Love is the greatest gift of all: the binding of love, the fire of love, the freedom of love.
Last Saturday, Maria (that's me, the creator of Manola Blablablanik and author of Sex and the Beach), was hospitalized for acute atrial fibrillation. My heart started going beserk early in the morning, beating irregularly and shooting upwards of 250. (Normal resting heart rate for a woman my age is 70 beats per minute.) My blood pressure also skyrocketed to 150 over 90 (the ideal is 120 over 80).
I'm not going to bore you with the details of my stay at South Miami Hospital, but I will tell you this: I'm finally out of the cardiac ward and my heart received a clean bill of health.
Unfortunately, the good news doesn't rule out atrial fibrillation. According to my doctor, a relatively healthy young heart can still suffer; in fact, I may have had this most of my adult life, the condition masked as anxiety. Since I left the hospital, I've had one episode, far less intense and very short-lived, to be sure, which I've managed to control by yogic breathing. Of concern here is that prolonged acute episodes could lead to stroke; as well, my father has chronic arrhythmia.
In the days to come, I'll be wearing a Holter monitor to test my heart rate under different conditions of rest, stress, exercise and so on. I'm working with physicians, taking medications and most importantly just taking things easy.
"All changed, changed utterly" -- Yeats
Inside the ambulance, a caring and compassionate team of four paramedics tried to slow my heart rate down the only way they could, by injecting adenosine into a blood vessel that goes directly to the heart, via the shoulder. Adenosine stops the heart momentarily in order to convert its haywire circuit back to normal. I was told not to be afraid, that the sinking feeling would only last a couple of seconds. Indeed, the effect was brief, but to be conscious while my racing heart came to a crashing halt marked a turning point in my life.
Not only did I experience the effects of adenosine once, but twice, because my heart failed to convert. The second try felt even more intense than the first, like a crushing blow. All I could think was: "This is what death must feel like."
Angel of death: stay away. I am now more alive than I have ever been. I am more certain now of what I've always known, that I was put on this earth to love and to write. I am here to follow my heart. This is all I need to know to live.
Could this be my heart's way of telling me to listen, to recognize what is within me?
A long-time friend of mine who knows me very well is a paramedic and nurse in Collier County who has administered adenosine Lord knows how many times. When I told her my ultrasound result was normal, she responded: "Maria, your heart isn't normal, it's fucking amazing." Inspiring words! I also want my life to be fucking amazing. I want my love to be fucking amazing. Why the fuck not?
Really, life is too short. And that moment when your heart stops, that's way too long.
What about Manola?
As far as Manola is concerned, don't worry, she'll be back. As a matter of fact, she was born out of despair, during a very difficult time of my life when I hadn't yet even hit rock bottom. Yes, the wacky character you've all come to know and love was my black sun -- a shining light in the darkness. I have no doubt that she will be even more resilient than she has ever been, even funnier and more irreverent, but this time, with a little more of Maria.
I'm also going to be launching a new site in the weeks to come called Miami Good Vibes; it's a project I've had in mind for months. This site will focus on good people doing good things in our community, with information on philanthropic organizations and volunteer opportunities. I'll also highlight artists who are inspired by our culture and environment. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, I'm enjoying the blessing of devoted family and friends who bring love into my life, as well as the opportunity to not write, which is incredibly challenging for a writer to do. Well, I'm actually writing as little as possible, save for assignments at Miami Beach 411. I've been a wordsmith in some creative published or professional working capacity for over twenty years and it's time to step away from the thing I love in order to let my heart rest. Ironic, isn't it?
I'm creating as much space in my life as possible to live; to have a life away from the internet; to breathe free, to love and eventually, to write again.
I've had so much fun cracking myself up with Manola, as well as the honor of giving a few folks some laughs; if you're one of those folks, I hope you will indulge us a little leave of absence.
And fellow bloggers, I hope you'll understand why I haven't stopped by for a visit lately, but please do carry on with your wonderful work -- I want to read you again when the time is right for me to return.