This week marks the fifth anniversary of my unexpected life-changing trip to the ER. Life-changing not because of what happened that day, but because of what has happened every day since then. It was a regular Monday night and I had returned from an energizing yoga class. I felt great, having accomplished a challenging pose I had been avoiding.
I felt fatigued and went to bed early. Several hours later I awoke with severe abdominal pain. At first I thought I had pulled a muscle at yoga. I walked cautiously to the bathroom and on the way in passed out and hit my cheekbone near my eye on the corner of the granite counter top. I crashed to the ground but soon regained consciousness and realized I was in trouble. After several unsuccessful attempts by my husband and me to stop my uncontrollable shaking and hyperventilating, a call was made to 911. Within minutes my home was filled with firefighters and paramedics.
“Calm down. You need to calm down.”
I found these directives obvious and irritating. What did these paramedics think I have been doing since I crashed? I’d been practicing my deep breathing. To me this was obvious. The problem was those deep breaths weren’t helping, but the paramedics didn’t know that. I was unsuccessful in my attempts to explain this to them.
I was taken to the ER for tests and evaluations. What could be wrong? I just ran a 5K! After undergoing several tests I talked with the ER doctor. He explained that because the pain was so bad my body had just shut down. I also learned that I had a significant digestive issue, and that it was likely, in-part, stress related.
Stress?! What? It’s just life, right? Work, kids, home, activities, responsibilities, obligations… life.
Well, this whack upside the head was the best thing that could have happened to me. It forced me to slow down. In today’s world, so many of us think we can do it all, like we owe something to someone, somewhere.
What we do owe is some gentleness to ourselves, permission to give ourselves a break and find some balance. It’s funny how sometimes we don’t listen to our bodies or our own feelings and then something happens which forces us to pay attention. The ambulance ride to the ER caught my attention. So did the giant colorful bruise on my eye.
The joy in this experience is that I reassessed my priorities, and began living my life more mindfully. I started to, at least. This “awakening” happened five years ago, but I’m still fine-tuning, which, I expect, will be a lifelong process of adjustment. I was able to see how many “necessities” weren’t really that important. How much stress I was putting on myself. How many expectations were assumed and not really expected by anyone but me.
Since the darkness of my bathroom turned into the bright lights of the ER, I have a new perspective on my life, my goals and dreams, and how I spend my time. I have come not only to accept, but embrace, my desire for “me” time, to do the things I love to do, and not feel that I have to justify this to anyone. I also highly value my time with my family and close friends. I am getting better at saying “no” to some things and “yes” to others. I have also refocused my professional interests.
During these past five years I have lost people close to me and realized undoubtedly that life is short. We have a choice in how we spend our days. It all comes back to perspective. We often get derailed from our presumed goals and intentions. Sometimes those blockades are messages that changes are needed. Live life with energy and purpose. Be good to yourself. Embrace the unexpected as it may lead to better paths. Share a new perspective. Spread the joy.