Its been a bit over a year. Now, the workouts at the Y are no big deal. I walk up and down stairs without gasping for breath, and I can walk a couple of miles with not even a thought. I feel healthy, strong, even vibrant, with 25 pounds of lard now gone, and still fitting in my much smaller jeans.
The memories of my heart attack last February are still around, and I still take my regimen of pills twice a day. Mealtime is a place to ponder how I will nourish my body, and bring new nutrients into my amazing body, rather than a time to wallow in processed food, sugar and fat.
Today, I had to crank up the exercise bike and increase the weight size I was lifting, just to give myself a challenge, raise the heart rate a bit, and give my body a reason to break a sweat. Its nice to be “too successful” at this exercise stuff and be needing to “raise the bar” every couple of weeks.
I’ve actually worn out gym shoes, and the sweatshirt I wear to the Y as a symbol of my commitment to working out, is getting a bit frayed around the edges.
There’s been some amazing conversations with other people this year, where we talk about our recent heart attacks, the hospital care, and our cardiologists. We survivors become reverent as we talk and compare notes, sharing that special knowledge of how precious life is, and how quickly one can come so very close to dying.
We share that zeal for each day that we wake up and feel good, feet on the floor and full of energy. Being alive is not taken for granted. Having a healthy heart is a gift, and oxygen is our drug of choice.
I celebrate the small things now, like coffee with my wife in the morning, or the first daffodil of spring, or finding something really healthy and tasty to add to the menu.
We’ve done things this year that we’ve been thinking of putting off, but time is precious now. Life can be short, and life is to be enjoyed, each moment savored.
At the grocery store, I took a shortcut the other day and ended up in an unfamiliar aisle. Everything on the shelves was fat and sugar. I realized I hadn’t shopped in that aisle for over a year, and hadn’t missed it in the least. I shop around the edges of the store now, excited about finding great produce, or some nonfat yogurt, or some tasty new cereal.
I check out the vegetarian items on the menu at restaurants, and I’m not afraid to ask for substitutes for the fried, salty and sugary stuff that is the usual fare for meals.
And, I see other folks doing the same, and I’m finding more healthy stuff in the stores and in the restaurants. And, when the Y is crowded after work, part of me is happy that there’s actually a wait for the treadmills, or the leg press machine.
I spend a lot of time with friends now, taking in the chance meetings at the grocery store or on the sidewalk. I make it a point to connect with them, and share their joy in their creativity, their work, their passions.
Idle chitchat has become insufferable, and I rarely turn on the TV, finding instead that the evening is much better spent with my guitar, my writing, or enjoying a good book with a cat on my lap, and a mug of tea.
I’ve started mentoring a young man in prison, my Sunday afternoons well spent in his company, as he struggles to find his place in the world, and to learn how to socialize with a father figure who hasn’t beaten him, verbally abused him, or left him lost and frustrated with life’s possibilities. He’s teaching me a lot about courage and determination, and the excitement of learning that anything is possible in this life, if only we have the guts to take a step forward.
Gratitude. My gratitude is everywhere in my life. Every experience, every sunrise, every glass of wine shared with my wife in the kitchen as we talk about our days, every amazing experience that comes into my life is a precious gift. I take nothing for granted, and I am so very thankful.