Turning Over a New Leaf

Endurance in another time

On a walk earlier this spring, I noticed the dried Queen Anne’s Lace on the hill and was caught by its still delicate, intricate pattern. It had endured the ice, winds and snows of the winter past and still had its fragile beauty facing the sun, as if it could renew itself then and there. I could see myself in her: hanging on, enduring my pandemic isolation with a similarly faded heart. The delicate, intricate patterns of life had surprises, though, as I was to find out. 

I walked through the Emergency Room doors on my own last Friday evening at 6:15 pm. It had been 19 years since I was the patient in an ER. For 21 years, it was my husband, and we always were there together. Now it was just me.

The world seemed to be revolving more slowly. Time had forgotten how to move at its appointed speed. Yet I was calm, my face covered with the required mask as I reported to the front desk after having placed a red sticker with the white letters, “FRIDAY” on it, proving my right to be there.

I had been living all day with a level 7 pain in my left side and back. The triage nurse had urged me to go to the ER in case I had a kidney problem. I drove there reluctantly but would be rewarded for my wisdom. Just not in the way that I expected.

Everything around me was muted. There were only about 10 people in the huge waiting room. Excellent physical distancing. Then, through the large double doors, I was ushered into the life center of what is emergency.

Bloods drawn, doctors, nurses, a nurse practitioner, registration. I lay quietly on the gurney in my own little cubicle, answering questions, being poked and prodded, feeling the blood pressure cuff huff its way tight on my arm.

It was so unexpectedly quiet.

And so was my mind. Unexpectedly. I just lay there and waited for the next thing. I have spent my life projecting all the “What if?” questions that I could think of in this kind of scenario. Not this night.

For the first time that I could think of, I was living in the present moment – the present minute – for hours on end. No fear. This was not like me. But I was really liking this new me, too. Grace had arrived.

A midnight CT scan of my heart revealed some signs of narrowing, restricting blood flow. (Oh, that’s why my last Nordic pole walk found me breathless and wondering if I could make it back home…!) The problem was my heart! Who knew?!

I was discharged late the next morning with a prescription for Imdur that acts like nitroglycerin, keeping my arteries open for freer blood flow. Monday was the first day that I could try out the new me. I did not cover myself with honor!

Calm, brave me had become skittish. “What if?” showed up again. I waited to see how the new drug would affect my blood pressure. The lovely “present moment” that I had found had been lost.  An imagined Martha, collapsed in a heap on the sidewalk, took over.

That night, I gave myself a talking to. I was tired of living with a dark cloud hanging over my head. This was not a dark cloud! This was a new opportunity to take ahold of life with some of that old gusto that I’d put in a closet weeks ago. 

I became bold as I fell asleep. But first, I gave this newly discovered heart of mine a name. I needed to befriend her.

Because my heart holds my mother close within, I gave her my mother’s high school and college nickname, “Gussie,” which came from her birth name, Gustuson. “Gussie” had guts. She was lively and free and loving and creative and it was she who taught me how to love with all my heart.  So Gussie it is.

When I launched myself into the sun Tuesday for my first walk, I said to this heart of mine which has served me for nearly 79 years, “Okay, Gussie, this is it! We’re in this together, kid!”

And she beat strong and firm as I strode with confidence, no longer in fear but in expectation. Every moment was the present moment; every step was the present step; every beat was a celebration of a renewed life that can now unfold. And I said, “Thank you, Gussie!”

The work that I have done since January to train my brain to live in the NOW had born fruit without my even realizing that it had arrived. Meditation of various kinds, spiritual contemplation and prayers,  listening to wise voices that invite life into this moment have carried me here without my realizing that it was growing, bit by bit. Arriving at just the right moment. You know how that goes, right?

I’ve turned over a new leaf, my heart and I. Even the pandemic no longer has me in its grip. I will live carefully and watchfully, but no longer in fear. For now, I am well. I am happy. I am content. I am excited about the life I have.

I am gaining a Cardiologist next week. I rather feel as if I’ve “arrived”! Only an elder would say that.

The future comes, but not before its time. My heart and I have plenty to do in every present.

And Gussie and I are very okay with that!





18 thoughts on “Turning Over a New Leaf

  1. This is a truly lovely telling of your story Grace. I enjoyed it so much. I’m glad your scare ended up being treatable. Long live Gussie and well done to both of you. Enjoy your cardiologist but don’t spend too much time with him and get rid of him/her as soon as possible.


  2. Isn’t it odd how sometimes it takes a crisis for us to discover an important truth about ourselves? I’m so glad that your heart seems to be fine, but even happier that you have discovered a place of peace, and are no longer so worried about the pandemic. All your “living in the moment” training paid off, big time! I have a feeling you are going to be just fine, and am so very happy for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am so glad to hear you say that the pandemic no longer has you in it grip. Living in fear is not good for heart or soul. Happy, content, and excited is a wonderful way to live.


  4. I’m sorry to hear that you had to go to the ER, but it’s good that you did. I’m glad that you and Gussie are all right and taking good care of each other. What really struck me about your post is how you were able to come to the place of no longer living in fear. That must feel so liberating.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beyond grateful that you are okay, and not surprised that you have emerged a better version of yourself. Your Gussie knows no bounds and is a gift for all of us. I’m thinking the Universe has given you an early birthday gift!


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Gussie and I are getting along famously! Another 30-minute walk, and we were cheering each other on, especially on that long last hill to home. I guess you’re right…couldn’t be a better birthday gift!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Romania! Hello from across the pond! Thank you for your good wishes. We all need as many of them as we can get! Gussie and I have already been on another walk, and I’m loving talking with her as we take that last long hill. And thanking her for being so stalwart and dependable.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Grace,
    Beautifully written and happy for your new attitude. I keep a line from the movie
    “Bridge of Spies” in mind. Tom Hanks says, “You never worry.” The character responds with just the right emphasis, “Would if help.” Be Well, Claudia

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent movie. I, too, loved Mark Rylance’s character… I shouldn’t have, he was the bad guy 🙂 but that line: “Would it help?” stuck with me as well. Mark Rylance was amazing, and he took an Oscar for his performance.


      1. Only if it’s not too tiring for you. You need to take care of Gussie, remember? 🙂 I’d recommend reading in the garden instead of watching movies on the couch. But if you see it, let us know what you thought of it in a blog post. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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