I could have stopped trying at the heart surgery. The day I was wheeled into the emergency room at 35 years old and told I needed a quintuple bypass could have been the final chapter.
It would have been simple. Throw in the towel and give up the ghost. For many people, major moments like that are easy to rest upon. Lay in bed from that day forward, cry to those who dare to visit, and make my ailment the theme of my entire being. Whoa is me. I had a quintuple bypass. I couldn’t possibly be expected to do anything of substance from that point forward, right?
I could have stopped when my son was diagnosed with autism and emerged as non-verbal too. We could have spent the rest of our days locked inside and resentfully hiding from the world. We could throw two-person pity parties and toss away any hope of happiness. Fitness, self-care, and success could all be swept under the rug. After all, my son is non-verbal and I had heart surgery, right? Once again, whoa is me.
Bipolar diagnosis? Quit. Going through a divorce? Quit. Losing family members? Quit. Friends dying? Quit. I had a hundred different reasons on a hundred different days to give up on my life that, when they heard about it, people would have accepted. I know because I’ve watched others give up on life for similar reasons and seen people step aside so they could.
But I didn’t.
These setbacks weren’t the final chapter of my life. My only final chapter is the day I breathe my last breath. Even when that happens, I want my grandchildren and their grandchildren and their robot grandchildren after them to read my blogs, save my books, and follow my words long after my last day. I want to live forever, if not physically then through my writing. Spoiler alert – I have no ending planned. I’m working on immortality here, folks.
Those difficult issues that I mentioned above, however, all felt like final chapters at the time. Closing the book on my upward momentum would have been easy with such stinging slaps out of nowhere. I can remember feeling helpless when they occurred and wondering how I could wake up the next day and keep pushing through.
You know how I could? I just did. I realized that I was just going to keep on living so, if that’s the case, then why not live the best life I could? No one was going to reshuffle the deck and give me a new set of cards. These were the ones I was dealt and my only option was to play them out to the end. That day might have been dire, but the days to follow were full of possibilities.
I didn’t realize that at the time. Rather, I felt like the world was falling around me. Obstacles you never anticipate feel like the most insurmountable of all. It isn’t until you’re halfway over the mountain that you look back and see how far you’ve come from the valley.
I’ve come pretty far.
For me, being told I had a heart issue, a child with special needs, a crumbled marriage, or mental health adversity wasn’t my new excuse. Although the world would have accepted them all as such, I wouldn’t. I didn’t want an excuse to fail. I wanted the knowledge that I needed to succeed.
Learning I was bipolar was a great chance to understand my own emotions. I worked to understand my triggers and mood fluctuations before they happened. It’s a proactive approach to a mental health issue that could have easily held me back.
The same can be said about helping my son through his autism journey, finding new life after marriage, or getting myself in the best shape of my life after the bypass. Every setback along my path has been transformed into a springboard to lift me higher than I was before. The person I am today is better after facing the obstacles thrown before me yesterday.
Had I given up at any of those points, I would never have gone on to have some of the greatest memories, achievements, and people in my life. The wonderful things that were still to come were unimaginable and the potential to miss out on all of them was frighteningly easy. I could have lost it all without ever even knowing how good it all could be.
My story isn’t over yet. There are hopefully many pages left and more tales to be told. Even if there aren’t, I want to end them on the highest possible note I can. My happy ending could be off in the distance, but even if today was the final day, I’d be more content than I have ever been before. That’s something I never thought I’d write, but something I couldn’t be prouder to have made happen.
My hardest days might still be before me, but my best ones could be too. I don’t know what the future might bring, but I know what the past has. I got through them before and I know I’ll get through anything else the same way.
And live happily ever after.
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