For most, taking an elevator is as mundane as drinking water, but for me it’s a heart pumping adventure. I’m already 10 minutes late for my meeting but I haven’t budged.
I have created a set of rules for me and the elevator. First and foremost, I cannot be alone. I don’t care if it’s the 90 year old Chinese woman who can’t speak english or the harried food delivery person lost in his iPhone.
Second, the car must be big enough to fit at least 15 people and the doors open from the middle so I can pry them apart when it breaks down.
Third, I won’t enter elevators on Park Avenue South. They are older and creaky and just make me very uncomfortable. On the flip side, I am quite comfortable in Las Vegas elevators; Big, roomy, with TVs… fast and reliable. They have distracting commercials too.
There are more, but I’ll spare you.
I have lived on both the 25th floor and 35th floor in NYC apartments but I never minded those rides. They were familiar and felt safe. I could ride them all day long, no problem. On this day though, I waited till I felt comfortable, when the situation met my strict criteria, and stepped in behind the other passengers, praying that their floor was higher than mine, holding my breath and pressing number 17. I exhaled as the other passenger pressed 19. Clearly, I’ve survived every ride.
I like to think I can control everything, so what if I got stuck in that elevator? Would I panic until I passed out? Would I try to climb out through the top? Would I just slide down on my ass and cry? Would I just go crazy from fear? Would I run out of air? Would I eventually just calm down and wait for help? Would my cell phone work to get me help, or would I be like Tom Hanks and Wilson stuck on that Island?
I like to think I can control everything, but I have lived life as an entrepreneur. I have been a risk taker all my life. I have had many cycles, ups and downs, many fulfilling adventures and painful failures. But I always believed I would survive and thrive. I didn’t like adversity and defeat but I didn’t fear it either. I made money, lost it, and made it back again. It drove my wife crazy but we have had fun from the fruits of my risks. My family loved the benefits and rolled with the punches.
I like to think I can control everything, but I have lived with uncertainty my whole life. My childhood, a broken home, and my experiences left me feeling unsettled.
I like to think I can control everything, but I love roller coasters and actually enjoy airline flights. I love skiing on terrain I have no business skiing and I love exploring new and exotic destinations to which others would never venture. I have, at times, lived on the edge and I always welcomed the challenges that came with it.
Because of this all, I met great friends, married for 25 years have had great kids and I have lived my life my way, always searching for meaning in my life, searching for spirituality, and always knowing there are different ways to look at things. I am somewhat typical but inside I always have felt different, sensitive to a fault, with an ability for deep empathy that contradicts my ability to be selfish I have had a great relationship with my family. They get me.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, everything changed and nothing changed; except now the stakes became higher. When my esophagus stopped working properly, I was faced with even more struggle. Feeding tubes, bouts of hopelessness, anxiety, and lots and lots of pain.
So what control do I have? Well, I can control my perception, maybe my thoughts, maybe my words, and my faith, and who I say I am in this matter. I wouldn’t know how to get out of that elevator and I can’t control things about my illness, because it’s taking time , but I ask myself: Can I control how I deal with it?
Can I surrender to what is and still fight the fight (which by the way is what I am doing)? Can I relax a bit, calm down, be with the discomfort and smile? Can I wake up in the morning say the Modeh Ani, a Jewish prayer of thanks, and feel grateful for my remission and for the beautiful life I have been privileged to have and look outside my physical body and do things like helping others not as fortunate.
Even at sloan Kettering I won’t go into an elevator alone. I am more afraid of riding one than the cancer itself. (Not really, but it’s close.) How crazy is that?
When you step in an elevator, you give up control. I guess you could say I don’t have total control of my future but that is somewhat freeing. I control today through, Wednesday, June 9th. How I want to see the day. How I want to be with my loved ones. How I want to eat and pray and be. How I believe and trust in myself and God (yes I believe). What I say to myself and others and what kind of person I want to be.
I have been growing my business. I have also been playing some tennis lately. Don’t be surprised if I start again, beating players 20 years younger, or see me diving for basketball rebounds because it’s what I love to do.
Just don’t bet against me.