Climb the Mountain, Find the Sea

Fall and the New Moon

Later in the day, Monday.

Drove carefully down Shadow Mountain, down 285 to 470. 470 was clear to South Denver Cardiology. When they called Charles, two of us got up. Charles Collins was the one they wanted. I sat back down.

Ellen came out ten minutes later. Charles II, me.

Back in the room she asked me if I’d ever been on a treadmill before. Yes, I own one and have used it for years. Take off your shirts, please. It’s easier to hook you up to the EKG. She rubbed my chest with a lotion to help the EKG pads stay on, then carefully separated the eight leads and clicked them into place after placing the pads all over my chest.

We waited for an initial EKG to run. A baseline. I stood there in the slightly cool room draped with long plastic cords attached to my body, feeling mildly ridiculous and science fictiony at the same time.

The treadmill was nothing special. Not as nice as mine. It goes up automatically Ellen said. In speed and elevation. On the wall ahead of me was a sign showing numbers and exertion levels. Fine to extremely difficult, 10 numbers. We’re heading to 126 beats per minute. I can do that. I just did, Saturday morning.

That’s arrived at by the quick and dirty way of subtracting your age from 220, then multiplying by some percentage (it varies according to your age, gender, physical condition). Age from 220 gives maximum heart rate.

I stayed on for a bit over 8 minutes. Felt I should I go past 7 minutes which was the average. Ego. We ended with the treadmill at 3.6 mph at 15% elevation. That’s way harder than my usual workout which right now is at 3 mph, going up to 6% elevation. I could have gone longer, but Ellen said she had enough data, so she set the treadmill to cool down.

When I was off, she had me sit on a table, still attached to the EKG. Time back to normal heart rate is a sign of fitness. Not so good as it used to be for me. After a fourth blood pressure reading, she said I was done.

Part of the angst I felt yesterday morning was about the medicalization of my life. Another test, another chance to find something new wrong. I’d like to get back to annual physicals. Might not happen.

A while ago I read a Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickled and Dimed, et al) short essay on why she’s not doing anymore medical tests at all: Why I’m Giving Up on Preventative Care. Her point is that she’s sensed she’s old enough to die. Good article. Just read Dr. Stephen Mile’s Testament. It’s his equivalent of a medical directive. He’s very, very clear about what he doesn’t want, most of it bring me back from the brink sort of interventions.

Death might be making a come back. Why not own our mortality? The tree dies. The dog dies. The human dies. Yes. The cycle finishes for the individual while the species lives on. Our individual existence has never been the point anyway, procreation is about the species, not about the individual, though paradoxically individuals are required to sustain the species.

Here’s something I found that gives another perspective on this conversation:

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
     And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
     And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance. Kahlil Gibran, On Death.

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