Today, October 14th 2017, marks the one year anniversary of my 5th heart surgery, my second open heart surgery, to put in a pulmonary valve. It is a weird feeling to know that at this very moment, a year ago, I was on an operating table with my chest open, having a bunch of doctors and medical staff working on my heart as my family was anxiously awaiting my return to them. My return, which marked the beginning of my next chapter of healing and the surgery that was on my mind for years, being behind me.
Rather than write about the surgery itself, I want to focus my energy on the gratitude that consumes my being; and the 10 lessons I have learned in the past 365 days which everyone can apply to their lives. Every single person reading this should take a step back and really think about because hopefully you know these lessons without needing major surgery or life altering situations….but to be honest, I don’t think anyone who has never had their life truly tested, understands what I am about to say because it hasn’t been something that they experienced themselves. That’s why I feel its so important to share my journey with the world. If I can help one person have an Ah-Ha Moment, then I feel like I accomplished something.
The first thing that comes to my head is that time goes by extremely fast. I remember this surgery and recovery like it was yesterday; and the fact that an entire year has gone by, is incredible.
So Lesson #1: Life is TOO Short For Anything But Magic. So many people I feel are walking around this life just existing. However, “living” and “existing” are too different things. If you do not wake up everyday with a sense of excitement, or thrill, you need to make a change in your life….because before we know it, we will be in our final chapter of life and never really lived. “Days are long, years are short” is a quote I heard lately and its so true. It takes a great sense of awareness to make conscious decisions each day that make you happy, and light your soul on fire with gratitude. In 365 days, everyone should look back in the past year of amazement because they consciously made the decision to ENJOY each day. I know what you’re thinking, “I work all day, 5 days a week, by the time I do my chores- I have no time for myself”– my point exactly. That is not what life is about. Take 10 minutes out of your day, EVERYDAY, to do something that makes you happy, and present…because in the time of a year, that’s a lot of happy minutes that you created for yourself.
Lesson #2: Family & True Friends Are Your Angels On This Earth. I don’t know where I would be without my family and my friends. This surgery truly tested the relationships in my life…some failed…but many flourished. My surgery was an extremely stressful time in my life, and I realized how important the people were in my life who brought me joy. The people who went out of their way to call me just to check in, the people who stopped by for 10 minutes just to see my face…My sister who always tried to make me laugh, my brother for flying up from Dallas to spend the week with me, My dad who would come over to spend time with me and hold my arm as we walked around the block and talked, and my incredible mother who literally stayed by my side for 3 weeks and helped me heal. Of course, some people do not have family or maybe even great friends, but you can BE that to someone….and I promise, it will make all of the difference.
Lesson #3: Start Each Day With Gratitude. Even though I have always heard this, and agreed with it, I never really practiced it until my surgery when I had no choice but to find gratitude. I did not feel good, I was on medication, I couldn’t do much besides sit and heal, I was in pain, I felt awful; I could go on and on about all the negatives at that time. However, my incredible friend Lauren got me a gratitude book before my surgery and one day; I had to turn to it. I would wake up in a miserable mood, until I went outside with my gratitude book and listed as many things as I could think of that I was grateful for. I listed each item, and truly tried to feel how those things made me feel….because in that moment, my perception changed. How could I be cranky or miserable when I filled myself with positive, happy thoughts? I couldn’t and you cannot either. I know this might sound like a bunch of hocus pocus to you, but try it. I promise, it will work.
Lesson #4: Use the power of your mind. Before my surgery, I spent many hours at night visualizing my body. I literally spoke to my body, my cells, my bones, my blood, my organs; each night. I visualized with every heart beat, a white light coming out of my heart and circulating around my body. I wanted to prepare my body for the traumatic surgery it was about to endure, and to get ready to heal quickly. My thought process was that if I could prepare my body for what was about to happen; I would be able to recover faster and deal with surgery better. I truly believe the visualization, and using the power of my mind in combination with Lesson #5; got me out of the hospital in 4 days post surgery and back to life in 30. So many of us do not actively USE the power of our mind, of course we think and make decisions which stem from our mind…but to actively use our mind is a superpower each one of us has.
Lesson #5: Truly Committing To Something Makes All The Difference. I committed to getting through the surgery as fast as I could, being healthy, and returning to my life…and this lesson, will stay with me forever. When I was back in the gym 30 days after a major surgery, it really made me evaluate how I did that. Even my doctors were stunned to the point that they asked me how. Once I learned this lesson, I have been applying it everywhere in my life and trust me, it works. Committing to a certain outcome, before the outcome even presents itself, is a combination of mind power and personal trust. It means that you want something so bad, that there is absolutely nothing in this world that will stop you from achieving it. You commit to something, and then take the necessary daily actions to watching your life unfold in that way…and trust me, it does. You do not need to worry about the “how” aspect….”how am I going to make this happen”- but rather focus on the outcome and like magic, your path will appear. I know it sounds strange, but this ability is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it will become.
Lesson #6: Laughing Till Your Belly Hurts Is Good For Your Soul. One of the best memories I have from post surgery, during recovery, was when my sister bought my 36 year old brother, her (31) and me (28); onesies. Yes, adult pajamas that our feet went in and zipped up to our necks. My sister, knew it would make me laugh to have my brother in the pajamas…so she spent the money on them, in order to have me giggle and forget about my pain. Little did she know, that I would take the lesson with me forever.
I learned that night, that no matter how much pain you are in…no matter what difficult situation you are in…a good belly laugh is the best medicine. Laughing that night, even though it left me in pain, was exactly what I needed. It completely changed my perception because the pain I felt went from being due to my surgery, to being because I was hysterical laughing with my family.
So, no matter how upset, pissed off, or sad you are….do something silly. Do something that will shock your body into giggles and make tears come from your eyes because that is the best medicine, I promise…and if you are not the one who is in pain, make someone else laugh.
Lesson #7: The Unknown Is Always The Scariest, Until You Conquer It. I always knew my last surgery was going to happen, it was just a question of “when.” So for years, I had it in the back of my mind which made me wonder about every aspect of the surgery. I though about my scar, my recovery, the surgery itself, my family; EVERYTHING. Turns out, there are so many things in our life that scare us to think about…but truth be told, once we throw ourselves into a situation; only then can we deal with it. All of the “what if’s” which come with any situation in life, are not real..and you will not be able to cope with it. This is because you cannot physically cope with a situation which has not happened, it doesn’t exist.. The only way to deal with something, is to face is head on and deal with it step by step until you conquer it. Don’t let your mind wander about all the negative possibilities out there; because that wont help anything. Instead, take charge of the situation, face it head on, and deal with it minute by minute…till eventually, its over with. Dont worry about the future, because truth be told; that is the unknown. Only concern yourself with what is going on in the now. That is the only aspect you can actually deal with, the rest is a waste of time, energy and emotion.
Lesson #8: Every Difficult Experience, Is The Perfect Opportunity To Grow. The foundation for Imperfectly Perfect, is that difficult experiences in life have the ability to teach us the greatest lessons about ourselves and life, and for that we need to be grateful. If we cannot think of any other positive outcome from a tough situation; then that is enough. Life isn’t about only having perfect situations. Life is about obstacles, and long roads, and difficult decisions because that is the only time we are going to be forced to grow. So next time life throws a scary situation your way, find gratitude in the fact that you are going to grow on a soul level.
Lesson #9: This Too, Shall Pass. I remember a week before my surgery, I said to my mom “A week from now I will be in surgery” and her response was, “yes, and in a week from tomorrow it will all be behind you” — Those words, shaped my perception because it made me realize that everything in life, including life itself, has a time limit. So often in life when we are going through difficult experiences, it consumes us. Our daily activities, our thoughts, our dreams, our emotions; everything. That is because we usually sit and stir in the negative..which in reality, we should focus on the resolution of whatever we are going through because the truth of the matter is, IT WILL END.
The last lesson I want to share, unfortunately is only a lesson that applies to me.
Lesson #10: I Have The Best Mother In The Entire World. Yes, it is true. When I think back on my surgery, I would never have made it through the way I did without my mom. Not only did she stay with me the entire time in the hospital, but she took off 3 weeks after to in order to help me heal, she slept on the couch with me every night because I couldnt lay flat, she played card games with me into the late night, cooked for me, laughed with me….and truly was the biggest support of mine during the most difficult time in my life to date.
Mom, No words will ever begin to express the love & gratitude I have for you. I cannot imagine the pain this entire ordeal put you through, especially since you were by my side for the 3 weeks while I was hurting….but I dont know what I would have done without you. If I am half the mother you are, my children are lucky. You have proven to me how special our connection is, and how rare it is to have your mom as your best friend and your mother. I will forever look back on this surgery with the understanding that you are the reason I healed so quickly. Your love & energy for those 3 weeks, gave me such a peace of mind, that it still leaves me in awe. I love you very much, and today and always, I am so grateful for you <3