I know each of you has met someone who you felt had “no heart,” were “heartless,” or worse yet, were “cold hearted.” We’ve always been taught to express our emotions, our love and even our power in terms of this strange pumping mechanism that lies within our chests; in no way resembling the classic Valentine heart. We can have “heart burn,” “heart ache,” and can be both “heart sore” and “heavy hearted.”
I know it is our brains that tell us what to do, but we choose to refer to the great pumping organ which pumps fresh blood and its life-giving oxygen to our individual cells as the true life force. When we’re romantically rejected or someone hurts us deeply, we say we are “heart broken.” Perhaps we refer to the heart because it’s as close as we can get to the soul that most of us know lives within us.
Each of us is as individual as a snowflake, by design and character. Although we can have much in common, most of us are different, one from the other. We respond to chronic pain and illness in different ways. We make choices based on these differences. There is, however, one way in which all of us are similar; we all live from the heart. Motivation, inspiration, reactions, and all the other vagaries of life are determined by the way we “feel” in our hearts. It’s that ethereal place that no one can identify which truly goads us, prompts us and drives our life force.
Many of us have been knocked around a bit more than is usual and the first tendency is to lose heart. Our spiritual selves can become so bruised and beaten, we are sorely tempted to give up this battle, we call life, and just lie down and quit. I’ve tried it giving up a few times but eventually, you have to go to the bathroom. Eventually, you get hungry; the dog has to go out, the cat swats at your hair or a disembodied voice coming through the door yells up the stairs, “What’s for dinner?”
Each time I try to give up on life, it pummels me, laughs at me or places some demand upon me. That’s when I’m certain, it doesn’t matter what is going on in my broken down body, and it’s what lives in my heart that counts. I know it’s actually the soul or spirit but alas, they have no spirit day. Folklore has convinced us it is the heart; therefore it houses the seat of all motivation and impetus and drives us forward. The demands of life also do that, such as the dog sitting and making circles on the floor to scratch an itchy rear end. Do we get up, put cream on her tush and clean the carpet or do we ignore her and it? Life is full of decisions such as these. Practical demands are good things. They motivate, push and shove and call out to us in anything but a sweet voice but they do inspire.
Inspiration comes from the heart. All great writers, poets, musicians and athletes can tell you that. We often hear the term “half-hearted” when someone doesn’t put all they have into a project. That kind of behavior shows. Others can see it as it sticks out of you with its failure that is derived not from suffering but from not trying. Trying, like motivation comes from the heart.
As an RN, I’ve taken care of numerous individuals who lived from the heart right up until the time they left this world behind. They knew how to live. I remember one woman who was dying of cancer and could not eat. She was fed intravenously yet every night at dinnertime when the trays were being passed out, she would tell us what she was having for dinner, at least in her imagination. She covered all the details; such as filet mignon, lobster dripping with butter or fresh sautéed vegies. Then she would order her imaginary dessert. You could always count on her to see it in her mind’s eye and know that it gave her pleasure. She held onto life by reliving it all over and over again. She had heart. She also had the ability to see the small things in life and know their importance, such as the beauty of a single flower, the sauce on a serving of meat or the color of a fresh vegetable.
If we live from our hearts, life is never wasted. We may leave a few things or even people behind on this journey but that is their loss as we seek to find the heart in all things, creatures and nature. What motivates you? Why do you keep going when it would be so simple to give up; apart from the bathroom bit, of course?
We will always be surrounded by those who would seek to bring us down. Even Disney knows that. My youngest granddaughter and I make a game out of identifying each Cruella DeVille in every movie we watch, Disney or otherwise. There is always at least one of them…look for them. They bring conflict and action to a story but in real life they can be a royal pain in the po po. In our non-Disney lives we aren’t allowed to pellet them with cream pies, throw them out of windows or down icy steps; never mind how badly we would like to. But we are allowed to imagine.
This past few months I’ve had a couple of Cruella DeVille’s in my life who happen to be physicians. Both of them are fairly new to me, both failed to perform from their hearts, at least toward me. They are probably fine parents, spouses and friends, or not. I only know as a patient I received rude care that basically came across as continually writing prescriptions, the medications from which only caused me harm not help. I know the old phrase of feeling like a guinea pig is overused but some doctors do see us as machines to be fixed and not human beings. Neither of these doctors ever gave me an exam. One at least, had the decency to read my history and then prescribe many medications for pain and muscle spasms. None of them worked out for me for varying reasons. She didn’t like the ones I’d been on for many years and thought all of her new ideas were better. She was constantly quoting the latest studies so I know she read a lot.
The other doctor I saw who was a “lemon” was a cardiologist and specialized in the electrical side of that organ. He threatened me with every scary device in his repertoire and since I wanted to rebut a couple of his ideas I was a “highly opinionated elderly woman.” It’s true. I read it in my chart; imagine me being highly opinionated. I know you are not surprised. It is my body and I have been dealing with it in a diseased state for over 30 years and am an RN, I do know something about it. Two destructive forms of rheumatoid disease for most of those 30 years and now four years of metastatic breast cancer plus nursing school and the practice of nursing; I am qualified to ask questions.
Due to these two particular physicians, I have had a gastrointestinal bleed, an allergic reaction, sores in my nose, mouth and trachea, dizziness, trouble breathing, rashes and multiple unpleasant reactions to medications. Oh, and a lot of stress, lest I forget. Needless to say, when you add those to rude treatment from both I have reached a few conclusions I want to share with all of you. To narrow it down, I’ll try to sum it up in three categories:
1. Don’t sit there and take orders from a doctor unless you know why they are being given and the reason for them. Ask questions and always be prepared when you go into their office with a few notes of things to ask, a current list of medications and any pertinent notes from any other doctors you have recently seen. If the physician you are paying to see emphatically uses this phrase on you, “I am the doctor!” get up and walk out of there. His or her ego is in charge, not his or her brain or heart. Certainly your welfare is not the issue in that person’s mind.
2. When you see a new doctor for the first visit, be sure they have a complex form with your history for you to fill out. I know they’re a pain for you and I but they have to know who you are and what has been happening in your body. If they are a specialist and do not care about your overall history but only about one part of you, be very weary of them. This makes them grossly uninformed and potentially dangerous. You are a whole person, not just one body part.
3. In this modern age of computers supposedly talking to other computers, just remember, computers don’t have hearts. They don’t give a twit or a fig about you and can only be as good as the techs that are feeding them information or at least attempting to. Never presume your chart and medical records are being shared in the correct way. Just because a medical office person or piece of paper asks you who your primary care doctor is or where you want the info sent, never assume it will be sent. Many of the modern computer systems do not “speak” to each other…so there. I know it’s irritating and disturbing but we are pretty much left out there on our own. Get a copy of your visit right then and there, even if you have to wait for it. If you can’t get a printed copy of that visit, as soon as you get home takes extensive notes for yourself. Have a file at home and put each one in there from all of your doctors so you can make copies if needed. Your entire lab and varying test results and X-rays are your property. You have every right to ask for them and medical records departments know this and will co-operate with your requests. You’re on your own kid and so am I.
On a daily basis it can be difficult to strive to live from the heart. In my life it’s the old golf story I’ve shared with you previously. It seems four friends were going to play golf. They were all avid fans and wouldn’t miss their weekly game for anything. They met at the course and began to play. They had just begun to play when one of the guys, Harry, fell to the ground. They checked on him, and since one of them was a doctor he worked on Harry for a few minutes and then said, “Harry’s dead.” Without hesitation the other three went back to their golf game. After all, they had just started. For the rest of the day, that’s how they played. Hit the ball, drag Harry. Hit the ball, drag Harry.
Most days I feel like Harry but as long as I have motivation which comes from my heart, I will let life drag me on. In the end we will all lose this existence, but in the meantime, play the game and do it with all your heart. To make it even harder, it must be a joyful heart, not a resentful one. Now, that’s a goal to work toward. First, you have to start with your own heart as will I.