I woke up this morning looking forward to attending a very good friend’s birthday dinner that was taking place this evening in addition to popping into a fundraising event benefitting youth at risk. Instead, I’m lying in bed after arriving at the ER by ambulance, having every part of my heart analyzed, and being diagnosed with pericarditis, which is an inflammation of the lining of the heart. The symptoms are quite similar to a heart attack in that a sharp pain comes on very suddenly which can leave you quite breathless and fearing for your life until properly diagnosed. The good news is that I will be fine with rest and meds, but it was a very unpleasant experience to withstand.
As I lay in the ER waiting to go from test to test, I recalled how many times over the past 15 years I had to expect the unexpected, especially during my most challenging “caregiving years” of looking after my mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Outside of my role as a caregiver, there was a whole other universe going on involving my children, my husband and his family, our dogs, our business and his/my own health that made sure we were paying attention. I have come to learn that as soon as one challenge becomes resolved, there will always be another one waiting around the corner to surprise us with. These situations and even serious traumas used to cause me tremendous anger, frustration and grief as I just could not understand why “stuff” kept happening. After many years of being put to the test, I have come to understand that as difficult as they are to cope with, they often times have a lesson embedded into them…albeit not easy to deal with but a lesson nonetheless.
As caregivers, we resent “unexpected surprises” of this kind yet it is life’s way of reminding us that we are vulnerable as human beings. We commit a lot of our energy towards others and ignore the signals that our body is telling us because we just don’t have the time to deal with it…until of course a crisis in some form hits that shakes us to our core so that we pay attention. I am no stranger to the ER and have had multiple visits there over the past many years. Although I am no longer as entrenched in the same amount of caregiving as I have been in the past, old habits are hard to break. I sometimes place too many expectations on myself until life has a way of showing up and says, “Claire, slow down and pay attention”…Well rest assured, after today’s adventure, “I’m paying attention…for now.”