matters of the heart
CONFESSION: For more years than I can count, I have neglected, mistreated and taken my body for granted.
Lucky for me, she tolerated my abuse for way longer than she should have. The sad thing is, even when she started to fight back, I ignored her. I denied her. I made excuses, empty promises or lame attempts to “change” but I never did.
Finally, one day, she really let me have it…
Summer 2020, I took a walk alone on the beach early-mid morning. My water bottle was empty and I still had about 5-7 houses to go before I reached our rental. It had been a long but easy walk and I was enjoying the morning. Then, as I started to walk up through the soft sand towards the dunes, I couldn’t catch my breath. My heart rate shot above 170 and my heart wouldn’t stop palpitating. I wasn’t running; I was walking! Was this a heart attack? What was even happening?!
It wasn’t the first time I’d had heart palpitations, but this felt different. I was woozy and thought I was going to pass out and now my anxiety wasn’t helping. I got up to the house, got water and paced slowly on the deck until I could catch my breath. I nervously watched my heart rate and monitored the palpitations. After nearly 45 minutes, the palpitations stopped but my heart rate stayed above 150 for a while longer. The whole episode left me equal parts terrified and ashamed.
After the trip, I immediately scheduled an appointment with my doctor who in turn referred me to a cardiologist. 40 years old and in the cardiologist’s office. I was scared. A lifelong history of heart palpitations meant that it wasn’t the first time I’d had an EKG, but this was the first time I’d seen a cardiologist and it felt serious.
My cardiologist was awesome (and 3 years younger than me btw), and he was incredibly gracious as he reviewed my chart and gently suggested that the episode I experienced was the result of my obesity and poor fitness. He described the episode as a ‘delayed recovery’ where my heart wasn’t prepared for the increase in activity so it had to work extra hard to keep up and work even harder to recover. He then made the reasonable suggestion that I try to get a 15-minute walk in every day to prevent something like this from happening again.
I left the office relieved, but still ashamed that my obesity and sedentary lifestyle had landed me here. Yet, despite having both an explanation AND an easy solution, I made no effort to change. Instead, I maintained the status quo for nearly 6 months more.
I think back now and I want to grab that girl by the shoulders and shake some sense into her - beg her to make the changes in that moment - but, then I realize, it’s not about THAT girl anymore. All that matters is that - eventually - that girl got tired of feeling bad and dug deep to find the courage to *finally* make changes.
And, today, I get the privilege of celebrating a second chance to love, honor and respect the body that - incredibly - never gave up on me. I hope I never take that for granted again.