Friday, February 11, 2022

Getting Rid of the Box

collie and richard, thinking outside the box

An Adirondack Outlaw Survivor Approach To Living Life Forward

We’ve all heard the phrase “Think outside the box.”  It’s all too frequently offered as a euphemism for innovative thinking or creative problem solving.  It’s even been used by many “experts” as a foundation philosophy for a long list of bestselling books.

In the current moment, humankind finds itself facing a daunting array of existential challenges.  From pollution, poverty, climate change, violence, racism, to political extremism, raging wildfires, the ever-present threat of armed conflict, famine, and yes, even COVID.  No matter the issue, we clearly struggle to find innovative solutions that help us forge a unified path forward.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m long past tired of elected “leaders” and self- proclaimed “experts” who continue to offer “solutions” that fail miserably to solve any problems.  It’s the blind leading the blind.  It’s a point man on patrol with no map and no compass. As the old saying goes; “Those who can’t do, teach.”  The problem lately to me seems to be, the rest of us follow. Solutions governed by greed, ignorance, intolerance, self-interest and politics, leading us all off the cliff, like hungry herds of shorn sheep.

This frustrates me to no end, as I watch my children and grandchildren’s path towards the future being mapped out by morons.

I’ve survived cancer three times, living life through it all battling multiple sclerosis. My cancer docs say I beat long odds.  I’ve been labeled an “MS anomaly” by my neurologist. Other folks can put any label on me that they choose. These life battles have taught me who I truly am; an Adirondack Outlaw survivor.

I won’t lie, accomplishing this anew every day has been no simple feat.  I must continually assess, learn, adapt, depend on he support of others to face everchanging realities. Through it all, I’ve realized that survival doesn’t come in a “box.”  Life’s not a “Happy Meal.”

Here’s an example; cancer took my tongue. As a result, for the past fifteen years, I’ve survived amongst humans without consuming their food. Stop and contemplate that for one moment.   Suddenly, I had a problem; living life forward in a world devoid of food everything; bacon and egg breakfasts, family dinners, restaurants, taverns, mom’s apple pie, fast-food restaurants, grocery stores, hamburgers, steaks on the grill, a thirst-quenching beer or Coke.  I had to reconstruct life with no “Happy Meal.”

So, instead of focusing on FOOD, on the things I could NOT have, I turned my life’s path forward to embracing the things that I COULD.

     I COULD embrace life with my wife and our children. I COULD fill that black hole food void with other things. With the support of those around me, I COULD fill life’s void with camping, hunting, fishing, collecting baseball cards, tail wagging fur ball Paw Patrol expeditions, planting trees, hand digging ponds on my land, writing stories about all of it.

Cancer forced me to think differently. I had to get beyond thinking “outside the box”. Cancer forced me to realize; LIFE HAS NO “BOX”.  So, I discarded mine. My very survival hinged on it.

As humankind faces ongoing existential challenges, I urge everyone to adopt that philosophy.  Instead of trying to salvage life’s “Happy Meal”, ditch the free toy, redefine the menu. Above all else, GET RID OF THE BOX!

Our survival depends on it.

Related Stories

Lifelong NYS resident. Raised in Saranac Lake. Cornell graduate(ROTC). Army veteran, Airborne/Ranger qualified, 10th Mtn Div, stints in Honduras and with JTF VI. 3rd degree Black Belt; 3x cancer survivor; published writer with several featured stories in Adirondack Life Magazine. Residing in Watertown NY with wife Robin & our 3 adult children. Loving Life. Living in the Day I am in. Follow my adventures at

23 Responses

  1. Bill Ott says:


    • Richard Monroe says:

      Thank you, Bill. Yup! Just to reinforce that point: The pup in the photo – the one in the specially designed front mount shoulder carry harness – her name is Maizee Mae Monroe. She’s our rescue pup. She’s had cerebellar hypoplasia since birth. We fostered/respite cared for her awhile, then adopted her. She never whines or quits, gives love like there’s no tomorrow & is the world’s all-time best snuggler. When folks said, “But her legs won’t work, she can’t walk.” I said “Oh horse knuckles! Her legs work just fine. They’re just attached to my body.” Life has no box.

  2. Trinkit says:

    This is such a simple, yet inspiring message. Thank you! I have long distrusted the wisdom of our politicians and see folks becoming more firmly entrenched in those “boxes” of the parties. Oh to use our common sense to guide us…! Yes, focusing on what we can control, and what gives us joy, gives us a life worth surviving. Kudos to you for your strength and determination.

  3. rdc says:

    “In the current moment, humankind finds itself facing a daunting array of existential challenges”

    This “current moment” is no different from other “current moments” in history.
    The tools and toys may change their shapes but the actor/recipients of said actions are still the same carbon-based life forms they’ve always been. Still driven by the same urges and physicality that humans have always had.

    Seeing “our moment” as unique from history is a large part of the problem. We’re a continuance, not an anomaly. Our “existential challenges” may differ from those of the past, but not substantially. We still have rogues and villains who’d like to capitalize on “current moment” status to proclaim their uniqueness of thought and ascendancy. Humanity hasn’t evolved much. Evil just wears a different hat.

    For an example, you can look at somebody like Marcus Aurelius and find relevance in his writings. From the first century AD. His “moments” reflect our “moments”. His “existential challenges” reflect our own.

    Gotta go. The only thing I’m concerned about right now is coffee.

    • Richard Monroe says:

      Man! I never know WHAT I’ll get here, one day it’s a lecture on ampersands, the next thing I know I’m facing off against Marcus Aurelius! Well rdc, it appears we agree on at least one thing, anyways: COFFEE! Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  4. louis curth says:

    Richard, Your travails call to mind what my mother used to say in the times when I grew up, after the Great Depression and World War II; “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

    Your willingness to share your interesting and inspirational stories with the rest of us via the Adirondack Almanack is truly a wonderful gift and I thank you for it. I also know that your dad would be very proud of you.

    I do share your disdain for our politicians greed, and for their failures to get the job done for the people. The attempted Capitol insurrection of 1/6/21, instigated by Trump and his election lies, is now even being recast as “legitimate political discourse” by our own power hungry Rep. Elise Stefanik. She makes me ashamed to admit that I was a Republican for most of my life. I fear for the future of our young people who we are leaving the impossible task of picking up the pieces of democracy and repairing this much abused world before it’s too late.

    • Richard Monroe says:

      Mr. Curth, thank you. As to your assessment, I am in total agreement. I stopped by to visit my father today on my way out of SL after the Winter Carnival parade. I’m sure if he were still here, he’d say “Hello”.

      • Ryan says:

        Thanks Richard for sharing your story – truly inspirational! We certainly face many collective challenges and the solutions to our problems will require engagement and mobilization, especially at a local level. Stories like your own give me resolve that by working together and moving past our divisions, we can succeed in forging a better future. I look forward to following your adventures.

        • Richard Monroe says:

          Thank you, Ryan. I certainly do appreciate your comments and WELCOME readers; both here at The Adirondack Almanack and on my blog. I have many more adventures & stories there. Over 40 Adirondack pieces published under my contributor line here & just yesterday I posted my 100th(!) story on my blog, where there is no Blueline footprint “box”. Readers, comments, new followers, Facebook shares & RETWEETS all greatly appreciated on either, or, and both! Thanks for reading, sharing your thoughts, and for following!

    • Susan says:

      Why the need to bring nasty evil politics into what is otherwise an inspirational piece? Shame on you!

      • Susan says:

        Just to be clear, I was referring to Mr. Curth’s comment.

        • Ryan says:

          Unfortunately, the existential challenges that Richard highlights demand political action – a single individual can only do so much and any chance of a better future will require collective action. We the people need to stay engaged and participate in the great experiment that is our democracy – lest we lose it. Louis is right to call out the forces that are eroding our institutions from within.

  5. Tom Forstner says:

    Another great perspective. I’m amazed at how adaptable you’ve been to living life for so long without being able to enjoy one of our most basic things, food, especially considering the way in which food helps to bring people together. And I realize now that, without a tongue, you probably don’t speak, or at least speak very well. Yet, here you are living in your favorite place, enjoying friends and family, and letting them help you when you need it, while using writing to speak volumes to others.
    Mr. Monroe, you are more than an inspiration, you are an example of infinite human capability and an often untapped ability in us all to persevere.
    My Dad and I, who have shared many Adirondack experiences and memories together, now share and discuss your articles regularly. You are now part of our lives and we thank you for that!

    • Richard Monroe says:

      Mr. Forstner, my sincerest “Thank you” for reading & taking the time to share your wonderful comments. Living & sharing my stories, both here in the Almanack and via my blog, all the positive feedback, Facebook shares, RETWEETS, comments, opportunities to network & communicate with folks…the support I receive from friends & family alike-THAT’S what sustains me. THAT’S my food. Thank you.

  6. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “This frustrates me to no end, as I watch my children and grandchildren’s path towards the future being mapped out by morons.”

    > The nail-head Richard! You hit it right on! Thank you. And what you share about your cancer experience and MS….I like your positivity which I know can go a long ways as is evident in your case, and of course many examples can be cited through other authors, literature, etc… There are miracles out there, I’ve heard many of them which gives one a sense of hope. We just have to believe as difficult as that may be to do sometimes. We’re going to follow whatever course we choose to follow and there ain’t a darned thing anybody else can do about that. Thank you for sharing this was very good for me to read! I like your attitude!

    • Richard Monroe says:

      Thank you, Mr. Stehlin. I appreciate your comments. I’ve been saddled at various points with a variety of diagnostic labels throughout my lifetime “cancer” “MS”, “insanity” (THAT guy’s F*7%$#8ing NUTS!). I wear all of them with pride. Especially the last one. Like the illustrious Sheldon Cooper (of Big Band Theory fame), my mother too had me tested…. TWICE! As a famous man once said: “Tear Down That Box!”

  7. Charlie Stehlin says:

    rdc says: “This “current moment” is no different from other “current moments” in history.”

    > This is a half-truth rdc. Yes, history repeats as I know from reading history. We’ve always had the killer instinct in us, and politics were as ugly 200 years ago in this country as they are now, and on and on us earthlings regress….. but these moments are different in some very large ways. For one! We have weapons that we didn’t have 200 years ago which could wipe out all of humanity (and all other living things) in a matter of hours. Anybody who supports the upping of nukes is an outright dunce! Or who supports war! Or weapons in space…… It’s only a matter of time when some misfit, whom this society created, will have access to “the button” and boom….to dust we all go! Think Isis (whom ‘great’ America created by the way.) They’re willing to take the whole world with them as they blow themselves up. This is why our forefathers came up with “The separation of church and state.” They knew how kooky those religionists can get. There’s far more ‘morons’ than there used to be which comes with over-population… and on and on you don’t have to go far to see these current moments are unlike others in history…………… Where do I begin?

    To shrug this off and think “business as usual” is like putting one’s head in the sand. I’m an optimist too rdc, but I’m also a realist, I see beyond black and white and I think it’s very sad how low we have sunk, especially these past five years. And to think that so many millions actually support the direction we’re headed! It just boggles the mind! Absolutely boggles!

  8. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “Seeing “our moment” as unique from history is a large part of the problem. We’re a continuance, not an anomaly….”

    > Again! A large part of the problem is ignorance. Women blowing themselves up as we saw during the initial Isis terrorism on the other side of the globe, mothers, fecundity, blowing themselves up. Anomaly yes! This is very new not a continuance. I cite a mere example. We’re in different times rdc. You can call it evolving, I say devolving, which is unfortunate and sad, and with public education in the crosshairs of you know who…. you have to wonder, who’s on who’s side?

  9. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Susan says: “Why the need to bring nasty evil politics into what is otherwise an inspirational piece? Shame on you!”

    It’s all relative Susan! Having a narrow field of vision is why many of society’s woes. Let us close our eyes or muffle our hearing so as to block out reality right? What Louis says is very much an extension of where Richard was going in his narrative. You read Louis wrong. What he says is spot on and is very much relative to Richard’s piece. Shame on you!

  10. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Ryan says: “Unfortunately, the existential challenges that Richard highlights demand political action – a single individual can only do so much and any chance of a better future will require collective action.”

    > Governments are the only ones who have the power, and/or the resources to solve many of our problems Ryan. Unfortunately they are the very ones that get us into most of the sheet we’re in. We don’t have statesmen anymore, we have self-serving fools who are going to take the ship down with them, or as Richard says, will be…. “leading us all off the cliff, like hungry herds of shorn sheep.”

  11. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “I’ve been saddled at various points with a variety of diagnostic labels throughout my lifetime “cancer” “MS”, “insanity” (THAT guy’s F*7%$#8ing NUTS!). I wear all of them with pride. Especially the last one.”

    > I did not grasp what you say above fully until just now Richard. There’s commonality tween us! I’m known to be an eccentric, or my mind tells me such at times, or maybe my insecurities lead me to such. Or, “That dude’s out of his gourd!” and there’s been other labels pinned on me surely out of earshot and also within range. People look at me funny here and there, and by what others say and do not say, I have come to the conclusion, ‘Charlie is highly misunderstood!’ Not by all of course as there are a few that ‘get it’ with me, and those few friendships I do cherish.

        I know where you’re at Richard, especially when you say, “I wear all of them with pride “, though I don’t like to use that word ‘pride’ myself as I think it has greatly been taken out of context these years of late. What you are saying above is you like yourself, you’re perfectly content with who you are, it doesn’t matter what others may think of you. Not everyone comes to such a space, a good space to be in!

    The world can be a lonely place at times Richard as you surely know, but as a whole we must come to accept ourselves for who we are as you seem to grasp.
    We must come to find a level of spirituality I suppose, which is inner harmony, balance, peace. I have nothing down to a science except for maybe getting by on very little, keeping an open mind….and admiring beauty in all its forms. Humanity is a complex organism and there sure is a heckuva lot of misunderstanding going around. We have yet to get ‘Communication 101’ down pat!

    This immediately came out of what you say above Richard, and also I thought of Verplanck Colvin. If you know his mind, the genius in what he wrote, his journal writings, all of what he accomplished in his short span, and then realize the way he left this world….in a nut-house in Troy, NY, you just have to wonder, did he really lose his mind towards the end, or was it just that he was highly misunderstood and so “throw him into an asylum?”

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Wait! Before you go:

Catch up on all your Adirondack
news, delivered weekly to your inbox