The many years of caring for my husband with Alzheimer’s disease has prompted me to remain in the present. I learned a long time ago not to look back at the past with frustration at what no longer can be. I also rarely look ahead with worry. If I’m on track today, tomorrow will be fine.

Nearly a year ago, I had a medical event that has raised my consciousness significantly further. After a series of tests, I was diagnosed with a condition called fibromuscular dysplasia. Because it is at least in my left inner carotid artery and the renal arteries, complications can include high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic kidney failure, aneurysms, dissections, and stroke.

I’m fortunate to be seeing one of the doctors who wrote the paper on FMD for the American Heart Association. He advised I follow a Mediterranean diet, exercise, avoid stress, and be aware of signs of stroke. He said if I have one, I could lose the vision in my left eye and all function on my right side. When I asked what he thought my chances of stroke were, he gave me the vague answer that it may or may not happen.

I’m not sure why I even asked that question. After all, even if he said it was 95% certain that I would have a stroke, why can’t I be the 5% who doesn’t? Again, I’m not going to worry about what might not happen. Today is where I will remain.

The diagnosis and this perspective have led me to live thoughtfully. More often, I take a moment of pause before speaking, acting, or doing. I ask if this is on what or with whom I want to spend my time, money, efforts, talent, and energy. Do I want these words to be my last? Is this a product I’m proud to promote? Are these the people I want to be with until the end?

I’m working to simplify and declutter my life as much as possible. I don’t want to leave behind any messes for my kids to clean up or waste time caring for things that don’t matter to me.

This new approach is actually quite a lovely way to live. It doesn’t eliminate activities I’d rather not do but my attitude has changed. I scrub the bathroom, because I like it clean. I pay the bills to get them off my desk. And any bit of free time, I do what makes me happiest.

I’ve always been grateful for my many blessings. Now, I enjoy them much more.

©2016, Mary K. Doyle

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