“The kids always know,” I used to advise my patients. “They may not know precisely what is amiss, but they’ll know when something’s wrong. Better to explain it yourself than have them fighting fictional monsters. Or worse, blaming themselves.”
No, you folks aren’t kids. Nor have I been in the position of sending you to your room. Nonetheless, some of you have retained your adeptness at tracking psychic spoor even within the medium of the Internet. I thought I was simply being quiet and thoughtful last week, but apparently there was a different quality to my absence, since enough of you have e-mailed, Facebooked and tweeted me to ask if I was okay. That’s why I decided to do this post and clear the air.
I’m fine, thanks. Really. Last week I wasn’t, but that wasn’t due to any kind of crisis except an internal one prompted by my visit to the cardiologist.
I have congenital heart disease (Tetralogy of Fallot) and a pig valve, which necessitate periodic health assessments. I’m supposed to go every
two years so often, and I…haven’t managed for a while that would be five. If you’ll forgive a whine, doctor visits have the ability to make me feel sick and small to a degree nothing else in my life has ever approached. I feel psychologically bruised for days before I go and lose a period of time after in melancholy. You know?
I sincerely hope you don’t.
Anyway, the good news: preliminary tests say nothing has changed. Oinkers (my valve) is fighting the valiant fight. My health care professionals were professional in that they only gently told me I need to healthfully drop a dress size. Any mentioning of words like “sudden cardiac death” and “heart transplant” were accompanied with brisk efficiency by words like “unlikely”.
See? Aren’t you reassured? I certainly am. The proof would surely be that I took a writing lesson away from the clinical encounter.
A little background first: If you haven’t done a 24-hour Holter, it’s essentially a day-long EKG. You get hooked up to wires and move around, doing most of your normal daily activities. At your side is a wee device which records your every heart beat. If you feel palpitations, fainting, etc., you are to record what your activity and body sensations at the time. Needless to say, certain activities — the ones which would be most welcome at stressful times, such as when fresh from a cardiologist — become less freeing when they are being micro-monitored…
Anyway, when I wear this apparatus, I have no choice but to acknowledge the abnormal heartbeats I work diligently to ignore on a day-to-day basis. Depending on the the thoughts that accompany them, I might experience:
- Relief — “At least the weird ones were captured and I’ll know what I’m facing.”
- Anxious — Oh God, the weird ones were captured. Now I’ll know what I’m facing.”
- Angry — “That’s not right. There are so many weird ones they will get a false impression.”
- Embarrassed — “This is almost as bad as the moment you smell a fart in a wee exam room, your eyes meet your patient’s, and you know the wind-passer wasn’t them…”
You name the emotion, I probably experienced it — with one notable exception: gratitude. Yes, I’m sorry to say that, instead of giving thanks for every imperfect, fluttery, palpitating beat — the ones flooding my brain with blood and my vital organs with life-giving oxygen — I chose to be hypercritical and self-conscious.
Do you see the relevance to writing?
I’m paraphrasing here, but in one of her sessions on working with recalcitrant Muses, Holly Lisle says one should approach them like you’ve finally got a chance at a second date after blowing the first in spectacular fashion. You don’t say, “Are you going to wear that?” or “Are you serious? I hate Chinese food.” You say, “Whatever you want, babe. Any-thing you want. You are The Man.”
Now that I’ve got my head back on straight and my chest cleared from hardware, that’s how I want to live my life: one heart-beat at a time, no matter how imperfect. One laugh with the ToolMaster and kids. One blog post that possibly contains TMI. One more page written in my novel. A single step into gratitude.
By the way, I happen to love Chinese food and made plenty of rice. Chopsticks are on the sideboard and there’s green tea already steeped. Care to pull up a chair and join me?