Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My heart speaks again

I was fortunate enough to catch this image in northern Minnesota of an eagle perched on a branch a few years ago. I was mesmerized for the 15 minutes or so where I was blessed to be in the presence of such an amazing spirit. I return today to this image, as I am reminded, to slow down and pay attention to my heart which has been calling out to me to listen ...

I haven't written much about my health. It's been intentional. For several years I feel like my life has been filled with doctor visits, surgeries, medical procedures and tests and an onslaught of health challenges. Even though I haven't written or talked much about my health lately, the reality of my health challenges remains an undercurrent in my life. Similarly, I walk this delicate balance with Ahnung with her two bouts with aggressive cancer, and learning to find some semblance of peace in the midst of an incredible amount of uncertainty. I can't change what life has placed in my path, but what I can change and control is what I choose to focus on ... and for me, it's been to focus on what makes me feel alive and all of the work I am doing in animal welfare here in Minnesota and the hospice volunteer work that Ahnung and I do as a team.

Unfortunately these past few days my heart is speaking out to me again. I saw my electrophysiologist/cardiologist in April of this year. It's been 16 months since my heart procedure and when he told me it could be a year, 2 years or 10 years before the symptoms from my left ventricular noncompaction (a heart condition that will most likely lead to heart failure) would surface. For the past month or so i've had occasional bouts of heart palpitations and waking up in the middle of the night from my heart feeling like it's going to hop out of my chest. But they've been sporadic and infrequent enough that I figured it's just a blip :) I've also had increased fatigue but i've been telling myself it's probably from stress, and I just accommodate by going to bed early and getting more sleep. But now with increased palpitations, which are always worse at night, it makes it hard to get sleep. For the past three nights it's been persistent and consistent. I'm waking up every couple hours at night like I used to back in 2011 before my heart procedure (although last night I got a streak of 5 straight hours of sleep for which I am extremely grateful for!). I've also had this feeling of heart burn ... so yesterday I caved and I called my doctor's office. On Friday I go in to have a holter monitor put on me so they can check the rhythm of my heart and to see if i'm having significant PVCs again (pre ventricular contractions ... essentially when your heart starts beating from the wrong place in your heart and it feels like a skipped beat). I will then be meeting with my cardiologist on the 24th.

These past few days as my heart has been speaking out I am reminded of the fragileness of life; i am reminded of all the uncertainty that flows in the undercurrent of my life's journey; i am reminded of how I must embrace uncertainty with as much zest, life, wisdom and passion as my sweet Ahnung.

Summer is coming to an end, and leaves will be changing colors soon. Seasons. There is a time and a place for everything. 

Before actress Gildna Radner died of ovarian cancer at the age of 42, she said, "I wanted a perfect ending ... Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity."

As my heart continues to speak to me, may I approach whatever is in store for me, with curiosity and acceptance of a life filled with 'Delicious Ambiguity.'

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The ebbs and flows of life and emotions

I took time yesterday to simply Be .. my list of 'To Dos' went by the wayside. I needed time to Be with my grief, to Be with Ahnung (aka 'Star -- Good Girl'), to Be with 'M' in spirit, to Be with all the emotions that arise from the loss of someone who has touched your heart, to Be with my tears and to Be with feelings, of which so many of my emotions I found myself wanting to label and to judge, and then I heard a wiser voice say ... 'Just Be, with all of it.'

I regretted not having the chance to bring my ipod to M's room and play for her classical guitar and harp music. I wanted to share with her the music of Roberto Aussel, an incredible Argentinian classical guitarist I had the chance to watch perform in concert many, many years ago when I lived in St. Louis, Missouri. I wanted to share with 'M' music that had touched my soul decades ago. I was sure, it too would touch her soul. Simply watching her talk about classical music, about how that was one regret she had, that she could play the harp or the guitar ... but then she would quickly turn her regret around, "But that's okay, I can listen to it and I can appreciate it." And she would smile. I miss her smile; i miss her optimism; i miss her positive outlook and attitude; i miss the incredible kindness she showed to her roommate; i miss her gratitude of everything; i miss how she lit up when Ahnung would walk in the room; i miss how she would smile every time she said 'Star .. Good Girl' and how proud she was to have Ahnung's calendar hanging on her wall. I miss her stories of her family; i miss telling her all about the many animals rescued from Leech Lake Reservation week after week; i miss her energy, her presence, her wisdom. I miss how she would always tell me how much Star loved to come visit her and how happy she was and how much she loves seeing her tail wag.
Taking a short break on our walk

Yesterday, I needed to give room in my heart to remember 'M'. When the reminder in my calendar popped up for us to visit 'M' I realized we were going to visit 'M' but it would just be in a different form. Ahnung and I headed off to the Hyland Reserve nature trails by my house and went for a slow, leisurely walk ... I listened to Roberto Aussel (classical guitar baroque music) on my ipod and I asked 'M' to come join us for our walk .... The three of us had the most beautiful nature walk and I had the chance to thank 'M' for the gift of her friendship.  It was a quiet day for me ... lots of tears, lots of reflection, and yes, lots of gratitude. I know that by volunteering in hospice that I am choosing to walk the final journey with a friend. It's an honor, a gift and a privilege. And yes, it's hard when we have to say goodbye. I also know that I must make room for the sadness and the grief, and I must let it come out in whatever shape or form it needs to ... yesterday it gushed out and now the pain comes in waves. I think the pain of losing 'M' also brought up a lot of another emotions from other losses ... funny, isn't it, how everything in our lives our interconnected.

Ahnung has a been a precious gift to me. She is a gift to so many others in the work she does as a therapy dog and an ambassador for homeless dogs.

Ahnung and I are called to do this work .... and we are grateful for the gift of new friends and for the privilege to walk alongside our friends as they journey into a new way of being.

I created the following short video in memory and in honor of our friend 'M'. As I watch the video and listen to the beautiful classical guitar music of Roberto Aussel, I feel M's presence with me ... with the nature photographs I have taken over the years I remind myself that when someone dies, they haven't really left us ... they are forever in our hearts ... sprinkled everywhere throughout this magnificent world ....