Monday, March 8, 2021

Take a Hike

Journalist goes on a trek back to wellness

I have always envied those people who could pull off a week-long retreat between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day to reflect on life and make any course corrections for the upcoming year. Little did I know my first opportunity to be like them would come in a fifth-floor hospital room.

But there I was, playing out the final stages of a far more dangerous game than I realized. Oh, it had percolated for months, and I knew it. But I also thought I still stood 10 feet tall and bulletproof. Until Christmas Day, anyway.

After all, the gifts were exchanged and the mountains of wrapping paper scaled, there I was with visions of sugar plums in my head. OK, it was chocolate-covered cherries, but you get the idea. All was right with the world, except for one thing … I felt like a wind-up toy soldier marching out the last turn of the key before crumpling in a heap, with no more energy to give.

It was time to do something. So past the river and by the woods to the emergency room we did go.

I was poked, prodded and examined so much that night I thought I’d landed at Area 51. But I had a lot of time to wait, too. And in my waiting, I began to reflect on how I had gotten to that point.

We all thought 2020 was going to be our year of vision. It was 2020, after all. How could it not be? But instead, 2020 blindsided us with a train wreck wrapped in a hurricane – or a series of hurricanes.

On the one hand, I was blessed with a contract that kept me busy through it all. On the other hand, the busyness disguised the symptoms that were stealthily creeping in on me.

By Halloween, I felt exhausted all the time. I had not slept through the night in months at that point; I chalked it up to the traveling I was doing for the contract gig. By Thanksgiving, my legs and calves were swollen almost beyond recognition, and I could not breathe.

I had excuses for all of it. I was eating poorly, not sleeping well, not exercising enough. All I needed to do was to make it to Christmas and find a little downtime to get some rest. Well, life makes a way.

So there I was, sitting on the side of my hospital bed the day after Christmas. I had just more easily digested the doctor’s diagnosis than I had the eggs and bacon from food services. I had a few minutes to myself. I did the one thing that came naturally to me – I turned to music.

I scanned the soundtrack of my life and landed on two tracks immediately. First, it was Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying.” I cried for a minute or two, more mad than sad for getting to that point. Up next was Garth Brooks’ “Standing Outside the Fire.” No tears this time. Just a steely resolve that I wasn’t just going to survive life; I was going to jump inside that ring of fire.

And this is where the Happily Every After comes in, right? Wrong. It’s been work moving forward from that day. The couch is still there, right in front of the TV. But I’m not on it. Burgers, french fries and pizza still look delicious. But I’m not eating that. Medicine helps regulate my blood pressure, blood sugar and excess fluids while I am learning to do those things on my own.

I have lost almost 60 pounds since tipping the ER scales on Christmas Day. My blood pressure and blood sugar also are down. And my energy level is up — way up.

My first purchase when I got home was a pair of hiking boots. They represent the new journey I am on in my life. Like hiking, this journey is about discovering and enjoying the beauty and quality of life around me. I am pretty sure those boots are fireproof.

Stay tuned for more from my journey to better health in future editions of 318 Forum magazine.

Scott “Scooter”Anderson is a freelance communications consultant and a frequent contributor to 318 Forum.


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