I remember when I was growing up in our small, Southern town, the local YMCA would have this group exercise class called “Cardiac Rehab.” It, as the name would be fitting, was geared specifically towards those who had had some serious, life-threatening health event occur such as a heart attack or stroke, that had left them in need of gentle, muscle (in this case the heart), strength and endurance building. 99% of this crew consisted of what I (so diplomatically at my mature 15 years of age) termed “old farts” and “Gerries.”
I remember distinctly, as I ran my laps around the second-floor, indoor track—looking down and taking in this scene (what looked to me more like torture) with horror---and also a healthy dose of pity. All my youth-lidded teenage eyes could see was sagging skin, slow-motion, and staggering towards an unseen goal that will never ever put them back quite exactly at their same status—their lives had all irrevocably slowed….stalled even.
This thought made me shudder, and I would look away and will myself to pretend that these damaged vessels were not there in my existence—that all there was in my world was motion—power—sprinting with strong legs and a kick that caused my heart to burst with effusive energy--bubbling over with such gratitude that I was at my prime---unblemished--and on my way…never looking back on those unspoken of underlings.
Today, I have a new perspective….such a dramatically different awareness. I'd like to go back to that small, Southern town, and survey these citizens with new eyes. And that is who they are---citizens…of a unified country—a small, circle of friends, bound together by an unbreakable bond forged in battle. Their hearts have taken a hit—their lives will never be the same. Everything they do now, has to take into account their condition(s).
I believe I would see them facing their frustration, as they cycle with slow, pained circles…round-a-bout they go…remembering when they moved so freely—yet not allowing themselves to give up…rather giving themselves the grace to go at their own pace….rebuilding. I believe I would also see the friendships forged over fellowship together—tried by fire, this fellowship flows from souls sojourneying quite possibly the most scary and difficult path they will ever be asked to tread. They go~
Yes, I am sure---the sagging skin, the slow-motion, and the stilted progression will still shock me in unguarded moments…yet I believe I won’t turn away this time. I will look up and see those sprinters looking down on me with such disgust….and I will know I am beautiful…and that their shudders signify their small minds—simple worlds—and still yet to be discovered awarenesses of life happening…and all that it entails. I will gaze on my own wrinkled war-ravaged body, and will speak to it tenderly—willing it to go at its own pace—and remind it that it is not as it once was—but it is getting stronger everyday.
This morning, my Cardiac Rehab consists of good, strong coffee, the crashing cadence of winter waves, a sandy stretch of beach beckoning just outside my door, and prayers petitioned from a tiny island in the Pacific. Heal, heart. Heal.