Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.
– Henry Ward Beecher
A day of worry is more exhausting than a day of work.
– John Lubbock
Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.
– Leo F. Buscaglia
Worry is in my DNA. Heck, my childhood family even used a code word “lavender” to be a gentle reminder to breathe and go with the flow when any of us experienced a deep sense of worry or concern about another family member. With years of yoga study behind me, I thought I had mastered the art of breathing through tough times. Boy was I wrong!
If you have read my other blog posts over the past 2 years, you will know that my hubby was considered a miracle heart patient by his medical team at Inova Heart and Vascular Institute in Northern Virginia. After being released from a 55 day hospital stay in January 2018, he continued to amaze medical professionals, friends and family with his progress during a gradual, long recovery of almost 18 months.
By the Fall of 2019, my hubby was feeling well enough to attempt to travel for pleasure. We picked Arizona as a destination as he had never visited the state. We spent 10 days exploring Phoenix, Sedona, the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas. Despite the altitude in Sedona, we breathed in gratitude for not only the amazing vistas but that my hubby could hike the trails with ease. With ER visits a distant memory, we began to return to a different kind of normal.
I knew that normal had set in, when I found myself becoming impatient with some of my hubby’s quirks. You know those little irritants that cause you to snap at someone rather than really appreciate them. Months before those same idiosyncrasies made me pause and instead of snapping, I received a message of gratitude that my hubby was still with me. All my vows to take nothing for granted faded into the background of normalcy.
As the number of doctors we saw monthly dwindled from over a dozen to a quarterly handful, we slipped into life as it had been with a few spats over nothing of significance. My hubby began to visit doctors on his own, returned to playing golf and cooking healthy meals. I started to take on some work I had put on hold. I visited family living another state away without the worry that clenched my heart when I was away from my recovering spouse.
Then as if to remind us both, to take nothing for granted, some irregular lab results and routine medical monitoring of my hubby showed anomalies. For the past 6 months, we had been lulled into a place of comfort, forgetting that my hubby still lives with congestive heart failure and a single kidney. All my coping skills vanished. I thought of the moments when harsh words had been uttered between us. Had I learned nothing?
Outwardly I held it all together, internally I forgot how to breathe, how to rest, how to have faith. I moved into Full Catastrophic Thinking (to borrow a book title from Jon Kabat-Zinn). My mind raced with logistics of actions that needed to be done, a flurry of what ifs, and deep listening for sounds of life from my hubby at night. Both of us began to have flashback memories of two years ago. Sirens had us on high alert thinking of past emergency room visits. Tests at the hospital offered the good news that all was well with hubby’s heart. I fell into a sleep for several hours.
Now, on the eve of Valentine’s Day, there is still a hint of worry that consumed me for the past month. I make another vow. We will have these moments again, but in the mean time, we can be a little kinder to each other. I smile rather than snap at my hubby as he talks over a tense moment in the TV show we are watching. I pause, inhale then exhale slowly, look at him as I bring to mind all I love about him when we miscommunicate over some trivial issue. I stop what I’m doing to run an errand with him rather than remain attached to my busyness. Death is inevitable. Life is a gift. It’s precious. Worry drains me. Faith nourishes me.