I just reviewed what I had wished for in 2014. At first, I chuckled at the things I had scribbled down late last year. I looked at the rather short list and snorted in an all-too-familiar human way, thinking about how far off what I received from what I asked for was.
Then, I heard my son and daughter laughing at something in the next room. It gave me pause, and offered me a chance to reflect on what I had truly been given in 2014.
Here is the very short list I compiled at the end of a very tough 2013 detailing my requests for the coming year:
See, this is your generic spiritually active guy’s list. It stays pretty general, but does offer what I see as a non-greedy request of the Universe for things that could make this life a bit more enjoyable, this experience a bit more blissful. they are certainly in line with the life I wish to live.
Yet, when I reviewed these requests a few moments ago, I scoffed. I still have not met the love of my life. My life seems to be chaotic with no real clear sense of direction. My health is in shambles, having had both congestive heart failure and a stroke in 2014.
So, it seems that 2014 was a failure as that list goes. Yet, I am readily able to suggest that I have found one thing on the list that I achieved in 2014, and that is peace.
Yes, peace. I feel more at peace in my life despite the turmoil than I ever have. Despite the ailments, the uncertainty and chaos, I feel more at peace now than I ever have.
That peace allowed me to be quiet enough in my reaction to hear my children laughing in the next room. Then came the realization.
I had gotten everything I had asked for.
While I have not physically met the “she’s perfect for me and I want to be with her for the rest of my life” partner, I have found love in many ways. I will say that when you feel close to death not once, but twice over the course of a few months, you begin to see things differently. Very differently.
First, I say I have not “met” that love. She’s there, though, and I know her. I write about her, and I speak to her often. She’s coming, that is clear, I just need to continue to be patient and be open to the possibilities.
Love, though, is all around me. It was in the health care professionals who cared for me. It was in the friends who stepped up and helped me despite my attempts to “take it on my own.” It was in the kids who missed me, the cats who suddenly lay with me, and in the reaction of those who read my writing. It’s in the sounds of the waves for which I never grow tired, and the idea of the mountains I will climb with my little ones one day.
Love is in the loss of friends who no longer serve a positive purpose, making room for those who will. It’s in the constant change I use to fear that now I accept, and in the new-found acceptance of my own mortality. It’s in the acceptance of me, the love I have for myself, which is something I never fully realized until this year.
Yes, 2014 brought me lots of love. Just not in the way I had thought I wanted it.
On the face of it, my life looks like everything but secure. For reasons I can’t really share right now, my life seems like one chaotic, uncertain mess. Yet, I have never felt more secure. Things are happening around me that provide me with comfort even through the chaos.
I once thought security meant a good-paying job in a sound market with no one getting in my way. I once thought making money was the way to security, and that the more I owned the more secure I was.
Today, after another tough year, I find security in simplicity. I see it as only having what I need, and needing what I have. I find security in the cuddles of my children, and the voice from within that just knows I am on the right path. I care less about what others think and find more comfort from within than ever before.
So, while 2014 didn’t offer me a lot of traditional security, it did provide me with the type of security that isn’t dependent on the whims of others, and that is certainly much more than I bargained for.
I’ve developed an inner strength I never had before. A confidence that I have never experienced in my life, and a courage that has never been matched. That, my friends, is real security.
This is the most perplexing one. I had simply written “Health” on my little sheet of paper.
Yet, the answer to this provided me with every answer to every request I had made.
Six months after putting this list together, I was in the hospital with congestive heart failure brought on by malignant hypertension. Fluid had suddenly built up in my lungs during physical exertion and I couldn’t breathe. A friend rushed me to the Emergency Room.
For a man who is used to finding calm and serenity through breathing, not being able to breathe was more than frightening. I was gargling, coughing up large amounts of fluid, and unable to catch my breath.
Whenever I’ve felt fear, whether it was while working a house fire, or dealing with something while SCUBA diving, or climbing a ladder (I have a real fear of falling), breathing would bring me serenity. I learned that as a child, “just breathe” and I could get through anything.
So, when I couldn’t breathe, well you can imagine what that did. It seemed high blood pressure, that “silent killer” you hear so much about, had decided not to be so silent anymore. It nearly killed me.
Yet, I was released from the hospital with a prognosis that suggested with management of my blood pressure, I would make a full recovery and my heart would return to normal. I was quickly weaning off of the drugs they put me on as my body responded well to treatment, including eating a low-sodium diet. I was down to one pill a day within a month, much better than the 7 I started out with.
I’ll be the first to admit I am a horrible dietitian. Don’t get me wrong, I understand what I should be eating, but I’m horrible at eating it a majority of the time. Maybe it’s because I can burn water in the kitchen, and frequently have to ventilate the house after making dinner. Yet, I was on the right track, and I was really trying.
Then came the end of October. It seems that a small clot had traveled to a part of my brain called the cerebellum. I spent 24 hours feeling vertigo, and believed I was getting sick or some kind of ear infection. Then the numbness in my face began, and I lost control of the left side of my body. I might have “poked your eye out with that thing” if I was trying to shake your hand. I had no control.
I knew what was going on, and we got to the hospital quickly. The hospital seemed to think I was having a heart attack, and kept asking me “how bad is the pain in your chest?”
“I can’t tell, it’s numb,” I’d answer sarcastically until, finally, they got the hint.
“Code CVA” was what I heard shortly thereafter through the hospitals PA system, and I knew that was for me.
Soon, I was in a hospital that specialized in strokes, and from there my recovery was remarkable. I was provided contrast. Other people with strokes similar to mine were stuck with feeding tubes, unable to swallow. Some were bedridden with no balance, or ability to control their extremities.
Others were unable to see, their optic nerves completely disabled by the damage to their brain.
Yes, I got lucky.
When I first was asked to sit up, I couldn’t. I listed hard to the left. I had no sense of direction, no ability to tell left from right. My eyes were going haywire, unable to focus on anything at all. I just kept them closed, and listened to my first Eagles (that’s American football for those of you who don’t know) game with my eyes shut and my team losing. How dare they!
Within a week my eyes were getting better, and I was able to walk with much assistance. Within a week of that, I was able to climb stairs, with some assistance. I was discharged from rehab and sent on my way.
Today, I still struggle with dizziness and eye issues. Yet, I can walk for miles, work out to some degree, and have started developing my stamina again. I have new sense of how important my choices are, and how much I love to live this life.
Seems like I didn’t get my health, right? Well, the jury may be still out on this one, but I’d say I may have gotten exactly what I asked for.
Today, I make better food choices, and value my walks on the beach more than ever. I have regained my love of fruits and vegetables. I have a new understanding of my own body, and listen to it more than ever. I value my physical strength, and have made friends with the inner strength that has helped me through it all.
So, I’d say I have gotten my health request answered. Not just for now, but in the very long term.
In the loss of my health in 2014, I regained my sense of peace, my feeling of security, and discovered love all around me. In the gaining of those things I have regained my health. It’s been a beautiful cycle.
Now I see how I got exactly what I asked for even if I didn’t get it the way I thought I would. What have I asked for the coming year? Well, that list will be a secret until the end of next year but I assure you that I have a feeling I’ve already received most of it. We’ll see at the end of next year, if that ever comes, but until then just know that I realize that I will get what I ask for, just perhaps not in the way I expect it to be given.
See, I know now that what I ask for isn’t actually a statement of what I want, but rather a statement of what I feel I lack. Once I realize that there is little I lack, the list not only grows smaller, but also becomes inconsequential. It becomes a meaningless exercise in focus on what I don’t believe I have, instead of taking note of the things I’ve been truly blessed with.
So…off I go with my short list into the great beyond. Maybe.