The day after a heart attack
Today, like most days of the past three months, I sat next to someone emerging into The-Day-After they’ve had a heart attack. From a hospital bed, heart monitor cables clipped to their chest, they blink at me bewildered. Shell shocked, they retell the events of the previous day.
A usual day, full of something normal, rode my bike/walked to my sister’s house/went to work/ did the vacuum cleaning. Then pain, in the chest/back/jaw/arm. The pain worsens, for some its horrendous, for others so minimal they can’t believe they’re even here. But here they are, emerged from a lab where tubes, dyes, stents, and so many drugs, have been pumped into blood vessels to restore blood flow to the heart.
A Baz Luhrman songs says “The real troubles in life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that that blindside you on some idle Tuesday.”
What I’ve learnt from sitting by the bedside of these people trying to make sense of how close they just came to dying, is that you don’t see it coming. But it is coming. In the extra kilos building up around the stomach. In the inactivity that creeps into life. In the stress, anger and worry that niggles, gnaws and haggles its way into your being. You don’t see it coming. But it is.
Its taken for granted that there will always be a tomorrow to make that lifestyle change. Another time to meditate. Another time to stop drinking so much. Another time to exercise more regularly. It gets put off.
In the faces staring out at me from hospital beds, I see the sudden and horrible shock, that this is life catching up. They almost died. And though they haven’t, now they’re heart muscle has been damaged. Perhaps it will heal. Likely, it won’t.
Its not just some cheesy catch phrase spouted in popular yoga classes. The present really is all we have
Earlier this year, I packed up yet another home, and moved from the great wilderness I had come to love, to follow the man tattooed on my insides, to the humming streets of Sydney. Leaving came with such a rush of grief, a miscarriage whose umbilical cord still does not feel cut, its hold still so great upon me. There is much in this present I find hard to be with. From the stretch of high rise buildings that surround my current home, to the massive city hospital I show up to each day to work in. Its hard to enter that impersonal building and not think on the desert-scape I used to drive out into each day… But as tantalising as these memories are, as urgent as the craving is, it is nothing but a mirage I lust after.
If this moment is the one I have, if everything can be swept away in so fleeting a wave, then I choose to be completely present. I finger the edge of my grief, but dig my feet into this ground. Around me, the light is shifting through trees and I walk through a street my hand held in his hand. I load my vintage bicycle with fresh produce, and meander through the quieter streets. Through parks where puppies play. And I enter those big hospital doors, and sit down with these men and women, as they sort through this gigantic moment of their lives.
I crave another time and place. But this is the time and place I have. Grief, and frustration, worry, joy, peace, sweetness, the bitter… they were present in the desert, and they are present here. Always in ebbing, flowing waves.
No matter where I am, I will be happy. I will be sad. I will be energised and excited. I will be bitter and fatigued. Everything changing. Everything impermanent. And sitting beside men and women, who have brushed death and been called to account, I am reminded that there is only now to make peace with this.
There is only now to show up for a daily practice of committing to a life that is present, that embraces each moment, each place, each time, each circumstance with equanimity, with compassion, with loving kindness, with humour. Now is the only time to choose to cycle instead of driving. To not drink that third beer. To put Facebook down. To hug the husband. To role around with the puppy. To cry. To sit, with someone, in silence while they cry.
2013 has not been an easy one. And I have often sought to avoid it. To escape it. To move. To be elsewhere. But 2012 also had its difficulty, as will 2014.
Often, in a yoga class, I am asked to set my intention. The intention I always set is only to be present. To show up and be present with whatever arises on my mat.
As 2013 closes, I make this my intention for my life. Not for 2014. For now.
To see these sweet moments ease out of 2013. Luscious, full, and complete with life.