Writing this while listening to the soothing sounds of the surf, grateful for some time away from the hustle and bustle my life had become. Wishing that my toes were sunk in the sand, feeling the sun beaming down, warming my weary body and the soul that has been aching for peace. Instead, I am at my dining room table, listening to a YouTube video with ocean waves lapping against beaches. For now, this will suffice. I haven't taken a real vacation in years and even when I would go to retreat centers, it would generally also involve teaching, which I love. Toward the end of their lives, visits to my parents' Ft. Lauderdale condo meant some caregiving, which I was honored to do. At one point, my mother lovingly booted me out of her hospital room and told me I had to go to the beach. I can see a true get away in my near future.
I am beginning a new life after a series of health crises that sparked a re-evaluation of every aspect. For 55 years, I assumed that I was doing most of what I could to take care of this body temple I was given on October 13, 1958. I don't drink, smoke or do drugs (unless you count chocolate). I worked out at the gym 3-5 times a week. I surrounded myself with loving, supportive people. Most who know me would say that I am a force for good in the world. I keep my thoughts pretty healthy with the occasional self doubting ones sneaking past the guardian at the gate. I ate a primarily vegetarian diet. Even so, on June 12th, I experienced a heart opening event (a.k.a. heart attack) on my way home from the gym. Jaw pain, drenching sweat and heartburn across my back and chest are symptoms that many women have that go untreated until damage is done, because they don't resemble the typical left arm and chest pain that men often have. In short order, I was lying on a gurney in the cardiac cath lab of my local hospital that is in the top 100 cardiac care centers in the U.S., while a stent was inserted in a collapsed artery. When I saw the before and after images of my heart, it showed that the first picture of the artery looked link a bent over and broken branch and the second as if it had sprung back to life. Literally it had.
A few days in the hospital began to prepare me for major shifts in perception, attitude and action. A med regimen, dietary changes (low fat, low sodium and low cholesterol), beginning cardiac rehab which I love since professionals monitor my vital signs and keep me from overdoing it, as has been my pattern. The most sweeping metamorphosis has been the necessary slowing down of my thoughts and movements. Prior to this incident, I was the Energizer Bunny who moved a gazillion miles an hour; now I am more tortoise than hare. A few months ago, I fancied myself Wonder Woman who could do anything. Now I am claiming my identity as the Bionic Woman since I have a new body part. I thought I could (and needed to be to earn my keep on this planet) be all things to all people and now I know I need first to be that for myself, since I felt all "gived out." I had been working 12 hour days and sleeping 6 hours a night, convincing myself that sleep was highly over-rated. Apparently not.
Loving friends and family kicked my butt into taking time off from work which I reluctantly agreed to do after two friends came to my hospital room and staged an intervention, with one of them leaning over my bed and whispering in his best NY accent, "You go back to work next week, I come oveh and break both ya legs." When Phil speaks, I listen.
I have long believed that God/Goddess/All That Is, has my back, despite appearances at times. This was no exception. I am not letting this heart attack go to waste and I see it as a wake up call for me and for others I encounter. It has given me a fresh perspective on everything I do. I have, of necessity, needed to walk at times, as if I am moving through a labyrinth... one step at a time, as if engaging in a Japanese tea ceremony, one graceful movement at a time. My friend Fran suggested that I move as if in slow motion, which for most people would be normal speed. I have spent a lot of time staring into space when before, it would have felt like a waste of time, since I wasn't being "productive."
A few weeks prior to the heart attack, I was offered a full time job working from home as a writer. The timing could not have been more perfect as it enabled me to leave another full time position that I loved, but had taken its toll on my body and soul. I gratefully accepted it.
I am discovering that the woman in the mirror is worth having experiences just for herself that she need not use only to educate and entertain others, that her value is not merely what she does for others, just because she can. She is allowed to have pleasure and ease, beauty and grace because it is her birthright. She is finding that by moving in slow motion, she enjoys the scenery all the more.