The steady and persistent echo of love
last weekend, I spent the night in the hospital excavating the interior of my own heart
Through the open window of my office as I write, I can hear my neighbor talking on the phone. The rhythmic lilt of his native Creole, a language I do not understand, floats above the steady drone of a (thankfully distant) leaf blower, the bee-bird chorus in my garden, the soft and recently, ever so cherished hum of my own body.
A week ago, I found myself in the emergency room. I am robustly healthy and have been in the hospital only twice: when I was seven (tonsilectomy) and when I was 30, for a C-section, on the birth of my first child.
And then, last Sunday after a zoom call, I looked down at the book I was reading and I could not see half the writing on the page.
This is a stroke symptom and so, though it resolved itself in less than half an hour, I was admitted for observation under an abundance of caution. Also, for the first time in my life, I had extraordinarily high blood pressure.
A CAT scan was taken (all clear) and blood drawn (all fine). I slept fitfully in an unfamiliar room where people kept walking in and out to ask me my name and birthday (stroke test) and take more blood.
In the morning, they wheeled me to the main floor where I had an ECT (sonogram) of the caverns and hallways of my interior heart. I saw my own heart beating! I saw the valves open and close! I heard the rush and gush of my own blood through the major arteries in my neck: Ker-squish, ker-squish. The music of my wet and watery pulse!
An hour later, a neurologist came into my room. All of my tests were clear. There was no evidence of stroke. My heart was functioning perfection.
He had just one more thing to look at. Before the MRI of my brain, I handed my earrings, my wedding ring, my necklace to my daughter. “Hold these?” I asked.
“No, Mommy,” she said. “I can’t… It’s too… “ She was frightened. I reached for her. She climbed into bed beside me. I held her. We let our hearts align. I zipped my jewelry into the little pocket of my handbag. My husband took it as they wheeled me away.
Just before sliding me into the narrow white tube, the MRI technician asked me, one last time, “What’s your name? And your birthday?”
I kept my eyes closed the whole time and my training in pranayama (yogic breathwork) helped me stay calm as the machine clashed and bashed around me. For almost an hour, the bip bip bip sound of gunfire, the pang pang pang of kettle drums, the crunch of metal on metal until finally, it settled into a rhythmic roar, becoming waves, becoming drums and I drifted into a shamanic journey.
I began to wander around the interior of my own body, feeling my way around corners, descending canyons, ascending until I stopped at the edge of a cliff.
I looked up. There, above my head, a beautiful baby was arriving through a chute. Alive and new, it reached for me. When I couldn’t quite grab it, it slid backwards, receding out of view. Over and over, it came toward me, reaching. Again and again, it slid away.
The baby was beautiful. It looked just like my sister, with a head of curly black hair and bright eyes. It looked just like my children - both of them. It looked just like me - and I loved it the moment I saw it.
But I couldn’t quite get it. It was just too high. So the next time, it came toward me, I shouted: “Jump!” It looked at me. I called out again, promising, “I’ll catch you in my heart.”
It landed softly in the center of my chest, which was open, I realized suddenly, and ready to receive it.
Since my visit to the hospital, I am letting everything go : the projects I may never complete, the piles of paper I’ve held onto for the past seven years, a stash of every memory, every word my beloved people spoke. The workshop I was trying so hard to perfect. The last remaining grudge that I’d managed to hang onto.
It’s just … leaving. And I am opening my hands, releasing and releasing all of it without fire ceremony, without therapy. Handfuls of rose petals, scattering.
I have all that I need. The memory of my own pulse. The sensation of holding my grown daughter in my arms. The baby, alive and new, inside of my heart.
All the rest, I let go.
Maybe all of this is illusion: more blood is flowing, helped by the blood pressure meds I must now take for a while. So, maybe the strange empty hunger I’ve been feeling for the past year was the need to feel =my own blood moving inside of me, opening channels which, for some reason, were closing.
At this turning point of medicine, memory and miracles, I don’t need to understand anything more than this: Something new is being born - and something finished is letting go.
And I am open to all of it.
For the next little while, as a gift to myself for my birthday, I’m offering a free daily Early Morning Silent Meditation in my Facebook Group. I invite you to join me. If you don’t do Facebook, I’m offering a simulcast (if I can make it work) via Zoom, you can access that, tomorrow at 6:00 am ET, right here.