‘She almost died, then I was diagnosed. I made the commitment to change immediately. I needed to be there for her long-term.’: During quarantine man says ‘I am blessed I had a wake-up call to focus on my health’

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“It’s now day 50-something of staying home.

I’ve often written about how, not many years ago, I began the ability to see and express gratitude within my life. Once this ability presented itself, I have been able to look at life completely differently.

Prior to this, I teetered between feeling sorry for myself and being angry at the world for my misfortunes.

It took my wife, Shelly’s, freak accident in 2013 for that to change.

She almost died.

With grit, positivity, and persistence, she taught herself to both walk and talk again, while never feeling sorry for herself or being angry. So much of her life was taken from her, yet she refused to view it as a negative.

I have been a different person ever since.

I can now find joy in the simplest and most basic elements of life.

Being home every day for nearly 2 months has been an opportunity for me to slow life down to the basics and essentials and focus on joy and gratitude in the most elementary of ways.

I am blessed to be able to work in an industry and for a forward-thinking, people-first company where I can completely work from home.

I am blessed to be busier than ever.

I am blessed not to have to worry right now about how to put food on the table or pay the mortgage.

I spent years with the reality of that worry being at the forefront of my mind and the basis of my constant hustle.

Having been there, I have great empathy and understanding for the millions that are helplessly facing the panic of that worry today.

I am blessed to be in Arizona, where I have spent 10 to 12 hours each day sitting at my computer on the patio moving through countless emails, Zoom meetings, and phone calls.

I am blessed that I have been able to turn my backyard into my makeshift office.

Courtesy of Bob Millsap

Some days I am able to work on the homestretch of writing my book early in the morning as the sun rises. Other days I jump right into my busy workday. Being a former long-time grocer, I am always up super early, which gives me the opportunity to see the beauty and solitude of the sunrise.

I am blessed for the ability to get lost within the music.

Music has always been the basis of therapy for me. Listening to it provides a calm and center that reminds me everything will be alright. I am particularly drawn to watching those who are doing performances from the safety and solitude of their own homes.

I am blessed that I am able to help keep Shelly safe and calm.

With her traumatic brain injury (TBI) and severe post-traumatic stress (PTSD), this pandemic has triggered a lot of fear for her. I am doing all I can do to keep any additional undue stress or drama at a minimum.

I am blessed that our two sons are doing okay.

Dylan will be 25 this month and he is busily working from his condo in central Phoenix. I am grateful that his job as a graphic designer can be completely done from home too.

We have gone to the Coachella Music and Arts Festival together ten times since he was 11. Last year was unreal, as I went to Coachella as his guest. Dylan was one of a handful of artists selected out of thousands of applicants to design artwork on a recycling bin to be displayed at the festival.

This year, he was invited back as an artist. The festival was postponed until October (if it happens at all this year). So in addition to his day job, while social distancing, he busily worked on this year’s artistic creation from home.

Courtesy of Bob Millsap
Courtesy of Bob Millsap

Taylor is 19 and a college freshman. The last two months have been a challenging adjustment for him. It took him several weeks to get the groove of classes online and by Zoom. He is home almost all of the time now. I can’t imagine being 19 and stuck at home only with Mom and Dad every single day.

Our bonding time has been priceless, as we stay up late some nights talking deeply in the backyard or playing countless rounds of board games such as Scrabble, Sorry, or Yahtzee with Shelly.

He is a collegiate athlete that has an offer to play football in the fall. Will there even be football in the fall? I know that weighs heavily on his mind.

But his positivity from home has both surprised me and made me proud.

Courtesy of Bob Millsap

I am blessed that I have been able to help keep my parents safe.

My mom is 80 and my dad is 83. Every week, Shelly and I have been getting groceries for them, making sure they have all they need to be able to stay safe at home. I can’t help but worry that as we deliver the groceries and visit each week, somehow we bring the virus into them. So we keep our distance (outside of a few lapses in judgment with a couple of quick hugs over the past few weeks).

I am blessed that the power of family is stronger to me today than ever before.

I am blessed I had a wake-up call to focus on my health.

Seventeen months ago, I was diagnosed as a type-2 diabetic.

Rather than be disgusted with myself for allowing myself to get to this situation, I made the commitment to change immediately. Realizing that, as Shelly’s caregiver, I need to be here for the long-term. I eliminated carbs and sugar from my diet. I no longer eat anything between meals and I practice portion control. I cut my alcohol intake to just a few beers a week.

I turned my blood sugar and A1C numbers around quicker than my doctor had ever seen before.

I have lost nearly 40 pounds. I am now within one pound of being in the 170s for the first time since I was in my 20’s, nearly 25 years ago.

I am blessed that this diagnosis happened.

As with such an improvement in my health, I find that I have the ability to focus on the big picture of joy and gratitude even more clearly.

I am in my 30th year of being a widow. Milestone years always seem to provide the opportunity for me to self-assess more deeply.

For the first time in these 30 years, I feel as if my fiancé, Dana, would finally be proud of the person that I have become.

That’s an accomplishment I am grateful for and proud of.

As we navigate through these uncharted waters in these unprecedented times. I can’t reiterate enough our need to be kind, patient, and grateful.

There are those who are stuck inside their home with nobody to talk to day after day.

There are those who have worked extremely hard to provide for their family, only to see the effects of their hard work completely evaporate in less than two months.

There are those who do not have adequate resources for food or shelter.

There are those who have lost or are losing a loved one with the added sting of not being able to say goodbye, or have the opportunity to mourn and grieve in the way that they would in normal circumstances.

There are those on the front lines putting themselves in danger to help and serve those that desperately need their help and service.

I never truly know the story behind any of the strangers I encounter each day, so I keep reminding myself I need to focus on always being kind, as well as focusing on counting my blessings for those simple things that bring me joy.”

Courtesy of Bob Millsap

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Bob Millsap, a 50-something who has been on a long journey with grief and adversity. He is blessed with an amazing family, wife Shelly, and sons Dylan (24) and Taylor (19). He lives in the far western suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona. You can follow his journey on his blog, Ten Thousand Days.

Read Bob’s emotional backstory of loss, and finding love after loss:

‘As I drove up to the cute 1950’s California ranch house, the emotion of our shattered future hit me hard. The tears flowed down my face.’

‘Three more weeks and we will never have to say goodbye again’: Man epically recounts ‘fairytale’ love story

‘Ginger ale slowly fermented and turned into a bomb. It detonated at the exact moment she walked passed it. The force of the blast knocked her unconscious to the ground.’

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