Featured author: Michelle
363 days of the year, I live a pretty darn happy, giving and adventurous life. Exploring new places, locally and around the world, meeting new “friends” everywhere I go. After all, a stranger is just a friend who you haven’t met yet. I try to give back to those in need in a variety of ways, and always treat others as I would want to be treated. Of course, I am human- so there are good days, and bad days- but over all I try my best to live a stress free/ go with the flow/ “good ju ju” (my own personal pet phrase- defined as giving out positive energy) type of life-style. Why only 363 days you ask? Well once a year I go for my annual Cardiologist check up (which can count as day 365) and that day, and the night before always leaves me a bit sleepless and anxious (so I discount two care free days).
As the day approaches, I can’t help but wonder- will this be the year…that I need surgery? I of course, am an “over achiever”- and a “what- if’er”. Any other what-if’ers out there know that you think, over think, and exhaust the possibilities when strategically planning or making a decision. It is a conscious effort for me to *not* do this. Which leads me to the extreme opposing end of the spectrum of “try anything once” attitude. After all, you only live once- don’t live that life with regrets. Scared of heights? Yes-very much so. Want to go zip lining in Costa Rica? Sure, why not? A bit scared of Jaws? Who isn’t? Want to cage dive with sharks? Sounds like a lovely idea! I am a bit of a dare devil; a thrill seeker if you will. That’s the stuff that makes life interesting of course! Sometimes you have to take the uncharted course. Sometimes you just have to leap without thinking (or over thinking).
When Jay and I went on our second date we decided to go on a bike ride down the Tobacco Trail in NC. A beautiful, winding trail that meanders beneath the coverage of beautiful trees. We got to the point of dusk and he asked me if I wanted to go back before dark, or keep going? Little did I know it was a test! haha Unbeknownst to me, and not wanting to end a delightful conversation- I insisted we keep going. No flash lights, no lights on the trail – we biked into pitch dark night air, talking and laughing to the end of the trail, and back again. It ended up being one of the most fun nights of my life.
That doesn’t sound so strange, or challenging, but what he did not know is this was the first time I had biked in a year. Not because I did not enjoy biking, in fact it was one of my greatest passions, until the the year before. In a biking accident, I broke not one, not two, but THREE bones biking down a mountain of death in Rhode Island. I skidded off course when a car came too close, braked and rolled over the handle bars, and kept rolling and rolling (helmet free). I was lucky to be alive the ER Dr said, but I broke my elbow and shattered my radius and ulna (right wrist). That didn’t include the epic road rash and ambulance ride to the hospital, and subsequent surgery to put an iron plate and seven screws in my wrist- black and decker approved- my bionic arm, if you will. Was I scared of biking? Yes actually! But I dared to overcome my fears, sucked it up, and felt brave and strong. I am not sure why I did, maybe it was being with Jay, and feeling like he would keep me safe (even though we had just met, I knew he would).
The day before my birthday, he proposed to me that we compete in a Bike-a-thon. 52 Miles through all five boroughs in NYC. As a born and raised “New Yorka”, I lived/worked/grew up in 4 of the 5 boroughs. I grew up in Brooklyn, moved to Queens in HS, moved to the Bronx for College, and worked in Manhattan…Strangely, I had never set foot in Staten Island, so that was one incentive- but not a great one haha. 52 miles was a LONG way! The most I have ever done was 24-30 tops, and that was on a good (and sore) day! Could I do it? Dare I try? I decided if I was going to do it, it had to be for a cause greater than me. That way, if I felt like quitting, I would force myself to go on because there was more at risk than a personal victory, but a greater good. So I decided to raise money for the wonderful organization Red Cross, as I was the chair for Cisco Club Red and the Triangle Red Cross. My hard work, sweat and tears would go towards helping others, and proving to myself anything is possible.
As we pedaled on- through Central Park, and the Brooklyn and Queens neighborhood I grew up in, my life flashed before my eyes. The chain on my bike broke twice at the very end, and became much harder to push. When we got to the last jaunt over the Staten Island Verrazano Bridge- I felt the ultimate pain, and thought that’s it, I can’t go on- it’s all over! It was in that moment I felt a gentle hand on my back helping to guide and push me up the hill. Jay said in my ear “don’t worry, we can do this together”. Once we got over the hump, and started going down hill again, I got my second wind. We pedaled and prevailed as the announcer shouted- “Congratulations YOU DID IT”! I could have cried, I was so happy, and none of the tiredness could be felt in that moment, just sheer joy and happiness. I did it! We did it! TOGETHER- anything is possible!
Certain people in your life are there for you no matter what, good times or bad. They help believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself. I am blessed to have several of those people in my life, and Jay and my mom top that list. As I sat in the Doctor’s office and laid down for my echo cardiogram (which is a lot like a sonogram for a baby, just pointed at your heart). I took a deep breath and prepared myself for what the Dr. would say. I listened to the gentle swoosh swoosh of my heart and remembered the words Jay said to me on that faithful day- “Don’t worry- we can do this together”. I felt comfort in knowing he was there for me, no matter what, as well as all the love and support from my family and friends.
When my Dr. Came in he said, I don’t know what to tell you…PAUSE… My heart starts beating faster, panic sets in, is he trying to kill me?? “You moved to NY, why did you want to come all the way back to NC?” THAT is what he didn’t know what to tell me? My gosh, he could have given me a heart attack. “I like you”, I retorted! “Duke has some of the best Cardiologists and Doctors in the world, why switch? Plus, it’s a great excuse to come back home and visit work, family, and friends”. He smiled “Oh okay, sounds great to me- love to keep you here” as he continued to smile…”So your results were GREAT! ::Cue my sigh of relief::. My condition, although still severe, not only maintained, but the diameter reduced in size! (unprecedented success). ” Whatever you’re doing- the fitness, and exercise, keep it up, it agrees with you”. “Wow -Amazing News! Fitness is key- that sure proves my blog hypothesis right”- I thought to myself. “She’s in love” my mom chimed in from the background. “That surely must help as well, this lucky guy helped fix your broken heart” he smiled. “He sure did” I said smiling ear to ear.
I live another year! 363 more days of happy bliss. A new reminder to live each day to the fullest, push myself to the limits, and know that anything is possible- especially when we’re together! As scary as those one or two days are, they give me a new lease on life. I encourage each of you to take today as your “get out of jail free card”. Mark it on your calenders, as an annual reminder. You have ONE YEAR from that day, to enjoy every minute of your life, and to “Live like you are dying” (I encourage you to listen to the beautiful words of the song, and make it your goal this year, and every year thereafter!). See you in a year, can’t wait to see how you LIVED every day of LIFE.
Read more from this author at: http://michelleragusa.blogspot.com/