Tonight I used my heartbeat to calm myself.
This is huge. The event wasn’t. I was just freaking out a little about timing—getting an errand done in time to pick up a kid in time to get home with enough time to get everything done. You know the drill. I felt a little flutter, and because I’ve had heart problems, I still reach for my pulse to make sure it isn’t “flipping out.”
It was slow and regular and beautiful, and I let the rhythm match my breathing, and the moment passed.
I have had four cardiac ablations to calm my speedy heart in the past. I was born prematurely, with an Atrial Septal Defect, which means I was born before the top chambers of my heart had sealed. It’s a common birth defect referred to as a “hole in the heart.” I had it fixed when I was five, and at 18 was given a clean bill of health.
But at 38, a few years in to being responsible for my parents in their various modes of decline, I had multiple episodes where my heart rate exceeded 220 beats per minute. Finally, after days of being in “flip out” mode, I had my first ablation (a surgical procedure where the misfiring cells in the heart are deadened), and things slowly got back to normal. One ablation usually does the trick, but I’ve had four, and had a pacemaker put in at one point when we experimented with a med that slowed it so well, it needed artificial boosting.
I’m off that medicine now and doing fine. But after ten years of being nervous about checking my pulse, to have it be regular as a beating drum when I feel a bit anxious is a breath of fresh air, and a sign of real success.
Here’s to minor miracles. And winter holiday surprises. And Day Two of Advent. And the last week of the semester. I wish you all a joyous holiday season and your very own happy heart.