His eyes sparkled, his laughter filled the room and his life will forever impact those who were lucky to be a part of this little boy’s courageous character. Alex Lipstein, a five year old living in Tampa, Florida, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer on Mother’s Day weekend in two-thousand-six and lost his battle six months post diagnosis on November seventh. I surrender to the mystery of his passing but not without the wisdom from his fearless and bold fight. I began to ask myself, what would I do differently if I were terminal? It became glaringly obvious that I was living a safe life in my comfort zone and was ‘stuck in suck’ – My job sucks. My relationship sucks. My life sucks. My health sucks.
I was finishing final touches on my prospectus for completion of a Master of Arts in Human Resource Development when my life was profoundly shifted by the devastating diagnosis of our family friend. Suddenly, my perceived insurmountable and stressful life circumstances of impending divorce, addiction and juggling career and kids were thrust into perspective. The storms of life were taking toll on my health and this game changing event shook me into action; fearless, positive action. My first line of defense was to make healthy living a priority, so Alex’s mother and I joined a kickboxing club. This was the beginning of my health and wellness expedition, which would include overcoming my fear of swimming so I could compete in local triathlons. Testing my fear of swimming and competing in sprint triathlons became the fuel that would spawn a life I never dreamed possible.
In twenty-eleven, I confronted my fitness fears at the highest level and crossed the Ironman finish line completing a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 run with Alex as the motivation to face my fears. Enhancing my fitness levels impacted my life in many positive ways, yet an overall sense of well-being continued to escape me. The most surprising aspect of my personal life ride was realizing that healthy living is not a singular component of the body, but is rather a trilogy of body, mind and spirit. My life on the hot mess express, took a wild, sharp detour when I began to unveil the importance of mind and spirit. This unveiling of truth led me to dig deeper into the depths of myself to discover the true meaning of life. Alex taught me life is short. There are no guarantees. To never have regrets. Small living was no longer my frame of mind. I had a dream that I kept avoiding due to fear. It was time to live like I was terminal.
On August ninth, twenty-fifteen I embarked on the goal of my lifetime by cycling from Tampa to New York City, where Alex’s mother now resides. The 1,300 mile tour up the east coast on my Trek Madone 5.2 road bike in honor of Alex, was centered around fundraising for Children’s Cancer Center, a Tampa nonprofit organization committed to supporting families who have been devastated by cancer diagnosis. You can’t be foolish to believe that life is guaranteed to last 80 plus years. You are one diagnosis, car ride, accident or experience away from death. So, why are we sitting miserably in the comfort zone? Stop accepting a life of unhappiness, making fear based decisions. Project Fear Is Horseplay, the name of my cycling journey, brought to light the insight I knew to be true. While you may think cycling 1,300 miles alone on my bike was a physical feat, and it was, the spiritual journey was far more powerful. Action without awareness is a futile journey. Focus on action but not without emphasis on quieting the mind digging into the depths of your spiritual self.
What would you do differently if you knew you were dying? Find love? Lose weight? Quit smoking? Work on your relationships? Go back to school? Get a new job? Think less? Meditate more? Are you living a terminal life?
“Everything you want from your dream life is on the other side of fear”