One of the most powerful transformations that has occurred to me since my bypass surgery has been the profound change in my attitude.
Prior to the surgery I would not have considered myself a negative person. I am extremely social and charismatic and often find that I can find commonality with almost anyone. However, I think I lived with a certain amount of fear & guilt. Fear of financial failure and guilt that I was not taking better care of my health. My completion of the Palm Beach Marathon in 2009 was an example of an effort to “right the ship” but not a wholehearted push to improve my health. Although I did not know I was on my way to near blockage in four arteries; I did sense it.
I also did not have an appreciation for the little things as I do now. It’s a cliche but life really is about the little pleasures, the daily joys that are often overlooked. It literally started the day I came home from the hospital. I had not taken a shower in a week. The pure joy of sitting under a stream of warm water was overwhelming and at that particular moment I did not want to be anywhere else. After the shower I recall taking a nap on the Lazy Boy (my brother in law had placed in our house for my recovery). This was also a highly memorable nap. I had the windows open and it was a warm, windy day in south Florida. Although I was in quite a bit of pain, it was this deep appreciation of the “basics” that set my attitude during recovery. No matter how bad I felt, I found joy in the simplest things.
This buddhist prayer kind of sums it up.
Let us rise up and be thankful
for if we didnt learn a lot today,
at least we learned a little,
and if we didnt learn a little,
at least we didnt get sick,
and if we got sick,
at least we didnt die;
so let us be thankful.
I love to run long distances now and I relate to the following written by Marshall Ulrich, ultramarathoner. (He ran across the USA, 3000 miles in 52 days. He was 57 yrs old).
“One way I deal with the pain is to embrace it, to realize that it also presents a gift; profound appreciation for whatever small thing comforts me, brings me pleasure, makes me laugh, satisfies my hunger, lightens my mood. Yes, at least I didn’t die. In other words, if something hurts, I focus on what doesn’t. The mind will naturally fixate on any pain, but you can redirect it, make yourself look away or at least occupy yourself with something else for awhile. ”
I ran 32 miles last Sunday. It was a goal and I needed to complete it. It was painful but the pain really is the fun part. I never understood that until recently. The strength that you receive when you take on your pain and move through it is very powerful.
Our lives are based on the fundamental principal that is Ying & Yang. Black & White. Hot & Cold. It is logical that there cannot be joy without pain.
You have to experience pain to truly appreciate joy. Period.
Once you make this realization, your attitude changes and once your attitude changes so goes everything else.