I am hooked up to a heart monitor right now. It’s mobile – just four electrodes connected to various and particular locations on my chest with wires that connect to a small timer-like thing that’s currently in my pocket – even as I sit here and type.
Other than the fact that I definitely know it is there, I barely know it is there.
I’m hooked-up because my heartbeat is erratic. The doctor asks me what I’m feeling. He listens with his stethoscope. He has me take deep breaths, “in and out, please.” He explains what a normal heart does and what mine is doing – which may or may not be normal. He tells me that he’d also like to do an ultrasound – just so he can see the heart itself and make sure there is nothing damaged or structurally problematic. Then he talks to me about a couple of possibilities: 1) This is happening for no apparent reason and may just go away; “it happens more than you’d think,” he says. 2) My heart is getting older and sometimes, for some people, needs help – more help, like not just a 24-hour monitor help. I’m opting for and planning on #1.
It’s somewhat paradoxical: the way in which stress impacts the heart. And yet here I am, stressed because I’m worrying about my heart. I’m trying not to, of course; trying to trust that my heart is simply making itself known to me in a very particular way, wanting me to be mindful. And once assured that I have given it due attention, it will go back to beating steady and strong, steady and strong, steady and strong.
May it be so.
Today is August 1.
Emma leaves in early September for her 3rd (and possibly final) year at Western Washington University and Abby leaves three weeks later for Seattle Pacific University for her 1st year away. My heart(s) – leaving; the two hearts to whom I have given my heart – leaving; the two hearts who have filled my heart and enabled its strength – leaving.
I’m hard-pressed to not believe these two realities are interconnected. Could my physical heart be feeling this tug, this pull? Could my physical heart be beating out-of-sync as it tries to incorporate this lifealtering transition, tries to find equilibrium and balance, tries to determine its rhythm in the absence of my two girls? Could my physical heart already ache? Could my physical heart feel grief that my mind does not yet know?
My mind says, “It’s all going to be OK. You’ve been preparing for this season, this time, these goodbyes. Your girls are ready. You are ready. All will be well.”
My mind is wise, to be sure; but it doesn’t know everything. (I have to keep this in mind…and in heart.)
There is nothing I need to do about any of this.
Indeed, even the medical establishment confirms this unwittingly when they inform me the first follow-up appointment available isn’t until early October. “If we see anything serious in the monitoring, we’ll bring you in sooner; otherwise, that’s the best we can do.” Little comfort. And bizarre. The significance of the timing is not lost on me: when I return to the doctor, the girls will officially be “gone.”
There is nothing I need to say about any of this.
No pronouncement. No vows. No promises. No “if I only had 1 year to live” plans. No. Just awareness. Just presence. Just this.
Beat-beat——————–beat——-beat——-beat. The two quick beats, followed by the long space-and-pause are what keep calling me back to my heart – the discomfort, the impossible-to-ignore “flip” within.
My two girls, quickly gone, followed by the long space of just me – it keeps calling me back to my heart’s ache and its strength, its impossible-to-deny will and stamina and love. It will keep beating. I will keep living. Just differently – with a bit of arrhythmia – at least for a time as I adjust to this out-of-sync, not quite correct, and not quite steady way of being that waits for me.
When I was pregnant, two hearts beat within me. I cared more about my daughter’s than mine. Hers was all I wanted to hear, all I wanted to see on the ultrasound, all I wanted to watch when hooked up to countless monitors during labor. Keep beating, little heart. Keep living, little girl. Come into my arms. Come home.
And now you are leaving. Both of you.
Three hearts have beat within me. Not always in sync, by any means. Hardly steady all the time. But all here. All beating. All together. Now, in just weeks, one heart remains and now, strangely, beats alone. Mine. Erratic. Unsteady. Imbalanced.
It’s no wonder I’m hooked to this monitor.