A couple months ago, I developed a thump. In my chest. Like an extra-big heartbeat. Enough of a knock-knock against my breastbone to make me cough. At first I ignored it, because that's what I do when I'm scared. I wait for the burglar to lift up the squeaky window, step roughly on the hardwood floor and start rifling the jewelry box before I call 911. I just like to MAKE SURE disaster is imminent.
Weeks passed. Thanksgiving came and went. So did Christmas. Then the Ranger put his big Ranger foot down. "You have to call your cardiologist. And I'm not kidding, honey bun. Not one little bit." Well, when you put it like that.
So came the battalion of tests. Running on a treadmill strapped to an EKG machine. Chest ultra-sound. 24-hour halter monitor. That last one was really sexy. Wired up like a bank hostage set to blow. Every time one of my yoga students hugged me, she'd ask, "Why does your chest feel like there's a hard box glued to your boob." Um...because there is a hard box glued to my boob.
Time passed. I developed a plan. For the pacemaker in my future. No more wanding at airport security no matter how handsome the guy in uniform. My parents wouldn't get the word until after the surgery because they would freak. I decided who would sub my classes. How I would tell the Ranger. Why I would ask Seattle to come hold my hand in the hospital. She's the only person I trust to hover over my bed without a trace of pity (plus, she hides fear well).
Last week, the test results came back. Yeah, I have some irregular heartbeats. Everybody does. But it turns out I have "fewer irregularities than 99% of the population." In fact, my heart is an iron horse. Strong muscle walls, clean arteries, the conditioning of an athlete. The techs had to stop the treadmill because they got bored watching me run. Then Dr. Marker started rifling through my chart, pausing at my brother's autopsy: a triathlete, a mountain climber who died at 36 from arterial disease. His eyes softened. He nodded. "Listen. You might drop dead tomorrow. There's no predicting life. Or death. But it's not going to be from heart disease." He closed the chart. "Try to stop worrying. Be happy."
And there's the rub. When I told the Ranger, he sighed a big sigh then held me tight. "I know you don't believe happiness can last. But it can. I'm not going to leave you. You're not going to die anytime soon. It's all good. Trust that."
Honestly, I don't know where along the road I grew so suspicious. Perhaps it was the year my husband and I ended our marriage over burgers and fries, one of my dearest friends was tortured and strangled to death in his home and my brother, my best connection to my past, present and future, went to sleep on his birthday and never woke up. Could be that. Life is good. And then a match. Burns it all down.
So my resolution for 2009. Learn to make pie crust. And to stop worrying. Or worry less. Revel in the smallness of things. The gestures. The perfect moments of happiness, no matter how fleeting. Like when the Ranger and I curl up in bed with the pup, our breathing in sync as the long night sinks in bone deep and the indifferent ocean creates then tears away, relentless, outside the window.
Where to begin. These tiny celebrations. How 'bout...
Living on a hard, black rock, hugging a deep, blue sea.
Fishing for dinner. With beer. Letting the cell phone ring and ring.
Listening to my own heartbeat. Anticipating the next thing.