You’ve heard the phrase Carpe Diem. Well, that’s what this post is all about–seizing the day.
And here’s why: I pretty much died—you’ll see what I mean. It took nearly dying to wake me up to the fact that my life needs to be lived how I want.
Back when I was fifteen I had an allergic reaction to some medication, and it left me with what’s called Prinzmetal Angina. Basically, it’s where the coronary arteries spasm and don’t allow oxygen to get to the heart. It can feel mildly annoying to full-on “an elephant just took a dump on your chest and sat in it, and now it’s time to die.”
I’ve dealt with it for many years. Sometimes it hurt so bad no one could touch me, but after hundreds of EKGs, and just about every other test you can think of, the doctors basically said–just deal with it. So that’s what I’ve done. (I’ve since learned something that actually works! You can read about it here.)
Well, a couple of months ago, I was in Missouri spraying a protective coating on two domes at a fertilizer plant. The domes were next to each other and about three feet apart in one spot, which created a sort of triangular area that was accessible by door.
I had quite a bit of pain, but hey, it was nothing new. I’d dealt with it just about every day since I was fifteen. I’ve always just worked through it, and when I was at this job in Missouri, I did this same thing. I’d been in Missouri for about two weeks and had felt pretty intense pain just about every day.
One night after a particularly painful day, I was walking to that triangular area between the domes to get some of our left-over product that was in a five-gallon bucket. My phone had just died, and I had a hard time catching my breath. You can see where this is going.
The triangular area between the domes had about an eighteen-inch step up to the door. I stepped up inside the area and went to pick up the bucket, and I couldn’t. Now, I’m a strong guy and no greenhorn when it comes to pain. But this thirty-five pound bucket of left-over product, was my bane. I couldn’t lift it.
In fact, after I tried lifting it, I collapsed against the dome, and slid down on my butt. I’d had worse pain, so I thought I could just get up. I tried, but it sapped all of my strength.
My heart hammered clear into my throat, and I began dry-heaving. I couldn’t catch my breath. It felt like my chest and back and left arm was in a massive vice, and with each exhale it would tighten even more. The pain reached up into my neck and jaw.
I tried calling out to my brother, but could only manage a whisper, until even that wasn’t possible.
My heart began to slow, and the feeling in my chest became more liquid, and somehow sloshy.
I saw a light.
It wasn’t a white light in a tunnel that you hear about so often. It was a beautiful green light, pulsating with love, almost as if the light itself were conscious. And I heard a woman’s voice say “Paul, it’s okay, I’m here for you.”
Calm washed over me. And acceptance. I was going to die. There was no fear; there was only love and acceptance.
How easy, I thought, to let go and have all of the pain vanish–to be done with it forever. For years I’d dealt with the pain. For years I’d dealt with disappointment and struggle and shattered dreams. How easy to let all of that go. How easy. How easy–
I’ve tried inducing out-of-body experiences over the years and have had some success. But the feeling I got then was markedly different.
My slowing heart, slowed, slowed, stopped.
I felt my spirt begin to detach from my body. It was like tendrils of weak glue, stretching and snapping off.
And then I thought of my beautiful wife and our three beautiful children. I pictured each of their faces, and thought of how much I loved them. Two weeks ago when I left would be the last time I saw them. What would their lives be like without me? I was the main source of income for the family, and we didn’t have much in the way of reserve. We didn’t even have life insurance.
My spirit detached more, and I was about an inch or two in front of my body. The green light intensified and so did the love and the comfort.
But then, I thought of their faces again, and I realized, just how tough it would be on my family to leave now. I’d grown up without my dad, he worked overseas and would leave for three–six months, be home for no more than two weeks, and then off for three–six months. I didn’t know him. It was hard on the family. But at least he’d been alive. My youngest was two-and-a-half and my oldest six. At those ages, my oldest would barely remember me when she was grown. But what she would remember is the hole of not having a father.
My wife would have to go immediately back into the work place. There wouldn’t have even been a month before she’d have to be gone all the time and give up our dream of working from home so that we could be with our kids and each other. She’s smart, talented, and gorgeous, so she wouldn’t have a hard time finding new employment; she wouldn’t even have a hard time finding a new husband if she wanted.
I realized, even though I could experience all of that peace, that love, that place of ease–I couldn’t leave my family. They needed me, and I needed them. Shoot, we still had one more child we needed to have together.
So, I chose to stay.
I chose to stay.
It was similar to squeezing my entire body, and yet not, but somehow I held on, and I mentally told the voice I’d heard, I have to stay.
“Even though it’s going to be painful?”
The light receded.
My spirit snapped back into my body, fully.
And my heart began to beat again.
There’s a difference between “knowing” your own mortality and understanding that someday, maybe even today, you’re going to pass on. Fewer even apply that knowledge.
I quit that job. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great company, with great people. It was just so far removed from what I wanted to do with my life that it was time. Dome repair? Come on.
Life is filled with opportunities. It just took nearly dying to wake me up from the false belief that I had to have that job in order for my family to live.
Today, my wife and I own online businesses. We have an Amazon store, and we have an SEO agency called Search Spartan. We’re learning from some of the best people in the world. I’m working everyday on my fiction writing and bringing that dream into fruition. Most of all, I’m enjoying my time. I’m doing the things that I want to do.
Oh, and I have life insurance.