“If you can’t be grateful for what you’ve received, be grateful for what you’ve escaped.”

 

With the past year or more we’ve all pushed through, this is a very appropriate quote that really speaks to me and I hope is does to you also. Today, I’ve got some very particular reasons and stories I’m going to share that bring that quote and the title of this article to focus. Hopefully by sharing, someone else can find solace and peace with the little blessings I know we each have but may not appreciate.

Well, for me, I must’ve decided that even though 2020 was a complete sh*t show way above and beyond compare, I apparently wasn’t impressed and so my body basically told me, “you thought last year stressed you out? Hold my beer!” and promptly gave me a heart attack.

Yes, a real one.

I walked out of the gym one evening a few weeks ago and on my way home, due to 65%+ blockage in one of my main arteries, I suffered a heart attack.  I never passed out or anything like that, but I did experience the worst pains in both arms than I can imagine.  To go with that, I was sweating harder than a sinner in church.

Now, I’d like to pat myself on the back for doing the right thing and calling 911, but I can’t.  I mentally fought with myself for at least 30 minutes or more trying to find other things that this could be, so I wouldn’t have to call 911.

I did it, (postponed calling) due to the embarrassment I thought I was going to feel, once they told me it was gas, or I just over did it, or whatever that thing was that was NOT a heart attack.  I was also trying to tell myself that I’m too young and in too good of health to have a heart attack.  No such thing, I’m told.

None of these reasons should anybody ever use, BTW!

Never ignore the symptoms!

Well, I finally called because as I sat there holding my arms and chest, I asked myself what I’d tell someone else if they called me with these symptoms.  I’d have said “you’re having a heart attack stupid.  Call 911!”, so I told myself “You’re having a heart attack stupid, call 911!” And then I pushed the buttons.

The doctors and nurses all said I probably saved my own life right there, but I could’ve killed myself there just as easily with foolish pride.

I tell you all this because I want everyone, everyone to please never ignore your body when it’s telling you something like this.

Don’t be like me…

Heck, my dumb ass was even casting doubt out there to the doctors when I made it to the ER.  I was explaining everything I ate that day, and the red bull I drank earlier, and the workout was pretty intense, so “please make sure you are ruling them things out before you cut me open and put that stent-thing in me.”  It was then that one of the EMT’s helping get me hooked up the all the cables, cords and machines, grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye and calmly, but firmly said, “You are having a heart attack, my man.  You are having a heart attack right now, but the good news is that we’ve got you and will take great care of you.”

I’m still writing today, so it’s obvious “I survived” the attack, but not without some baggage.  I’m not talking about physical baggage, like taking it easy for a while, starting my daily regiment of blood thinners and anti-cholesterol pills.  I’m talking about mental baggage, because that heart attack had me packing suitcases full of new stuff to carry around, let me tell ya’!

Something like a heart attack will rattle you to your core, or at least it should.  Heart attacks and strokes are your body’s way of telling you that you’ve abused it way too long and it has had enough! Nothing like laying on an operating table (awake) while they put wires & cables up your arteries, and then laying in an ICU bed (still wide awake) all night alone, to make you reassess and rearrange your priorities!

I’m pretty sure I made some big promises and vows that night to myself.  And rightly so.  The problem is that instead of joy and vigor, I came out of the hospital with some serious doubts and “ironically” stress…I’ll explain.

I’ve always felt myself as being a grateful person.  I know we’d all like to think we resemble that trait and have thankfulness in our hearts and are happy for who and what we are, regardless.  I also know it’s not easy to do, especially given the most recent times we’ve all been through as of late.  My mom and dad taught me the importance of that as well as the other basic rules like saying please and thanks, turn the other cheek and entering a room with a smile. Good rules to live by for sure.

After this episode though, I’ve found myself doing quite a bit of “why me” to myself, which is “not me” normally.  I’ve pretty much kept it in and tried not to let it affect my interactions with others, because as we all know “pity parties” are a solo event no one wants to attend.  Also been contemplating if I’ve truly been sincere in my actions and if I have been as grateful as I should be for what I have in my life.

I know, heavy stuff, right?

So, I opened up to my lovely wife the other night about all of this, all my worries about making sure things were in place if it happens again and I “go” next time, my loss of confidence, some lingering regrets from times passed, worries about the unknown future, my worries about aging and my body breaking down…you know, mid life crisis-type stuff.

She talked me down and reassured my broken ego that I was just overreacting to a trauma and that it’ll all work out in the end.  Then she said something that just made it all go away and vanish, because she put things into a very clear perspective.  I don’t remember exactly how it went, but I’ll try to get it right.

She said, “listen, you’re looking at it wrong.  In our lifetime, we’ve had any number of things and events that could’ve as easily taken us out, as letting us live.”  “We’ve both had some sketchy teenage shenanigans; drinking at keggers then driving home, racing each other down Hwy 312, to that time we both almost drown in Rosebud creek.  Then there was the emergency surgery I had with our daughter’s birth when we were both in serious condition, and that black ice accident where I almost went over the bridge”.

She went on to tell me, “Your heart attack could’ve been very bad, but you are still here.  There’s a reason for that.  God’s not done with us, not done with you.  It’s by luck and the grace of god we even made it this long, and I know for that I am very thankful and appreciative just surviving it all.  The rest is cake!”

She then said, “I think what we need to do is; reflect on, focus on, and be grateful for the fact that we are still here together, because there are so many things in our history that very easily could’ve taken either of us or both of us out.”

 Wow!  What an epiphany!  Such deep and thought-provoking insight my wife just threw out there.

Beautiful wife, check.  Talented cook, check.  Perfect life partner, check.

And now…nighttime psychologist!

Aren’t I a lucky guy?  That was not a real question, of course I’m lucky!!

And just like that, I didn’t have to worry and be afraid anymore.  My thoughts cleared, my perspective changed, and thankfulness and hope now took over where pity and gloom were hanging out, causing unnecessary doubt in my soul.

I could quit thinking like a “heart attack victim” and move onto being a “heart attack survivor” and be grateful, truly grateful for what I kept.  My health.

That’s the lesson here.  Whatever you’ve been through, whatever you’ve “survived” whether physically or even emotionally, stop, take a minute, do an inventory of where you are now, and be thankful.  Just for that moment in time, be good to yourself, be good to your soul by appreciating…you. You deserve it.

Then be appreciative and grateful for all the good things you have, little or big, many or few.

It doesn’t matter the quantity.  What matters is the quality.

“The secret is keeping your gratitude higher than your expectations.”