A Broken Heart (The Real Kind)

Turns out that I have a bad heart, as in someday, probably sooner rather than later, I will have heart surgery. Sooner rather than later, that is if I continue my relationship with intense exercise. The ironies are killing me. That one, too.

It all started several years ago when I started lifting weights a lot, and a lot of weight. I had all this swelling in my lower legs. I was in my twenties, still partying, still smoking, still not really paying attention to anything save for if my clothes fit or not. I would never. because have noticed it except that when I moved to Tucson and wasn't working out like that, my boyfriend at the time noticed and pointed it out to me.

Three years ago, I went from being a Newbie to being on a team and my workouts got a lot more intense. At that time, the swelling was worse than it's ever been before or since. It was awful, especially in my left ankle. It never went away and I even had hives because my skin was so traumatized.

But it got better when it cooled off a little and besides, although my doctor had said it could be coronary, I dismissed that thinking that there was just no way as I had no other symptoms whatsoever.

Fast forward through another derby season and another summer of trying to hide a grossed up ankle. While trying to make myself available for a guy I really love(d). Whatever. I can't even go there right now.

Due to many things, we broke up and I was dating another guy but not very seriously. Now, he happened to be the brother of a serious nemesis. It was not my finest moment and I was still pretty... not over the other boyfriend. Suffice it to say that I wasn't the one who'd ended that and to make matters worse, there were BILLBOARDS of his FACE all over town. Even if I'd wanted to get over it, I don't know that it would've been possible.

Anyway, a lot of ugly things were going in derby and this guy I was seeing was really weird about things, like I'd go hang out with "Just Friends" and he'd want to come over later but if I was free... he was bored with me. I wasn't that into him but he was company and had excellent taste in restaurants. And ya know... there was a little part of me that reveled in the fact that I was making out with the brother of an enemy.

Whatever, shut up. Like you wouldn't.

One evening he came over to watch a debate and while sitting on my couch slicing an apple for us, I was seized by what I attributed to being a panic attack. I wisely kept it to myself but it fucking hurt.

Over the course of these next few months, I lost about 25 pounds. I had a torn hamstring and was doing some different work-outs, less intense but longer and I was eating very carefully because of the lowered intensity. Then, when I revved back up to full power, the weight just fell off and full power became increasingly more intense.

I was faster and able to work so much harder. Ironically, this is likely when things became noticeable.

A few months later, maybe in February, I jammed and when I came off the track, I felt like I'd been punched in the lung. I resolved to make a doctor appointment to get tested for Valley Fever.

Before I did though, we played a game on my 35th birthday. Afterwards, we went to karaoke and while singing with my team, I got short of breath in a really terrifying manner. It was in my gut, not my lungs. It didn't burn, it ached all the way down.

It didn't close up my throat; it closed up my brain.

I made an appointment, got send for same-day CT scan to make sure I didn't have a clot and a couple of months later, got a call confirming what I'd had time to come to expect - that my aortic valve isn't working correctly.

Give it a month, of course because my crisis reaction time is delayed greatly. I can get you through the initial period of time but be prepared because I will lose my shit eventually.

And I did.

I have been hanging out with that guy, the one I adore(d) with all my (broken) heart and... there are so many things suddenly that I don't care about. So many ways in which I am not awkward or caught up by him anymore.

I've not explained the change but I think he gets it, which is like one of the 17 billion things I adore about him.

My life has changed.
I don't have a choice in that change, really. I have choices as a result of it and my choices have changed because of it but... I am terrifyingly and acutely aware of my mortality right now. I get it that I am 97 times more likely to have surgery to replace a piece of my heart in the next five years than I am to have a baby in the next five years.

I get it that I just got in the best fitness shape of my life and have lost so much weight that my feet went down a half size but I can't count on being able to put that to athletic use.

I get it that I have to always have insurance and I have to always be thinking about what that blinking feeling is and that if I calm back down, my brain will get enough blood but that in that a moment of distress, I literally am not getting enough blood to my organs.

I get it that my father had an aneurysm when he was only a couple of years older than I and that he very likely had the same heart condition that likely contributed to it.

I get it that I could die.

I get it that allowing this to sink in over the last month or so has allowed me to become someone different, someone easier and softer. Most people accumulate wisdom and it slowly changes them. They grow into themselves and over the course of marriages and children and jobs and daily crises of flat tires and lost iPods, they learn to accept that nothing is really all that critical and desperate.

I slammed into this realization with all the intention of my hardest derby hit and with all the force of being thrown from a horse. On the one hand, it's made me a LOT nicer and it's given me permission to be what I really am at heart - one of the most compassionate and sensitive but naive people you've ever known.

Sadly, these qualties at more times than I like, are antithetical to being single and coming of age in the Riot Grrl movement. I definitely learned me to be a little more of a bully than I am at heart and I definitely adopted some of the behaviors of women around me who were more successful than I at navigating life and taking care of their emotional selves.

But from Day 1, I pretty much just wanted to be pet and to make people laugh. I'd be so happy to be allowed to be naive and gentle but I did, along the way, find out over and over that having to make a living and fend for yourself is almost mutually exclusive from being naive.

But I don't care anymore about making a living. Well, wait. I care about making a living.
A lot.
But I don't care about having an image that fits with corporate or derby successes. I don't care about being number one. I don't care about looking like I am focusing even when I am really lost in a post-apocalyptic daydream where I know one person who is encamped with a small band of rebels in the hills East of here. I don't care if people say I told you so when I move to North Carolina or Georgia in a few months (job willing).

Those things seriously don't matter even a little bit.
For the rest of my long (god willing) life, I don't think I'll ever stray from understanding that it is a-okay to be myself. I will always understand that there just isn't time to put square pegs in round holes. I will always understand that there is always a compliment to sincerely give and that there is no shame in needing your dog, or Dolly Parton, or a drink or whatever the fuck it is that gets you through. I will always understand that there isn't time to be nasty to people you can't stand, to put all your eggs in one basket, or to fret over a broken heart because your heart can break in so many more serious ways than what a boy can do inadvertantly to it.

I will always understand that things always work out in the end. They may not happen for a reason, but they really do always work out in the end.

arizonasarah at 2:17 p.m.

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