Speaking of My Heart

by Elouise

Here’s a little before picture of my relationship with my heart, followed by an update about the now picture.

Before

Early warning signals
Intrude on my busy
Mind, hands, thoughts
Thumps in my chest
Try to get my
Attention

I resist
This post is almost
Finished
It won’t take long now
Pushing ahead
My body tenses

I lose track of time
Absorbed in my work
Ignoring my heart
The screen goes foggy
Eyes haze over a bit
My head feels like feathers

Halt. Close eyes.
Breathe deeply.
Count to 5.
Over and done.
It won’t take long now
I’ll rest—
Later.

Now:

Over the last two months medical doctors listened intently to my heart. Monitored it night and day for a week. Examined patterns of beats and pauses.

It started small, just 15 years ago. A small heart flutter. I saw a few doctors. Nothing to worry about. That was good. I’d just gotten a new assignment at the seminary. I threw myself into it.

Looking back, it was like throwing myself into a den of lions. Not people lions, but work load lions. The kind that wouldn’t let me go. Or was it the kind I was unable to let go?

Over the years I’ve learned to listen to my body. That means attending to nutrition, exercising, taking care of family business with my parents, letting go of things I cannot change.

But my heart? It was always there. Always beating, sometimes fluttering a bit, but never asking for extra special attention. Until late last October.

Now I know the truth: I never learned to listen to my heart, much less follow it. In fact, I seem to have mastered the art of ignoring it most of the time.

Today I struggle to disengage from projects so I can attend to what my heart needs from me. Without delay. Immediately, not later.

When the thumping begins (no more small flutters), and the light-headedness and weakness hit, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing. I stop immediately and walk away from whatever I feel compelled to keep doing.

The compulsion feels like an addiction. Something over which I have no control—even though I’m the only person who can change my habits.

My favorite new habit? Lie down, relax and do nothing for 15 minutes. Take a total break. Everything else can wait while I enjoy the silence or take a little snooze.

I also let go of my internal compulsion to go back and finish what I left unfinished. It can wait. My heart cannot. I have to break the compulsion loop. I reorder my priorities for the day.

No one will do this for me, and it isn’t a cure. It does, however, free me to cherish my heart, to follow it and focus on it. Calm it, acknowledge it for the unseen, unrecognized work it does on my behalf, day and night. Thank it for years of faithful service without much show of appreciation from me.

I can’t think of a better time to begin making amends to my heart than now, during Valentine’s Month! And so, my friends,

I wish for each of you a happy Valentine’s Month
and dare you, with me, to love, honor and cherish your hearts!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 Thursday, 2016
Photo credit: DAFraser
Broken heart puzzle put back together from South Africa
Musician and candlestick from Nairobi, Kenya