It’s strange how your worst nightmare can sometimes, in some ways, turn out to be not a bad thing at all. In fact I’ve begun to think quite differently about what we usually designate good things and bad things in life. I’ve started to see this as uncreative, narrow minded and downright unhelpful.
I like to think up good titles for posts. Lately though, if I had been impelled to write about what’s been going on in my day to day life (and I’m not that kind of blogger) the titles would have been more like bad newspaper headlines. I might have started with an eye catching Mad Dentist Declared Health Hazard: Patients Flee. This would have been followed shortly after with Computer Collapses at Critical Moment – and while we were all waiting for the sequel to that one I’d have dropped in a scene-setting piece entitled Family Fall Out (a background story on communication breakdowns amid the trauma of distressing illness). Then would have come a story of woe which I could have called Safety First: Do Not Drive When Anxious. (No harm came to anybody in this episode but it was a salutory tale.) All of these, however, would have been eclipsed by the most recent and hopefully the final article in the series, for which I can think of no more dramatic a title than the simple fact – Heart Attack.
This is not a story I will write. But as I find myself treading the corridors of the hospital on the way back from visiting, I am filled with a sense of gratitude and mild bewilderment. My husband, plucked from his usual state of semi-isolation (a condition largely of his choosing) and deposited once again in the middle of a busy teaching hospital, has recovered enough to be sitting up in bed, telling me about the hours of pleasurable conversation he has been having with the patient in the bed next to him (who evidently enjoyed both the company and the conversation so much that I have been left instructions to go and meet this man who by now has been transferred to another ward). As I make my way back to the car after making his acquaintance I’m relaxed and less worried than I have been for weeks. The sun is warm, even the wind is warm, and the hospital is filled with the scent of manure drifting in through open windows, a delightfully unexpected smell for a clinical environment (we are right in the middle of farming country and they are muck-spreading the fields). Nothing fills me with dread, even the prospect of further investigations and procedures. Family members who haven’t spoken to us for months have called on the phone and talked at length. We care about each other. We are not alone.
Again and again we let ourselves rule our lives with our heads, or try to. We believe our thoughts to be empirically true and a reliable guide to what is happening, which is not the case – quite easy to see when you stand back for a moment and see things as they really are. Trust can be a much more powerful guide than grit and determination.
I climb the hill to the top of the car park and stand by the car, looking down over the hospital and the whole green valley spread out beneath me, and breathe deeply. The afternoon sun is warm on my face and the breeze blows through my hair; I have never been here before in such lovely weather.
It occurs to me that if I described this episode now, I might call it, not Heart Attack, but Attack Of The Heart. There’s a big difference.