Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lessons Learned At Death's Doorway -

Self Awareness.....
It doesn't always come easy.  For years I felt that who I am and who I am supposed to be aren't the same.  I always wanted more out of life. I wanted to BE more, DO more, HAVE more.....I wanted to LIVE.... to feel that rush of Life's energy pulsing through me.  I didn't want to "go through the motions" of life everyday, but experience life as it should be.  I wanted to do things I had never done before, go places, see things.  I wanted to be remembered, I wanted to feel as if when my time on earth was over, there would be no regrets. No "if only's" or "should haves".

My journey to self-discovery began shortly after my youngest daughters birth.  She was 4 weeks old when I went in for a routine gall bladder surgery.  Very simple surgery, I would be able to leave that same day.  However, as we soon discovered, there was nothing routine about it.

When I was put to sleep by the anesthesiologist, my heart stopped.
They immediately began CPR.  My mom, sitting in the waiting room, heard them call the "Code Blue".  My husband, who had gone home after dropping me off, was oblivious to the desperate fight now going on to save my life. He would get the call later......
I woke up in ICU.  The doctor said my heart had stopped for 5-6 minutes, they came very close to losing me.  Turns out, I had Post Pardom Cardiomyopathy, (pregancy induced heart failure).  Needless to say, the surgery was put off until I had a chance to recover, and my heart function improved.  I spent 3 days in ICU before moving to CPICU. After finally being released to go home, it was a week before I was allowed to be by myself again, in case my heart gave out.
During that time, at night I would often lay in bed, afraid to go to sleep, wondering if I did, if I would wake in the morning.  I asked myself time and again, had I died, how would people remember me? More importantly, what would they tell my children about me, who were too young to remember?
What had I done? What great legacy was I leaving for them?  I was a good Mom....a good wife....... but what else?  Is that all I would be remembered for?
I felt lacking........ There was so many things I wished I could have changed.
Made better decisions.......smarter choices.  I began to question everything about me.  Who I was....how I had gotten to that point in my life. What I would have done differently.....Regretting not doing more.
And suddenly one day I realized............ it's not too late.  I didn't die.  I survived.  I'm alive, and there is NOTHING stopping me but myself.
So I started attending college courses.  I began to plan a future where I would "be somebody", independent, where my personality wasn't defined by others.  I started making decisions for myself. What I wanted, not what I felt others wanted for me, which is something I had struggled with my entire life.
My husband helped me a lot during this journey to "self awareness'.  He was strong when I was weak..... he forced me into situations I was uncomfortable with, so that I would learn to be more self reliant.
When I first began working, I felt "important".   I felt like  I was finally contributing, and not just riding on my husbands coat tails.  I enjoyed working......but I missed being home.
Life became very hectic.  It was easy to forget to just stop and enjoy life as it happened, (which is another Lesson my near death experience taught me).  I was so wrapped up in the mundane routines everyday.... get up, go to work...come home, fix dinner, clean, go to bed, that I almost didn't realize what I had given up by working.   I only worked for 4 years, but during that time, the kids grew so fast........ and I missed so much of it.  At night when I got home, I was too tired and stressed out to read to them.... my heart just wasn't in it.  I heard myself saying  time and again...."not right now...maybe later".   or "mommy just needs some quiet time right now....".  How often did I lose my patience with them, or raise my voice, when I was stressed out, or just bone weary...  How many conversations did I put off? How many chances did I lose to learn more about their day? To find out WHO their friends are, WHAT they are learning, WHAT problems they have, WHAT they dream of....
I realized, that going to work, doing more, being more... doesn't make me a better person.  It doesn't leave a "better legacy" for my children.  It doesn't fill any voids that may be missing in my life.  All the extra possessions we gained, all the places we went, and things we did......it paled in comparison to my original "role".  The one of Wife and Mother.  There is nothing lacking in either of those titles. Nothing I could accomplish in life, would be greater or have more of an impact on my children, than those two words.
I realize now, that if I were to die tomorrow, and all my headstone read was ..........a loving wife and mother....... those words would be the greatest legacy, I could EVER leave..

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