Friday night, I watched the Barbara Walters’ special that she did on heart disease and open heart surgery. She interviewed David Letterman, Regis Philbin, Robin Williams, Charlie Rose and President Clinton, all of whom, along with Barbara herself, have undergone open heart surgery for various reasons. This was particularly pertinent to me that evening because the last report of my day was an urgent open heart procedure for a man who had an “aortic dissection” which is like a spontaneous tear in the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body. Trust me, that was one intense report even just to hear and type.
The show was a good one. All the interview-ees were open and forthcoming with Barbara, partly because of the subject and wanting to share information and also because she was “one of them”. The latter part of the show was devoted to information about what kinds of tests to have and what symptoms to look for and also (finally) that heart disease manifests much differently in women than in men.
It all got me thinking. What else is new, right? Heart disease is the number one, numero UNO, killer of women in this country. Of course we’d like to say the reasons are easy–we’re fat and sedentary and eat the wrong stuff and don’t move around enough. All that is true.
But. Those are symptoms. The problem says it all: “Heart disease.” “Dis-ease”. An uneasy heart. Is it any wonder that Dick Cheney has had how many heart attacks? That man’s poor heart is desperate to get out of that evil body!
Despite all the rhetoric about America being the “greatest country in the world”, there is much heart-sickness among us. All that political ranting and rhetoric, all the fear mongering. It’s bad for hearts. Hearts need to be open and loving. They need to be accepting. So much of our lives are filled with worry and anxiety, not only on a global level, but in tiny, personal ways that end up filling our lives with emotions that are literally killing us.
I have a little bit of first-hand experience with this.
Back in January 2000, just a couple of months after I found out my daughter was pregnant and after I had my “visitation”, I was feeling better about the situation, but still resentful and apprehensive–two emotions that are deadly to the heart. I went for a routine mammogram and of course got a “suspicious” reading. So, they sent me for an ultrasound which was also “suspicious. ” Next stop, biopsy. I decided that rather than just have a needle biopsy, I would just have the surgeon completely remove whatever the “suspicious” thing was and be done with it. Deep down, I had total faith that nothing was wrong, but of course, no one else shared that belief and everyone urged me under the knife.
Before the procedure I did a lot of soul searching. I thought some about my daughter and acknowledged that I was still angry at her. But more, I realized that I was mad at this unknown baby that was about to make its appearance into my life and that emotion, regardless of how “right” it might have been, was completely unfair to a little person who had nothing to do with any of the angst and despair I was feeling.
I realized I had to open my heart to this child. I began to concentrate on just backing off on borrowing so much trouble. I tried to get excited about the birth. I helped my daughter paint her room and make it more ready to be a nursery. I worked on keeping balance between her and my husband. I breathed and tried to release.
Since then I have read the amazing “Anatomy of the Spirit” by Caroline Myss. Obviously both the breasts and the heart fall under the heart chakra and at that time, my heart chakra was completely out of whack. No wonder I had “suspicious” things in my boobs!
Several days before the surgery, I had a dream. I dreamed that I was going for a doctor’s appointment and the doctor’s office was in the same room where I had recently had the breast ultrasound. The doctor who was sitting behind the desk was not my surgeon or any other doctor I’d ever seen. He was a man and he was reviewing my file on his desk, perusing page after page. When he got to the end, he closed the file with a resounding “thump” and slid the entire file across the desk toward me. Then he sat back in his chair and said, “I don’t know WHY they’re making you do this. You’re perfectly fine!” And then I woke up.
I had the procedure. And I was completely fine. And I used some of my “magic healing oil” on the incision and when I went back for my first check up with the surgeon, I could tell from her face that she was surprised at how quickly I had healed.
After that, I continued to work on opening my heart. Yoga has a lot of heart opening exercises, but it’s not just about the physical. I worked to be more accepting, less resentful–of anything, bad drivers, long lines, rude people.
I don’t suggest that to “open your heart” one needs to join an ashram or immediately volunteer at the soup kitchen. As with all things, changing habits requires baby steps. Perhaps you’re verbal to bad drivers in your car. So, maybe one day, instead of the F-word (I’m guilty!), we can say, “Bless you!” and mean it.
Instead of rolling our eyes and tapping our foot at the trainee cashier in the grocery store, we can send her some good thoughts and remember the last time we trained on a new job.
We can compliment that woman in the aisle next to us on her bright pink sweater, regardless of whether we would be caught dead in it or not.
Simple things. Laughter. Smiles. Good will toward all.
Aren’t they worth trying if it might save your heart?
I think so.