If you wonder what it’s like to have a heart attack I can’t tell you. I can tell you what the physical experience is like. I can tell you it’s painful, but I can’t confirm, like I have read or heard, that “it feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest.” Pain is different for everyone. Besides the body telling you there is something wrong emotions are tied to pain and those are complex and unique to each of us. So, I can’t tell you what it’s like to have a heart attack. I can only tell you what it’s like for me to have a heart attack.
It’s been almost three months and I have come to realize I’m not experiencing this like I had hoped. I’m not living like I have trained. I’m not being my own hero.
Training to swim across the Sea of Cortez I was practicing optimism and hope in the face of opposition. I was teaching myself to choose the light over the darkness of self-pity and despair. Here I am in the middle of my own Sea and I regret to write that I am not preforming as the swimmer I trained to be. I’m not even embracing myself as a swimmer.
I can’t explain my thoughts. I can explain that it appears I went through a transformational experience. Though the experience was profound and though I had hoped it would inspire profound growth I am admittedly struggling. I’m old enough to recognize that I am in the middle of the storm and it will take some time. I also remember time has its own pace and could give a shit about my personal agenda.
What I do know is that I am in shock. Shock is not from death scratching at my door. I’ve seen enough to expect death to show its face at any time. If we live long enough loss teaches us the reality of deaths grasp on our future is certain. What I am in shock of is that the shark bite I dodged wasn’t a shark, or skin cancer, it was my heart. I’m the guy who scored 80% on my Vo2 Max and who once ran sub five minute miles off the bike. I’m the guy training to swim across the fucking Sea of Cortez. I’m not the guy who supposed to feel death grasping at his throat from a fucking heart attack. My cardio vascular system is not supposed to quit on me.
I know exactly how I am supposed to respond to this experience, yet I can’t find the strength in me to be anyone’s hero. I keep hearing four words that spoke to me and provided strength when I was driving with Chris to the hospital. If I was going to die I wanted to express to her how much I appreciated our life and how grateful I was for our kids. I was trying to find the words, but this dam of emotions was choking them back in the middle of my throat. Then those words came to my mind, not from me, but to me. “This isn’t about you.”
In that moment I knew I wouldn’t die, I knew there was something else in life I had to do. Instantly the fear was gone, my throat cleared and I looked to the future, but not with hope, with certainty.
I have trained my whole life to be right here, right now, where I find myself in the middle of the Sea with no sight of any stars, sun or hope. I’m just sitting here, not putting my hand in front of the other. I’m battling this hurricane in my head and at times I long for the fucking boat, but I know there is something else I have to do. I have to put my hand into the water. I have to swim. What’s killing me, and I think literally, is that right now, I just don’t know how. So, I think I’ll just wait for this storm to pass.