I hear the doctor’s words, but they’re coming at me from a distance, as if under water — or through one of those telephone pipes the kids love at the playground. She’s inches from me, but miles away.
“I just want to prepare you for the fact that we will almost definitely want to admit you. We’ll need to keep you overnight for observation. Although it looks like there hasn’t been a cardiac event up to now, we need to be sure that the symptoms that you’re experiencing aren’t precursors to one yet to come. We’ll keep you on the heart monitor and check your cardiac enzyme levels three times over the next twelve hours.”
Unbidden, the tears begin to fall.
My babies. I’ve got to get home to my babies.
To Brooke — she can’t sleep alone. We don’t know … We just don’t know.
The tears squeeze my chest; with them, what was discomfort becomes unbearable pain. I can’t breathe.
The young doctor looks at me with earnest, concerned eyes. She sets a gentle hand on the railing of the gurney. “You did the right thing,” she says, “you need to be healthy for your girls.”
I will hear almost this exact sentence again from a different doctor not even twelve hours later. Both times, I will drown in the words. My girls. I have to be okay for my girls.
Throughout the night, sleep will tease but it will never stay long. The constant beep beep beep of the monitors, the nurses in and out of the room with a constancy that makes me want to call out, “Grand Central Station” (but humor fails). A pattern emerges — Date of birth please? Vitals, med check, blood draw … Date of birth please? Vitals, med check, blood draw … Date of birth please? Vitals, med check, blood draw.The faces change. Some are gentle, humane. Some are not. The flourescent lights are flipped on without regard to the hour. At 3 am, as the nurse growls trying to find a compliant vein, I tell him this is the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in. He doesn’t laugh.
Luau didn’t want to leave, but I pleaded with him to go. I needed him to be with Brooke. “Until we know,” I said “… until we know, that’s where I need you.” He was still reluctant. I told him that I needed him to leave for me. So he went, leaving me alone, and yet in a room suffocatingly full — full with the fear of what might be happening, full with the guilt of having brought it on myself, full with what I won’t be able to unknow, full with the work that I have to face is ahead.
In the morning, they let me go on my own recognizance. My heart is fine. No, my heart is healthy. Different. The pain has subsided; but it hasn’t gone away. It’s three days later as I write and it still hasn’t gone away.
They leave me with nothing. “See your physician next week and look into tweaking your anxiety meds.”
Thanks, guys. You’ve been helpful.
But that’s okay; I’ve seen this movie before. Different stars, similar plot: Diagnosis. Pat on the head. Have a nice day.
I can find my own way. I will make my own map. I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again.
Over the next few days, a plan takes shape. Small changes. Somewhere to start.
Nothing big — no weeklong trips to Canyon Ranch, no tropical vacations, no month off from work. Just baby steps that will, in time, make a difference.
So this is where it starts. Not tomorrow, not next week, now.
Gently, lovingly, forgivingly, now.
Step one — Take the pressure off where it can be taken off.
I can’t turn off my Mama duties at will. Doctors, therapists, educators, team meetings, forms to fill out, e-mails to send, and people to nail down remain.
I can’t shirk my responsibilities at work. I have to make a living or we won’t eat.
But the rest? The rest can wait.
Like writing — I will write when I am compelled to write — not because I feel like it’s expected.
Saving the world is going to have to hold off until I’ve saved myself.
Step two — Rest.
Really, really rest.
Not halfway; completely.
Fill the tank.
Replenish – mind, body, soul.
Step three — Become reacquainted with these.
I need a physical outlet for all of this. Writing is one thing, but, as much as Luau may complain that I destroy my keyboard, I can’t pound my stress into the letters.
A path through the woods with a friend.
I don’t care where or how, but every day, I will move my body with purpose. Because, as I proved this weekend, the emotional is physical and the physical is emotional and one can bring the other to its knees.
Hold me to it, would you? This one isn’t easy for me to stick to. I have a list of excuses a mile long.
Step four — Stop pretending that this is food …
And that this is a paper weight …
Get back on the scale. Be mindful, not fearful, of what it’s telling me — and remember that there’s a lot that it can’t tell me too.
Listen to both.
Step five — Make time for an old friend.
Whatever God may mean to me today, let Him back in.
Start forgiving Him.
(One in the same really.)
We don’t have to talk yet.
We can just sit quietly.
That’ll do for now.
That’s all I’ve got.
But it’s a lot.
It’s a place to start.
Today is my Katie’s 12th birthday. TWELVE. For the life of me, I can’t fathom how the hell that happened. It was like some dirty trick of time-lapse photography. But by God, I could not be more proud of that child. And along with all of the gifts that I will wrap up and give to her today, in the end, the one that will matter the most is a Mama who teaches her by example that she is worth taking care of.
Happy Birthday to my beautiful girl. I love you so very much.