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Leadership Thought #434 – Life Can Change In An Instant!

May 23, 2013

Free Worried Woman beside a Female Patient  Stock Photo

Life can change in an instant!

Yesterday started out like any other typical day for me with the small exception of a minor headache and neck pain.  I thought it was no big deal.  I would simply exercise my usual mind over matter technique and get on with the day.  At first, this approach worked.  I become wrapped up in my work and need to be a good listener, concentrating on what I am being told.  I also tend to personally like and care about my clients, so it is always nice to see them and try to be of some help.  In addition, Wednesday is the day I get my kids, and this never fails to put me in a good mood.  However, the nagging headache wouldn’t go away and slowly built up with intensity throughout the day.

Towards the end of the day, I couldn’t wait to get home and take something for the pain.  I have a powerful anti-inflammatory that works every time although I try to use it sparingly.  This time it didn’t work and the pain and throbbing just kept increasing.  My poor daughter was having a bit of a stomachache, but I really couldn’t focus well, and thankfully she took a nap and her big brother stepped up to help her.  Finally, out of desperation I called my client, friend, and chiropractor and tried to book his last appointment.  He has been a tremendous help to me through the years with some chronic pain issues and has helped keep me in good physical health.  Once I arrived, he looked me over and made some very gentle adjustments but when he heard me utter the words, “my worst headache ever” he became genuinely concerned and encouraged me to go to the ER or Urgent Care. Things were spiraling down quickly.  It was all I could do to focus on driving.  I will always remember the concerned look on his face as I left the office.

After arranging for the kids, I took myself to the ER and waited in intense pain for over an hour in a very well light and loud ER waiting room.  To be honest, this felt like torture, and I couldn’t believe how long it took for them to find me a quiet dark room.  Thankfully, the nurses were very caring, and my wonderful girlfriend (now wife) arrived to provide her usual loving support.  After waiting a bit longer, a doctor finally arrived, ordered a series of tests, and put me on pain medication.  By this point, the pain was unbearable, and I welcomed any relief.  I was also very worried about what the tests might show.

Once the pain medication kicked in (a very strange and unsettling sensation) and I experienced some slight relief, my thoughts began to wander as to what this all meant and what the tests/scans might indicate.  I also started to feel emotional and vulnerable.  Life gets small when you are alone with your thoughts in a crisis.  I asked myself, what it would mean if the news was bad, and I had something heavy to deal with.  I was concerned about the kids and the last look I saw on their faces as their sick dad left for the doctor.  How would they manage if their dad, a usual pillar of strength, became something much less than that?  I also thought about the new love in my life that has become so integral to my life and me to hers.  We are just beginning this great romantic journey together.  How would all this affect her?    I thought about how I had spent that day and the value of my life and work up until that point. I pondered if I had any major regrets or things I would like to do differently – fortunately, the answer was mostly no.  I did realize I have been very blessed up to this point in my existence.

We all know that we meet the same end, but we usually don’t know when or why.  Most of us avoid spending much time at all thinking about our mortality.  It is almost taboo to think about our own expiration date.  We stay focused on the moments at hand and feel like our future is open-ended.  Why does it take a crisis for us to appreciate the tenuousness of our time here on earth and the true importance of our close relationships? It is a shame we cannot be in this mind space more often – it would make us all slightly better people.    The truth is that we are all living on borrowed time and how we spend that time is what matters.  I heard a speaker recently comment that in every interaction we are either adding or subtracting value.  I liked it when he said it then, and I like it even more now.

When you are waiting for potentially unsettling news, it has a way of clarifying your mind and humbling your self-opinion.  I was lucky this time around.  The diagnosis of my pain was a migraine headache (my first ever) and was told there were medications and other options to help me manage future occurrences especially if I act quickly upon experiencing early symptoms.  It could have been much worse.  Besides having a newfound empathy for migraine sufferers (God bless them), I also know what it’s like to be completely physically and emotionally vulnerable to health complications and the inherent fear and worry that takes place as you await potentially life-changing test results.

I hope that I have learned from this experience and will strive to be a better person as a result.  We are all on this journey called life together even though we depart alone.  It is through our relationships, actions, and beliefs that we form our life and impact each other.   Are you happy with where you are today? Is there anything you need to change?  Should you let go of things or emotions you are holding onto?  What will be the legacy you leave behind for your kids, spouse, siblings, friends, etc.?  What thoughts do you want to be in your mind as you confront a moment of extreme vulnerability? It is worth thinking about now.