“Wow. That’s pretty brave to start something like that.”
I didn’t know this guy at all really and certainly not well enough for him to make such a judge-y statement about my new relationship. I didn’t respond because I didn’t know what he meant. It took me maybe a month and then I remembered and realized what he meant. In hindsight I think it’s a good thing because it was a pretty shitty thing to say. My response would not have been how I really feel and would not have helped. I am also glad it did not cause me to over think what I was, in fact, “getting into”. I tend to overthink a lot (as evidenced by the fact that I am still thinking about this guy’s statement years later). It doesn’t stop me from doing things but it does affect my decisions. For some reason with stuff like this, I don’t over think. Stuff like what he was talking about. My brain doesn’t naturally go to that place. I don’t understand it but I know why. I’m not sure if that makes sense to others. It’s hard to explain. I’ve said it more than once; that even though life has been tough for me, I’m thankful for it. It has given me something that most don’t have.
Most people have a filter about this topic with me. With me and D. But I am sure there are many who think about it or feel bad for me or us. They project their own feelings because of how they would or have felt in our or similar situations. Do everyone a favor. Stop telling other people what to do or how to feel. Stop feeling sorry for others and just listen.
D is a cancer survivor and heart transplant recipient. He and I met several years after his heart transplant and after his life completely changed. When I say his life completely changed, I don’t mean in the obvious ways someone would think after going through all of that. Most might think he had to go on a diet, be less active to not overwork his heart, be thankful to be alive even if it means he is the guy always sitting away from the crowd at a party. The guy everyone feels bad for.
Nope. That is not him. He ended up becoming an athlete. Yes. AFTER his heart transplant he became an athlete. He is the only cancer survivor and heart transplant combination to complete a full distance IRONMAN and he has completed 6 (including the coveted World Championship in Kona). He also now lives his life (as he describes it) “as if his donor is watching”. You see, on the day he was given yet another chance at life he received someone else’s heart. That means somewhere else in the world while he and his family were celebrating there was another family mourning the loss of their loved one. D’s hero. How in the world can that debt be repaid? How can you thank someone for choosing to save lives when their life ends? D left his high income business to dedicate his life to giving back and helping others find hope. He made a lot of very difficult changes and decisions. It was not easy. He sacrificed and lost a lot knowing it would all eventually work out for the better for himself and everyone around him. But that is another story best told by D.
I wasn’t looking for a relationship when I meant D. I was enjoying my life and getting to know me again.
Then we met.
I have tried to explain our meeting to others without sounding like a sappy romance novelist but I have never been successful. It’s sappy and romantic (after the initial funny part about how we met on Tinder). It was truly love at first sight. Something really, really corny. We were magnetic (insert your eye roll here). We really were though. We still are.
Life just clicked. I knew if I had met him any sooner neither of us would feel the way we did that day. We needed to go through all we went through to get to each other. We needed to be independently happy so we could help each other be…wait for it…yes…better versions of ourselves. We accept and love each other for who we are as individuals. We lift each other up.
And we have both been through some shit. Albeit completely different shit.
What does that give us as a couple?
Are we the only couple who has this? No but people forget. Boy do they forget. There are some of you reading now who forgot.
We are both acutely aware of how lucky we are to be here on this earth, have each other, do all of the amazing things we do, meet the amazing people we meet and live these lives.
There is a very high chance Derek might not be here tomorrow. He has a heart transplant. He has had someone else’s heart for 8 years. That is a long time in the world of heart transplants. Now, he could always get another heart transplant, right? Sure. That could happen. How much do you know about heart transplants? Organ donation? Look it up. That’s another story. My point is, we are reminded daily by the scars on his chest and the immunosuppressants he takes twice per day every day just how lucky we are.
But we are no different from you. We are not more likely to lose everything than you are. The only advantage we have is the daily reminder. Yes. I said advantage.
I feel so lucky to have what we have and I would not want it any different. If D did not have someone else’s heart he would not be the person he is. He might be a great person but he would be someone different.
If I was not reminded by my own memories of my life and D’s life reminders I would not be me. I would not realize how lucky I am. Realizing how lucky I am causes me to live. Really live.
The complete awareness of how lucky I am to have D makes me enjoy our time and treat each moment like gold. Time is gold.
We make time for what is important to us. In fact we spend almost all of our time doing this. We make those things our priority. But that is another story.
I do think I am enjoying life more than others. I am almost sure of it. When I listen to others, I can hear it. I want more people to feel this. I think they can. Just listen.
You are not guaranteed tomorrow. Look around. What are you thankful for today? Now act like it. Pretend this is your last day. You still have to do all of the responsible things. Part of knowing it’s your last day is doing the right thing. What are you going to do with the rest of today? Now imagine it’s your loved one’s last day. What are you going to do for them? You still have to do all of the responsible things but what about the rest of your day? What are you going to do?
I am not different from you. I have constant reminders about how lucky I am. But you do too. Watch the news. You are no different.
So. That guy said “Wow. That’s pretty brave to start something like that.”
It came up again recently when D told me about someone saying something similar to him. One of those “I hate to say it but it’s true. You might not be around forever.”-type comments.
Right. You might not be either. You are not exempt from that.
I have a close friend who had the most amazing relationship with her husband. He died unexpectedly from a heart attack. She was (of course) devastated and shocked. It took her a long time to feel human again. She assumed they would grow old together. She never thought that would be taken away. One thing she said that I was not used to hearing but was so hopeful to hear. She did not regret a thing about their life. She was thankful for the way they lived, the way they treated each other, the love they had and gave. Even though she never thought one of them would be taken early from the other she lived knowing it was possible. She didn’t live in fear of it. She lived in spite of it. They truly lived. And loved. She had no what-ifs. No regrets. She had peace.
Do not be afraid of tomorrow but definitely respect it.
In the eyes of tomorrow, you are just as fragile as those you look on with eyes full of pity.
Make good choices! (said in the voice of a mom yelling after her kids as they get on the school bus)
You need to work, pay bills, taxes, etc. You need to obey the law. Be responsible and take care of things that need to happen to live. But think (even just for a second) about the impact of everything else. Is this argument important? Do we need to agree? Will I look back and be so glad that we didn’t take those vacations together so that we could get the Mercedes instead of the Subaru? Was $20,000 more per year worth missing so much of my family over the last 5 years? Is this where I am happy? Is this healthy?
I have so many friends, family members and acquaintances who have said those words when they lost someone. Those words. Those typical words. You know those words. Those regretful words.
You can’t go back in time. The decisions you made in the past were the right ones for you and those you love at that time. But you have something now. You have new information you didn’t have before. You DO know. You know that we will not live forever. You KNOW this. You know that tomorrow is not guaranteed. You may have forgotten or not thought about it but you know it now.
I would have said “I love you” more
I would have changed my situation
I would have gotten a job closer to home.
I would have listened more.
I would have hugged him/her more.
I would have taken that vacation.
I would have argued less.
I would have left sooner.
I would have stayed longer.
I would have said yes.
I would have said no.
I would have …
If only I had known, I would have done so many things different.
You know this.
Go do it.