Building Bridges #6
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
– St. Paul
Living for more than a decade after the failure of my business, my first marriage, walking through some of the darkest times in my life, followed later by some of the brightest times of my life, I thought I knew where I was headed and what my life was going to be like for the next several years. Man, did Life have a clue-by-four in store for me: a little more than three months after remarrying, and looking forward to a vacation in Hawaii, I had a heart attack.
Two days after Christmas, at 2AM, my wife drove me to a local hospital where they promptly put me on a helicopter to a better-equipped facility. The pain was excruciating. In the shivering downdraft of the rotors, waiting to be loaded, I was just fighting to endure the pain. An emergency heart cath found a 100% blockage of the left circumflex at the branch. It was opened and a stent was placed as I watched the monitors while on the table in the cath lab. A cardiac nurse in the ICU where I was staying afterwards said, ‘You’re lucky to be alive. Not many people survive that’. It finally hit me: I could’ve died, again.
My first response was ‘Obviously, I must still be here for a reason: I haven’t finished whatever it is I’m supposed to do.’ My second response was a little more ticked off: ‘I was in good shape, training annually several years for half ironman triathlons including cycling, swimming, running, yoga. Here I’d worked out for the last five years, ate right, lost a great deal of weight, kept it off, and still ended up with a heart attack. Genetics suck!’ My third response followed even more quickly after the second: ‘Grateful at the gift of still being here. Just what is it am I supposed to be doing?’
This wasn’t the first time I’d faced my own mortality. Each time, in my own way of thinking, was a detour. I wondered why I had to keep facing this over and over again – through freak, sudden, emergency surgeries, random crime, accidents, or the loss of friends and family. Then I remembered: death is a part of life. We have absolutely no guarantees. I already had accepted each day as a gift, not to be wasted, every day saying out loud: ‘Thank you for another day’. Whether we literally face our own naked mortality out of rude awakenings, or through the more subtle daily grind and thousand cuts of life, all of us face our own mortality every day, acknowledged or not.
Each time, I had thought of each event as a detour. In fact, what I had thought of as detours, in retrospect, turned out to be a path, pointing straight ahead. I may or may not be able to continue with the physical nature of my job. That’s for others to decide. I will find something to do. My boss shared just prior to my heart attack, “I can’t believe what you’ve had to go through. It’s been a tough year.”
I replied, “Are you kidding? This has been the best year of my life! I bought a house, and married. After what I’ve been through in my life, this is a piece of cake! I’m just glad to be here”. Incredulous, he laughed and shook his head. Other co-workers joined in and we had a very interesting conversation. The universe hears, and continues to bring people across my path: strangers, friends, family, neighbors. It is doing surprising things. It’s not all about me. It never was. Everything we do, experience, and endure we are to do without complaining or arguing, do our absolute best, and above all, do in love; not in proud, self-righteous, ‘look-what-i’m-doing love’, ‘tough love’, or manipulative ‘what am i getting out of this’ kind of love, but in a true, humble, giving, grateful, sharing kind of love.
Whenever I had made plans and assumptions about my life, the universe had other ideas. As frustrating as my recovery from this heart attack has been, with, to date, 6 heart caths, 2 more stents, unusual response to nitrates, slow progress throughout a monitored cardiac rehab program, I find my life changes daily. Even more so now, my focus is daily on being available, finding out what the universe wants me to do, doing it, and being content with it. That, I believe, is the point. Is your ‘Detour’ really a detour? Better look into it.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing”
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.”
“Do everything in love.”