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The Fear Factor
No Fear Mesa - Part 10

On October 4th, in the wee hours of the morning, I had a heart attack.

It’s one thing to read about someone having a myocardial infarction, watch it portrayed on television, or to hear the surprising news that someone close to you has been afflicted in this way. But when it happens to YOU . . . well, it is a bit hard to believe.

I have always been active (ran a marathon, lifted weights, loved playing basketball, etc.), and I have tried to maintain an above average physical condition as I have aged. A trainer at the gym where I go used to call me “Iron Ivan.” Flattering, coming from this former U.S. Marine.

I even changed my diet several months ago in an effort to ward off the negative effects of a recent diagnosis of pre-diabetes; and when I put my mind to something, I can be tenacious. I dropped about 10 pounds in weight (to about 175) and was doing quite well. Until . . . .

Until my LAD, (the Widow Maker) became 100% blocked, and my heart was “stunned” early that Tuesday morning. An altered diet, continuation of a regular regimen of exercise, and a loss in excess body weight could not stop the heart attack wave; that tsunami was going to hit the shore no matter how much back pedaling I did.

I won’t bore you with the details (you can read those at “The Making of a Widow” if you are interested), because my purpose here it simply to introduce one of the residual after effects: FEAR.

I am still waiting to see how much damage was done to my heart. And of course, I am praying the answer will be NONE AT ALL! I should know in about three months, they say. So, time will tell. But in the interim I am left sometimes with a gnawing fear that something will go awry, that my stint will clog again, or that something else will malfunction.

I had been having nice days, not often feeling the effects of a heart attack, and often sitting on the couch or walking around the cul-de-sac thinking that I feel just fine. Then yesterday came. Yesterday was not so good. Very tired, weak, not feeling my best.

And FEAR took its opportunity to rush in for a bedside visit. It wanted to remind me that more TROUBLE might be just ahead for me and my family. And I began to focus deeper and deeper on just exactly how I was feeling, worrying that the next proverbial “shoe” was about to drop.

When that happens to me – I go into Master Control Mode; that is, my senses are heightened, and my mind is focused. Not on living; rather, on controlling impending disaster. Taking on the job of “Master” of my own Destiny (a job too big for anyone) makes me THINK I can control outcomes even when that is an illusion. And I become preoccupied with my mammoth responsibility, much like a child driving a mechanical car around the circular track at the amusement park, busy with turning the steering wheel and maneuvering the vehicle, unaware that their efforts are futile, that the power and direction of their little fiberglass car (their perceived world) is not in their hands at all.

Photo by Elliott Brown

Photo by Elliott Brown

Fear does that. It makes us think we are getting a promotion at the job of living; more responsibility, more status, more perks. But the truth is this: it is a termination letter. Instead of a door through which we step into our new plush office with padded leather office chair and personal secretary, it is a door that opens into the abyss of frantic busyness, exhausting activity, and joyless existence.

Perhaps there’s another way. In fact, I KNOW there is! Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in a narrow wood . . . .” This is true for me, as well. Is it true for you? I plan to “take the road less traveled.” And you?