The gift of impermanence OR Live like you’re dying…

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.

23 thoughts on “The gift of impermanence OR Live like you’re dying…

  1. Just Beautiful! Clear, crisp and poignantly true… Thank you for sharing such wisdom! Many of us ‘know’ when our priorities are not as we would like, but it’s funny how serious health issues almost ‘force’ one to really look at what is important and finally place it front and centre!!!

    • Hi Roberto! My hope is that people can find it in their hearts to sort out their priorities WITHOUT having the prompt of a major life/health crisis. Now I’m laughing, as it was my ‘heart’ that gave me the prompt and held that truth for me. Love to you xx

  2. I’ve just read your “Happiness is a choice” blog and now this amazing piece and a huge window has just opened in my mind. I can clearly see the sewing table waiting for me to have a play with some fabrics, even if the trousers I attempt has 3 legs, the art studio where I will splash paint for no good reason other than to banish the blank look of a canvas, and to sing again in front of an audience simply because I can. Might even try my hand at exercising my pen on pretty paper. Thanks for the wake up call Nicole. No more excuses! XXX

  3. Thank you for reminding me to think about the important things. I feel that this year is very different for me already in that respect, I’m doing what I want to do and spending time with the people I love because I don’t want to live with regrets. There’s so much more to life than doing what we – or other people – think we should be doing, worrying about money and stressing about things that ultimately don’t really matter. I don’t think I’ll be lying on my deathbed saying I wish I’d had a faster car, a bigger house or more money in the bank. What I hope I’ll be able to say is that I’m glad I spent so much time on what really mattered to me.

    • If we don’t think about the important things and make room for them, our lives end up empty, meaningless and hollow. I’m so happy to hear that you’re following your heart and worrying less about what others think. Your blog is such a great inspiration on that very theme – exploring and giving time to what matters to you. And what’s not to love about a quest for edible goodness and the comforts of tea rooms and fine scenery!!! xx

      • Thank you, what a nice thing to say! 🙂 I should have added in my comment that I was touched by your story and it seems such an unfortunate coincidence to have the virus and then the tick. I know you’re seeing the positive side but I can see that your life has become more difficult as a result. However, your positive attitude is a real inspiration and much appreciated.

      • I couldn’t agree more, it’s how you choose to handle things that matters. All the same, that is a lot to deal with and your attitude is truly inspirational.x

  4. Yes…I am finding that ongoing awareness of impermanence helps me to connect with appreciating and savoring the love, kindness and specialness of each moment, whatever that moment might be…and if it’s an unpleasant moment, to take comfort in the idea that things will change…another aspect of the gift of impermanence. Did you see this?…posted last evening…it might look at bit silly, in a way…but I think it’s important too…and it turns out to have deep implications for Marie… http://reflectionsfromafriend.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/5912-impermanence-rules/#comment-822
    What amazing challenges have come your way…and how much wisdom you’ve developed as you’ve lived with them….really inspiring…

  5. One of the best posts I have read for a long time! Spot on. So vital for us to remember. Live like you are going to die. Amazing to read, that you take the heart problem as something positive, I know how it can impact ones life (have it in our famility too). best

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