Flat-Line

Flat-Line

Tropical Storm Elsa has come and gone – well the remnants of her anyway having largely weakened and fallen apart by the time she got to New England. We certainly got a lot of rain, several inches in fact, but not a lot of wind thankfully. It gusted into the 30’s, maybe low 40’s, but nothing destructive; all I found in the yard this afternoon were some small branches and a few leaves. It is now around 5PM, and the sky is blue and the sun is out, a significant change from the dark skies and curtains of water of this morning.

I wandered the yard a little while ago; the winds were still gusty but not at storm strength. As I watched the tops of the trees shake the day’s rain from their leaves I was reminded (once again) of how thoroughly trees model life. They had just been through yet another storm – probably hundreds of them by now for some of the older trees – and there they were, still standing. They bend and bow and they bounce to and fro but rarely break or fall (dead ones notwithstanding). As the old commercial used to exclaim, they “take a licking and keep on ticking”. Trees weather a lot of storms, not unlike us.

We all take a beating from life, from the universe, every so often. And much like the storms of nature, some are weak, some are strong, and some are monsters that test every fiber of our being. Yet while we may bend and bow and bounce to and fro, we rarely break. We may feel broken, but we are not; we may feel like we’ll never stand upright again, but we will. Eventually, the storms always pass and the buffeting winds calm down and clear out and once again we stand tall.

As you can undoubtedly discern from my opening paragraph which clearly dates it, I began this post almost a week ago. We have been busy with the grandkids – and with waiting for our fourth grandchild’s arrival. He is due today, the 14th, but as of yet has shown no inclination to come say hello. My daughter has been having contractions for over a week now, but they are something called Braxton Hicks and not the real deal. So she sees the doctor today and will likely be scheduled to go in tomorrow so they can induce labor. We’ve been chewing our nails for a week or so now, the next couple of days will surely leave little left to gnaw!

I have not been hiking in a month now and I am the worse for it. I miss the peace and solitude of the woods. As I’ve indicated in previous posts, we’ve been busy and there has always been one reason or another on why I could not get out on any given day, ad that’s fine. But I miss it. I love hiking for the silence of the woods, the feeling of solitude, and the peace that settles over you once you’re a couple of miles into the forest. But… I also love it for the exercise; hiking affords an awesome workout including strengthening the core muscles. Because of the scrambling and climbing and eccentric terrain the whole body receives a thorough workout. I still often manage to get in five, six, or even ten miles walking in a day here in the yard, but it just isn’t the same.

I want to share what I think is a funny story and perhaps an insight into how we can be our own worst enemies. A couple of days ago I was splitting wood out in the back yard. It was in the 80’s and very humid but not unbearable. I split for four hours or so and made myself quite a pile so I decided to stop splitting and switch over to loading the wood into the wheelbarrow and moving up to one of my storage areas near the house. The loads are heavy enough, but compounded by the fact that it is uphill to either storage area.

I hauled a few loads or so up the hill, and on this one load, once I got to the top I checked my watch for the time and my pulse. Being a Fitbit it also gives my heartrate and I was curious what my rate was. A pulse above 110 beats per minute indicates you are in the fat-burning zone, which is what you really want if you are exercising. I had checked it periodically through the day and had been between 90-100. I did hit 103 once or twice but that was about it, so I was hoping the exertion of getting up the hill was pushing my pulse a little higher.

I hit the button on the watch and rather than a numeric value as I normally see, there was just a line, a flat line. No number, no value… just a line. And for that frozen moment, that specific and unique moment in time, my brain came up with the idea that it needed to chastise me. “There – you’ve gone and stopped your heart. I hope you’re happy now!” Of course, it was just the watch. And within a millisecond my conscious mind recognized that fact and that my heart was, of course, still beating.

But that moment typifies how many of our minds work: self-critical and quick to blame ourselves. We are often so quick to judge ourselves harshly and leap to that judgment even before fully knowing or understanding all the facts. “It must have been something you did” we tell ourselves, “It must be our fault.” It is all part of the examined life which Socrates stated as: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” It is about accountability and responsibility for our own actions. But sometimes, we can be harshest with ourselves. If you are like me dear reader, and expect more of yourself than anyone else, try, try, try to allow yourself a little latitude, a little forgiveness. Allow yourself to be human! Stay well!!

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