Everything is in its Right Place

In its right place…”
Radiohead (2000)

In typical form, Thom Yorke  from the British electronica, post-rock group Radiohead, has penned the lyrics to this particular song, Everything in its Right Place, in a cryptic fashion, allowing the listener to interpret them as they see fit.

For me, the opening of the song is captivating – the synthesizer which is followed by a computer generated-type vocal which is heard throughout sets a very ethereal and moody tone.

But it’s not just the “only in Radiohead fashion” instrumentation that does it for me, it’s the very simplistic lyrics, in particular, “Everything is in its Right place.” I listen to this song often, especially when I need reassurance and a reminder that not only is everything in its right place, but that things are going to be okay, no matter what the circumstance.

To take this further, in my 12 Step fellowship, the Third Step states, “We made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the card of God as we understood him.” To me, and many others who ascribe to the Steps, this essentially means that we have the faith to know that when we “turn it over” to a Higher Power (God) and allow for a process that many times cannot be explained in human terms, things will work out as they were intended.

For example, I’ve had a great many faith building experiences in my life. One in particular was in 2017, when I participated in a century (102 mile) bike ride for a local charity, Ride for Roswell, which is one of the United States largest cycling fundraisers. The money that is raised for this massive event (8000 riders) goes for cancer treatment and research at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the country’s leading cancer centers.

I was an avid cyclist in years prior, having transitioned from running to this form of exercise which is easier on the body. My furthest ride had been 62 miles (metric century) many years before. It had always been a “bucket list” thing to do for me. I had a colleague at work, Victoria, who I shared an office with who had completed a full Ironman triathlon. She was fierce. When I brought up the idea of doing the century, she said, “You can do it. Just work your way up to a 75 or 80 mile training ride.” Well, I fell for that line and before you knew it I had sold my Giant road bike and replaced it with a carbon fiber Specialized bike that was considerably lighter and more suitable for long rides.

I took several months in the spring leading up to the ride which was on the third Saturday in June (and also about five days after my 55th birthday – I wasn’t exactly a youngun). But every weekend I got together with several guys, my main riding partner Dane, another rider Mark, who we had met the previous year, and another rider Tony, who got together with us a couple of times. These rides were a lot of fun and helped me to develop the stamina necessary for the longest ride of my life.

The day of the big ride arrived and we took off from the start/finish site, the University at Buffalo (UB), at 6:30 am. It indeed up just being me and Mark riding together as Dane was injured. The route went all the way north to Lake Ontario and winded back through Western New York to the finish at UB. At one point I made the mistake of joining a pace line formed by a cycling club from Jamestown, New York. Like a fool, I even took the front of the line. At one point we were riding over 20 miles an hour (which is pretty fast on a bike).

Well, to cut a long story short, I began to encounter trouble about 15 or so miles out from the finish. The inside of my upper right thigh began to cramp up pretty badly. And to add insult to injury, the cleat on my left cycling shoe had become worn out and my foot kept slipping out of the pedal. I was in rough shape. With about 10 miles to go, I called Mark who was a little further up, saying that I needed to stop for a second. He came back and asked if I wanted the SAG vehicle (the truck that picks up injured riders or who have bikes that are inoperable). I exclaimed, “No! I have to finish.” And I pushed on. The further I rode, the slower I got. There was one final rest stop only about 5 miles or so from the finish. We took a breather and continued.

The most memorable point was when I had about a mile to go to the finish. I was on the Audubon Parkway that extended from Dodge Road to North Forest which then led to the road to the finish line. It was one of the most physically demanding experiences I’ve ever had (and I’ve run two marathons). My leg was killing me. And I could barely hold myself up on the handlebars. I recall looking at my left forearm where I have a tattoo of a cross and the inscription Isaiah 40:31 (“For those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength; they will mount up on wings like eagles; they will run and not be weary; they will walk and not be faint.”

I prayed, had songs going through my head, and most of all, thought of my mother-in-law, Laurette, who I was riding in honor of. She was battling ovarian cancer.

I did make it to the finish line.

As I said, I’ve had a variety of these faith building experiences and tomorrow morning at 7:30 am, I will be facing one of the biggest, if not the biggest I’ve ever had. A week and a half ago I went to the Buffalo General Hospital with, what I thought at the time, a sciatica attack. What it turned out to be was a spinal issue with my L5 disc. A small piece of cartilage had “leaked” (separated) and was not touching the nerve which connected to my right foot. This resulted in the foot being numb and weak.

I’m extremely fortunate in that my orthopedic specialist is one of my closest friends who I’ve known for at least 25 years. We are each other’s confidants and have developed the kind of relationship that offers the opportunity to be open and vulnerable.

But when I went to see him a week ago for my initial evaluation the relationship seemed to shift. In my mind he was my doctor first. His whole demeanor was remarkably different from the many times I’ve seen him since my running days when I initially developed degenerative disc issues and then a bulging disc a few years ago. He had always said that I didn’t seem like a candidate for surgery. But this time was different, as I said. He had me go for an MRI which revealed the issue and which was confirmed by the consulting radiologist.

I had a follow-up visit two days later and my wife, Suzy, accompanied me. We discussed all of the options, including non-surgical injections. In the end, the decision was mine and I chose to go with the surgery.

In the days since, I have been devoid of any anxiety or worry. I’m amazed at how calm I’ve been about the whole thing. Surgery, and especially the risks associated with it, can affect a person’s mental health, whether it be anxiety or depression. For me personally, I’m in a very good place in my life. I have an amazingly supportive partner and family, a great job with great people to work with, many friends, both from my 12 Step family and others I’ve had for many years.

Another thing is that I’m not projecting the outcome.I honestly don’t know what to expect. And I also realize what is in and what isn’t in my control. When I’m on the operating table under anesthesia, I’m completely in the hands of my doctor, the surgical team, and the God of my understanding, who I believe works through this team of experts. So what do I have to fear? 

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Published by Mental Health Verses

I'm a mental health advocate, educator, and TEDx speaker. I also am a featured columnist for BP magazine, I have lived with bipolar disorder since 1981 and I'm in long-term recovery from addiction. I host the program, Mental Health Verses on the SUNY Buffalo State radio station, WBNY 91.3 FM

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