Continuing the weekly arguments that 2016 was not all bad, I’ve created a series of posts designed to exonerate the year. This is the eighth installment in that series.
A year ago this week I wrote a poem about plagiarism. The plagiarism was mine and it was deliberate. I was poetic in 2016.
A year ago this week the self-portraits included peaceful repose poses. I was, at times, delightfully composed in 2016.
A year ago this week I ran my last half marathon in Texarkana. That statement is a tiny bit misleading — it was my last half marathon anywhere. My heart was sputtering before, during, and after but my doctor assured me it was safe to run. I ran the entirety of the race alongside my friend Harold, who had been briefed about my heart. To our mutual relief, I didn’t die though we passed many a joke about it over the thirteen miles we trekked.
We also spent a fair amount of time discussing a mutual friend who died from the diagnosis I would hear within a few weeks. I would be tempted to regret our jokes after that but looking back on it our humor helped diffuse the stress and enabled me to fully enjoy the day. I would retire from racing as soon as I learned the truth to come but for the moment we shared a beer and the ubiquitous post-race gross sweaty hug.
My friendship with Harold abides. Over the ten years we’ve known each other Harold and I ran portions of the Little Rock Marathon together, as well as the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon and many shorter distances, so we are well-seasoned road buddies. I’m glad I didn’t know the race in Texarkana would be our last or I might not have had as much fun. But then, I always have fun with Harold so who’s to say it would have mattered? We watch baseball games together now, but we cheated death in 2016.
Immediately after the race my heart symptoms got much worse and it became no laughing matter. I truly worried I might die. I could do nothing to about it and although both my doctor and the cardiologist assured me I wasn’t dying, the messages from my chest were much more compelling. I believed my heart. I asked for tests. They told me the tests weren’t necessary. I requested them anyway. They ordered a heart monitor instead.
There was a delay. The heart hospital here checks out heart monitors to patients like library books. I had to wait for a monitor to get returned before I could check one out myself. While I waited I spent as many as ten hours per day with palpitations. All I could do was continue learning and continue pushing for the “unnecessary” tests. In the end the cardiologist only relented to shut me up. But not before he suggested I seek some mental health care because I was having “too much anxiety over this” and because I was “too physically healthy to need those tests.” I was “wasting time and money” and “didn’t understand a normal heart rhythm.” Really? After over 40 years with a normal heart rhythm a sudden, drastic and prolonged change is a lack of understanding?
When the results finally came in and we learned together that none of this “all in my head,” I fired my cardiologist. It was probably the last thing I did for the rest of the year that could be considered badass, but I did not take No for an answer in 2016.
While I waited for a monitor and test results I wrote:
A year ago this week Danielle asked me if I wanted to change anything. I answered:
Nothing. Life brings me enough change.
I’m not inventing anymore reasons.
When she asked me to list the things for which I felt grateful I listed:
The last half of my life was more joyful than the first
Ease of access to research
Freedom to choose what happens next
I retained jurisdiction over my own well-being in 2016.
Yes, 2016 was a roller coaster, especially these weeks in February, but it was not all bad. Now that 2017 has become so contentious it almost seems like I’m belaboring the point to continue exonerating the bygone year. I have decided to resist that line of thought, if for no other reason than to remind us all that in contrast we had no idea how good things were in 2016 until we got to 2017.