The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.
~Robert Green Ingersoll
I began my last week with yet another trip to my cardiologist, followed by a CAT scan, an echo cardiogram and lots of “frowny brows” telling me I was once again doing far too much.
Had you asked me a year ago if this might have ever been the way I would start my week—I would have laughed from the comfort of my racing bike as I sped forward into yet another century ride. And yet today, I find myself breathless walking up just these few very short stairs.
But, life changes. Everything changes. And sometimes the best (and only) thing we can do is to try to change with it.
I have a problem with my heart—one that has created much upset in my cozy little world, and causes me to pause each day just to check to make sure everything is still okay. I have often thought, how ironic it is that a hippie-Buddhist so in tune with her surroundings could be so totally and horribly out of sync on the inside.
Over this past year, I have been poked, prodded, and pushed to my own personal limits. And try as they might to fix this sort of problem, in all things there must be balance—between that which can be hoped, and that which can be achieved.
I have cried, and I have wondered why. I have had to look into the eyes of my children, and wondered things a 40-something year old parent shouldn’t ever have to think about. In each day, there are a million disconnected thoughts and emotions that pass through my being—leaving always, the most massive wake in their passing.
And when you’re not well accustomed to sorting and settling up with these types of things, it can be such that—in spite of your best intention and efforts—in the end, the wake will drag you down after all.
There have been many nights, most nights, where I lie awake—wondering if my heart would continue to beat through this night.
And with each passing night, I have found myself placing my hands over my chest in an odd attempt to bond with this strange thing that has caused so much upset in this, my little world.
Sometimes, I’ve even said a prayer out loud and to the rest of this great, big universe—just a few simple words—“Please God, not today.”
But in the end, and most of all, I have always reflected.
I have always tried my best, failing at times, to leave each moment either having learned something or having given something in return.
And more recently, I suppose I’ve been so much more aware of my impermanence on this great big spinning planet—often wondering if I will leave here, having made it just a little bit better, if only just for one person.
Life changes significantly when these become your greatest fears. Things that never seemed to matter become more important than anything at all.
But, I suppose perhaps this is the case with all things—and in these moments of our greatest change, we can all find a stillness and grace.
Sometimes, it takes the heart stopping for it to really open up again. In an odd way, this upset has become my greatest gift, my best teacher of all. Because with each heartbeat, I strive to become even that much more awake.
And in the end—and no matter what—I would rather live half a life lived fully, than a full one, lived with eyes wide shut. There’s an odd sort of peace with just that.
Those close to me will often ask, “How can you smile with all this uncertainty swirling about?” Perhaps, my smile gives way to my simple way of viewing things—even the ones that scare me most of all.
So this is the list—my short, simple steps—for living this life(mostly) fearlessly.
It’s far from perfect, and I’m sure there shall be more to add, in time. But, for now this list has done its job at keeping both these feet firmly to ground.
Be grateful—because gratitude will give you your “why” to each day.
Be present—because presence will help you to understand.
Be silly and smile—because the silliness will keep the seriousness at bay, and the smiling will show you your how.
Remember always, you are not your limits. And this fear is only as big as you allow it to be.
And although it may seem at times to cast a rather large shadow, rest assured—when you really look it square in its eyes—you’ll find this “beast,” is not so very big, at all.
Try not to let your fear ever change you—rather, with each day try to change your fear.
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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger