Last Saturday I wound up in the Emergency Room for chest pain. It wasn’t my idea. An urgent care doctor made me go. The pain wasn’t terrible, but a little scary. I thought I was dehydrated from overwork and lack of fluids. I’d been working 12-14 hour days without getting up from my desk. Too many hours without movement. Not enough water. Seemed simple enough….
So the doc runs an EKG to make sure my heart is ok. After a few minutes, he comes back in and says I have an electrical blockage of some kind. Instead of rehydration, he gives me a nitro glycerin tablet and tells me that legally he needs to call an ambulance…unless I want to waive that right. The pain isn’t THAT bad. I’m dumbfounded. What’s happening right now? I tell him I’ll drive myself.
Emergency Rooms are good places to stay out of. Especially when you’re the patient. It turns out that chest pain is the fast track in the ER because they don’t want people keeling over on the waiting room floor. Who knew? So I get called in quick. They put me in a little isolated curtain, but I can hear everything. People moaning, kids crying, and some poor woman vomiting in the bathroom. Another guy across the way is explaining to the nurse how much he’s been drinking. A fifth of vodka before work, etc.
You have to be a saint to work in a place like this. I don’t know how they do it. Everyone was really nice. The nurse puts me on a monitor, asks a bunch of questions and the ER doc takes tests. And then nothing. I wait. Staring at my feet, with my shoes still on, in a gown on a gurney. Some quality time alone.
Then the questions come. Am I having a heart attack? What have I done to myself? Will I have to spend the night here? What if I need emergency surgery? I don’t know what’s wrong, but I know the culprit. Stress. Over the past couple years I met a beautiful girl. I started painting. There has been a lot of great stuff. But I also stopped traveling because the money ran out. I’ve neglected my music. I slipped into survival mode out of “necessity.” I’m selling more and more of my life just to pay bills. I’m barely breaking even. The canyon between what I love to do and what I have to do has grown. All this effort. And my reward is this gurney.
As I get older I understand the choices people make more deeply. I have more compassion. When I was a kid, I thought I had a lot of things figured out. It turns out, I didn’t see the whole picture. It’s easier to wind up here than I thought.
The questions continue. What if this is some drastically life changing event? Or worse? How do I feel about my life so far?
One word comes to mind. Unfinished. My life is unfinished. For whatever reason, I’ve always had this sense that I’m here for a reason. There’s something that I’m supposed to do. I don’t know what that is exactly, but I do know that if I died or became incapacitated today, I’d feel like I didn’t get it done. It’s not a good feeling.
All the songs I’ve been toying with. Unfinished. All the paintings. My book. Unfinished. Great ideas are gifts. And I’ve been wasting them.
So after 2 rounds of tests and a chest X-ray, the doc comes in and tells me he’s letting me go. The blood test says I’m not having a heart attack, and perhaps my chest pains are from muscular inflammation in my chest cavity. “If it gets worse, come back. If not, go see an internist first thing next week.” And that’s it. I walk out to my car, put the keys in the ignition and just sit there. What just happened?
Since then I’ve had various tests. All inconclusive. Like most things in life, it’s all landing in a grey area. I still hurt but it’s not awful. I’m trying to take it easy. I work for a couple hours at a time and then stretch. I’m drinking a ton of water.
My rent isn’t going away. My responsibilities aren’t going away. But I already knew it was time to make some changes. I don’t do well in one place. I never have. I like to wander. I like to create. I’m not doing enough of any of that and my body decided to speak up.
Message received. It’s hard to go against inertia. To change the current tide. But I have to do it. I will do it. I have good “reasons” for winding up here. We always do. Everything always makes sense in our little brains, no matter how ludicrous it may sound to everybody else.