About a month ago I got sucker-punched by my heart. Overnight, as I slept peacefully, I developed a heart condition. It came out of nowhere. Like a subpoena. My diagnosis: PVC palpitations, causing the heart to experience haphazard, volatile, extra beats, and PAC palpitations, causing the heart to skip beats. An episode of these heartbeats felt like speeding in a car with a flat tire, on a road riddled with potholes. The cardiologist said these conditions were common and there was no known cause or remedy. Unless I experienced tens of thousands of extra beats a day, no medication would be prescribed. I’d have to get used to it.
I was incredulous. I couldn’t understand how the condition of my heart, and the way it behaved, could change so dramatically overnight. My heartbeat alternated between hostile, get-me-out-of-here pounding, to wildfire fluttering, akin to thumbing an encyclopedia’s pages to find the one you dog-eared. What started as episodic became round-the-clock. It was like my heart was possessed by a new cowboy in town, who stuck his thumbs under his armpits and said, “We’re gonna do things my way now.”
There was no relief. I often felt like I couldn’t catch my breath and I could no longer sleep at night. Everything changed so quickly, my activities, my mood, my fears, my normal. How could this have happened? All was fine a few days ago, when I never even thought about my heart.
This notion of normal-interrupted weighed heavily on my mind again this week for a different reason. This time it was about how going to the movies would end up changing the lives of so many forever. Ending the lives of some, ruining the lives of others. The theater goers weren’t the only ones affected, but the ripples of people connected to them. Even people who weren’t connected, as fear and paranoia are potent adversaries capable of casting an enormous net.
It brings to mind the fragility of life. That all can change in a day. An hour. A moment, even. My own heart condition, which has been staved off by high doses of magnesium, (I discovered this online in a palpitation forum) had me thinking about people who discover, almost by chance, that they have a dire illness. They go to the doctor with complaints of a nagging cold, and come home with an altogether different diagnosis.
Whether the blindside comes externally or internally, it’s a blow to your gut when you realize you lack the power to make changes. We can’t coerce an illness to abandon our body, in the same way we can’t will our loved ones back to life.
And as far as I know there is no way to prepare for when normal gets turned upside-down and becomes completely unrecognizable. Except if you’re Goldie Hawn, in the movie Best Friends, whose character believed if she practiced being emotionally distraught, pretending her parents just died, she’d be able to handle their loss when it really happened.
The only thing we can do is to have trust in our own strength and resolve. And hope that the scarred heart, though it may take on a new shape, size, rhythm or purpose, can heal.
Has your normal ever been interrupted? How did you recalibrate?