That’s it…I give up!
Ever since the day I flunked out of college when I was nineteen years old, I worked relentlessly to conquer my failure demons. My journey wasn’t organized or planned. After returning to college to graduate, I took on every new opportunity and challenge with gusto, striving to reach the highest level my ability would allow.
At the height of my quest to dispose of the failure demons once and for all, a heart attack and lung failure engaged me in a fight for my life. Through prayer and support from family and friends, and amazing work by medical professionals, I miraculously overcame seemingly impossible odds and survived. My long recovery gave me a chance to reflect on a growing relationship with God.
Despite a severely damaged heart that works at ¼ of the efficiency of a healthy heart, I’ve worked my way back to a somewhat normal lifestyle. A no salt and low fat diet, a disciplined medicine regimen, light exercise, and extremely limited energy levels are the new norm. As each year passes, I continue to defy the odds. People who suffer from similar heart damage return to the hospital regularly and more than half die within five years of diagnosis.
I just celebrated my sixth “re-birthday” with no heart related visits to the hospital. This good fortune has strengthened my relationship with God. While faith continues to be the foundation of my miraculous story, the failure demons that got me into this mess continue to nip at the edges of my consciousness. Routine isn’t one of my strengths and my self-perceived lack of productivity empowers the demons.
My need to be in the eye of the storm teases me on a daily basis. I miss being out front whether pacing the sidelines, sitting at the decision-making table, leading an initiative, or guiding a team toward a goal. In an attempt to fill the voids, I write this blog and a quarterly article for a print magazine, coordinate a leadership academy, and work with high school students.
The demons are never satisfied, so my old ways began creeping back into the picture. I added features to my blog, and began marketing myself as a leadership coach and public speaker instead of relying on faith and God to lead the fight. I started working as hard as my limited energy would allow. My regular exercise schedule began to suffer, I found myself rushing through meals, and I was spending more time in front of the computer than I was reflecting on faith and just enjoying the moment.
On Easter Sunday, while playing basketball with my nephews, I reached for the ball, and then everything went dark. When I opened my eyes, I was on my back looking up at paramedics and my nervous compadre. Fearing another heart attack, my family called 911. After spending the night in the hospital for a battery of tests, my cardiologist confirmed that there was no heart attack and no additional heart damage. I was dehydrated and exhausted, causing me to pass out.
The most haunting image of that day was my daughter Marisa blowing a kiss to me as the paramedics closed the ambulance doors. She forced a confident smile, but her eyes revealed vulnerability and worry. On the way to the hospital I thought about her upcoming graduation from college and all the milestones that she and my younger daughter Erica will experience.
For me to share those experiences with them, I know that faith has to overcome the demons. Sadly, a couple of weeks ago, the ongoing battle reached a boiling point and consumed me. I couldn’t keep up the pace needed to fight off the feelings of inadequacy created by the failure demons. I grew distant from Sandra and the girls while planning and plotting my “comeback.” They fought so hard to save my life and I lost my sense of gratitude for them.
Early last week, the solution to my doldrums came to me suddenly. I decided to do something I had never done. I decided to give up: give up on my lifelong battle with demons that don’t even exist; give up on working myself to exhaustion; give up on trying to find the answers to all that has happened. I decided to put my future in God’s hands fully and unconditionally.
This summer, I plan to spend as much time as possible with Sandra and the girls, who are home together for a short time before Erica goes back to school and Marisa embarks on her post-grad journey. I’ll continue to reflect on God’s role in my life and rely on faith to help fight the demons that are sure to come. I’ll also pursue my passion for writing and helping others, not to achieve some goal, but to enjoy the experience.
Starting next Wednesday, I’ll continue sharing my story, Summer in the Waiting Room: How Faith, Family, and Friends Saved My Life. I stopped posting new excerpts (some readers have told me that I left them hanging) more than a year ago to focus my energy on things that no longer seem important. Writing this story and sharing it with others has been one of the major influences in my faith journey.
I’m scheduled to work again with high school students in the fall. This has been a blessing and I’m excited about returning to this work. With regard to my other activities, I’ll spend a little time this summer taking stock of each of them. I’m confident that faith will guide me in the right direction.
Oh, by the way: I plan to replace my business attire for the rest of the summer with shorts, t-shirts, a baseball cap, and flip-flops. That’s it…I gave up!