Everything is different now.
After my heart attack, people would say this sometimes. “Now everything is different.” I was very resistant to that idea. I have never been a fan of the “wait until you have a crisis then change your diet” outlook that seems very prevalent in our society. I believe in the “middle way” of Buddhist thought. I have made an effort throughout my life to follow a healthy diet, albeit with varying levels of success. The aims were always the same, but the ability to fully apply myself to accomplish my goals wavered at times. Similar story with exercise, though to tell the truth I am someone who tends to like chilling more than sweating! So after the heart attack, I took the opportunity to refocus, but did not see this as a time of major diet/exercise overhaul. I am, however, more successful in my efforts to eat well and exercise than I have been since I finished grad school almost 10 years ago.
I am realizing though, as I approach one year since my heart attack, that maybe that superficial diet and exercise stuff wasn’t what people were referring to. I have had to reshape my life in fundamental ways to cope with this disease. It did not suddenly appear with my heart attack, rather it became evident. This is vascular disease which has been developing over a long period of time and finally reached the point at which I could no longer compensate for it. The difference now is my awareness of the disease process, not as something that might happen, but as something which is manifest here and now. It affects everything I do. Accepting that and coping with it is challenging.
In any chronic disease process, people face this same awareness. Each of us must find that ability within us to cope with change. Learning to live a full life in spite of these changes is the real challenge. That may mean learning to pace ourselves so we don’t become exhausted and worsen our symptoms. It may mean learning how to ask others for help. It means taking all these lifestyle changes a day at a time and being kind to ourselves.
I read a lovely description of making lifestyle changes on one of my favorite blogs recently. Crazy Aunt Purl discusses her daily decision to continue making healthy diet and exercise choices here. The way she describes making that decision each day really resonates for me. Like her, I have never achieved a change in my basic temperament, but can decide to care for myself by making better choices.