“Never let day nor night unhallowed pass but still remember what the Lord hath done.”
– William Shakespeare
Christmas is such a surreal time of year, and not just because of the “magic” in the air. It tends to evoke strong emotions – from one side of the tracks or the other – in many people. There are those who go overboard and follow the “Clark Grizzwald” path; typically well-meaning folk who get a little extreme and even competative in spreading their version of Christmas spirit. There are those who loath the holiday because it seems like more and more the media and our retail businesses cram it down our throats. And there are many subtle variations in between.
I feel a little different this Christmas. This year has been one of change, growth, surprise, and probably a dozen other things that you could generically lump at the end of one of those “end of the year” family letters (mine will be posted in a week or so!).
Life, of course, is change. You change, or you die (in a metaphysical sense). This year, I faced a pretty drastic change, and it’s a change I am still in the process of making. It’s a change in attitude, and the surprisingly long-running struggle to make sense of it all.
For those who don’t know (if you do know, feel free to skip over this part), I had a rather… traumatic experience this year. Like many right-brain, creative folk (not to discriminate against you left-brainers, I know it applies to you too) I deal with a pesky thing called anxiety. Lots of people do – probably many more than will ever admit it. I found out the extent of it when I went to the ER for chest pains one night, which kicked off a week long event that ended with a CT scan “just to be sure” all was well. I was told I had an aortic dissection (a tear in the interior of the aortic artery) and that I had to immediately have open heart surgery. At age 30. For a condition that people don’t usually get until well into their golden years.
Here comes the part I am thankful for. Ready? Despite the overwhelming evidence that had presented itself on it CT scan (examined by several very reputable doctors and surgeons), when they went in to do a closer examination (after collapsing my lungs and just before they were about to put me on the bypass machine) they discovered… Nothing. Was. Wrong.
Aside from gaining me the status of local celebrity for a few weeks in the corridors of the medical center, this frightening experience with a happy ending has left its mark on me. Does it mean that I instantaneously transformed into a goody-goody? No – though some may argue I’ve always been that (ha!). But it started an agonizing process of transformation that has sometimes been almost more terrifying than staring down the blade of a scalpel. It started a battle I didn’t know I needed to fight, but one I intend to win.
I won’t get into the details and intracasies of all that today. What I took away from the whole experience can be summed up with an eloquent quote I heard on a television show after that experience: You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die.
So this Christmas, I am extremely thankful. I’m thankful to be alive at all. I’m thankful that I didn’t have to undergo open heart surgery and the resultant consequences (blood thinners, lengthy recovery, lots of pain and a partly Borg-ified ticker). I’m thankful that, just weeks later, I was able to land a job with a solid company that, despite some questionable values, has proven to be a blessing. Most of all, I am thankful that next Friday, I will get to wake up early and watch as my kids experience all the magic that this morning, and this season, holds.
So if you’re one of those who grumbles because you have to spend time with family, or travel, or any of those things, I admonish you: be thankful you have family to visit. Not for my sake. For yours.
I may try to squeeze another entry in prior to Christmas. Big plans for entries in January, too – including a short story I’ve been working on. Until then…!