“Never worry about your heart till it stops beating.” – E.B. White
Be still my heart … it’s a common expression. Even if it is not of one’s own generation, it’s used often enough that when you hear it you know what it means. What you don’t often think about is how ridiculous an expression it is. Because the truth is that a heart doesn’t stand still out of love, or even out of fear … not really. It stops because it has died, and the person whose heart it is has died along with it.
Like anyone past the age of about six years old, I’ve contemplated my own mortality more than once, but recently I had a health scare that landed me in the ER and then was admitted and spent a night in the hospital. I didn’t enjoy it. Not the hours in the ER in the curtain next to a crying child with a broken arm while waiting to go up to my room once they decided to admit me. Not the monstrous headache I got from the nitroglycerine they administered. Not the giant, ugly bruise on my stomach from whatever injection they gave me there. Not the scratchy hospital sheets or the drafty, hideously unattractive gown. Not the nuclear stress test I received the next morning, which, for the blessedly uninitiated entails being injected with a substance that makes your heart feel like you ran a marathon at cheetah speed.
To my immense relief and good fortune, I do not have any issues with my heart, other than a mild murmur that the on-staff cardiologist said has gone undetected my entire life because (a) it is so mild as to be undetectable with the average stethoscope and (b) because it is not causing me any issues that would have caused me to register a complaint with a physician that would have led to its detection. I do have to have a sonogram of my gallbladder, because apparently the chest tightness I was experiencing is often a sign not of cardiac issues, but of possible gallbladder or GI problems.
Yet, the experience did leave me feeling a bit more aware than usual of my eventual mortality, and I have resolved to be better about taking care of myself. Not that I’m usually bad, but still, there’s always room for improvement. Also, it’s a good reminder to be present, to be aware, and to remember to take it all in. After all, we are all dancing on this earth but for a short while, and even though we all know how much I hate to dance in public, I may have to start one of these days. You know, just because.