Why I Write

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Eddie Garcia – June 7, 2018

Four years ago, I embarked on an epic adventure. At the suggestion and encouragement of family, friends, and others, I decided to write about my experiences with a heart attack and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. That idea evolved into an account of how my life led to that fateful summer. I completed a draft of the first two parts of the story early this year.

For the last six months or so, I struggled to find my voice to share the spiritual journey that came along with the health challenges. With fits and starts, I tried to convey what my heart was telling me. I just couldn’t articulate what I felt, which was a powerful connection to what St. Paul the Apostle called “faith, hope, and love.” Eventually, I stopped writing.

When I started my two-finger  pecking at the keys of the computer four years ago, I made the critical decision to share my story with unvarnished honesty. I wanted to put into words an accurate analysis of what may have caused the heart attack. To that end, I decided to be open about flunking out on my first try at college, being diagnosed with anxiety disorder, and struggling with low self-esteem.

These and other revelations about my life were difficult to share, especially after cultivating the persona of a successful corporate executive and public servant. As someone who sometimes allowed anxiety to dominate my thoughts, I was scared the first time I posted the dark side of my life. I was well aware that there would be those who criticized my intentions.

As I continued on this literary journey, I found that writing in the form of a storyteller made inputting the words into a computer more like composing fiction. Using interviews with family and friends and my extensive medical record, this approach helped me maintain the integrity of the text and prevented me from exaggerating my tale of survival.

All that changed when I began drafting the final part of my story. I couldn’t find a way to express how understanding faith and accepting God was was the real reason for my experience. There were no stories to tell and no records to pore over. Like faith itself, my spiritual journey seemed impossible to put into words.

Then my health made a predicted downturn and now there are more stories to tell. As my heart continues to weaken, my faith continues to strengthen. The health challenges of the past six months have inspired me to write again. I find that articulating my reliance on faith, hope, and love to guide me through the challenges ahead is easier to do with actual life experiences as a backdrop.

I had reservations about sharing my health circumstances as they happened. The summer of 2010 was so long ago that telling the story was possible without succumbing to emotions of the moment. I ultimately became comfortable with discussing what happened in the past. Posting about health scares in the here and now is a different matter. I again worried that some would question my reasons for sharing something so intimate in real time.

After much thought and consultation with those I trust, I decided to move forward with exposing medical events as they occur, including the photo of me in a hospital gown with a tube sticking out of my neck (https://esereport.com/2018/07/31/you-only-live-four-times/). That was at Sandra’s suggestion. With over 1,000 readers logging in, it has become one of the most viewed articles on ESEReport.com.

That brings me to why I write. First and foremost, I hope to inspire people who are going through similar circumstances. Battling a serious medical condition is a lonely endeavor. I’m lucky to have an amazing support system. I can’t imagine how hard it would be with little or no support. Hopefully, my story will remind those fighting for their lives that they’re not alone.

Now that I’ve found my voice, I also want to use my stories to be an evangelist for the miracle of accepting God. I don’t want to knock on doors and corner people to preach or hard-sell religion. That’s not my thing. I respect all religious and philosophical traditions. Accepting that a higher power is in control of my destiny changed my life. I recommend that you give it a try. With the heartfelt belief that whatever happens is part of God’s plan, you’ll be able to confront what comes your way without fear.

I write because I can. God gave me the gift of putting into words my thoughts and feelings. Like every person He has put on this earth, I’ve been on quite a ride. Writing my story has been therapeutic. Sharing my experiences has put into perspective what’s truly important in my life. I encourage you to write your unique story, even if you decide to share it with the world.

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Live Every Day Like It’s Your Last

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Enjoying an afternoon with Sandra and the girls in downtown San Jose

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Live every day like it’s your last day.

When surfing social media, I see these pieces of advice and their variations multiple times a day. I’m not sure how many people posting these sensible nuggets of counsel really believe what they’re saying or merely passing on a slogan. For those that use them for sloganeering and self-motivation, the trick is turning the catchphrases into true core beliefs. That’s not easy to do.

I think I have solid credentials to write about this. I spent most of my adult life sweating the small stuff and looking for tomorrow’s opportunities. I monitored every detail of my professional life. When things didn’t turn out just so, my stomach would tie up in knots until I fixed the mishap and made adjustments for next time. My mind was working around the clock.

At home, the slightest hint of disapproval from Sandra would gnaw at me for days. My busy schedule and non-stop preparing for the next move would keep me distracted for weeks at a time. When that caused strains in family time, I was constantly in a state of looking for the next open weekend or vacation to make amends.

For an anxious person, the small stuff and trying to shape the future are amplified even more. I was diagnosed with general anxiety in 2004. A Harvard study published in 2012 reported that patients with a genetic disposition for heart disease “who have generalized anxiety disorder – constant, pervasive worrying, even about mundane matters – are more likely to have heart attacks and serious heart problems.”

Here’s how heart disease researchers think it works. The heart labors harder because anxiety sufferers are in a constant state of adrenalin fueled “fight or flight.” In that state, the body prepares for an altercation and the blood thickens to prevent excessive bleeding from a cut or blow. For people like me with a family history of clogged arteries, the combination of narrow vessels, thick blood, and pieces of plaque floating around could be deadly.

Throughout my life, I heard the wise advice to not sweat the small stuff and live every day like it’s your last a zillion times. I regularly vowed to follow it. Unfortunately, I was never able to really embrace it, until God intervened during the summer of 2010. It turned out to be another one of His amazing gifts to me.

For over 100 days, He gave me a bunch of big stuff to sweat about. Before I signed the surgery approval form, the surgeon was required to advise me that my chance for survival was 50/50. When ICU doctors recommended putting me into a medically induced coma, I agreed knowing I might never wake up. I emerged from the coma paralyzed from medication and a month on a ventilator. I didn’t know what laid ahead.

That summer, God taught me that what I wanted wasn’t as important as what He wanted for me. Heart disease and complications ravaged my body. He wanted me to fight for my life and my family. He didn’t want me to think about tomorrow or the next day. He wanted me to concentrate every minute on the task at hand.

Once I awoke from the coma, I had no choice but to put His lessons into action. At first it was difficult as I wanted to go back to my old ways. I learned that I had to take it one day at a time. I couldn’t give up when simple things like lifting a spoon to my mouth or walking to the bathroom seemed impossible. During the next few years, I kept learning that worrying about unimportant things didn’t help. Looking too far ahead was fruitless. Living for the day became a way of life.

The world looks so much differently now. I see people “hangry” at restaurants because the food is taking too long. I hear people grumble about co-workers and agonize about wanting to make more money. Scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, we read about family spats over an unknown slight. I understand those very human emotions, so I want to sit with every person feeling pain and share the gift God gave to me.

Last week, I dedicated my daily walk on social media to a young man and family friend who has lived with muscular dystrophy since he was a kid. He spends most of his life in a wheelchair. When I see his smiling face while enjoying a concert or hear about how he is doing, I marvel at how he faces the challenges that most of us can’t even imagine. He and his family are the personification of courageous fighters. I hope to follow their example every day.

When the small stuff starts getting to you, take a deep breath and let it go. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, or any assortment of ailments that get in the way, seek professional guidance and share your story so you can find the silver linings. I was so consumed with the small stuff and the future that I almost let the beauty of life pass by.

Here’s some advice: Don’t sweat the small stuff. I know it’s easier said than done, but I’m convinced that this is what God wants from all of us. There are so many things that can be barriers to living that philosophy. I learned how to dismiss the mini roadblocks the hard way. My life changed drastically overnight. Don’t wait for that. Live every day like it’s your last.