It’s a glorious Indian Summer day here in Columbus, Ohio, and I’m giving thanks for the twenty minutes of running that I did this morning in the midst of my forty-minute walk. As many of you know, I’m a month into recovery from a stroke. To catch you up to speed in case you didn’t know that, I spent two days in the hospital and, fortunately, left with no impairments. An echo-cardiogram showed what may be a hole between the atria of my heart, a patent foreman ovale, the hole we all have in the womb which closes at birth—at least, it’s supposed to. For roughly twenty-five to thirty-three percent of the population, it doesn’t, and most of us are never aware of that fact, unless, as the doctors suspect is the case for me, a clot travels through that hole and into the brain.
My cardiologist wanted me to wear a heart monitor for twenty-one days to make sure I had no arrhythmia. I finished the test yesterday and will now wait to hear about the next step in this journey.
This morning was my first steps running without electrodes stuck to my chest, a sensor worn on a cord around my neck, and the heart monitor, which was the size of an older cell phone, in my pocket. For the first time in a little over three weeks, I was unplugged.
Before the stroke, I ran for an hour every other day. Now, I’m slowly working my way back toward that goal. In the long stretch of years when I was able to run without thought of my health, I sometimes forgot to give thanks for the sheer joy of each step. I grumbled over my balky joints, my sore feet, my tight calf muscles. I rushed to fit in a run so I could get to what lay ahead of me that day. I forgot the blessing of what running was to me.
So it is sometimes for the writer. I’ll admit I’ve wasted energy and time moaning over my own work when it’s not going well. Likewise, for the minutes I’ve spent envying other writers’ successes or feeling overly pleased with my own. The challenge of the work, the fact that someone’s acclaim eclipses our own, the smug pride we take in what we accomplish? They’re obstacles to the rich blessing that our work offers us. What a privilege it is to be able to face the page for however many minutes we can manage each day. Twenty minutes? Thirty minutes? An hour or more? Celebrate that time. Give thanks that you have the chance to do the thing you love. Do it for a lifetime. Treat it well, this gift, so it will return to you, knowing you embrace it with all your spirit and heart.