You Can’t Control the Pitch

by Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical on September 20, 2011

You Can't Control the Pitch

Honestly I don’t like baseball.  If I’m flipping through the channels and hit a station airing a baseball game I just keep right on flipping.  I’ve been to a few games and I did enjoy myself but I think a large part of that enjoyment was all the beer I drank which distracted me from the fact that I was actually watching a baseball game.

But I do respect the skill involved in swinging a bat at a fast moving ball and making a solid connection.  The batter never knows what pitch is going to be thrown and in a split second has to decide whether it’s worth swinging at and then swing perfectly in order to hit the ball.  How they react in a split second to each pitch determines whether they get a hit or not.

Recently life threw me a curveball and I not only reacted to it in my typical knee-jerk way but I also had a hard time adjusting to it.  It’s funny and almost pathetic how when life throws us a curveball we almost instantly want to close our eyes, imagine the worst case scenario and swing at it wildly hoping to at least hit something besides air.

The Pitch!

Here is a brief synopsis of the scenario.  Ever since my last stay in Indonesia I’ve suffered from gastrointestinal problems.  At one point I had been diagnosed with a parasite and endured countless regiments of antibiotics.  I’ve taken herbs, probiotics, aloe-vera liquid, fiber supplements, and specialized vitamins; pretty much anything that promised a cure, yet nothing has brought total relief.

Sometimes I feel great and at other times my symptoms cause me problems.  Doctors seem clueless as to what it might be and instead of delving deeper into the mystery diagnose me with IBS.  So I decided that before I head back to Indonesia I’d go see one last gastroenterologist and see if they had any ideas.  They advised that I undergo some invasive and expensive procedures to rule some things out.  I agreed as I don’t think it’s wise to gamble with one’s health.

If you are American then you are familiar with the mess that is healthcare.  Americans have excellent healthcare as far as standards and quality are concerned but how we pay for it is a different beast.  Healthcare benefits are tied to your employer.  Many employers pay part of the premium and pass off the rest of the cost to the employee.  In my case my employer pays for all of it but that comes at a cost. Most diagnostic testing is not covered until my $500 deductible is met and then they pay 80% of the rest.

So I’m on the hook for an “estimated” $1100 for this procedure.  I say estimated because the great thing about American healthcare is nobody can give you a straight answer on what procedures cost because it depends on who you are and what insurance you have and what codes are used when billing the insurance company. It’s a bit like driving a new car off the lot without knowing how much you are paying for it.

The Swing!

Now, $1100 is a lot of money when you are budgeting for a 1 year sabbatical.  It isn’t chump change.  It has put a bit of a dent into our sabbatical fund. Naturally my knee-jerk response was to announce to my wife that our sabbatical was off.  “We’ll never come up with $1100 so let’s just cancel this thing and try again another time.”  My mind was flooded with all the what-if’s.  What if they find something serious?  What if they find nothing and the mystery continues?  What if I need expensive treatment?  Where am I going to get $1100?  It’s so easy to view the worst case scenario.

I made myself suffer for several days obsessing over the unknowns and uncertainty of the situation.  I could cancel the procedure and just live with my condition.  I could postpone the sabbatical departure.  I could have the procedure and still take the sabbatical and worry about where the money would come from later.  I played around with different scenarios in my mind twisting them around, moving different pieces here and there always searching for an answer that seemed just out of my grasp.

Then I read a post by Caleb Wojcik of Pocket Changed who had just announced that he quit his job to pursue his own goals.  In his post was this quote:

“Time is a zero-sum game, a limited resource. Life is too short to do only what we have to do; it is barely long enough to do what we want to do.” ~ Tal Ben-Shahar

Caleb also said “If you’re not at least a little scared about the future, you are not pushing yourself hard enough.”  I realized that there are always going to be curveballs in life; lots of curveballs.  How we react and adjust to those curveballs determines whether we strikeout or whether we knock it out of the park.  It determines whether we do the things we really want to do or whether we relegate ourselves to a mediocre life.

The Hit!

I don’t want to be the batter who never swings.  I also don’t want to be the batter that reacts to the pitch by swinging blindly at the ball.  I want to be the batter that is confident in his batting ability; the batter that is able to read the pitch, concentrate on the ball, analyze the speed and angle of the pitch and adjust his swing to knock it out of the park.

I’ll admit it.  I’m scared.  I’m really scared.  But as Caleb points out, that means I must be pushing myself hard and in the right direction.  I don’t know what the results of these tests will be.  Frankly I’m beginning to not care because I realize now that I can’t control the pitch.  It’s out of my control and I can’t worry or care about the things I can’t control.  What I can care about and what I must care about is how I react to the pitch and to the things that are outside of my control.

So we will continue to play the game.  We may swing and miss a few balls but we’ll keep swinging.  We have some major announcements coming up soon here at 1 Year Sabbatical and I can’t wait to finally share them with you.

Until then think about the game you are playing.  Have you stopped swinging at curveballs in your life because you’re scared of striking out?  Maybe you’re swinging wildly at any pitch that comes your way.  Stop and realize that you can’t control the pitch.  It’s OK to be fearful of the pitch but be confident in your ability to react in ways that knock it out of the park.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Gillian @OneGiantStep September 20, 2011 at 6:56 pm

It’s a good lesson to learn early – but a hard one when it’s your health your talking about. I hope the testing is conclusive and gives you a diagnosis finally. I have Crohn’s but am lucky enough to be controlled by medication. Yes, I traveled with a years worth of pills in my backpack. Carefully packed and well labeled with appropriate notes from doctors but I had no trouble crossing any borders and was only asked about the stack-o-pills once. What I’m saying is that the end diagnosis doesn’t have to alter your plans either. But make sure you’re well taken care of – traveling while sick would really suck!
Gillian @OneGiantStep recently posted..Ten Must See Deserts

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical September 21, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Thanks Gillian! Still waiting to get the results of the biopsies but the initial results were excellent. Nothing major seen. Now just a waiting game to hear back. They are looking to rule out tropical or celiac sprue and some other things. I’ve lived with it for the last 6 years. It may be that I’m allergic to cubicles and just getting out of one will cure me. 🙂 Hope all is well with you! Cheers!

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Ali September 26, 2011 at 5:52 am

Matt, I think you’re absolutely making the right decision by getting the procedure. I have Colitis (similar to Crohn’s that Gillian has) and it sucks to have to take pills for the rest of my life, but it quickly just becomes something else you do every day like brushing your teeth. The money you have to dish out is an annoying set back, but you’ll find a way to make it work. Check with an accountant but health costs can sometimes be a tax write off so maybe you’ll get some of it back next year. Anyway, I hope everything goes well with the tests and it turns out to be something they can fix easily. Keep us posted!
Ali recently posted..Valencia in Photos

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical September 28, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Hey Ali! I’m working on an update post that will shed some light on things and we’ll be sharing a big announcement really soon. I was depressed for a few days after all this went down but now I’m back in the saddle and ready to ride. I’ve been reading this book called “Reinventing Yourself: How to Become The Person You’ve Always Wanted to Be” by Steve Chandler. In it he talks about the difference between Owners and Victims. It’s easy to play the role of the victim but so much more exciting and rewarding to be an owner. So I decided to start owning every aspect of my life instead of feeling like the world is out to get me.

Thanks for the tip on possible tax implications. I’ll have to look into that. Be great to get a tax write off.

I’ve heard of colitis before. Are there some tips you can offer for traveling with a GI disorder? Hope all is well with you!

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Ali November 10, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Matt, I’m sorry I didn’t see your response earlier! I commented just a few days before I left for my RTW and never came back to look. I think my only advice for traveling with a GI disorder is to be aware of what foods bother you, know what you can and can’t eat. I always want to try new things when I’m traveling, but I have to be cautious so I don’t get sick. I had to get enough medication to last me my whole trip, which is a pain to carry around but always could be worse. Above all, I’d say just talking to your doctor before you go. I try not to let my colitis affect me but sometimes it’s unavoidable.
Ali recently posted..Transportation Day – Seminyak, Bali to Bromo, Java

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical November 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Hi Ali! I am actually trying some new meds and probiotics and it seems to be making a huge difference. GI issues definitely suck. But like you I don’t want to let it stop me from living a full life. Cheers!

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Tristan September 27, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Nice metaphor for the challenges that come up in life, Matt. Keep up the writing =)
Tristan recently posted..Big Ambitions: Conquering Languages, Travel, and Other Mischief

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical September 28, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Thanks Tristan! I like to believe that challenges are what make us stronger. As hard as they can seem at times they do serve a purpose.

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Kim September 28, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Matt, I am wishing you well and hope that the tests tell you what you need to hear and that you can move on. Maybe you really are just allergic to the cubicle… you wouldn’t be the first!

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical September 28, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Thanks so much Kim! I’m working on some updates and some big news to announce soon. I was so excited to read about your plans!!

And yes, the thought has crossed my mind that I am allergic to the cubicle. In fact when I was working from home for 3 years I rarely got sick and always felt good. But as soon as I had to go back into an office I started experiencing health issues. Those cubicles are death traps.

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Tristan September 29, 2011 at 12:06 am

The book sounds good, Matt. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.

In the meantime, you can add me as another one allergic to cubicles 😉
Tristan recently posted..Big Ambitions: Conquering Languages, Travel, and Other Mischief

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Ryan October 9, 2011 at 11:39 pm

Wow, Matt… What a sobering post. Sorry to hear about this condition, and sorry to hear not much has worked either. Hoping you’ll find a cure one day… But what is this big announcement I hear of and that I keep seeing tweeted across twitter? Don’t keep us longer in suspense, man! 🙂
Ryan recently posted..A New Chapter For Ryan Goes Abroad

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical October 18, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Thanks Ryan! I have a good idea what the cure is. It’s just a matter of convincing doctors. We will have some big updates soon. 🙂

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Will - My Spanish Adventure October 20, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Sound, sound advice Matt! Fear can be debilitating or powering force.

Been taking a lot of good advice from you in the LR forums too. You’re totally right about the life is too short to being doing you don’t like to do pitch. How did raising that money go?

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical October 20, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Hi Will! I wish I could say that fear and I are good friends but we’re more like antagonistic neighbors. I just try and always remember that life is short so you have to just go for the things you really want. Sometimes that is easier said than done though. I like what you’ve done with your Spanish Adventure. I watched the video of you conversing in Spanish and that really motivated me to get back into studying Indonesian. Like you, it won’t be long before I will be immersing myself into the language and I am hopeful that I can progress as quickly as you apparently have.

As far as the financial aspect of our sabbatical we are still waiting on being billed for everything so we don’t even have an idea of how much things will be. But I just have to rest on faith that everything will work out just as it should. Life continues and we just learn to deal with the roadblocks that come up from time to time. Thanks for reminding me that I need to start spending more time in the LR forums.

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Tony November 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Reading through this and it’s startling how we’ve faced many of the same issues. I know your health issues ultimately delayed your sabbatical. I kind of have the opposite problem. My health issues (see my post “When Health Fails for the gory details”) are leading me to make the decision to travel sooner rather than later. I had been planning to take off at the end of 2013 – but I’m thinking end of April might be better timing – sure I won’t have as much money, but I can probably find a way around that. Money is important for me as I was divorced back in 2003 and still paying child maintenance and putting my daughter through University (expensive). Glad you finally got everything sorted though. By the way I enjoyed your post over at Married With Luggage. Very honest article. My motto is “there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback”. All the best, Tony 🙂
Tony recently posted..When your health fails

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical November 16, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Tony, Just read your post on “When your health fails.” I can certainly relate to many things there. After my last trip to Indonesia I came down really sick with a parasite. I don’t feel that I have ever fully recovered from that.

When one is young it is so easy to take good health for granted. As I have gotten older I’ve put a much higher priority on my health, especially as I have kids.

I think the last few paragraphs of your post really connected with me. It is very easy to get caught in a negative spiral and difficult to break out of. I’ve been there. It’s important to always have hope for a better future and believe that.

BTW…I love your motto! Cheers!

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