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June 15, 2022

A Recovering Workaholic Looks at Life through a New Lens 8 Years after a Heart Attack.

Today is June 12, 2022.

Eight years ago, I had no clue that in a few hours I would be ensconced in a hospital bed with wires, monitors, beeps punctuating the air. Staff bustling in and out. Post stent insertion, new life awaiting me. An out-of-the-blue (or so I thought at the time) heart attack on the way home from the gym.

Crazy, busy schedule with multiple jobs and responsibilities. Five to six hours of sleep a night. Pushing, rushing, speeding my way through life on autopilot. I was burning the candle at both ends until there was almost no more wax left.

Lifestyle changes were necessary, even though I fought some of them mightily in my head. I thought I was invulnerable and invincible. I come from hardy stock. I also come from workaholic stock. It was my self-imposed sense of worth. If I wasn’t on the go, accomplishing, being busy and productive, being of service, who was I?

In my adult life, I can’t recall a time when I only held down one job. Chalk it up to undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Activity feeds my mind. I don’t like accepting limits. Whenever well-meaning people would suggest that I slow down or choose just one or two things to focus on professionally, I would cringe. I had FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) back then.

These days, since the pandemic began, I have become accustomed to a slower pace and am more discerning about how I invest my time and energy. I don’t feel guilty about saying no.

In the interceding eight years, I have also been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). What that has come to mean is being aware of how I feel physically and what I have the stamina to do. I have a walking buddy—a hiking pole for support that helps me get around more efficiently. Before this, it would have been unthinkable, since it would have heralded a time in my life that meant deterioration and a downhill slide.

When my parents were my age, they were a little more than two years away from retirement. They were energetic and vital. Even after moving to Florida in 1989, they were still active, working part-time jobs, and working out in the gym and the pool in their community. They still had their marbles as my mother told me up until a few months before her death in 2010.

Even after my father died of Parkinson’s in 2008, she lived as actively as she could until she succumbed to congestive heart failure (CHF). I question if my marbles roll away at times and if my parents had more get up and go than I do now. I know that comparison is unhealthy.

I have much to be grateful for in my life. Loving and wonderful family and friends. Precious grandchildren whose presence does my heart good. Work that is rewarding both financially and emotionally that makes a difference in the world. A deep and abiding connection to Spirit. Daily God-versations and communications with the ancestors. Opportunities to connect with amazing people and have extraordinary experiences.

Today, I got together with dear, longtime friends, Yvonne Kaye and Anne Berenson Needleman. They, too, are examples of lives well-lived immersed in love soup. We represent two different generations as they are both in their 80s and I am in my 60s. What we have in common is that we are all therapists, all Jewish with an interfaith perspective, all socially progressive and left of center politically, and all with a wicked sense of humor. With these badass, outspoken women, I can bare my soul and know that I will be seen, heard, and accepted. Over tossed-together salad courtesy of my local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).

With each subsequent “cardiaversary,” I have used the opportunity to do a life review. As I was musing about the shoulda, woulda, coulda regrets I have had, I realized that whatever I wish I had done back then, I could do now in all areas of my life. I consider so much time I wasted in worrying what other people thought of me—this codependent caregiver with savior behavior who was an emotional contortionist who would bend over backward to please people.

I also contemplate what I have done in the past 20-some years and am pleased with the adventures I have had and the people I have met. I have interviewed the Dalai Lama and other celebrities, became an interfaith minister (marrying over 300 couples since 1999), traveled to Ireland, wrote a book, have been interviewed on TV, radio, podcasts, hosted a radio show, have taught at various conferences, have written for numerous websites (I love writing for Elephant Journal, of course!), and am presenting a TEDx Talk called “Overcoming the Taboo of Touch” that I will be delivering on October 1st in Lima, Ohio.

I have been married and widowed. I have adopted a child, and my son is now 35. I am the grandmother of two: two-and-a-half-year-old Dean and one-month old Lucy. I have loved and was loved in romantic relationships, and if it is meant to be, I will love whoever God sends.

As I was musing about what is left undone in my life, I honestly can’t think of anything. I let people in my life know what they mean to me. I live my purpose as fully as I can.

“I speak my truth, even if my voice shakes.” Many years ago, I interviewed changemaker and Founder of the Gray Panthers, Maggie Kuhn, whose words those were.

I was inspired by her actions and how she brought together people of all ages for progressive causes.

Although I am not ready to check out yet, I don’t know when my last day on this side of the veil will be, so I live as if today could be. And if I wake up another day, it means I have more work to do. As a recovering workaholic, I will be sure to pace myself.

~

 

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