Borrowing Time (A Story About Couches & Mountains)

Legacy, Life


I looked at the clock: it said 4:53 am.

I rolled over, as one does in the middle of the night, and noticed my wife gone. This isn’t a rare occurrence these days, as the baby in her belly often wakes her up by practicing early morning ninja moves, or sometimes her crazy husband has a silly dream and ends up pointing a sharp elbow directly into her face (this only happened once, I’m sure). Point being, she understandably gets a bit uncomfortable and many times migrates her sleeping patterns to one of the two full-size couches in our living room or dining room. (Yes, we have two couches in our 500 square foot apartment, but that’s a neurosis to explore another day.) This time was different, though; her pillow had stayed behind.

Girl doesn’t ever leave her Tempurpedic pillow.

I found her on the couch with her laptop, posting an update about our 32-year old friend, Will, who’s currently in a hospital at UCLA, dying of cancer.

Now as of this moment, Will is still here. We just saw him last night. We looked him in the eye and told him we loved him, and he responded the same. But I say “dying” instead of “living”  because there seems to be a clear difference between the two, doesn’t there? At some point you’re climbing the mountain, and at another point you’re going down the other side. What’s crazy to me is how we all completely missed the crest this time, with Will — it came and went so quickly as to not even really be noticed.

Most people, it seems, get to have their mountain crest late in life. Some time when your body gets old and more tired than it is today, you’ll walk over that peak and begin the descent. At some level, we understand this — although most of us try not to think about it too much. I don’t think anyone in our circle thought this was happening to Will when he was diagnosed with cancer less than 5 months ago. I certainly didn’t. He was young and healthy and, frankly, one of the finest human beings you would ever have the pleasure of meeting.

To be fair, we don’t yet know for sure that Will has crossed his final crest. We happen to be the type of people who believe in miracles, and cling as firmly to hope as one would a broken piece of a ship in the middle of a dark ocean. Despite this, we also recognize that right now, the Will we know is more gone than he is here, and that coming back from this — while certainly not impossible — would have to be generated by some Power truly extraordinary.

So in this moment, now 5:04am, I am reminded that no matter what kind of faith you believe in, or if you don’t believe in anything at all, in the issue of the mountain it doesn’t really matter. We are all borrowing time from somewhere else. Something otherworldly connects our beings to this life, and whatever that thing is, it is attached to our physical forms with a strong and fragile thread. No matter what you “believe,” the reality of the mountain of your life is true, and unless you’re the first person to avoid it, you’ll have a crest, too. If you are fortunate, you’ll get a long, slow, gradual, mostly-disease-free descent, and it will start when you’re much older.

My hope for you, and me, and all the people I love dearly is for that crest day to happen very far away from today, because let’s be honest: there’s much about this life that is pretty f*#&ing awesome. With every molecule in my being I want this to be true for Will, too — that this experience is just a blip on a much longer life; the deepest valley on a longer path.

My wife just finished her writing and returned to bed. She doesn’t have to be up as early as I do today, so I help make sure the blankets are snug around her, which she loves, I kiss her head, and take my laptop to one of our couches.

It’s 5:12am now.

I guess I was just reminded by this most terrible situation that we all get a mountain to climb. One of the trickiest parts of the journey is that we just don’t know when we’ll cross our peak, how long our path down the hill will be, or how much of the descent we’ll have control over. Until that happens, I suppose all we can do is do our best to pick the right mountain (which we have WAY more control over than we often think). We may as well enjoy the scenery as we walk, right?*


*I’m pretty sure this is a continual work-in-progress, by the way. We can constantly learn more about what kind of mountain we ought to be climbing, who we ought to be climbing it with, and what we should be looking at along the way. My friend Will did this better than just about anyone I’ve ever met, and I hope he’ll come back and walk the path with me for many, many more years.


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The Saga Of Father-preneurship: Health Insurance Edition



I know health insurance in the US is complicated for just about everyone. I will say, though, if your health insurance is provided through a company you work for, I hope you’ll pause for a quick moment of gratitude — you are blessed, perhaps more than you know.

Let me explain.

For those of us who own our businesses or are otherwise “self-employed,” we are completely on our own for health insurance. We have to find it, apply for it, buy it, pay for it, and fight with it on a regular basis. And at every single (often grueling) stage of the process, it is exponentially more of a pain in the ass than it is through an employer.

Insurance for my wife and I is delightfully complicated, because I own my business and she works in television. Many people who work in the entertainment industry have access to great health insurance through their unions — her position of Associate Producer, however, happens to be in a black hole of unions. There just isn’t one for AP’s. (Weird, I know.) This means she has to be on a show/network that allows her to claim “non-affiliate” benefits. If the show/network says “NOPE!” she’s completely out of luck (here’s looking at you, Nickelodeon). If the show/network says “YES,” she can qualify — but only after she “banks enough hours” to do so.

She was able to do this last year, and got us pretty amazing benefits for a 6-month period, from Sept 2012 – Feb 2013. This was very nice, and particularly special as we happened to get pregnant during that window. Being the proactive folks we are, we researched all our options and decided that when her insurance ended on March 1, it would make sense for her to continue on COBRA through the summer to have the baby, and as of March 1 I would go back to a “cheap” catastrophic-only coverage type of plan until she gets us more “real” health benefits in the fall.

Well, it seemed like a good idea.

It turns out that once you’re an expectant father, you immediately get placed on the “high-risk” insurance list. (Apparently, getting your wife knocked up is considered a preexisting condition?) While part of me was flattered to be so intimately included in the birthing process (that would be sarcasm), most of me was flabbergasted — it seemed like it should somehow be illegal to deny coverage based on “impending father-ness.”

The reason for this, I learned (thanks to a good friend in the insurance industry), is that during the first 30 days of new baby’s life, if something were to happen to mama’s insurance, daddy’s insurance would HAVE to pick up the tab. So, instead of taking on this additional liability and risk, the health insurers just deny you outright.

Lucky me.

Fortunately, we were able to get me on the COBRA plan as well, and while it doesn’t remotely resemble anything cheap (it’s roughly 2.5x the cost of the cheap plan I wanted), on the upside, I am able to load up on prescription nose spray again.

Let us rejoice.


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Rushing Through Life Is A Form Of Violence


The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of innate violence.

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.

More than that, it is cooperation with violence.

The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace.

It destroys her own inner capacity for peace.

It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.

Thomas Merton



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