Since I was a boy, I’ve been told by physicians that I have a heart murmur. The doctors tried to explain how it was a sound alongside the beat of my heart. They also told me (and my parents) that it was “functional” and therefore only of minimal concern.
When my wife lays her head on my chest, she sometimes comments about hearing some sort of irregularity in my heartbeat. I joked that it was purely the effect that she has on me that leads to my heart beating this way. Then, I told her about the childhood diagnosis of the murmur. I guess that it allayed our fear of the arrhythmia being a problem.
Fast forward to a few months ago: I had been running to train for a half-marathon and experienced some swelling in my ankles after some of the longest runs. I scheduled a visit to a local doctor. It was my first time in a doctor’s office in my new home in Ithaca, New York, so the M.D. wanted to get a baseline on who I am, medically speaking. I noticed that he paused for longer than seemed normal with his stethoscope in a few places on my chest. At the end of his exam, he announced that a nurse would be bringing in a portable EKG machine because he was hearing an extra beat in my pulse. I told him about the murmur. He explained that this was not a murmur, but a complete beat that was not in time with my pulse. The electrocardiogram confirmed what he had heard.
For the next few days, I was motivated by the fear that something was wrong with my heart. I reduced the length of my runs and quit training for “the half”. I modified my eating habits and drank an apple-cider vinegar and tart cherry mixture to invigorate my body systems. In my coaching sessions and conversations with friends, I talked about my fear. Next thing I knew, I was starting to see how the “extra beat” was trying to get my attention in a different way. I experimented with poly rhythms; when I went to jam sessions and drum circles I listened for sounds that seemed out-of-sync and noticed their beauty; the place of the heart as a metaphor for compassion and love took on new meanings; and I shifted my attention on the left side of my chest from a feeling of fear to a sense of curiosity and wonder.
By the time my doctor’s office did their blood work and I went back for a follow-up visit, there was nothing alarming. The doctor sent me away with only a request to come back in six months.
For me, an extra beat in my heart’s pulse means that I have more love to give. I get so much goodness from the wonderful people in my life. In fact, while this medical story was weaving through my life, I was improvising this series of instrumentals inspired by these wonderful people. I hope you enjoy listening. This is one of my ways of giving love back to you and the whole world. How do you celebrate and demonstrate your love?