To be filed under “you’ve gotta be f-cking kidding me with this” we’ve learned of two more family members facing health crises this week. Both involving heart failure. Because, really, why would anyone want even a teensy respite from the stress and drama that go along with family health issues?
This is where I could write something incredibly cliché about living life to the fullest. Something eloquent about living each day like it’s our last. Or something about how we should dance like nobody is watching (my least favorite of all). But the thing is…I’m not feeling very flowery…and thus all of those sayings make me cringe and want to lash out with dripping. Thick. Sarcasm.
These family health crises do, however, have me thinking a lot about the choices we make about our lives and what we allow into our own little worlds. I remember, when my husband and I started dating, having long conversations about protecting our relationship. We knew we had something incredibly special, but it had become clear that there were going to be uphill battles, and I wanted us to be very protective and careful about what we let into our relationship. Later when we struggled so mightily for those few years, and it was apparent that we very likely wouldn’t make it, I remember being more guarded than ever. I didn’t go around bashing my husband or telling anyone who would listen how bad things really were. Only a few friends knew how dyer our situation was and I never told them anything my husband wouldn’t tell them himself. Our unwillingness to bitch about our struggles to anyone and everyone protected us from those who might insert themselves into our marriage. That could have easily been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I can easily look back on the past ten or 20 years and point out things and/or people that I allowed into my life that were nothing but trouble. That made me miserable. That caused me enormous amounts of stress and grief. And while, maybe at the time (especially in my 20s) I thought they were causing the stress, it was really my fault for allowing them in. Of course there are things that can’t be helped…taxes, illness, death, friendships gone bad, tragedy, etc…but for the most part I have the ability to choose the amount of stress and drama with which I’m willing to live.
Over the past six months I’ve been trying to live much more intentionally. When I’ve recognized that something or someone is raising my blood pressure or causing stress and drama, I’ve tried to back away slowly and then sprint the other direction. Maybe it’s wisdom that comes with age, or maybe it’s my newfound feelings of peace and happiness that I’m way too scared to mess with, but I’d much prefer to make tough choices that will protect the peace and calm in my world than getting sucked into stress-filled situations.
I think when faced with family health crises many of us look at our own lives in a different light. We ask what we should be doing differently to prevent this from happening to us. Whether it’s diet, or exercise, or getting to the doctor more often, we focus on our physical health (or lack thereof). But the toll that stress takes on our bodies is just as important. Thus, choosing apples over Oreos, or choosing to go on a run over watching RHNJ, should be accompanied by choosing to be protective over our worlds/lives and living intentionally. That means making actual choices about what we allow into our lives.
I choose how I react to things, I choose what I spend my energy on, I choose who I surround myself with, I choose to eliminate the people and things that bring me nothing but anger and bewilderment. It’s like surrounding my world with bubble wrap. It’s the only way to really protect what’s inside. As I face the murky outlook for people on both sides of my family suffering with heart ailments, raising the number of people in my family with heart failure to THREE, I feel like I have to recommit to making myself as healthful as I can. And that surely includes making sure my marriage and my life and my own little world are as good/calm/peaceful/joy-filled as they can be.
TODAY: What if, as I reflect on what I can be doing to reduce my chances of heart trouble, I focus just as much on reducing stress as I do on my physical health? What if, by making smarter choices, I can do better at protecting my marriage/life/world from unnecessary stressors and strife? And what if I try to get to yoga a lot more than I have been lately?