body and the joy of freely moving about to the rhythms of the world.
Each lost power became a goal.
– I will travel as I’ve never traveled before. I will get lost. Every day I will witness the world around me in all its glorious detail. I will be an explorer of places and people. Near and far, I will travel as I’ve never traveled before.
– I will be a lover who acts with her body and leads with her heart. I will touch another in an act of love without censoring my passion. I will proudly share my naked self with a kindred spirit who will partner me in life.
– I will dance like Thom Yorke – feral and without limits. I will dance through life and create art that is free and wild with joy because I know that “free and wild with joy” is the reflection of the most golden, sun-shiniest part of my soul.
These goals are powered by fearless creativity.
My conversation with Death created the map for an extraordinary new journey. Each day I wake up filled with gratitude and I ask myself: “What can I accomplish today if I live in the light of fearless creative joy?” Try it with me tomorrow. Ask yourself this question in the morning and remind yourself of it throughout the day. Notice how the decisions you make are different and as you do, remember this:
– You are here to do amazing things.
– Every life is a miracle.
– You wear a golden halo.
– You have a special mission to accomplish.
– You already have the power to change your life – you hold it within you right now.
– When you tap into this power, each day will hold more laughter, more love, more forgiveness, and more pure, genuine joy.
– Only you can unleash this power and only you can wield it.