Author Archives: Barbara Anderson

About Barbara Anderson

At age 48, I changed my lifestyle (food, exercise, rest, spirituality, balance) after a heart diagnosis. I write about living well and doing good, no matter what life brings.

I Had Dared to Hope

I had dared to hope that I was finally healthy enough to bring energy and imagination to the world again.  But Whack-a-mole returned.  A few weeks after I wrote a New Year’s letter celebrating my improved health, I was diagnosed with heart failure almost as severe my original diagnosis 13 years ago. A specialized pacemaker, a new medication and medically supervised exercise hold out the hope of a stronger heart.  I need ways to hold onto this hope and persevere in “working the program.”

As the U.S. commemorates the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this week, words of King included in an article in the Washington Post inspire me to keep on keepin’ on.

In “King was unpopular and demoralized before he died. He pressed on anyway,” Stephen Kendrick and Paul Kendrick remind me of both a part of the Civil Rights struggle many of us forget and the perseverance of hope:

The shot that echoed in the Memphis dusk 50 years ago still reverberates through our national life, yet there is so much about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. we find hard to absorb.

In our long effort to moderate King, to make him safe, we have forgotten how unpopular he had become by 1968. In his last years, King was harassed, dismissed and often saddened. These years after Selma are often dealt with in a narrative rush toward martyrdom, highlighting his weariness. But what is missed is his resilience under despair. It was when his plans faltered under duress that something essential emerged. The final period of King’s life may be exactly what we need to recall, bringing lessons from that time of turmoil to our time of disillusion.

Celebrating the march out of Selma, Ala., and his early prophetic optimism made sense in the heady Obama years.  Now, we need King’s determined faithfulness.

Once refusing to get on a flight in 1967, King called his wife, Coretta, from the airport saying, “I get tired of going and not having any answers.” His opposition to the Vietnam War cost him support. At a time of emerging Black Power, King’s dream of integration and nonviolence seemed to many insufficient, almost passé. Yet he died still trying to confront “the evil triplets,” how “racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together.”

An unguarded King who still speaks to us can be found in transcripts of Southern Christian Leadership Conference retreats. [At the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, S.C.,] he told his staff in 1966, “I am still searching myself. I don’t have all the answers.” He challenged them — and us — “I’m not talking about some kind of superficial optimism which is little more than magic. I’m talking about that kind of hope that has an ‘in spite of’ quality.” 

[Just four months before his assassination, he told a similar gathering,] “Hope is the final refusal to give up.” King did not just assert this but also lived the belief, by continuing to put his body into his nation’s gun sights. His lack of answers did not keep him from his destiny — which was not fate so much as the result of his choice to show up, to keep on.

Every era finds the King it needs. The version we need now is a King who pressed on through doubt to see a radical vision, as we must [with] the challenges we face. King ran out of certainty but never faith.
(Emphasis mine)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/king-was-unpopular-and-demoralized-before-he-died-he-pressed-on-anyway/2018/04/03/06f9f1d0-345b-11e8-8bdd-cdb33a5eef83_story.html

 

My Heart Failure Returned

The bad news is that my heart failure returned and needs quick intervention. The good news is that the return of heart failure made me eligible for an extra-high-tech pacemaker developed for treating heart failure. I spent much of last week in the hospital for cardiac tests and a pacemaker.

This is not the usual type of pacemaker with which most people are familiar and that has already saved millions of lives around the world. It is a combination ICD and CRT-D pacemaker about the size of a half-dollar coin.

ICD technology is like carrying an emergency room in one’s chest.  If the heart goes so far out of rhythm as to cause a fatal event, the ICD provides a hefty shock to re-stabilize the rhythm. (Imagine paddles in a hospital room reduced to chip size.)

Because the contractions of my right and left ventricles are not synchronized with each other, the CRT-D technology sends an electric signal with each beat that corrects this and makes them beat as one (how romantic). In addition, the constant re-synchronization often remodels the heart muscle over time toward that of a normal heart.

My sudden flurry of medical attention began after I sought my doctor’s approval to resume an exercise regimen.  “Not without a cardiac work-up,” replied my primary care physician.  Long story short, a stress test with echocardiogram revealed my heart function has declined dramatically.  I spent several days in the hospital being monitored before I was ready for the super-duper pacemaker.  My arteries are still nearly pristine and the pacemaker should restore some degree of confidence and restored quality of life. The cardiologists think I’m a good candidate to receive greatest benefit from this particular device.

I’m resting and recovering at home now.  Mark has been an excellent nurse and as always, a great cook.  I’m forbidden to do any kind of housework, including washing dishes, loading the dishwasher, making the bed, doing laundry, or lifting more than a pound with either hand.  Bummer.  I wonder how long I can string out the limitations on housework?

Three cardiologists marveled last week at how well I’ve managed my cardiomyopathy and heart failure for thirteen years.  They are pleased with how faithful I’ve been to exercise and lifestyle changes, and my good quality of life.  They’re also surprised by well my heart is doing beyond the issues that made the pacemaker device necessary.  They also explained that my being short-of-breath and tiring easily has not been because I was a lazy and slothful.  It was because my heart function was slipping.

I’m pleased and hopeful.  I appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

Join the Frogs with Me

It’s almost time for the frogs in the wetlands beside our house to awaken from their winter lethargy and announce their presence.  Our time to awaken has come, too.

As much as I hate publicly calling someone racist, the time has come.  President Trump is racist in thought, word and deed.  He is not the first such occupant of the White House.  Eight Presidents owned slaves while in office.  Woodrow Wilson screened the KKK movie, Birth of a Nation in the White House.  Franklin Roosevelt turned away a ship of 900 Jews fleeing Europe because he didn’t want more Jews in the U.S.*  Richard Nixon used his racist Southern Strategy to become President and Ronald Reagan trumpeted the Welfare Queen.  Until 1965, our immigration policies were written to exclude nearly all immigrants from everywhere but Northern and Western Europe.  Some, like the Chinese Exclusion Act, were particularly heinous.

Scratch below the surface and America’s systemic racism is still visible.  That has become abundantly clear in the past two years.  Those racist currents have again become dangerous as President Trump fans the flames of nationalism, White Supremacy and Christian exceptionalism.

Why do I say President Trump is racist and in thought, word and deed?  He proudly denigrates people of color and Muslims.  His vile comments encourage xenophobia, greed and hate.  His words give succor to those who burn mosques, deface synagogues, and destroy black churches.  His policies against Latinos and Muslim majority countries are break families apart and terrorize U.S. residents.  His comments and actions are considered so derogatory and racist around the world that they endanger our diplomats and military personnel.

Some White folk say the President ought to be free to speak the way they, themselves, do at home and in pubs, as if their racism is O.K. and his ought to be, as well.  But when President Trump uses vile language to speak of Africa, Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras,  or racist language about people here at home, there is much more at stake.  His words carry the full power of the United States, for good or ill.

This is not a game.  It is not innocent.  It is not harmless.  It is life and death.  It is nothing less than the future of our country and the world at stake.

Like the frogs beyond my garden, it’s time for us to raise our voices and start moving.  Citizens have moved this nation towards its ideals in the past.  We can do it again.  We must do it again.

Two citizen movements in U.S. history inspire and prod me to action:  “citizen spies” in Los Angeles and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and ’60’s.

As the KKK and neo-Nazi groups grew in power across the U.S. in the 1930’s, a handful of  citizens in Los Angeles thwarted White supremacists’ plans to torch Boyle Heights and its residents with flame throwers mounted on pickup trucks.  They also disrupted plans to  murder Jewish movie stars and businessmen, and to seize armories across the Los Angeles Basin.  With courage and determination, they acted on their values.

I draw strength, too, from the young Blacks of the Civil Rights Movement who sat in White sections of lunch counters in the South; Black and White Freedom Riders who were beaten and jailed as they registered Blacks to vote; and Black citizens who risked their lives standing up for one another and trying to claim their right to work, love, worship, vote and travel unhindered.  With bravery and determination, they acted on their belief in the ideals of America.

Most of the people who have bent the arc of America’s history towards justice were ordinary people like you and I.  They gave time and energy, skills and expertise, compassion, hospitality and life experience–sometimes even their jobs, homes, and life.

Now it’s our time and turn:  Our time to be courageous and creative.  Our turn to reclaim America from those who tarnish it anew with racism, injustice and greed.

If you’re looking for ideas, here are a few to choose from.  Voice your concerns and beliefs to family, friends, coworkers and members of your church/synagogue/mosque.  Challenge their comments and jokes.  Join Daily Action Text Alerts to participate in coordinated phone calls to Congress.  Contribute money to the NAACP, ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center.  Volunteer with groups that protect immigrants.  Pray.  March.  Run for office.  Read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Learn about White Privilege, systemic racism and how change occurs.  Listen humbly to the experiences of people whose race is different from yours and learn.  Look in the mirror with honesty, and change.  Be creative and courageous.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

 

*At least one quarter of the Jews on the German ocean liner, St. Louis, died in the Holocaust after returning to Europe from the Port of Miami.
**The Hart-Celler Act of 1965 removed limitations of previous policies and, with a more generous quota system, instead based immigration on merit and family connections.
***“Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America,” by Steven J. Ross, Professor of History at USC.