During an operation, the pulse is counted on a the beeping machine in the background. 1 2 3 4. Normal is 60 – 80. A million things can change the pulse. My heart quickens when she walks by, for instance. During an operation, no matter what else is going on, the rhythm, the rate have to be simply going one beat after another. I hear it as if it is my own. Ten things can be happening but if the rhythm changes I am looking up at the anesthesiologist at the same time she is looking at me. We might speak or we might not. She is assuring me or she is telling me to stop, change, wait, let her “catch up”.
If you have a kid, you know what this kind of vigilance is. Nothing rouses you for years before that kid comes. Then, in a weird linguistic twist, nothing at all is rousing you – the slightest whimper. Nothing becomes everything, in the span of a heart beat. Doing surgery is like that. We become present and aware in the presence of unprotected need: babies, adults under anesthesia and under a knife. Any little change matters.
I wonder when I will become this awake to my own pulse, my own needs. When will the turning of my heart a little make me drop whatever I am doing and pay extra special attention? Many people wait until the pump stops altogether and then starts again by some miracle or other and then he or she remembers, or learns that this thing, this heart, this moment, this one here, is not exactly on auto pilot.
I feel my heart racing, roaming, looking for itself in the midst of the chaos of the squeeze of my life. I am looking up from my task, from this operation, from what I thought was my job, important, the dishes maybe. I feel my son on my chest, he is waving now when I wave to him, I am turning and looking and he is looking back, assuring me or telling me to stop, change wait, let him catch up…