Recently I was on the road and felt suddenly dizzy.
At first I thought it was nothing. My daughter was with me. I looked at her and kept driving.
The second time it hit I pulled off the road and asked my daughter to go and get me a Snickers. I hadn't eaten the entire day.
She got me a Snickers and a Coca-Cola. I ate the candy bar, feeling absolutely disgusting, and drank some of the Coke. These are normally treat foods, but in that moment they felt like bad medicine.
I got back on the road and the dizziness started again. So I pulled over into a McDonald's parking lot. I thought maybe I hadn't eaten enough.
"Quick, get me a fish sandwich and some fries," I begged her. I was reminded of the famous "McDonald's emergency" of my youth, when my mom sneaked me out to get exactly the same thing. (This is a family joke, how the craving for McDonald's in a Jewish family rises to the level of 911.)
Well that didn't work either.
Fifteen minutes later I was in the backseat. I was a little short of breath. My left arm hurt a little bit. Oh no, the left side! I thought to myself. That's the heart attack side!
I thought about my grandmother who had a heart attack in her early forties. My uncle who had the same.
I am dying, I thought. It's a heart attack or a stroke.
I wanted to call 911, but I was scared. What if it wasn't necessary? Then I'd look really stupid, for calling by mistake.
"Call 911," I said to my daughter.
I made that decision in the end because that fear of looking stupid was overridden by my mental image of dying.
I imagined the funeral, and there I would be looking down from the sky, at my family who had lost me because I was afraid of calling 911 and looking stupid.
So the paramedics came and...thankfully nothing was wrong. Except that I'd been stressed out lately, and for the first time in my life, I had what is called a "panic attack."
The paramedic told me to take up meditation and study Buddhism.
So it was a mistake. I can live with that. It's better than a heart attack.
It made me think about something, in general: How about the positive risks we could take, but avoid?
How much of our lives do we spend trying to avoid looking stupid?
How many ideas literally gone down the drain, because others might laugh?
How many friendships, marriages, business relationships never get off the ground because someone is afraid of rejection?
How many training opportunities go unused because of that thought, it's too late for me to learn.
What a shame, what a freaking shame. Especially when you consider all the people who do make fools of themselves, and nobody cares.
What is that joke I heard the other day,
"In your 20s you care what people think about you. In your 40s you stop caring what other people think about you. In your 60s you realize that nobody ever cared about what you did at all."
It's a great freedom to make mistakes and be stupid. That's what learning is. You just regress and become a kid again. You're flying blind and hoping the world will catch you.
It's OK. It's all OK.
At the end of the day those times we stuck our necks out and took the risks, are the times that we remember as the most meaningful.
Would I go back and call 911 again? Absolutely. Too many people are embarrassed to call, brush it off, and lose their lives, and their families and friends lose them.
Life is too short...take the risk of looking stupid, stay alive, and live it to the fullest.
* All opinions my own.