This heart of mine has been with me my entire life. It beat for me before I even had
awareness, while my brain was only a rudimentary organ with
little, but the basic body functions. It raced the day I was born and drew my first
breath. It swelled when I saw my mother leaning over my crib. It beat
strong and steady as I played and grew.
It fell in love and was broken as a teenager and was filled to capacity
as I held my baby son in my arms. My heart was there, every second of my life.
It did its job and allowed me to do mine. I rarely even thought about it.
Then one day, it began to fail. It would race, it would skip and it would
flutter uselessly as my vision dimmed and the world tilted precariously. I could
no longer keep up with the schedule I set for myself. It was letting me
down and I was angry. I didn’t like it very much. It was like an old friend
that betrays your confidence and you can never trust them again.
There were hospitalizations, there were too many doctor visits to count,
yet still my heart continued to let me down at such a wonderful point in my life.
The medical field was baffled and it seemed they were insinuating that
this was somehow all my fault, like I didn’t WANT to get well. Oh, but I did. I
would look at my husband and son sleeping at night and pry that I would
be there in the morning to see them awake just one more time. My heart
and I were losing hope.
Finally, after many trial and errors with medications, some of
which left me vomiting for hours or unable to find the energy
to pull up my socks, they
implanted a pacemaker/defibrillator. I remember wakening from
the surgery, feeling like they had stuffed something the size of a Chevrolet
under the skin just below my shoulder. It hurt to move, but I turned my
head to see my husband sitting beside my bed. The pain etched in his face
was so much greater than any pain I felt from the surgery. I suddenly
realized what a toll all this had taken on him. I blamed my heart and
hated it for what it had done.
We went home the next day and I tried to pick up the scrambled pieces
of my life. I still felt terrible and each time the pacemaker corrected, I
retched to the point of vomiting. If I rode in the car and the road was
bumpy, my heart raced uncontrollably. I couldn’t listen to my hard
rock music too loud or the pacemaker kept tune with the beat.
Was this the improvement I was hoping for?
When I went back for the 6 week check on my ICD, they finally realized
that something was wrong. Two of the wires had not implanted properly.
One was coiled next to a valve and the other had slipped so it was
triggering my diaphragm along with my heart.
Back into surgery I went. I was really angry now, not at the doctors, not at
the situation, but at my heart. I didn’t sleep at all that night for the anger
that I felt within me. Morning came and as soon as I walked down the hall,
I knew this was different. I actually did feel better. With several adjustments
over the next few months, I began to feel like I was going to live. More
I WANTED to live.
I call February 11, my rebirthday, that is the day that they implanted
the ICD, but my true rebirthday came weeks later when I decided that
the rest of my life was going to be different than before. I chose to get
everything I could out of every day. Carpe Dieum doesn’t even come close
to what I do every morning. Not only did I start living my life to the fullest,
but dragged everyone else with me. Some weren’t very willing, some even
dropped by the wayside, but I was too busy living to go back and sit with them.
What started with cardiac rehabilitation, moved through aerobics,
hula hoops, belly dance, tai chi, and now kung Fu and Karate. I never sit still.
I don’t have time.
I’m absolutely, irrevocably in love with life.
For the most part, my heart lets me do pretty much what I want.
It reminds me that it is there and not exactly able to do all the things I want.
There are times, it actually lets me down, like when we were running relays in
Kenpo class and I passed out. Oh I was really pissed at my heart that night.
It has humiliated me.
There are days when I just don’t have the energy I’d like to. I just can
do everything I want. That’s when I really hate my heart. I blame it for holding
me back, like the albatross around my neck.
In the past year or so, I have embarked on a new journey of introspection.
I became a Buddhist and began meditating. I started searching out other ways
of managing my health in addition to Western medicine and exercise.
Acupuncture was probably the biggest surprise. I went for treatment on my
shoulder, hoping to delay surgery on the bone spurs in my joint.
My practicitioner was vaguely aware of my heart problem and placed a few needles
that she thought might be beneficial. I’m not sure it did a lot for my shoulder,
but as I lay on the table listening to soft flute music, I realized that my
pacemaker had gone into sleep mode. Good heavens,
it doesn’t even do that when I’m ASLEEP!
I felt wonderful, I felt relaxed. I went to Kung Fu that night and felt
as if I could do anything. (unfortunately, I discovered that I STILL was
unable to do the flying butterfly kick, but I’m working on it).
I knew that for me, acupuncture was going to be a routine
part of my self-care.
One thing with acupuncture, when you are laying there, feeling like
a pincushion and staring at the cieling, you have a lot of time to think.
And think I did. I would meditate while lying on the table. It was warm,
it was cozy, my mind would drift and thoughts and emotions would drift
through my head. I would dutifully address each of them and let them go.
Then one day that gentle little meditative voice whispered in my ear.”
How can you show compassion to others if you cannot feel it for yourself?”
Whoa, that thought wasn’t even addressed, the notion was tossed out like
an old cat food can. The next week it was back. “You have to love yourself, to
“Nope! Get out of my head please. I don’t want to think about that.”
“Forgive yourself. Forgive your body. Fill yourself with love.”
Each time, I angrily pulsed away the thoughts. I really didn’t want
to love my body. It wasn’t what I wanted. Elle McPherson’s body?
That I could love.
And what the hell did I have to forgive anyway?
What had I ever done to my body or it to me?
Then one particular day, when I went in for an extra treatment because my
heart was not behaving in the manner I thought it should. (In other words,
it wasn’t operating on a 20 year old athlete level) An new voice chimed in.
“I’m trying. I’m doing the best that I can.” I know this sounds insane and
could get me committed in at least 4 countries, but I knew it was my heart
talking to me. It was attempting to tell me that it was trying to meet my
expectations. It wasn’t the traitor that I viewed it as. It loved me and was doing
its damndest to keep up with me.
To say I was flooded with emotion is an understatement. Tears rolled down
my cheeks and soaked the pillow as I realized what I had been expecting of my
body. My heart had gotten sick and was broken and fixed the best it could be.
Even with its limitations, it pumped and pushed and beat every second of
every day. It kept me alive to run , to play, to love and I treated it with distain.
My heart had not failed me. I had failed it.
That day, I embraced my heart. I saw it as this wonderful brave ally,
who stood by me in sickness and in health. I saw how hard it worked
to allow me to see my dreams. I thanked it for allowing me to have
these extra years, to see my son married, to kiss my husband under
the stars, to learn to live again.
I loved it for its courage and perseverance. I gave it peace.
We came out of that room a team, that day. It, promising to do its best
and I, promising to listen more closely to what it needed. Just like any couple,
we have our little disagreements, like that skydiving thing, but we’re
working on it.
How many of us, as heart survivors, have forgiven our hearts?
Who among us still carries the anger and resentment of failure?
Who treats our hearts as a mere organ and not the center of our beings?
I live because my heart beats. I love because my heart beats. I hold all the
compassion for the world, because I now have compassion for myself.
I love this little heart of mine.