Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hittin' the High Spots

Sometimes you just gotta trust your process
I mean if the rest of the whole world
Does not understand.

You still have to do it your way.

The only way I can come out
on top
is to go all the way through
whatever is in my dark alley.

Grace has befallen me once again.

I am singing and painting and looking
forward to stuff again.

I had to learn to focus on what I could do rather than
What I could not do.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Vulnerable Times

Please do understand that my writing about the problems I have in my life are not an attempt to garner pity. I need to put my words out for release. This is all about my trying to get some of my needs met. They say there is healing to be had by telling one's story. So today I am writing my story about the events of the past six months of my life.

For those who do not write, do know that I have been writing my thoughts and feelings out since I was around twelve years old. Often it has seemed that the pen and paper have been my most dependable, trustworthy and accessible confidantes.

I write because it helps me get past the jungle of confusion within me. The written words are able to form a pattern that my mind can use to make sense of what is chaos in my head.

I am at a place in my life whereby my very mettle has been put to the test, for the last six months of my life have been fraught with many challenges.

In May I learned that my only sister's breast cancer returned after a twelve-year dormancy. The cancer had metastasized. I sat in the oncologist's office with my sister when she received this news. I thought I might vomit.

On June 5 I was a passenger in a very bad car accident. My friend and I were going to see a movie, and a woman ran a stoplight. Our vehicle was pushed at high impact into a wall of concrete, and before this happened the vehicle in which I rode took down several street signs before crashing. I remember seeing the car coming at us. I remember the violent careening of the friend's van. What I remember most vividly is seeing the wall of concrete into which I knew we were heading.

A few broken ribs, cracked sternum, four cracked molars and a very sore leg later, I had survived. I must have been in shock, for despite the terrible pain in my left leg which the ER doctor had dismissed as a mere case of bad bruises, I set my sights on packing for the trip my sister and I had planned. Upon learning of my sister's health news, we had made plans to visit our family in Belgium.

Six days after the accident we were en route. My upper body hurt really badly, and my breathing was painful, but I figured all I had wrong were broken ribs, and that only time not medical treatment would solve that. I figured that since the trip was already planned, and my sister was feeling good that I should take the trip.

I was very wrong. Walking was what we did from morning until night. And that was fine by me. I love to walk, and every sight was new and totally lovely. My cousin lived in a neighborhood that looked like a fairy tale book illustration. I figured that my pain would continue to diminish with each passing day, and that the new sights would be wonderful distractions.

But the pain in my leg increased, and tensions were mounting between my sister and me. We were both in a great deal of physical and emotional pain. Although my sister and I are very close, we could not be there for one another, for we both were in severely weakened states.

When I was younger I heard that grief could ruin a relationship. I was naive then. I thought that having to face suffering together would strengthen a relationship, but sometimes that is not how things work out.

Sometimes a pain inside a person is so great that it takes all she has to rise above it, and the reservoir of compassion that normally exists within one has run dry. We must not chide ourselves for this. We are human beings. We all have our limits.

The tension with my sister and the ever-increasing pain in my leg, which was actually broken but still undiagnosed, was too much for me. I returned home after only five days of what was to be a twenty-one day trip.

Once home I sought help from my primary care physician. The office would not grant me an appointment. I was shocked. The person in charge me told me that the doctor was on vacation, and that the doctor would not allow the PA's to see me. She told me to go to the ER.
Later, I would learn that primary care physicians do not want to get involved with car accident injuries. Once involved they may have to deal with an extra load of paperwork including depositions which cut into their time thus lowering their bottom line profit.

I argued. I begged with the office. I reminded them that I have been a patient with them for thirty years. The nurse told me that they would not see me. She told me to go to a walk-in clinic or an emergency room.

I did go to an emergency room. X-rays were taken. The report came back that I had contusions and tissue damage. No fracture was reported. I told them I knew something was very wrong with my leg. I begged for an MRI. The technician told me they would not do that in the ER because MRI's are too costly.

With each passing day the pain increased. It got to where I could only be up for ten minutes without having to lie down and ice my leg. Then I could get up for another ten. By this time I was getting pretty desperate.

I called for an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. The facility would not see me without a referral from my primary doctor, but of course, my primary doctor's office would not see me. I finally called my health insurance company. I was fortunate to get a compassionate woman on the phone. I warned her that my story would be long and convoluted. I asked if she would take the time to listen.

After hearing my story, the insurance woman told me that my primary doctor's office was in violation of contract with my insurance company. They are required by contract to furnish a physician for their patients when the doctor is on vacation. Within less than an hour, I not only had a referral to see the orthopedic, but I had an appointment at the primary doctor's office.

One MRI later I was diagnosed with a tibial plateau fracture of my leg. My kneecap and tibia were broken. No wonder I was in such hellish pain. I had been walking on a broken leg for over five weeks assuming that there was nothing more wrong than bruising.

I got good care from the orthopedic doctor. I had to use crutches, a wheelchair and a walker for ten weeks because I could put no weight at all on the broken leg. This was hard, but I was glad to know I would get better.

The bone healed. I started walking, and I was so glad. Everything was delightful. Being able to get out of bed to use the bathroom without assistance of a walker was cause for happiness. Being able to open my front door and walk outside and pull weeds was a blessing. Being able to put two shoes on my feet and walk in my neighborhood was nirvana.

One day early in my freedom from the wheelchair I went to my dentist to deal with the cracked molars I sustained from the car accident. My one tooth was aching terribly.
I got settled in the dental chair, the chained paper bib attached to my front, and I started shaking. This is not me. Dentists have never scared me. Then I started crying. The thought of the drill and more body pain was too much.

The dentist is a sweet man. I was terrified of the Novacaine shot- I have had dozens during the course of my life, and they have never been an issue – but all of a sudden here I was a sixty year old person acting like a scared little girl.

I explained to the dentist about the accident and my sister’s cancer, and he heard. He told me just to look into his eyes while he gave me the shot and drilled on my tooth. My eyes welled up with tears. His eyes were blue and kind. His humanity made me cry.

Five weeks later my still delicate knee buckled out from under me as I was dancing. We were celebrating our twenty-fifth anniversary here at home with a few good friends. Blame it on the Dave Clark Five's "Do You Love Me?" and the fact that dance music has a way of sending paroxysms of joy up and down my spine, but I just had to move to that tune. I tried to save myself from falling but instead rolled on my ankle.

I lay on the floor with my friends standing over me. My leg was straight, but my ankle was turned out at a right angle. My husband later described it as looking like a flopping fish.

A few hours later, I was diagnosed with a fractured ankle. Two bones were involved, and they were broken into many pieces. I am now a few weeks past surgery, and I will not be walking until sometime in February.

As far as I saw it, I was back to square one with the broken extremity deal. My day consists of spending ninety per cent of my time in a recliner, for my leg must remain elevated.
Things like getting up to use the bathroom, brush my teeth are now at the top of the “To Do” list. They involve planning and careful maneuvering.

I went through a lot of rage for the first three weeks or so, but now after almost six weeks of not walking I am starting to piece together a new way of living, for this recliner life will last until sometime in February as long as my healing cooperates.

Yesterday we had to put our dog to sleep because she has cancer. We got Ginger along with her two kitty sisters in the spring of 1999.

At that time we decided to take on a whole new passel of pets to bring joy into our home. The 1990’s had been a decade in which I lost the majority of my family to death. Our beloved Rhonda cat had passed away only recently, and Dan and I decided just to go whole hog and get a puppy plus two five weeks old kittens. What immeasurable healing these animals brought!

I look at my life today and know that I must focus on all that is good. However, I am very shaky these days- gun shy.

I must be very careful to not let my mind go to the dark place in which I fear more bad stuff happening. Because I have lived long enough to know that there will indeed be more loss.
I just want to catch a break for a spell, you know.

Yes, yes, yes. I know I am more fortunate than not. And each day I make myself write down all of which I have to be grateful for.

But still I am human, see? And I am not perfect. And sometimes we have periods in our lives in which too many sad, bad and scary things occur within too small of a space of time. And our strong place gets put to a test. Oftentimes the coping mechanisms that have worked well in the past no longer do. Maybe the things that I have experienced recently would not get to some people, but they got to me. They got ahold of my spirit, and I struggle each day to overcome my negativity.

Maybe I am not strong enough because I have broken down, but then again maybe I am strong because I am allowing myself to feel my darkness and face it and put practices into place to make peace with it. Sometimes we have to break wide open to find ourselves.

And that is my story, and I am trying very hard to get strong again.

I know. I know. So many others have it worse. But sometimes that knowledge only serves to make me feel guilty for feeling down. It makes me feel that I have no right to feel sad.

I am a mere mortal, and I am not perfect. I have tried to be perfect all of my life, and it no longer works for me.

One of the most gorgeous songs ever. Take a listen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Blessing of the Tears

I continue to surprise myself at how far I will go to avoid breaking down into a good cry. Although I have long known that it is within the tears that I find equanimity.

I am having a hard time these days. Circumstances have converged that make it necessary for me to forge a new way to find peace within myself.

We all have our own coping mechanisms. Mine has usually been to be staunch, sturdy and independent. And I am proud of those qualities in me. I prefer doing most things by myself. That is who I am, and I must honor that.

My mother was a woman who thought she needed others to lean on. She fell apart easily and often, and her life consisted of a series of unhappy relationships which were based on need.

I grew up watching Mom run from life’s challenges like a hunted animal all the while tracking down others from whom she sought to borrow strength- the strength that she did not know she could cultivate within herself.

Mom did the very best she could. I don’t begrudge her choices. She loved me fiercely and with great earnestness. She showed me what she knew. Daughters sort out their mother’s teachings and apply what works to their own lives.
And what works for me is to face stuff alone. What works best for me is to be alone with my pain until I am strong again.

Mother’s emotional outbursts set the tempo of our home. At a young age I understood that there was to be no room for two drama queens under the same roof. My tack was to become the buttoned-down girl who ran interference.

I raised myself to avoid crying. I raised myself to buck-up. I was taught that others had bigger problems than mine, and that if I let loose with my feelings then all I was doing was making things worse for others.

I especially remember being told this when my parents were divorcing. I was twelve, and my mother's parents had come to help out as my mother was in helpless mode. My job, I was told, was to be strong for my mother.

My Victorian era grandmother told me me that a display of emotions is undignified. My grandfather agreed. He once wrote me a letter in which he said that I was too nice of a girl to have problems. I dearly loved my Mamie and Father John. Theirs was my Safe House. And because I adored them I practiced what they taught. I learned to maintain a stiff upper lip and let 'er rip with a therapist who I paid to listen.

These days I am crying more. I spend most days alone in a chair. And I cry. I rant. I pound. I scream. I cuss and I beg for help to the Great Unseen. I sing at the top of my lungs sounding much like Tiny Tim in chains.No one witnesses these moments, and that is just how I want it to be.

I cry until this thing happens in which it seems that my mind folds into my core of strength.

My strength looks like a razzle dazzle emerald rock not unlike one Elizabeth Taylor would have worn.
My strength smells like an early spring day in which the coo of the dove fills me with a sense of happy expectancy.
My strength is luxurious, thick and soft like the fur of my long-hair calico cat.
My strength sounds like Tom Petty belting out the words to “Refugee”.

I do not like to be taken care of by another person. I am much more of a loner than Mom was. That is who I am. It certainly is appropriate that by the time a woman is sixty years of age that she follow her own guide and take herself unto herself for better or for worse.

These days I prefer to take myself down to my edge and build myself back up. This is my daily practice. It is work that I must to do alone

This practice, too, will change someday when I have new things to learn.

My tears clean me out for a spell. I can then pull myself up by my bootstraps and carry on.

Tears lead me to Grace.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Someone to Watch Over Me

The side where the steel plate and the twelve screws are installed.

The tibia incision where two three inch screws are holding the tibia together. The bloody mess is called a fracture blister. These often form around incisions. They burn and grow larger and larger until they pop and dry up. All of this occurs while the split or cast is on, and the blister chafes against the cast and feels quite awful.

Broken Leg Girl got herself a new orange cast yesterday

I cried because I had to bend my broken ankle at a right angle so the cast measurement would be right. God, it hurt so much that I started to cry. I felt like such a big sixty- year- old baby sitting there, but it really hurt. And then the med tech said I had to do it again and then again.

Body pain is so primitive. It can take us back.I think about the first time I remember experiencing pain. I believe it was the summer day when I stepped on a bumble bee.

"Mommy, Mommy", my little three-years-old self cried as I raced from my sandbox to the back screen door. As always, she was there waiting to sweep me up into her arms and set me on the kitchen counter top to anoint my sting with Vanilla extract. She told me the sweet smell of extract would steal away the pain.

She allowed me to cry and whimper and bury my head into her as she murmured comfort. " Mama's here. I promise you will feel better before you know. It is gonna be all right."

Yeah, it was gonna be all right. She knew how to distract me with fun or funny while she placed a cool washcloth on my forehead and kissed away my tears. She let me lie down on the sofa and watch tv in the middle of the day which was a forbidden activity in our house. Mom always said that television was for boobs, and her daughters were not going to be raised to be boobs.

You get to a certain age in which there is no Mama to call, And if you live really really long there may be no one to call. So it is important to learn how to soothe oneself in the same tender manner that a mother would.