As many of you well know, last May I should have died.
There, I said it. Not “I had a cardiac arrest” or “the thing” happened (which is how the girls refer to it) but by all accounts, when you actually think about the circumstances and the odds, I technically should not be here, sitting in my lovely home, with my beautiful family, tapping away on my mac with a tear in my eye and a 16 week old puppy sleeping at my feet. But I am, I made it… Thanks to some unbelievable luck of collapsing not in a hotel room or on a plane or in the restaurant toilet I was on my way to when it happened, but smack bang in the middle of a room of people, some of whom loved me enough to jump into action and some of whom had spent several years at medical school learning how to save lives.
The odds of me surviving what happened unscathed are around 4%. To put that into context… if you looked at your weather app and saw there was a 96% chance of rain you’d be pretty convinced to take an umbrella that day, in my case to avoid turning my blow-dried Jewfro into table-tennis playing Monica from Friends.
There’s no doubting.. I literally stared death in the face and came back to tell the tale.
A lot of people ask me the same question… “What’s changed?”. They still see a lot of the same patterns of behaviour – a full diary, juggling work with 4 kids, still on the PTA, always up for a kitchen disco… and it has been noted that starting a movement from the ICU is hardly Slowing the fuck down.
However… the approaching anniversary of that fateful Friday the 13th, has given me a chance to reflect on what really has changed. And here it is…
Yes… I’m still busy but I am making more meaningful choices
Although my diary is pretty chocker Mon-Thurs, the things that I’m doing are all things that I WANT to be doing. I am choosing our clients carefully and working with people who value and appreciate the work we’re doing rather than treat us like they’re doing us a favour by turning up to a meeting or giving us feedback that isn’t completely contradictory to the feedback they gave us last week. I am doing more work that focuses on culture and people and noticing how much of an impact that work is making on both teams and individuals. I am being selective with my travel, insisting on staying 2 nights when flying is involved or one night involving a train journey over 2 hours.
I am genuinely seeing work as something I am choosing to do, not compelled to do and I know there’s a lot of privilege involved in that but it’s something I REALLY appreciate.
Most fundamentally, I am no longer chasing money and the status that comes with “success” – my quest now (and one I am continually trying to convince my kids to follow rather than fame and fortune) is one of self acceptance and love, not financial success and aggressive business growth. I would much rather spend a year with flat profit but doing more meaningful, enjoyable work with some lovely clients.
I am prioritising my health.
This is a big one. Sadly, (sort ot!) the cardiologists don’t actually know what caused my cardiac arrest… and believe me they’ve tested everything! My heart is and apparently always was until that moment, completely healthy. I have low cholesterol, perfect blood pressure and no blocked arteries or fat around my heart. As a result, I can be pretty confident it will never happen again and if it does I have been fitted with an internal defibrillator, so technically I am better off than most people! However, what that means is that there’s no specific adjustments I have been asked to make to my lifestyle so In a way I have had to kind of improve everything.
I have always eaten well and exercised but now I am militant about my training which I do on average 4 times a week (once with a PT) and I put gaps in the diary so I can walk to meetings if the distance is a doable (more than 35 mins and it’s an Uber!). I am never out more than 2 nights a week (it used to be 4 or 5) and when I do, there is MUCH less excess involved. Full disclosure, I was the one who’d go to the bar and do shots with the barman whilst I was waiting for the round! Now I’m more likely to be asking for more water to stay hydrated and am quite happy to be one of the first to leave if I am feeling tired.. no longer compelled to be the last one at the bar. I am also getting to bed much earlier… Often putting my pyjamas on when I stick the kids in bed and getting to sleep around 11pm to get those precious 8 hours in. I know it’s often said but boy does it make the WORLD of difference.
I am choosing to spend time with my family rather than succumbing to FOMO.
When I asked my little people (10 and 6) what they think has most changed since last year they both immediately said “You’ve gone out less. Definitely”
Before last year, I would say on average I would miss 3 out of 5 week day bedtimes. Now it’s so rare that I miss them, my kids are outraged when they hear I’m not going to be there for a story or an episode of MAFS Australia (which btw gets a bad press but is actually a fascinating study of modern day relationships!).
I’ve managed to do this by being more mindful of the reasons WHY I was out so much…FOMO!
FOMO is basically another word for catastrophising; From a work perspective, FOMO means connecting with the fear that if I’m not there people will think badly of me or I will miss out on the biggest business deal of my life. From a social perspective, imagining people seeing my non-appearance as laziness, them talking about me behind my back or simply having too much fun without me. All of this, of course, just exists in my head and is utter madness. In my new state of mind I am doing better at recognising that… choosing to pass the mic away from the party girl in me or the workaholic and pass it to a more reasonable, calmer voice that reminds me how completely delighted I will be to be tucked up in bed watching Working Moms whilst the rabble are heading to Soho House to catch “one for the road”….
I am not sweating the small stuff (mostly!)
When you’re rushing round at a million miles an hour with 2,000 tabs open in your brain, tripping from one hangover to another and focusing on your general dissatisfaction with life, work, your health, your body, your husband, your kids and the rise of right wing populism, it’s not easy to be patient and calm and the smallest of frustrations can push you over the edge.
With a new appreciation of the basic things like my heart actually beating regularly in my chest, I am fundamentally so much more fulfilled and happier. Don’t get me wrong, I still find it infuriating when people stack the dishwasher wrong or forget to indicate at a crossroads, but I am now able to roll my eyes and shrug rather than scream and swear like a banshee.
When you realise how easily your life could have been cut short, you find so much pleasure in the simplest of things…getting Wordle in 2, finding a comfortable bra, being able to pop to the steam room after a workout, realising how funny your kids actually are… There is joy everywhere.
Also important to say that slowing the fuck down doesn’t just mean everything happens at a slower pace it means everything happens more meaningfully. Being calmer, fitter, more focused and more considered means the quality of my work and my life in general has much improved.
In short, a lot has changed. Life is immeasurably more fulfilling and quite simply, happier. And one of the greatest joys I am experiencing is seeing how my message of STFD is positively influencing other people. So if you’re reading this blog, I’d urge you to take a moment to imagine how your life might change after such a close shave and consider how much you’re prioritising the things that really matter.. How you might consider also slowing the fuck down.