I have this book I was given. Its called “Smart Quotes for Dumb Times.” This book is right up my alley because I absolutely love quotes. I live by them. I also think that they are a good way to look into the things that people have learned over time. For me, its the next closest thing to reading books.  There’s not a lot you can do when you can just sit all day. Its also hard being an athlete and not having the ability to do what you used to be able to do.

But yesterday was a fantastic day because I went to the doctor, and they hooked my up to an EKG and a treadmill like Ivan Drago (The massive Russian boxer) in Rocky 4. I had no clue however, that they were going to make me get on a treadmill considering that the last time I worked out I was completely winded in 5 minutes and my heart was going nuts…and also because my treadmill test was supposed to be Friday. But, I felt pretty safe there and was up for a little exercise. Little did I know it would be 20 minutes of hard running. There were only a couple problems. Problem one, when I looked at my attire, it was hardly running material. Thick sweat pants and my ocean-minded flats…I looked at the nurse and I was like “uhhhhh?” She laughed at me and shrugged her shoulders. We’ll, I took my socks and shoes off, and ran in my boxer briefs. Haha you should have seen the look on her face it was priceless. I looked at her and said, “Lets just not make this awkward.” We both laughed. Here was the second problem. I would be running until I could get my heart rate up to its max. That for me is roughly 200 bpm. Keep in mind, I haven’t run in more than a couple months, first because of my injured right knee, and second because of my heart condition. Also, I just don’t like running at all, and the thought of running as hard as I could strapped up to every chord they had in the office was slightly daunting. I’m just glad I didn’t have an audience. For some reason I had the Rocky theme song stuck in my head. That gave me a boost. So here’s the process, every 3 minutes, the treadmill increased in speed, and also increases in incline. I learned something about myself in that moment, looking at myself with no clothes on or running shoes…I could have said “absolutely not” and made all sorts of excuses for postponing this test for a few days later at my next appointment. However, I just laughed and jumped on the treadmill and told the nurse to fire away and give me her best shot. 

We made my beats per minute to 201.

We often don’t give ourselves enough credit for the things we are going through. We like to tell ourselves that we are making a mistake or not doing something right even when we are doing all that we can. We don’t give our heart and courage enough credit. It is so easy to feel insecure and dismiss any sort of progress. I am guilty as charged. Last night was a pretty interesting night though. I have been up late reading and writing, and all of the sudden I get this little message in my inbox. “Evan, I don’t know how I can deal with all of the things I am going through, you probably don’t care because it seems small to your situation…but I can’t seem to get things straight or figure things out.” I looked at this message for a second…and then typed back. First, of course I care. The struggles we go through in life are all related to what has happened in our life, so mine is definitely not more important than yours. Take this for example…my dog died after 16 years of us growing up together, and that was one of the most painful and lonely times I had ever gone through. I lost a true companion.

For you…maybe you had a fight with a friend and it completely destroyed your relationship, and you feel sad and lonely. Neither of these two events have anything to do with each other, but the feeling and the emotions you are going through. The feelings are the same, and they are just as painful in either situation. Second…and here’s the part where I need to take my own advice…”You can pick yourself up out of anything, and you can survive the unthinkable. The scariest part of life is ‘doing the thing you think you cannot do’ …and that for most of us, is taking a journey by ourselves. Lastly, hold tight to the people you love and who love you, because they are there to hold us tight, help us walk again, or even throw us over their shoulder when things get hard. Never push them away.” There was a long long pause…and all that came out was “Thanks :).”

I’ll be back at school on Thursday. My heart is going to be okay, and my health has been so much better. The Doc says I should exercise regularly so my heartbeat can figure itself out. Its actually funny, there is a great chance that yesterdays treadmill to the max heart rate test helped correct my problem. Who would have thought that would have been the case. I am still on my meds and vitamins, but it looks like the problem is going away. Theres a good chance it will come back, but we know how to control it now. The past week, well lets just say that things were getting pretty sporty over here with my health. Things took a serious decline…but look how quickly they picked themselves up….

This project is about learning from stuff. And, there is lots and lots of stuff that goes on every day. Things that we don’t even think of probably. Things we do that have effects on other people, things that we don’t do that have these same effects. Life is one big chess game that is played on a shoots and ladders board…it just makes no sense sometimes. Here’s what I learned over this past week. For the first time in my life, I was given a little sneak peak into how quickly your health can be taken away from you. And I can tell you right now, its pretty damn concerning when your heart stops beating properly. Because without it, you can’t do anything. And that’s what I had to do…nothing. I sat and watched some movies, but mostly read and wrote constantly. I felt pathetic just laying here, and thank God for friends coming to visit me because things started to suck. I’ve written before though…in those times of silence, can you stand to sit there and listen to yourself?  Can you stand to hear yourself think, and listen as the pen scribbles your thoughts out onto the paper? Right now, I can. I feel like a new person. I feel fresh, I feel capable of tackling my goals now, and I feel that those burdens that were on my back are now gone. The candle is re-lit. I also learned that we never know what is going to happen in life.

Things are taken so quickly we can’t even begin to comprehend how things happened. My health was grabbed from me and squeezed. It was an awful feeling. But now, that I have it back, I want to enjoy every moment of it. My step into becoming a better man also involves one more thing. Not worrying. We spend so much time in our lives worrying about this or that…but when has worry ever brought results. Never. Don’t worry about your health, don’t worry about school, and don’t worry about anything else…just be the best person you can possibly be in this life and the rest will take care of itself. “Luck happens when preparation and opportunity meet.” 

I have this flame inside me right now that is getting ready to burn red hot. If there was ever a time to accomplish anything and everything I want to do, its right now. This moment. I am going to need some help along the way, no doubt, but the drive is there. The horsepower is there. The drive to change, to allow change, to be changed, and to see change in front of us. I am going through big changes, and I couldn’t tell you I’m not excited about them. 

Evan Sanders
The Better Man Project