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I'm fine with that

by Derek Laliberte 03 Nov 2021
I used to think that learning new things about yourself was self-discovery and part of a growth mindset. Now I realize that some things just don't matter, and I'm fine with that. 

I was working on two projects simultaneously, each of them was attached to a deadline, and they were easily 100+ hours of work. I also managed a team, led a recovery ministry, served on a board, coached both of my kids' sports teams, and was planning a second mission trip to India. I was sitting at my desk doing my best to hold it all together when someone walked in and dumped another task on me. Something happened to me at that moment. I could feel my body temperature spike and my heartbeat through my chest. I got lightheaded and thought I had a heart attack. I got up, excused myself, said I would be right back, walked outside the parking garage straight to my jeep, and drove myself to the ER. 

"I'm not going to die today. I'm not going to leave my wife and kids without a husband and father." 

At the hospital, they took blood, did testing, gave me an MRI, and decided that they needed to keep me overnight just to be safe while monitoring me for a full 24 hours. Until they told me I was spending the night, I hadn't told a single soul about this. I won't go as far as to call them chest pains, but I will admit to saying that I had been feeling abnormal for weeks leading up to that day. Sobriety, alcoholism, anger was easy, but the anxiety was uncharted territory for me. I had no idea how to talk about it, so I didn't. I felt that admitting my head wasn't right meant I was confessing to something else, something unknown. 

When my wife showed up at the hospital, I tried to play it cool, but only because I had to. After all, she brought her parents with her. As it turns out, my heart was in perfect condition. "Tip-top," said the doctor. But, and this is a big BUTT, I was saying "yes" too often when I should be saying "no." 

I was overwhelmed. 

I saw a therapist, saw a doctor, was prescribed meds, and also…threw away the meds shortly after. I was more afraid of getting addicted. I wouldn't even give myself a chance. 

That was three years ago this fall. I wish I could say things got better.

I hate cliches.

The thought of using something that's been overplayed bothers me. In everything I do, I want to be different. My favorite quote is from Mark Twain, "when you find yourself on the same side as the majority, it's time to pause and reflect." I bring up my hatred for cliches just to warn you I am about to use one. It's not a cliche yet, but it might as well be one. "What have you learned about yourself this past year?" In one sense, I see it as a cliche. On the other hand, I have to consider what I have learned that I want to take away from this. 

-I've learned that the anxiety attack I had in 2018 might as well have been the "preseason" for the amount of anxiety I could handle during a pandemic. 

But that's not it. 

-I've learned that I isolate myself constantly. I used to be the guy who went to the movies on a weeknight because I knew I would be alone. Still, now I drown myself in music or tv show as a way to avoid talking to anyone about anything of significance. 

But that's not it either.

-I learned that I disagree with a lot of people I thought I agreed with. Basically, I learned that I am ugly. Ugly seems better than hate, so I will just leave it at that. I don't want to hate anyone, but I'm not afraid to say they're ugly. 

Again, not it. 

-I learned that I love working from home because I'm closer to my family, but then again, I'm closer to my family, and now I can't turn work off. Knowing my office is 20 feet from bed is a blessing and a curse. 

Not it. 

-I learned that I'm emotional. I can cry just as easy I can laugh, but I don't really want to cry this much. As much as I love Ted Lasso, it wasn't because of how funny he is.

 This isn't it either.

-I've learned that I have far too much guilt in my life. Whenever I spend any time for myself, I can't help but feel guilty about taking it away from my wife and kids. "Why should Dad get to do something fun?" They actually never say that, but I think the result has been a significant fear of my kids missing out. I have no idea why, but the thought of them not having what they want, or realizing what they want, pains me so much that I have completed forgotten about myself.

Not it again. 

Aside from the anxiety, isolation, ugliness, crying like a baby, and guilt, there is one thing I have also learned. I'll look back on it someday and say to myself, I'm proud to have gone through that when I did, and that's that we are not alone. Everyone has had some kind of experience, and not one of us can say with any certainty exactly how another person is dealing with life. Not now, not ever, and certainly not during a pandemic. 

Pretty close, but not it. 

You never know what someone else is going through. Just assume they have been somewhere you have never been because you likely haven't. All of those things I didn't want to learn, which I unfortunately did, aren't the traits I'm looking to collect more of. And I likely wouldn't have realized my understanding of others if I had not gone through them. I wouldn't fully comprehend that even though I feel alone, I am not alone. WE are not alone. I certainly wouldn't be able to sit here today without my previous bouts with anxiety and say with confidence that I don't care what anyone else thinks. I'm going to do me, and you should do you. 

Almost there. 

Someone once said, "we weren't just meant to pay bills and die." For the first time in my life, the idea of what doesn't matter is steadily creeping into my mind more and more this past year. We spend all of our time focusing and worrying about things that pale in comparison to what we want to spend our time on. We work all day long. We feel the need to consume our lives with success and accomplishments when they don't matter. None of it does. 

Here we go, this is it.

But, the look in her eyes when my wife wants my time does. The smile on my son's face when he wants to tell me about his game does and the way my daughter laughs as she tells me a story does (she's 14, trust me it matters). That's what I learned over the past year and a half. I don't want to take for granted the things that truly matter, that is. The rest I will give to God because I know He will take it. 

I'm [perfectly] fine with that.

Go live your life, and if you need someone to talk to. Reach out to me. I won't pretend to know what you're going through, but I'll listen.


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