01/13/2013 03:19 pm ET Updated Mar 15, 2013

I'm Still Here!

Over the course of 20 years or so, there were days when I thought I'd never live to see today. At first, the thoughts were fleeting; over the past year, they were consuming. Is this the day a test result confirms my non-specific trepidation? Would I go to sleep on a Tuesday and never live to see Wednesday dawn? Concern became certainty that I was going through measured motions, living on borrowed time.

Yet here I am, an elated woman. Alarm gave way to bliss today; I'm actually none the worse for wear, and possibly even new and improved!

I feel reborn, though I wasn't dunked, splashed, anointed, excused, or pardoned. I gratefully appreciate that the past two decades were not spent recovering from a debilitating illness or undergoing extensive rehabilitation. Despite all the buildup of this true confession, all that happened to transform my entire outlook required no additional effort on my part. I merely lived long enough to celebrate a birthday that my mother never reached. I am now older than she was when she died.

Harriet Smith was a wonderful woman who died relatively young. We were close, and her death opened a huge, ragged hole in my heart. While I was distracted by grief, some inane part of my brain opened a file marked "Absurd Anxiety." On a day not long after Mom passed, I started to wonder if I was destined to share her fate.

Speculation turned to fixation, with a growing dread that my body would fail me just as hers had done. Reality (and my spouse) would intervene often, reminding me that though we shared the same gene pool, Mom and I were poles apart. My mother was slain by diabetes, a disease accelerated by her addiction to cigarettes. You might think that my apprehensions stemmed from some similar failures on the part of my body or my mind, but I live a very clean life. I exercise, eat a vegan diet, and don't smoke. So despite the healthy pronouncement from the doctor at my yearly physical, why was it impossible for me to look ahead without dread?

Licensed and armchair mental health professionals alike could have a field day with why I agonized over a shortened lifespan, and I'm sure at least a few conclusions would be right. However, I don't really care anymore why that boulder on my shoulder was there-- I just know that it's gone, and that I have a new spring in my step on this winter's day. It's time for me to get out of my own way and stop looking at things through a ridiculously narrow prism. I can see clearly now; the fear is gone!