Six years ago today, the overhaul began.

Facebook showed me a face this morning that I barely recognized. It was a self-portrait, taken in a hospital bed, while doctor-prescribed morphine set my brain alight, and my appendix continued its slow melt into a puddle, flooding my bloodstream with potent bacteria. I looked like a half-ghost, one foot in the world of the living, the other in the world of the dead.

For most of our existence, barring providence, appendicitis was a sentence to a slow and painful death. I wasn't afraid of dying then. I had enough baseline medical knowledge to know that I'd walk out of the hospital, just as I walked in. What I didn't know is that I wouldn't walk out the same person.

The person in the picture was living on borrowed time. He had done most everything important wrong for the past four years. He had ignored what was essential. He had distracted himself with equal parts blind ambition and self-destruction. He was ignoring the billowing, black smoke pouring out of the engine and the oil change that was 10,000 miles overdue. It took the failure of an organ the size of his pinky for the entire system to start breaking down.

Most important, it took that failure for the overhaul to begin.

Tipping the cap.

Over time, I've developed the same healthy respect for a well-honed sentence as I do a loaded gun. Ideas articulated with precision are equally dangerous. Expressing yourself in writing is perilous business. While it's not likely to get you killed, you are putting yourself at risk.

For me, good writing is about exposing personal vulnerabilities. Willingly offering that kind of insight takes guts. I don't get stage fright, but the prospect of anyone reading anything with my name on it is terrifying.

This is why I have the utmost respect for anyone who writes from this place of vulnerability and does it well. Someone doing that right now is a former classmate of mine, Mike. You can and should read his blog here, where he recounts his struggle during the war in Afghanistan and on the home front. 

Mike's story is of courage, and the telling of the story is itself a courageous act. We should all read it closely.