I left the house before sunrise this morning for my two-mile walk with the dogs. I enjoy the habit I adopted this year. It starts my day off on a good foot and I feel peaceful and energized. My path takes me down a very busy road for a few blocks, then into a rural residential area with quiet treelined streets and small neat houses on large lots. Weekdays are busy with people starting the day like the young mentally disabled woman standing in her driveway with her mom, waiting for the day center bus to come. Her mother waves and compliments the dogs, the young woman stares, and the bus driver gives me a smile. Weekends are quieter, people tend to sleep in. There is very little movement at 5:45 a.m. on a Sunday morning.
When I turned into the trail that goes behind a school, I noticed a vehicle parked in the back near the soccer field. The hair on the back of my neck stood alert, but I chuckled to myself. Probably some teenagers who fell asleep after a Saturday night rendezvous. But the danger meter continued to register just a few notches with every step, and I began to talk to myself like I do when I feel tense.
“Don’t be silly. It is nothing. Women have been killed for less than nothing. But you are 55 years old, you’re not a hot little 23 year old. You are well past the age of being kidnapped and sold into the sex trade. But what if he just wants to kill you for fun? What if you remind him of his grandmother and she was cruel to him and made him stand in a bathtub of ice water for having naughty thoughts? Stop it. You are being ridiculous. You know, turning around might not be necessary, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt anything. I am not going to change my route on the off chance the Texas chainsaw guy is sitting in that truck. This is my walk and I am taking it. Your headstone is going to read “it was the principle of the thing.” Oh, look someone is getting out. Run!!! No! Just be normal. “
As I drew nearer, I realized it was a yard guy. I assumed he was waiting for the sun to come up and provide enough light to work. It is going to be 100+ degrees today and he is smart for getting an early start – just like with me and my walks.
“He’s like me. We are the same. Early risers, trying to beat the heat. But you know… What now? He has all those sharp tools. He’s a yard guy, he needs sharp tools to be a yard guy. Yes… still. I am not turning back now, he will see me turn back and think it was because of him. I do not want to give him that satisfaction…. Or hurt his feelings. It is possible you will regret your own stubbornness. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but bull headedness may kill the woman. You should have brought your gun. I am not packing during a sunrise walk. Your mace then. Nope! Myrna will stop him. Myrna will protect me. “
“Won’t you Myrna?”
The German Shepherd mix at the end of the leash gave me a backward glance that said either “Yeah, I got your back” or “whatever.” When we made it safely past the truck, she glanced at me again, which I took to mean “Phew!”
I have a heart condition. Heart failure is what they call it. It is result of chemotherapy and radiation to my chest in my 20s, which announced itself when I turned 50 while scuba diving in a mine. That story is another blog, for another day. The best I can explain the condition is during extreme stress or exertion my heart pumps too fast, and my ventricles do not exactly close correctly. It reminds me of an old toilet flapper that should have been replaced years ago. Only they can’t replace my flappers. The excess blood gets thrown back into my lungs and my lungs fill with blood and water and I run the risk of drowning in my own bodily fluid. It is not pretty. The first telltale sign of an episode is a heavy feeling in my chest. The second sign is a gurgling sound in my throat caused by air passing through fluid.
With the truck behind me now, and Eddie Money singing the praises of Rosanna and her daddy’s car through the earbuds, I felt that heaviness in my chest, then claustrophobia set in. I threw off the earbuds because “Shakin’” was not helping the situation. I took long gulps of air, which only complicated things.
“Turn around, go back home, you are only a third of the way. It’s too risky. You don’t want to die like this. I’ve never died during one of these episodes. Oh, right, the day you saw Jesus in the hospital… that wasn’t dying? The day God talked to you in the water when you ran out of air in Puerto Rico, THAT wasn’t dying? OK, but I’m good, I’m good. I’ll be fine. Stop being stupid. You stop being stupid. You’re the stupid one. OMG am I schizophrenic? I don’t know but you sound like a lizard. I blame Epstein. He and those like him who make women afraid, make us feel like objects, make us even think about bringing a gun on a sunrise walk! That is insane. Like those random men on Instagram, I post a really deep thought and all they can say is “You are so pretty” or “You have a great smile.” Do they do that to other men? NO! Do they say “that’s a great shot, you have a good eye” or “what you said is thought provoking?” NO! They focus on appearance. They do not understand we have brains and feelings, and that having some random bitcoin trader remark on our smiles is creepy!!“
These thoughts are making me angry. It is freaking 2019. I should not fear a man waiting in his truck for the sun to come up, solely because I am female. I am not typically a fearful woman. When I was a kid, Daddy said more than once that I did not have enough sense to be afraid. However, I had thought of Jeffrey Epstein last night when my daughter sent a text about him. She said she thought he escaped justice, and I agreed. On the flipside, I also believe in Heaven and Hell, and that we will all end up in one place or the other. Honestly, if I had to choose between there being only one of them, the vengeful part of me would want there to be a Hell; the Hell preached about from Baptist pulpits with fire and brimstone and relentless suffering. I think most women wanted to see his smug face doing life in prison where the only sex he was having was forced upon him by men more powerful than he is. He should know how his victims felt.
“Am I required to say “alleged” victims since he killed himself before he could go to trial? Nah, he can sue me for slander from Hell if he wants. “
The gurgling in my chest and throat increased and I realized was agitating myself even further. In my situation, physical exertion is not nearly as a harmful as stress induced adrenaline. Otherwise, I would not be able to take these walks. These walks make my life better. As my thoughts intensified with the anger at how unsafe my daughter and granddaughter are in this world, the adrenaline sped to my heart increasing the pressure in my chest. To add insult to injury, the humidity today is at sauna levels. Stress, adrenaline and humidity are the trifecta of heart failure triggers. The claustrophobia returned, quickly, and panic set in.
“Oh shit! Now, being pissed off puts me at risk? What if I cannot get home? Who can I call at 6:00 a.m. to give me and three dogs a ride?“
Panic begets more panic.
I once read an article about some monks who were able to slow their own heart rates down with thought and meditation.
“Stop thinking. Just stop thinking. You will not be another Epstein victim by dying on the street because you got mad thinking about him. Remember the monks! Look at the sunrise. You aren’t closed in; the sky goes on forever. Feel your own strength, your legs are strong they can carry you home. Tell your heart to relax, slow your steps to help your heart read the meter, slow your breath to give your heart the correct pace. Relax heart, match my pace. Get to your happy place.“
Within a few minutes the claustrophobia had passed, and I was no longer in panic. I changed my playlist selection to “relax” and returned put the earbuds back on. Singing “Purple Heather” Rod Stewart asked, “will you go, Lassie, go?” “Yes, Rod,” I gurgled. “I will go.”
I finished my walk successfully. No trips to the ER, nobody scolding me on my risky behavior. All is good. Oh, sure. It could have turned out badly. Like a character from a Stephen King novel, Mr. Yard Man could have rushed from his truck, done unspeakable acts to me, then stuffed my body into the mulch bag. Barring that, I could have had such an extreme heart episode that my air ran out and a cute little girl riding with her family on their way to church looked out the car window to see my blue body lying in the ditch with three dogs still tethered to my arm. “Oh, doggies!” she would have said, and Dad says, “Holy shit.” Then Mom would have scolded, “Watch your mouth in front of the kids” as she turned toward his gaze and gasped, “Oh my Lord Jesus.” But none of that actually happened. What happened was I got control of my thoughts and my thoughts brought my heart back to a nearly normal beat pattern. I was able to slow the beating of my own heart with my thoughts. When I think about that, now, I am impressed with myself.
“I’m kind of a bad ass. “
Which reminds me. They can kill ya, but they can’t eat ya, because you are too damned tough. That does not mean they won’t keep chewing at you, because they will. Oh, darling, they absolutely will.
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