Sabbatical Journal August & September 2008
It wasn’t very dramatic or even scary really. Just waking up on a Saturday and feeling like I’d slept on something wrong which now needed to be stretched out to restore circulation- an arm maybe or just a hand. But it was my heart. I could feel the rhythm was off and I felt a bit light headed. I wasn’t in pain, no nausea, no sweats- just some sense that something important was a bit off regular. I had a shower, felt more light headed, sat on the couch and told Marshall, and then called my cousin Annette- Super RN. Time for a clinic she says. We are on Cape Cod and the EKG at the clinic shows things are a bit off. I take the suggested ride in the ambulance because it seemed unfair to Marshall to drive me, and my possible heart attack an hour to the hospital, though I didn’t feel sick enough to warrant an ambulance. With oxygen, all symptoms disappear. 3rd and 4th EKGs are normal. It seems that some backside of my heart didn’t get quite enough oxygen but other than that I don’t have enough illness to show what’s wrong. A stress test with my hospital later on at home shows only a normal 57 year old over weight who seems stubborn enough to go longer than needed to show he’s fine.
I did have a moment or two in the ambulance when I set aside the idea that I was really OK and opened to the idea that maybe this was serious and I was in trouble. What would I do about open-heart surgery? Or not being able to work or go upstairs? Of course, I didn’t take the middle road consideration, which is order the chicken Caesar and 86 on the next 10 bacon cheeseburgers. I had a sad deep moment about surgery and large life changes/limitations. And then I got back to the moment and felt badly that Marshall had to drive alone on a beautiful morning when we should have been at the beach while I got to enjoy a very perky EMT and be in an ambulance going very fast without being in pain or scared much.
I had been working outside most of June and July. I schlepped about 1,000 pounds of soil, lumber, and flagstone into the back yard for garden beds and placed the flagstone outside the 3 south facing doors. After planting the garden and mowing the 3 acres of slope, I began making a stonewall. I got a stairs mostly made and laid some very large rocks as the wall base. And then I stopped.
Something inside had shifted. Instead of going outside to work, I thought of things to do in the house or errands to run. I was anxious, restless, and couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t bring myself to return to the discipline of daily outdoor work, which I’d arranged for my own health. Instead I’d sort a linen closet or clean a desk or oil the dining room table or shop a secondhand store for some bargain (a $90 Sabatier cleaver for $4- oh ye of little faith keep shopping!).
So, I watched this tension and fear moving in me and wondered at its source. It took a few weeks but on a long drive through beautiful Vermont farmland on a gorgeous summers day, it became clear. As I worked outside I could feel my body change. Muscles were more flexible, blood pressure lower, and my posture shifted from fat out of shape person to fat stronger person preparing to lose weight. And very quietly deep within me I could feel the young child sexually abused not wanting to lose the protection of being fat and unattractive. Some moments of sadness, some quiet grief for this young part of me. And then sorting out the puzzle.
The puzzle- I am on sabbatical to become more healthy and return to work. Part of more healthy is losing weight. My blood pressure requires it- I might be able to get off medication if I lose 30 pounds. I’ve osteoporosis (I’ve testosterone therapy stories that shouldn’t be told in public!) and the weight lifting helps bone retain calcium. My sleep disorder of not getting down to REM sleep is better with physical work. How then to tend to this young resistance within me and get back on the path? Patience, calm, and reassurance- in all ways, at all times- this is what I learned as a Montessori teacher of young children for 10 years.
Today I spent the morning and afternoon mowing our field. It was my first day back outside working hard. My heart was into the work and I never got winded as I did mowing back in June- so my body must be getting better. Resistance came only in hints and calm reassurance seemed to be enough. It will take me another 2 days to finish the mowing. And then there are 3 cords of wood to stack. And I’d like to paint at least the south side of the house before it gets cold. And I’ll also need to clean out the tool shed and collect kindling before I move the wood shed. Back in a groove, it seems. Oh yes, the stone wall should get done in there too along with emptying the night soil from the outhouse. Plus bring in the tomatoes for spaghetti sauce. 10 pints of pesto already in the freezer.
In my spare time, I need to convene a clearness committee to ponder re-entering my work opposing torture. I’ve some questions to ask others and seek their questions to increase my understanding, broaden my horizon. Other than that, not much else is new.