Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Survivor: Guilt Island?

A very mild January (with one icy exception) has come and gone.  The speakers in my car have been fixed and reinstalled (thanks Dad-in-law!) and I'm excited to be inching toward all things spring-like.

Life has been quite busy - quite normal- and I've had quite a bit on my mind.  There are lots of things to talk about - Cameron's transition from infant to toddler, my ongoing discoveries that restaurants billed as "healthful" alternatives are wolves in sheeps' clothing, what I've learned about marriage in the last 10 months, the definition of a best friend (bestie!), and my anticipation of reaching major milestones this spring (Cameron's 1st Birthday, the 1 year anniversary of my SCAD and heart attack, my grandpa's 90th Birthday, and my 3 year wedding anniversary).  But what my mind keeps sticking to (and what I avoided writing about for the better part of January) are people like Ben Breedlove, Bethany Haveard and Liz Logelin.  Google them. They each have a story that deserves to be read.  But if you're lazy (or a working parent!), the common thread is that they all died young from cardiovascular disease.  Bethany and Liz both died after the birth of their children.  Liz didn't even get to hold her daughter.

So I find myself asking the question - "Why me? - fairly often these days. I have felt this way since the day of my heart attack when my doctor shared the only studies found on SCAD were autopsies.  This is a fairly lonely place to be - most people think I'm incredible lucky.  And in a way, I do feel that way too - I'm lucky to be here, to see my son growing, to continue to live in the world and hopefully make an impact.  But surviving a heart attack is something few people my age can really empathize with.  Perhaps it's akin to being haunted - the heart attack is like this ghost always in the background, always peeking over my shoulder (and really, who wants to hang out with the creepy girl and her ghost?!).  And then there's this pressure, which really only comes from me, to live the life that Ben, Bethany and Liz don't get to. 

This is an unrealistic expectation and the practical part of me knows it.  As a working mom and date-night loving wife, there's little room much else.  I'm happy to work for a nonprofit and I volunteer when I can; I've tried to be a better friend, daughter, sister, etc.... but honestly, it's exhausting.  And pretty much impossible.  But I'm here!! And they aren't.  Ben doesn't get to go to college and Bethany and Liz don't get to see their child off to the first day of kindergarten.  I don't even know these people but what happened to them seems monumentally unfair.  Which makes me feel that struggling to accept my survival is just silly.  Oh but that unpractical side of me never backs down from a challenge, especially one so emotionally charged.

I don't think I survived my heart attack because I'm a better person and I don't think surviving a heart attack makes you a better person.  As I've remarked through the course of this blog, I have been FORCED to think harder about how I spend my time and who I spend it with.  And I'm slowly learning to do this in the context of the life I already had. 

One thing I can do is advocate for those who did not survive and raise awareness of heart disease.  If sharing my story saves someone else's life, then you're never going to see the end of this blog.  You can help too - this Friday, February 3rd, is Wear Red Day.  I'll be wearing red to celebrate my survival and honor the memory of women lost to heart disease.  Sorry to get all sales-pitchy on you, but if you've read my blog or shared it with a friend, I encourage you to wear red on Friday in support of me and the women in your life who have been/are/will be affected by heart disease.  And if you're so inclined, send me a picture!  I am also excited to share that Brian and I will be participating in the American Heart Association's Heart Ball on March 10th at the Ritz in Clayton.

“What I have since realized is that if people expect you to be brave, sometimes you pretend that you are, even when you are frightened down to your very bones. ”
― Sharon Creech
“That was the thing about the world: it wasn't that things were harder than you thought they were going to be, it was that they were hard in ways that you didn't expect.”  ― Lev Grossman

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Sound of Silence

For Christmas, I received new dashboard speakers for my Jeep. At some point in the last few years, I blew them out and they've been crackling ever since.  Before Cameron, I'd just adjust the music to play in my rear speakers and things were fine.  Once I knew his little ears would be subject to my musical whims from his carseat, this had to change.  My very handy father-in-law came over one day to install the new speakers and discovered it wasn't the dashboard speakers, but the door speakers, that were blown.  This meant the door speakers would have to be sent off for repairs and somehow, in this quick fix, I have no sound at all in my car until the door speakers come back.

I come from a long line of people who like to sing along with whatever they hear but have an awful voice and never know all the words.  When I lived in Chicago and was traveling back and forth to St. Louis, I remember listening to my disc-man (hahaha) on the long L ride to O'Hare.  Once the Blue Line left downtown and the train car emptied considerably, I'd sing along out loud - Nelly, U2, Coldplay and Michelle Branch. When I moved back to St. Louis and commuted from Shrewsbury to Chesterfield, I'd ease my rush hour frustrations by rolling down the windows and singing at the top of my lungs- probably ranging from Liz Phair's Extraordinary to Dashboard Confessional's Vindicated to Jason Mraz's You and I Both.  These days, it's really whichever iPod playlist catches my mood (rainy days, bright & shiny, weekend mornings, springtastic, etc).    

For the last few years, I've had a seven minute drive to and from work and at times, have actually missed a longer drive.  My off key singing is sandwiched between listening to NPR and if he's with me, talking to Cameron as he faced the backseat.  I realize that time in the car was my time to just be.  Without music to sing along to, there's silence.  A strange, heavy silence.  Even though I've been without music for about a week, every day, I get in to my car and turn on my radio, only to be greeted with silence.  In silence, I start to think about my day and everything in it, what needs to get done and how to make it all work - the emails to be returned and the ongoing tasklist, when Cam gets picked up, what heart healthy thing to make for dinner, should I have some fat free ice cream tonight, how many times have I worked out this week, will Brian and I have some time to kick back tonight and on and on.  At first, it was a bit overwhelming and then today I realized something else - it's sooooo normal.  Last year was so full of the unexpected..... and now, things feel normal.... redundant.... maybe even boring.  I have never been so excited to feel so boring!

I should admit in writing this post, I'm totally avoiding writing another.  One particular question has been on my mind lately - "Should surviving a heart attack make you a better person?"  Honestly, my short answer is no.  But stay tuned because I actually have alot to say about this, if I can figure out how to put it on paper!

"Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence, and whereto." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"When I hear music, I fear no danger.  I am invulnerable. I see no foe.  I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest." - Henry David Thoreau

A quick Cam update - he had his 9 month dr. appt today.  Believe it or not, I have a long and lean baby.  He's in the 75th percentile for height and below the 50th percentile for weight.  He has recently taken an interest in what mommy's eating and has sampled all kinds of things from my dinner plate - whole wheat bread, quinoa, zucchini, cous cous, blueberries, and sweet potatoes.  To my delight, he hasn't rejected any of these healthy fares!