A “Bwoken Heart”

There is a theory that I’ve heard from different sources that, like a loving and patient teacher, God/the Universe will keep presenting us with the same lesson in different ways until we finally learn it. Unless we fully take the lesson to heart, we will continue to be given experiences (often increasingly painful ones) to teach us.

I was enrolled in gifted education programs as a child, but when it comes to taking in the most important lessons in life, I am not a fast learner.

As Simon and Garfunkel told us in “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”,

“Slow down, you move too fast

You got to make the morning last…”

I disregarded the message of this song as a child who was desperate to grow up and find my way in the adult world. I continued to disregard this message as I overachieved my way through high school, always looking for the next goal to achieve, the next set of points to collect, the next club to join, the next paper to write, the next award to win. Even when I was struck down with a set of severe inflammatory conditions in my first year of University, I insisted on maintaining my three part-time jobs, attending my interfaith group, choir rehearsals and drama club meetings, all while completing a full time course load. When my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness, I modified my schedule somewhat to be able to travel every week to spend three days at home and four days at school and work… but I didn’t really slow down. I just learned how to sleep less and pack more things into less time. I performed in a play a few days after my father’s death. I had things under control.

In my first year of teaching, I ran the open house night for my school, attended every professional development workshop that I could find, helped to run fundraising events and assemblies, after school and recess time clubs, and offered tutoring and “hang out” space on my lunch breaks for at-risk kids. I became the school union representative, and joined my local union executive shortly thereafter. I joined several committees that were doing wonderful things for our community and our profession. I sang in a choir. I became deeply involved in Equity issues. I attended local labour meetings as well as province-wide assemblies. I continued to take as many courses as I could, and to do everything in my power to become a super-teacher who would save the world, one student at a time. I loved being involved, being needed, and being of service to others. I didn’t say “no” to any request for my time or skills, because I was convinced that the needs of others were always more important than my own. Through all of this busy-ness, I rarely ate dinner with my partner. My evenings were filled with meetings, events, and professional development activities. I was goal-driven, ambitious, and constantly on a mission. I had things under control.

Then came the years of infertility and loss, and I was forced to slow down. A bit. Just enough to convince myself that I had made significant changes that would allow for a healthy pregnancy and birth. I was the research Queen. I read all the reproductive endocrinology journals and did all the right things. I was the perfect infertility patient. I started to take care of my body in a way that I never had before, and felt that I had finally learned my lessons about slowing down and relinquishing control. Project Baby was my passion, and this passion quickly took the place of some of the extracurricular activities I had given up. I had things under control.

When we finally had a healthy fetus that made it to the 28-week gestation mark, I was relieved, overjoyed, and so thankful that we had finally made it. Then our little girl decided that she was tired of Chez Uterus, and tried to make a break for it. Like her Momma, Willow was an impatient little filly, and wanted to get on to the next big thing: her birth. I was placed on bed rest, and life as I knew it came to a screeching halt. I needed to not only slow down, but to come to a full stop. I was literally forced to rely on others for my very survival, and to release all semblance of control. I prayed, meditated, read, sang, and rested. I took the greatest care of my body, knowing that this miracle child’s life was depending on her Momma to finally slow down. I had things under control.

My heart’s desire came to this Earth with a host of lessons to teach her mother, not the least of which was to slow down and appreciate every moment that I am given with this miracle child. I have been learning to create firmer boundaries to protect our little family, including saying “no” to taxing social obligations and leadership opportunities, creating better work-life balance, and worrying less about what others think. We make a point of eating dinner together as a family, of honouring our need for regular outdoor time and sleep time, as well as time to wind down each night without unnecessary busy-ness. The rhythms and routines of our daily lives are sacred points for calm, connection and reassurance. This pace of life was carefully researched and crafted. I had things under control. Or so I thought.

My life has, more often than not, been more about rushing to prepare for the next moment, and less about enjoying the moment I’m actually experiencing. I’m a recovering control freak. My first instinct is often to over-plan, over-pack, and be so prepared for any possible deviation from “the plan” that I can adapt to any curveball that life may throw at me. But oftentimes, the big curveballs that get thrown in life are ones that cannot be planned or prepared for.

I recently discovered that I have cardiac issues, or as Willow sweetly refers to it, a “bwoken heart”. As a relatively young woman with partial Asian heritage (age, sex and ethnicity put me in a lower risk category), this was not something that I in any way expected at this point in my life. I am an insulin dependent diabetic, but have excellent glycemic control and an A1C that my endocrinologist has frequently referred to as “beautiful”. I enjoy walking and doing yoga, and eat a pretty healthy diet that includes plant proteins and natural foods from the “hippie aisle” of the grocery store. I meditate daily and do guided visualization exercises. As my cardiologist reminds me, I’m not the kind of person who typically develops cardiac health concerns at my age.

At our regular appointments, my endocrinologist has always asked if I have had my eyes checked and if I’ve had any heart attacks or other cardiac issues. I have always laughed, told her that my optometrist continues to say that my eye health is perfect with no signs of diabetic retinopathy, and that my heart is as healthy as ever. We have always chuckled and agreed that we should always be able to smile and laugh about the absurdity of asking me about these conditions, because with my consistent track record of excellent glycemic control I would be at a pretty low risk for any diabetic complications.

Until today’s appointment.

Today, when we reviewed my ECG and cardiology report together, tears welled up in both of our eyes, because we can no longer joke about diabetic complications. She reminded me that this is not something over which I have any real control. She told me that I need to slow down, acknowledge my limitations, and allow others to help me. She voiced the lessons that the Universe has been trying to get through to me for the last 30 years.

I have not yet fully learned what God/the Universe has been trying to teach me. This time, my own life depends on me taking the most important lessons to heart.