The Things I Have To Do are small…but there are so many of them. They pile up madly, one on top of the other.

Most are of the everyday variety. Food must be bought and cooked. Laundry must be washed. Work must be worked.

Husbands must be laughed with, talked with, clung to. Children must be tickled, read to, bathed.

The world around me is wonderful, though it’s hard to appreciate with so many Things going on at once. Small birds swoop through the ponderosas. On ground that was piled with snow just days ago, waxy purple leaves push up through winter-bleached pine needles.

Blessings and curses arrive in tandem. A group I collaborate with is nominated for a prestigious award—big yay!

But now our camping trip to the Coast, where I’d planned to relax after weeks of high-octane go-go-go, is spent scripting a video and writing a book for the award application.

I begin to buckle. I think, I am depleted. I have nothing left to give.

A Basho haiku comes to mind. My friend Heidi gave it to me, handwritten on a slip of paper tucked into a golden Easter egg:

A cicada shell; / it sang itself / utterly away.

I don’t buckle. I take a walk. Bubbles strew themselves in large colonies along the beach. The wind flings them into pale foamy tribes, each scudding along sand as though lost, searching.

Eventually the tribes disband into families of two, four, six bubbles. One more gust of wind and they’re gone. Poof.

I rewrite the script again, quickly record a voiceover scratch track.

Boom! Nailed it.

We drive back to Sisters. FedEx takes the award package to New York. I’d stop to feel relieved but I’m already busy, helping out Sisters Farmers Market.

Then comes a question: What is happening to my heart?

I don’t ask this in a rhetorical or Hallmark-card sense, but literally.

Why is my heart buzzing and burbling within my chest?

I call the advice nurse. I guess I’m expecting her to say it’s no big deal because I’m shocked when she tells me to go get an EKG.

Suddenly I’m driving to Bend instead of volunteering at the middle school expo. I drive calmly but fast; urgent care closes at 7 p.m.

The soundtrack? Whatever happened to be on the stereo last time I drove. Thankfully, that turns out to be “Abbey Road.”

It’s hard to imagine anything truly terrible happening while the Beatles’ harmonies soar. Because the wind is high/It blows my miiiiinnnd…

I sing along, taking the high part.

Slants of evening sunlight slash through gunmetal clouds, glinting off wet asphalt past the rodeo grounds. The earth is grey, yellowed with last summer’s grasses.

I am alert and alive. I am breathing and seeing. It may be bad for the environment, but driving is a native form of meditation for the West Coast born-and-bred.

Thinking could ruin this moment; panicking certainly would. So I stick to singing.

I make it to the clinic on time. An X-Ray technician moonlighting as a cardiology assistant wires me up. My body half-bared to the fluorescent gray room, a paper robe floating daintily above my skin, socks pulled down so electrodes can be glued to my ankles, I feel cold.

The technician stops chatting to concentrate on her wires. In the silence, The Things I Have To Do — and the people for whom I do them — flutter through my mind.

My kitchen dashes by with its pleasant piles of dishes and veggies, its crackled grout that needs re-sealing.

I see my husband. Child. Funny, bright, awkward kids from my classes.

Notebooks scattered with poems. The new farmers market logo, printed on a fresh banner.

A talent show I haven’t had time to organize. A factsheet I was asked to produce months ago, about how time in nature benefits children.

Faces of my parents, nephews, niece, friends — people I love and inevitably worry about, who might need my help or a kind word.

Proud young kids under bright sun, selling their food and crafts at the Kid Made Camp booth.

The nomenclature presentation I haven’t finished for a client in Bend. OK, maybe I haven’t even started it.

An article for The Nugget Newspaper.

It’s like a kaleidoscope in there. I love my Things!

But I wonder, as the machine beeps its cold, nasal beep: Would I let ‘em kill me?

The technician goes off to find a doctor. I sit there, cold and quiet, reading “My Skeleton” by Jane Hirshfield. The poet tells her skeleton this:

Someday you, / what is left of you, / will be flensed of this marriage.

The MD comes in holding a strip of paper with lines on it. My heart seems OK for the moment. A home heart monitor is in my future.

Shivering, I swap the paper robe for jeans and a hoodie. The glue on my ankles won’t come off; the technician fetches alcohol swabs. Those don’t work either.

I ride off into the sunset with glued-on socks and an uncertain heart.

The Beatles sing me home:

Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight / Carry that weight / a long time.