Wake Up Call

I got a gentle reminder last week of how precious and potentially fragile life is. I had a very minor medical procedure done that required outpatient surgery and sedation. When I woke up, everyone was smiling and assuring me all was well. Within the space of a few minutes, they were expressing concern because I was having some heart irregularities. It was all handled very professionally and, at the end of the day, I was lucky: it turned out to be one of those inexplicable anomalies that happen from time to time.

I realize that it could have been something major. For most of my life, I have intellectually ‘known’ that life can change drastically in the blink of an eye. It’s part of why I’ve always had a “live-life-to-the-fullest” philosophy.

But something happened while I was waiting for all the test results and observing all the nurses watching me. I can only call it a ‘Wake Up Call’, a reminder that it’s time to start taking health and fitness a lot more seriously—to quit dabbling with a little exercise here and little diet there and more or less continuing to procrastinate doing what I know to do.

A friend who was there supporting me said I kept asking, “What is the worst case scenario?” In retrospect, I realize I’ve been unconsciously ‘preparing for the worst’ for a long time. I wasn’t even surprised or particularly afraid during the period of uncertainty when no one knew what was happening or why. I was just accepting that I might have to live life differently and wondering what I would do about my work, my plans and the intentions I had imagined for the rest of my life. The idea of dying never came to mind, but I do remember thinking just how inconvenient and disappointing it would be living on the sidelines of life.

Then I began feeling really happy that I was able to experience all that was going on (and I don’t think this had anything to do with the sedative!). If the worst-case scenario did happen, I would still be living and experiencing life. I would still be me and I would still have my vision, my dreams, my relationships and all the things I consider make it worth living. While I wouldn’t want to have a bad heart or encounter a stroke or experience any of a dozen other things that could happen, I was clearly able to see that the quality of my life is a choice and not a function of my circumstances. I am sure there would have been many uncomfortable aspects of dealing with the kinds of health challenges I had imagined during those hours, but the bottom line is that they were just that—challenges.

I admit I’ve played ‘fast and loose’ with my health all my life. I was blessed with pretty good genes, but pushed the limits in the past: smoking and drinking too much, relying on reserves while procrastinating, and being more concerned with my comfort and my working schedule than with my own health.

Today, I’m glad I got a Wake Up Call. I’ve listened to its message, and have done my exercise for the past few mornings and intend to keep it up. Time to quit dabbling and start diving in to these new experiences!

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