Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Heart and Soul

jordan mcqueen under CC0 1.0
Last Friday was a milestone in the ongoing story of my coronary bypass recovery, as it was exactly three months since my surgery - three months of steady, if slow, progress, rebuilding my strength and stamina. My scars are healing nicely, my walking distance is increasing and I am now starting to look towards returning to work. 

And I am also beginning to properly reflect on what the impacts have been and will be - on my family, on my friends and colleagues and on my future self. My own sense of self has been fundamentally challenged. I am not immortal! Despite years of good health and fitness, I have been ambushed by my own body and by the rapidity with which I was overtaken by angina symptoms, investigation, surgery and recovery.  In many respects, I feel as though I have been a passenger in all this, with the only 'control' or decision-making I had being no control at all - why would I say 'no' to surgery when it was made evident to me by the experts that I had serious, life-threatening heart disease and multiple coronary artery failures?

So now I find myself pondering such issues as Who am I? Where do I fit? What is my 'new normal' going to be? What's my role, function and purpose now and for the next 25 years, in relation to myself, my family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues? How do I go on from here - living and operating in my family, social, work and virtual lives? What does work look like now? What do I want? How selfish can/should I be? I'm now in the process of finding a talking therapy counsellor so I can start to explore some of this stuff - and whatever else may come up - with someone who is not involved in any of the above.

Coincidentally, all of this has got me pondering on the language we use - and mis-use - in thinking and talking about this sort of thing. I now firmly believe that my body, and more specifically, my heart, was talking to me long before I began to experience angina symptoms in April. I just wasn't actively listening to it. At various times in the last year, I knew that 'my heart wasn't in it', that I was 'heartily sick' of things (like moving house and commuting), that my 'heart's desire' was for some change to the routine and that it was becoming increasingly stressful to be at 'the heart of the action' at work, at home and in the virtual, social and professional arenas within which I was active. And my conclusion is that, in not paying proper attention to those emotional and physical voices, in continuing to push through ('cos that's what I do), I literally 'broke my heart'.

But now I'm fixed, now I've dodged the bullet, I shan't be so deaf to what my body, my gut, my heart's telling me. I shall wear my heart on my sleeve and look after myself better. I owe it to myself and to those who love and who have supported me through the last four months. Obviously, there are more conversations to be had, but there will be no more lip service to 'work/life balance'.  Onwards...!

PS: Are you listening to your body? Is your heart still in what you're doing and how you're doing it? Or does your heart ache? My advice would be to tune in before you tune out!