#Second_Chances by Joyce Kostakis
I glance at the calendar and remember that it is my one year anniversary. It is a good one. October 20, 2016, I joined the Second Chance club. I suffered a brain bleed and was hospitalized for eight days.
On my second or third day in the hospital, my doctor makes his morning rounds. “You are lucky to be alive,” he tells me as thoughts of I’d rather be dead than feel this level of pain race through my head. As if he can read my mind, he assures me the pain will go away. Thank God. I am relieved. I choose to believe him. I can expect this pain to go away.
“When?” I ask.
“I don’t know. I just know it will, and it will be sudden, it will be as though it never happened.”
My bleed, it turns out is self-healing. Much like a cut on a finger. It seals and heals, all on its own. In time.
His tone deepens, “I would consider this a second chance if I were you.”
I look up and meet his gaze. He is serious. He tosses out a few statistics to drive his point home. He shares the first statistic; 50% don’t make it to the hospital. Then the second, for those that do make it to the ER, a large number don’t survive once there. I can’t recall the exact figure, but it wasn’t pretty.
His words sink in. I think back to the day before my hospitalization. Did I win the lotto here? I’m feeling extraordinarily lucky because not only did I make it, I made it twice. You see the day prior I went to the ER with what I thought was a migraine, I was given pain meds and sent home. I was surprised they released me because when I filled out my paperwork, my handwriting was a scribbled mess that went off the line or out of the boxed area. I remember thinking that is not my handwriting, am I having a stroke? My suspicion was mirrored by the intake staff as she pointed to my writing when the nurse took me back. The nurse nodded her head.
After the pain meds kicked in, I convinced myself that I could go home, sleep and wake up business as usual. I left the ER. The next morning was not business as usual. I walked into the kitchen from the living room. When my foot stepped off the carpet and my heel landed on the hardwood floor, I screamed. “It’s happening again.”
I felt like someone had shot me in the back of the head and then took their fingers and pried open my skull to assess the damage. It felt like the back of my head was being separated with such force that my brain would spill out. Back to the ER, I went, and this time, admitted.
I beat the 50% never make it to the hospital two days in a row. The odds were in my favor, and eight days later I returned home to live out my “Second Chance.”
I had been reflecting on my upcoming anniversary a few weeks prior and decided to describe my feelings using today’s methods. I threw a hashtag in front of every thought. For sure there was #Gratitude and without a doubt #Good_to_be_alive, and no question #Feeling_blessed. But one thought kept coming back. #Here_For_a_Reason followed by #Second_Chance.
How will I rise to the occasion of this second chance? How will I honor #Here for a reason? How will I even know what that reason is to see that I have honored it?
As I ponder the age-old question “Why are we here,” I remembered a saying my teacher had placed on a chalkboard.
“Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t.” — Richard Bach
I’m still here; my mission is not over. I’m still trying to figure out what my purpose is. In the interim, I will live my best life, be my authentic self. I will live a life that is worth watching on the day that my life flows before my eyes one last time.
In the spirit of second chances, I vowed to live my life to the fullest. To say yes to new experiences and not talk myself out of opportunities because of whatever lame excuse pops into my head. I know that whatever explanation of why I should not do x comes from a place of fear or the worry of how my decision would impact my spouse, sister, friend, co-workers. What would they think? I moved the implications under the “fear” bucket. I reminded myself that I have a loving and supportive family and they will be excited for me to embrace new experiences and even share them with me where they can.
During this week of reflection, I get a call from a friend. It is a sign I’m on the right track, I tell myself.
“Want to go to London with me for a week? I have a free apartment.” She says. Her voice as always is full of excitement and joy for life. I decide at that moment; she is my mentor.
“I say yes,” without hesitation. I’m still riding the high of my commitment to live my greatest life this period of reflection has demanded.
I hang up to reality. How would my husband feel about me going to London without him? It has been on our bucket list. I think of work. April is the worst time to take off. We have a new release in May. My excitement wanes.
I swallow hard. Day one of my commitment and I am already backing out. Really? No. I will not. London is happening. I share my opportunity with my husband. He is on board. My sister thinks it is fantastic. My boss approves my vacation.
It is going to happen. Although my sister is excited for me to have this new experience she gently reminds me the area I am traveling to has had a large number of terrorist activities in recent years. I think my sister’s words were something akin to enjoy the experience but be vigilant and keep your eyes open and try not to get blown up by a terrorist. I will admit I had the same thought when I received the invite. I dig deep into my bag of mantras for something to squash our fears. Due to recent events in Vegas, it rises to the surface quickly.
If we live in fear, if we stop doing, they win. It reminds me of a quote by Natalie Babbit.
“Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever; you just have to live.” –Natalie Babbit
I am once again inspired to live this second chance to the fullest. I book my flight, and my momentary fear is replaced with expectations of fond memories of a life well lived.
My Personal Mission Statement