The more progress I make, the more my heart has the power to surprise me when it decides to take back the wheel.
I’ll be the first to admit that a year ago, I was a hot mess: paralyzed by fear, unable to move, barely functioning. In fact, I was just discussing how far I’ve come with my therapist earlier this week. But as the saying goes, “pride comes before the fall” and I’m stumbling right now.
I can’t pinpoint exactly what tripped me up this time, but I know I’m chronically guilty of taking on too much. The cycle usually goes something like this: take good care of myself, get stronger, take on more and more responsibilities, do all the things on little or no sleep, hit the wall, go into hiding and then eventually emerge when I feel able to start taking care of myself. Repeat.
In my new post-surgery life, this results in the bionic heartbeat going off the charts and dominating my emotional and physical landscape. I know I’ve explained it to most of you before, but I can’t stress enough how feeling every single beat during these times is nothing short of torture. I can’t even begin to dissect the complex psychology of how this affects me minute to minute, but the end result is that I usually can’t do the things I want to do and sometimes I can’t even do the things I need to.
Case in point: today is the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. Anyone who knows me, knows I love Hubble, but what you probably don’t know is that I was actually at its launch two and a half decades ago. My first shuttle launch and it was deploying a spacecraft which would later change my life.
As luck would have it, my second shuttle launch was the last mission to Hubble in 2009 to repair and replace several instruments. Between those two launches I transformed from a shy, nerdy pre-teen, astronaut wannabe into a confident, nerdy, outgoing astrophysicist. And I followed Hubble’s journey alongside mine every step of the way.
To celebrate how far we’d both come, I planned to participate in the official events taking place in DC and Baltimore. I’ve been looking forward to this weekend since January. Now it’s finally here and instead of taking a train to DC yesterday for the revealing of Hubble’s official anniversary image, I curled up in bed. Instead of going to Space Telescope Science Institute for a series of celebrations honoring Hubble, I curled up in bed. Instead of reading all the articles and blogposts about Hubble’s great accomplishments today, I curled up in bed. The part of me that loves Hubble the most is the same part of me that is keeping me from sharing that love.
The positive takeaway in all this is that I’m at least self-aware enough to realize what is happening. The old me would have gone to DC and Baltimore in a frenzied state and pretend I was fine, only to collapse the first second I was alone and barely pull myself together in time for the next event. The new me knows to go straight to the collapse stage for self-preservation.
The one thing that brought a smile to my face amidst all this turmoil was finding this image my friend Josh made for me after my surgery. It’s a photo of my heart taken in the operating room, but overlaid with a mosaic of images taken by Hubble. In spite of my best laid plans for today’s anniversary, this photo really is the best tribute to Hubble I could ever have. Both Hubble and I have seen better days, but we both also have many more days to come.