In many ways this has been the most challenging week yet. My conception that healing should progress in a linear order dips once again into a feverish state.
The belief that I can participate in this healing by the moderate embrace of the things I love--thinking by doing a little, I gain a lot—I focus on a little work with my Skatter Monkeys and making music. My doctor gives me full clearance to push the energy levels towards normalcy. No matter the activity and the tube in my belly, further damage to the urethra is unlikely.
Music seems a no-brainer. It requires a burst of energy and the band mates are magnificent about taking up my share of moving the equipment. They recognize when my eyes glaze over and I am no longer contributing effectively to the rehearsal. In the moment of practice or playing a show, all of the problems and sorely physical sensations slip away and I feel light in its purist form.
If I am quickly tired on a short walk or trip to the grocery store, considering my skis seems absurdly foolhardy. I rationalize the physical effort by staying on the easiest slopes, avoiding all bumps and trusting gravity to allow my skis to simply glide effortlessly. In fact, it turns out the real effort is securing the hot chocolate and fairly dividing up the French fries. When the morning is over, avoiding the route I used to ski, it is a long hike of two hundred yards uphill with boots on to our lockers where I wait for my son to return from romping by himself on our favorite runs.
To make this effort twice on the weekend, Monday has become a major day of rest on the couch. By Tuesday, I have felt invigorated and ready to write, visit friends, look for work, and otherwise move myself forward.
This weekend, however, combined the two activities, setting up the band Friday and playing twice in the afternoon with just a little rest between skiing and music. Tuesday I was still on the couch and slept nearly all of Wednesday with a high fever and a mystified doctor’s office considering I might have to make a trip to the hospital.
Easy to blame this episode on over-doing the weekend, my heart wants to find another cause. In my second year with these sweet kids, I have come to cherish their little monkey hugs. Having gone a long time without playing music, I am not in the mood to put it aside now.
My big sister Lane and I have shared so many intimacies, starting with sending her poems I had written but could not share with junior high school love interests. I came to Oregon to build her house and married the woman next door. We assisted at each other’s home births and she gave me shelter during my first divorce.
Suffering weekly, sometimes daily phone calls from Vermont to Oregon, she faithfully calmed me down in crisis after crisis through the long years of my second marriage, listening and supporting after most others had given up on our ability to manage any healthy changes. When I finally found the courage to separate, she has celebrated the return to my self and my creative excitement.
Within days of my accident, Lane sent me a piece about Chiron, the Wounded Healer of Greek mythology, a concept she had been telling me about for years. Chiron represents the transformative power that lies within us to accept the gift of the wound—the reality of our human condition—as an opportunity to grow more divine. By acceptance of what IS and forgiveness of ourselves and others as to the cause, we can emotionally detach from our story, and no longer defined by it, can become a medicine, teaching, assisting and inspiring others on a similar journey.
Hearing of this latest fever, Lane immediately called upon a network of like-minded friends, healers, who held me in their thoughts at a certain hour, envisioning a healing light that might embrace me. For hours afterward, my temperature was nearly normal.
This wound is to my groin, the root Chakra, the base for all else. The core representing family, security, one’s confidence in the world has been deeply ruptured. The consensus of my sister’s friends is that my Kundalini energy, the spirit of the divine, is awakening, rising from this wounded core, ready to sweep through my body and soul. This fever may, in fact, be my fear to heal, my fear to accept the wound as a pathway to wholeness, a complete renovation of old attitudes that no longer, if ever, worked for me.
Kipnco played rockin’ sets on both afternoons into darkness, Sunday especially, our eyes alight with mutual appreciation and self-satisfaction. As a combination of four, we were so much more powerful than individuals, contributing energy that could help people dance and laugh, just as these women 3000 miles away could keep me company through my fever. My little Skatter Monkeys are not yet making the connection that picking up their own skis helps me to help them, but they do accept that I am unable to bend over so easily this year, and hot chocolate comes faster if they are not all grabbing at once.
Wisdom is passed on--and learned intuitively--through the ages.
Friday, January 22, 2010
In many ways this has been the most challenging week yet. My conception that healing should progress in a linear order dips once again into a feverish state.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Yesterday, I awoke late at seven, after falling asleep early, stumbled to the couch and fell asleep again. In the afternoon, trying to write, sleep over took my scribbles again. This morning, a phone call woke me close to ten.
Anyone who knows me well knows this is not me. My thoughts are scattered, simple words difficult to retrieve, sentences cut short, wandering to a dead end. My last essay took three days, followed by a week of silence. I am only playing music with the band, not at home.
Looking around my apartment, I am dismayed by the clutter, dishes days old in the sink, groceries still in plastic on the table, clothes dropped in motion, couch-side coffee table littered with books, pads, papers, tools and debris. Hospital supplies dangle off the bathroom shelves. The fung shui could certainly contribute to my lethargy, but energy is so precious to me right now, I choose to spend it on production and collapse to regenerate.
Hours pass and it is hard to say what has been accomplished. At the end of the day, I compulsively add up plusses and minuses compared to my list of duties and give myself a poor grade. I am so trained to be accountable, this healing time is sick with disorientation.
People suggest this is an important rest before a great leap forward and I have noticed in this past year, a long day of particular frustration, restlessness and irascibility might be followed by the rush of a new song, fairly complete in a few hours. Despite so much encouragement and wishes, however, my own judgments are harsh and damaging. I find it so difficult to sit patiently and contentedly in my little dark and cluttered space, comfortable with the idea my time has come to rest and rejuvenate. Like the Jets in “West Side Story”, I want to BUST, I want to GO, but have to stay cool.
A particular friend reminds me that the first Chakra, the core, is all about security, family, stability, the confidence that we can provide for ourselves and others. It is no surprise, in that context, to recognize I should be so wounded there. After so many years of struggle in a marriage and business, the time had come to let go, accepting what could not be changed or salvaged. I came away bruised and in shock, questioning the fundamental standards of my existence and deciding I might have it all wrong.
I worked so hard to gain and keep the love of my beloved, twisting and turning, compromising my own principles, living beyond my means to win her affection and approval in order to validate my own self-worth. If I could get her to love me, I believed, I would be okay. Similarly and simultaneously, my business failures mounted to such a degree any sane man would have quit and worked for someone else, but I persevered, holding on to all those predictions by so many long ago that I would succeed at whatever I chose, determined to turn the business around and around…and around again until there were no edges left and it simply rolled out of reach.
In the two years since, I have flirted with more creative pursuits, but weary of poverty, have kept returning to construction as an income, the known quantity, recognizing now that, full of optimism, I approach with still less than half a heart. Likewise, I have fallen for a woman who loves me in return, but as a brother, and all the time we spend together is sweet with affection, companionship, creative inspiration and mutual support, all the while teaching me to stand on my own and find the love within myslef to fill my hollow and aching core.
So, out of balance and stepping tentatively, of course the scaffold collapsed beneath me, rupturing the most basic functions, an injury to the very center of my being and these confused beliefs about my place in the world. The searing reality of daily pain to be healed can be no better metaphor for the disruption necessary to re-align my life on a more productive and loving path.
That I sit here so long, day after day, taking little steps and collapsing should also be no surprise. I flew too long in the face of peril to earn my lesson any less dramatically. Today, with every word scribbled on this pad and every thought arising in fits and spurts in my weary brain, my groin pulses with pinches of acknowledgement and recognition, the Chakra re-aligning to produce a healthier, happier man.
At the same time, with both feet squarely in this world, I must get off the couch to reach the stars, while making my way and earning my keep. It begins with a stretch towards the ceiling, straightening my spine and opening my chest which has been so long compressed, filling my lungs with fresh air and my heart with vital new blood.
It is a painful process, both emotionally and physically. My soul resists. My body rebels. To make significant change, I have to go deep inside, looking past the accident, beyond the business and the marriages, the young man with a diploma and the world at his feet, back to a little boy with a watering can and his simple self-chosen task, perhaps even farther back to a young man and woman, captains of the football team and cheerleaders as a war brewed around them.
One day at a time, one dirty sock off the floor, hospital supplies sorted and waste baskets emptied, order slowly gets restored. All week I gather the energy to play with my little Skatter Monkeys and make music in the evenings. Each day I try to spend a few hours around town. If this takes months of little steps and big collapses back onto the couch to ponder the tube in my belly, so be it. I will not succumb, but am determined to live a better life.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
On the first Monday after the New Year, the start of another decade, on Facebook and the road outside my door, people charge forward with resolution. Determination is rampant and optimism runs high.
Deep from another perspective, I see for myself ahead a day of solitude, a week of finding work, a half-year of recovery, challenge over abundance. My heart flirts with both ecstasy and despair in the very same beat.
Outside, driving my son to a new semester at school, Burlington digs out from its biggest snow in forty years, while a few miles away in the mountains, hardly any fell at all. Disappointed yesterday at the ski area, I looked around this morning with wonder.
Roads were plowed, sidewalks clean, sharp and deep like canyons through the high banks. Thirty plus inches of powder puff settles into a wintry deep quiet. Post storm winds howl as a few last shovels clear the walks, heads bent to the work, warm under Gore-tex and down.
Having rested all afternoon and evening from my weekend at the Mountain with the Skatter Monkeys, I became inspired to get out in the snow. So much of my youth spent with skis, it seemed just too cruel to remain couch-bound with so much fluff in abundance. I thought I might dig out my cross-country skis and slide along the sidewalk as far as my energy allowed.
With that idea came the inspiration that I should treat this surgery like a marathon, a race of endurance for and against myself, an approaching, all-consumming event requiring discipline and fortitude. By shifting my focus from the past months of recuperation to the approaching months as preparation, this ordeal could better become a positive experience. It is evident, even in my own slow recovery that being in good shape physically and mentally will speed the healing process. Excited and involved with life, one accelerates.
Finding the equipment was easy, sorting the clothes nearly as. I stretched yogically despite the pull of the tube in my belly and the bag strapped to my leg. With a straighter back and more opened chest, I felt stronger and vowed to head out on skis just as soon as I jotted down the structure of this essay.
Equally, I thought, my voice lessons with Shyla could be the emotional exercise to build the stamina necessary to succeed in the coming months. As my body strengthens around the injury, the work on my core can solidfy the will to find the notes that will sing beyond this time of healing.
Shyla has suggested I study the legends of Parzifal, a knight in King Arthur’s court in search of the Holy Grail. Again, it is no coincidence the next day when “The Fischer King” with Robyn Williams appears at the front of Netflix, a variation on the variation of the tale.
Lane sends me the story of Chiron, the Wounded Healer of Greek mythology who Christlike leads the way through his own pain and suffering to become a brilliant constellation guiding all mankind. Mercury is once again retrograde and the Tarot cards are amazingly consistent.
Nothing is new under the sun. We live our own little stories, day after day, leading ourselves and each other forward, even as we seem to be falling back. Two days later the skis still stand unused where I set them on the porch. The effort to stay optimistic sometimes is just too impossible, collapsing me back onto the couch, a painful paragraph at a time, examining the struggle deep within that I share with you, my friendly readers, one soul to another.
Friday, January 1, 2010
The Christmas season has been very different for me this year, a time of disorientation, solitude and also some emotional invigoration. Preparing for the New Year under the bright blue moon, my heart dances with optimism and is sobered by reality.
Forgive the gory details (or skip over them), but to properly convey my state of mind and trains of thought, the specifics of my physical ordeal are required. Consider yourself forewarned.
Two weeks ago, the catheter running through my penis was removed. Like a band-aid ripped off, only deep inside, this was a very painful experience. With no sedation or warning, and eight weeks of bonding to sensitive tissue, there was nothing for it but to yank until it came free, followed by a smoother removal and replacement of the tube in my belly.
Unfortunately, it was immediately evident that the plumbing is blocked and non-functional. An overwhelming urge to pee quickly envelops me like a labor pain, but the passage is damned (sic) by raw scar tissue, now burning with acid, until it backs up and finds the other way out. These spasms have continued since then unpredictably, forcing exhalations and groans mid-sentence, dancing a writhing jig until it subsides.
Able to live somewhat normally in between, I am off the couch more and out into the world, but after a few hours, exhaustion creeps up, knocks me over the head and I stumble back to the couch for rest. Last weekend, determined to overcome this adversity, I actually managed a few gentle runs on skis with my Skatter Monkeys, but paid for it with tears on Monday.
A day of tests in the hospital and a visit to the doctor on Christmas Eve has determined that another surgery will be necessary to eliminate the blockage. To maximize the amount of healthy tissue for the repair, however, we must wait three to six months for the current inflammation to subside. At least another month will be required to recover after the surgery.
This life in limbo, with a tube in my belly and a smelly bag strapped to my leg, will continue for the indefinite future.
There is meaning in this. I know there must be some purpose. In some moments of lucidity, I find compelling answers. Brilliant conversations with wise friends can shed amazing light on these darkest places, but they only seem to fall back into shadow when the exhaustion returns. I can lie for hours in a state of confusion and despair, bewildered by the senselessness of my body’s betrayal and the devastating consequences to a 5 second lapse of concentration on that scaffold.
One of the biggest challenges is learning the balance between laying still in acceptance of my helplessness and pushing through the “inertia” (my fear) or exhaustion, finding the strength to play music, ski, or be with a friend. In this life to date, I have so often worked hard to do what has been “right” or expected. Doggedly determined, often compulsively, I worked my business and my marriage well beyond reasonable hope. My friends painfully witnessed the battle, but all of their best advice was unable to deter me.
We are each on our own separate journeys and for whatever reasons, we are the only ones who can make the changes necessary, and only when we are truly ready to make them. Intellectually, we may know, but just as impotent as our friends, only when our heart and soul give up the battle are we finally able to surrender and connect with spirit. For some (myself) this process is more painful than others because we fear change or want so desperately to hold onto the beliefs which no longer (if ever) work for us.
As I am forced to lie so long on this couch, suffering spasms, surrounded by love, but lonely for romance, I hold on to the faith that these trials have some purpose to help me understand and better thrive in this world. The twisted, stressful path that has raised children, loved too dependently, abandoned my creativity, then embraced it again with vengeance—all of this must be ripe with meaning.
Too stubborn to find it on my own, this consignment to the stillness of the couch is the opportunity for discernment. Resistance is still strong. My intellect wants to dissect, categorize, understand and describe what is ultimately inexplicable. Like the translation of an electrical impulse from our stereo into brilliant sound, the strength of our own particular journey to faith is miraculous.
And so we sing.