Matters of the Heart

When I last wrote, my daughter and grandkids were here on their annual visit from Seattle. I had just retired at the end of May. We had remodelled my cello studio into a proper guest-room in a crash two weeks. I felt on top of the world, high on the freedom retirement would bring. The visit was fine, except, boy! was I tired. But, it had been a frantic spring, to wind up my job of 37 years and then instantly repurpose my teaching studio just in time.

The second half of this two week visit is traditionally music day camp-for kids from three till university age. K, the 13 year old boy in particular likes it. I thought I was awfully tired. I decided to let the kids and their Mom leave at the ungodly starting hour and to join them later. I managed to ‘not notice’ how very uncharacteristic this was. Aside from the obvious merits of camp, this is my daughter’s and my yearly chance to really catch up, in person, without nosy preteen eavesdroppers. They are in class-we are hanging out. By Wednesday, I had stopped going to watch classes, and by the Thursday evening chamber music concert, in which K was performing as first cello in an all cello quartet, I begged off altogether. I cannot tell you how utterly out of character this was. My reason? I was “tired”. That was all…Yet, all night I was up and down, three or four nights in that week, in agonizing abdominal pain, sick to my stomach, wondering whether I was “really” sick. Even wondering, should I go to emergency? By Thursday my husband convinced me to at least see our family doctor.

After this, things moved at warp speed. My sweet doctor suggested I let HER diagnose me-I had been spending time with Dr Google-and within 24 hours, I had had an 18 hour heart test, an abdominal ultrasound and an electrocardiogram. I was to go to hospital, not pass Go, not collect $200…I had a bed by 3PM and my nasty, highly inflamed gall bladder with its giant resident gallstone-NONE of which I even suspected, in my total denial-was history after emergency surgery at MIDNIGHT that same evening. The reason for this unseemly haste was an out of control case of atrial fribullation, which is an electrically out of control heart rhythm, which can lead to a catastrophic stroke. It can, perhaps, be brought under control with drugs but not fixed. Treatment for the heart could not commence until the surgery was over as it would include strong blood thinners. So that I wouldn’t, you know, throw a blood clot,..have a stroke…..die…lovely….

And of course, we had our daughter and her two kids in residence. Our annual, much anticipated two week family visit was pretty much a bust from my viewpoint-I felt so ill that I barely remember it at all. My wonderful son and his fiancé, who live an hour away, took the visitors over, fed and entertained them and put them on the plane home.

All my life, I have aspired to be one of those calm, take it as it comes, solid-as-a-rock-in-a-crisis types. But I never manage it.

I am mostly scared. Not yet feeling healthy, wondering whether I ever really will be again, even wondering whether I will be one of those statistics, you know: “She retired and then BAM…..” We have cancelled our long planned road trip this fall. There is no way I have the stamina. The timing of this illness feels incredibly ironic to me. Take off the pressure and my body collapses. It has happened before, more than once. I feel jinxed.

When I was a child, my mother, who was a real piece of work, loved to accuse me of being “selfish, self-centered and irresponsible”. I think I have pushed my physical and mental health right to the brink all my life, trying to prove her wrong, despite realizing long ago that she was describing herself. It seems discouraging to, apparently, still be in this place after so long. Looking back over the last, say five years, I can see how I was abusing myself, body and soul, by working in massive and punishing overdrive, way beyond my limits. I knew it, sort of, but isn’t that ” being responsible”? Unselfish? Well, no.

I have started and discarded half a dozen blog posts. I am feeling so many things, mostly negative, in contrast to my post retirement high of June, that I cannot even think coherently, never mind write. Maybe it is the uncertainty of this heart condition. It cannot be fixed, just imperfectly controlled. And so far, anyway, “imperfect” is the right word. Also, stress exacerbates it. Good luck with that!
I do not really know why I cannot write. Or, really, do much of anything. I derive so much joy and pleasure from playing music-I can play, but not listen- art, and writing. Maybe it is like what happened with listening to music. After my son died, I stopped listening to the classical music we shared and were so passionate about-which was such a bond between us. I have not listened purposefully to music now for over twenty years.

Things could be worse, I know this. I read blogs by people going through much worse, and I know comparisons are futile. I myself have gone through worse. So maybe this time I need to just get back on the horse and put a post out there. I feel dead centred, and sidelined. I worry I will sound whiny and self absorbed. But, it is the truth, and one can never go wrong with that.