A few years ago I suffered a heart attack. It was induced by a virus, and it absolutely floored me. I ignored the symptoms the evening they began, and it was not until late the next day that I took myself to hospital. As I lay in Accident and Emergency with doctors and nurses fussing round me, and then as I lay on my own, wired up to all manner of machines in a curtained cubicle I had this sudden realisation – This is serious and I might actually die! I wasn’t afraid of dying. What bothered me were my regrets.
I lay in that cold room, and counted the hours as they slid by. One thing blazed in front of me the whole time – I hadn’t spent enough time just hanging out with my husband, and I hadn’t written a book. My life had been brought into stark focus. The two things that mattered the most to me were the things to which I’d devoted the least energy.
There was no ignoring my heart as it kicked and bucked and clenched. I was lucky there was no lasting damage, and I came home to begin my recovery.
Almost a year later to the day I got a small paralysis tick in my ear. At the time it was a mild inconvenience. But that tiny beastie sparked off cardiomyopathy in me. I now have a big fat heart. It’s improved over time, but my heart still tweaks me now and again. I’m affected by heat, and find it hard to carry loads or walk up steep hills.
Sounds bad, doesn’t it? I don’t think of it like that. I think of it as a constant reminder to live with the right priorities. Since my heart attack I have now written three completed manuscripts and am working on a fourth. I had two of them shortlisted for the QWC Hachette Manuscript Development Program. I spend plenty of time with my husband, and other people I care deeply about, and much less time with people who don’t matter.
We’re all going to die. We don’t know when this crazy ride might end for ourselves or someone we love. I’ve learned the value of life, and I actively seek joy and cultivate gratitude. My wish for you, as we move into 2012, is that you find your priorities and fill your life with what matters to you.