One of the former patients at cardiac rehab is a woman somewhat older than me. She is slim, looking right at home in her fashionable work out clothes. She is also quite fit. I marveled at her strength and endurance on the exercise machines. Her last day of rehab was a week or two ago. We end rehab sessions as a group with hand held weights and stretching. She asked the rehab staff is she could talk to the rest of the group.

She talked about how much the rehab group meant to her. She also said that at the beginning, she needed her husband to help her walk from the couch to the bathroom. It turned out that she was new to exercise and she said that she was in the best shape of her life. Then she can each of us pick an angel card out of a bowl. Each one had a word on it and we were not able to see them until after we’d chosen them.

I looked at my card and it said, “surrender”. That is something that is very hard for me to do. To me, it is giving up. I looked at the word and I have been keeping it in the back of my mind. I know there are lessons for me in it.  Surrender means to submission to an authority or opponent.

In objective terms, my recovery is going well. However, it is still a struggle. My exercise physiologist, Lisa, told us that there are usually far more men than women in cardiac rehab. She also noted that women often drop out of rehab before they finish treatment. She further noted that in her experience, they often cited family responsibilities as a reason that they could no longer participate. Heart attack is THE number 1 killer of women. Yes, it is even higher than breast cancer. Even if Lisa is wrong about this being the main reason that there are fewer women than men in rehab, it is concerning, nonetheless, that women are putting their self-care needs aside in the face of life threatening illness.

It’s concerning, but I get it. Right now I am doing a lot of fighting to protect my time and energy resources. As I’ve mentioned previously, I feel much like my normal self most of the time. The rest of the time, I am pretty tired. Although it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve had a whole day during which I felt exhausted, I still have to go to bed at 8 pm and if I’ve exerted myself a lot, I might get into bed at 6pm.

Participating in cardiac rehab takes 8-9 hours out of my week, including commuting time. I have reduced my work schedule to 50 to 70% time. My household responsibilities have increased rather than decreased. My daughter is moving to northern Washington for university in two weeks. She is going to be living in an apartment. I have taken charge of making sure she has everything she needs for her place. Starting a household from scratch is a lot of work and not something that most teens know how to do. She has her own move preparations, anyway. So I have been shopping garage sales and thrift shops and being Amazon’s best customer. We loaded up a moving truck and our van over the weekend and moved her things into her new apartment. I did a great job. The only things I didn’t think to bring were batteries, light bulbs, and a fire extinguisher.

I am good with details and taking care of things and people. I enjoyed this to a point. The preparations were a good way for me to process my daughter’s upcoming move out of the house. But I had already thrown a going away party the weekend prior. My brain is tired. I am not getting as much help around the house as I would like or that seems fair. My husband is having a hard time of his own. His work has been terrible, there are some very stressful issues in his extended family, his daughter is moving out, and his wife had two heart attacks last spring. I also suspect that he feels rather ashamed that he has not helped out more. Shame almost never motivates people to do anything healthy. It is one emotion we would perhaps be better without.

It occurred to me that I have been trying to surrender to an authority and the authority is reality. It would be healthy for me to work less. I have been trying to get my husband to do more and standing my ground. This process is not going well, at least now. He is overwhelmed and angry with me. So this surrender has increased conflict. Is THAT what is supposed to happen? Sometimes it is. I am not sure yet.

In any event, I could also surrender to the reality that my daughter will be at school in two weeks and we will not have so much work to do. I will also be going to a mindfulness retreat in October, which will give me nothing but time. But I also know that after the dust settles, my husband and I have some work to do on our relationship, as is expected after all we have been through together in the past several months.

Yes, there is work to do in the future. Right now, I surrender to the reality of now. Now it is a gorgeous day and I am about to start my day at the job I love.