balance is as elusive in heart failure as it is in life and in our world. I have to listen carefully for it. There isn’t any margin for error, such as I had when younger, healthier. I can’t overextend and make it up. I need to think about the sodium in everything I eat. I must measure how much fluid I consume in my coffee cup, my yogurt, my water glass. My doctors handle the complex meds, made more difficult by my very low blood pressure. The rest is up to me.
I think about things like how to live the life I have fully. There are subtle but powerful notes of Grace in this contracted life that heart failure offers. I’ve written before about mindfulness as an accessible adjunct to HF. I have time to watch the trees sway in the wind today, to watch the raindrops cluster on my twinkle lights, to scratch the ears of my labrador when he nudges my hand as I write. I love love love reading near my husband in quiet companionship. We put our books down to sing along with a favorite song on Pandora: Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey. Truthfully, there aren’t enough hours in my day to notice all that there is in my contracted world. Yet I know that contracture can turn into an arid space. I don’t want to just whittle down my life.
I love the word abundance. Think about how much a mindset of scarcity impacts our world and our lives. I-don’t-have-enough-thinking leads to a posture of drawing in, protecting our borders and shutting out others. So what can I do? How can I create an abundance mindset? Coffee ends up being a good place to start. I have a morning coffee ritual (decaf) that is dear to me. I buy good beans and grind them fresh. I add a touch of cocoa powder and cream. I love it. Even more, I share this ritual with my neighbor, who is my dear friend. Coffee, then, has also become connection for me: Vital on many levels.
The first thing I did was to measure out the amount of water I use to make my giant cup of coffee. I’ll admit I was a bit shocked by how much water this entails. I’m allowed two liters daily, and that includes any beverage or wet food such as yogurt, jello, cooked oatmeal, soup. It goes quickly. But my coffee is JOY, first thing in the day, before that awful lasix hits, before I dissolve my potassium pills into my yogurt, before my HF pills knock down my blood pressure again. I decide to reserve the water for coffee. Can’t put a price on Joy.
The second thing I do is to measure my remaining water (after factoring in the yogurt), into two cups, one of which I put away for the afternoon/evening. I’m seeking the abundant feeling of a big glass of water, minus the dreaded feeling of knowing my fluid allotment is dwindling. I accomplish this by splitting my water into those two cups. I feel luxurious sipping my water.
Of course, I can’t figure out all of this stuff out on my own. I hum the Beatles lyrics “I get by with a little help from my friends” as if it is my mantra. My brilliant coffee drinking neighbor came up with the idea of asking the doctor for permission to take in a few more cups of fluid a week so that we can go out to our favorite coffee shop and indulge. I love that idea: An indulgence instead of a failure to follow rules. More abundance thinking.
Meanwhile, my friend’s husband, who loves to cook, has been figuring out meals for me. In truth, he’s just straight up shopping and cooking for me. Even more, I can see now that he has been teaching me abundance. I’m not just cutting out salt, I’m adding in wonderful foods. My first thought had been to order from a medical meal service. I was so tired. I didn’t think I could cook. He just knew. The pre-packaged meals were depressingly bad. Without his help, I would have just sucked those down. My poor hubby would’ve been stuck with lean cuisine. Bit by bit, my neighbor is teaching me that the investment of time and energy in cooking is worth it; that he’s there to help me with meal ideas; that cooking can be entertaining even now, even when I thought I couldn’t manage. Also, cooking is now filled with connection. Now it’s true that I haven’t really cooked yet. He’s done it for me. For instance, he made a gorgeous crockpot full of meat and veggies that I will turn on tomorrow. It should last for two or three meals. My miracle is that my husband and I have made a grocery list/ plan for the meal after that. I feel like it’s possible. What could be more abundant thinking than that?
I do still worry that this is all too much on my friends and family and that I will tire them by accepting help. I don’t know what to do about that fear. I’m sure it stems from my longstanding tendency to overexert myself in tending to others. I guess I have to have faith that others know their limits? Still working on that.
Speaking of limits, my daughter is bringing dinner for us tonight. Honestly, I tried to tell her not to do this. She’s nine months pregnant with my second grandbaby. I think about my daughter all the time, so pregnant, working full time, with a husband that travels. I wish so much that I were the one helping her. Also, I’m complicated; bringing food to me requires such forethought. She’s got this, she says. My amazing, grown up girl.
Meanwhile, things are always changing. I had a good experience last night with a difficult medication. I guess I thought that today, then, might be easier. It’s not. I’ve had to up my oxygen to 4 liters. I can’t do a thing today. My grandbaby will be coming over in a little bit. I know I have to learn to just BE with her, rather than doing. I won’t scoop her up. I’ll sit on the couch and let her come to me. I’m sure there’s Grace in learning this too. Being vs. doing and all that. I’ve got to experience that one to get it, though.
Balance. My meds. My needs. Depending on others. Reconfiguring how I relate. All those pills and restrictions. Do I want to balance on the head of a pin? Not really. But I want to be here, with my husband, my family and my friends. I want to notice all that joy that is accessible to me still. I want to learn.