I could look at it as a crappy thing. After all, I still deal with a bit of background dizziness/light-headedness that makes me feel like I've had half of a beer on an empty stomach. I also tend to freak out every time I get a headache, wondering if it's just a headache or something worse. Come to think of it, I freak out over everything, because you just never know.
Despite it all, I simply can't look at it as crappy at all. Sure, big health scares decades before the actuarial tables say these things are supposed to happen to you aren't something anyone looks forward to. They rock your world and make you feel like you're done, like you're compromised from here on out. They colour your life going forward and take away another chunk of the kind of worry-free life we all had as kids and had hoped to hold onto in adulthood.
But the universe has other plans. And while I had no control over the accidentally torn artery that prompted my little life's detour, I could certainly control how I behaved after the fact.
So, the good news:
- I appreciate life a lot more now than I did before. Maybe I took days, moments and people for granted before this happened. Not now. I try to squeeze more happiness out of whatever I may to be up to at any given moment. Sometimes it looks silly to others - like when I decide to explore the cheese section at Loblaws - but that's all part of the live-and-don't-just-survive ethos that now dominates my life.
- I prioritize things better. I used to spend a lot of time worrying about what others would think - even if they never returned the favour. Now, I focus on the important folks and ignore everyone else. I hug my family a lot more, and often find myself just staring at them and drinking in the fact that I still have them. It's rather freeing, as deciding where to spend time, and with whom, is now much simpler.
- I've been able to spread the word about stroke prevention and awareness. I used my work as a journalist to veer off from the tech beat for a bit and talk about the things we should all know. Because a little knowledge can make a huge difference, and if it plays a part in one person's life, then it's worth spending the rest of my own life continuing to shine the spotlight.
- I'm better at what I do. This may sound a bit odd, but I'm pretty sure this experience turned me into a better writer and journalist. Maybe it's because I came so close to losing the basic ability - which was probably the scariest aspect of all - but I now find myself thinking about stuff longer before I pick up the pen or turn on the mic. And when I do get going, it somehow feels better, as if I'm more on my game than I ever was before.
- I'm happier. Sure, I'd rather not have this fear lurking in the background, but that's the deal we all have when we're mortal. I'll take this over the alternative any day.
Which begets the way I choose to live: Say thank you for what you have, stop complaining, put your head down, and move on with the business of living.
So today, as I celebrate two years gifted to me by forces infinitely more powerful than I'll ever understand, I'll do what I've done every day since that warm summer night when everything changed: Suck it up, move forward, just be.
Your turn: What are your suggestions for leading a more purposeful life?
* If you're just joining us, this entry explains what happened. This one explains a little more. As does this one. I also shared my story with Canada AM (video here). What a crazy experience.