Friday, April 15, 2011

Mountains in the Distance

Last week, I met with a prospect who had undergone four hours of surgery and a month later is still limited to short walks around the living room and into the kitchen. Yesterday, another had “simple” rotator cuff surgery six months ago and still cannot raise his arm to shake my hand.

In six to eight weeks, I face a surgery to my precious groin area which, if it goes well, will be ten hours under anesthesia and keep me five days in a hospital in a strange town, a long way from home. The wall looms before me, dark and foreboding, something like the Rocky Mountains must have looked, I imagine, across the Plains to pioneers moving slowly along in their wagons, contemplating for weeks the potential dangers ahead, more and more intimidating with each step forward.

Given that I reached and began to climb this same mountain a year ago only to get pushed aside at the last minute by a bureaucratic decision of the insurance company not to cover it under a technicality, the unreality is even more intense. The time is now to schedule musical dates for June and July, but I have no idea in what kind of shape I will be. The concept of changing jobs is impossible to contemplate needing a month or three for recuperation, so I plod along day after day, knocking on doors and calling people who hear me as a telemarketer (I am not far from it, but I am NOT, I swear).

For some time now, life with a catheter has become quite normal. I barely even notice urinals on my way to the stall to empty the bag, much less feel envious of the guys who can just step up and let it flow. The memory of needing to go is long gone; I just reach down to feel how full is the bag. A good-natured friend lets me know lovingly when the smell is bad and loose clothing has become my style of dress.

The monthly change of the tube has become routine and a strange sort of ritual marking the passing of another moon. Looped on Vicodan, I entertain the staff with jokes and fortitude, their youngest regular patient easily by twenty years. I can tell you which nurse is the best at slipping it out and a fresh tube back in, inflating and draining it with the least amount of discomfort.

Naked at night though, finally unconstrained, I look down and still am astonished by the bizarre turn falling from that scaffold has given my sense of the world. The tube, in or out, strapped to my leg is so unnatural, yet in eighteen months has become such a part of me, a tail I cannot wag, often in the way and inconvenient, needing adjustment or attention, but no less a part of me than an accomplished scuba diver breathing into his apperatus.

Once omnipotent, I approach this surgery from a more precarious perspective, sometimes fearing the scar tissue might not be cleared and the blockage could be permanent. Having been back up on a ladder a few times, my legs are quite wobbly, and I can easily envision another fall. Pulling into the road, I see cars hurtling towards me as objects to be avoided instead of other folks on their various ways. Things, I understand now, can and do go wrong.

In life, living in fear, we can tread so carefully as to cover no ground at all, step by considered step hardly moving forward, but what seems like a mile in the valley is only an inch when viewed from the top of a mountain. Most of those pioneers on the Plains still persevered, survived and eventually thrived because their dreams were stronger than their fears. If I never pee again, I can at least claim to know what it feels like to float serenely at blistering speed over a mogul field or the exquisite release of a woman inside.

More importantly, no matter how badly I feel for myself and grimace with the spasms alone in my room, the most amazing lesson that never fails to restore balance to my soul is the idea that so many are worse off than I. Love still embraces my heart. I can move freely and breathe with laughter every day. The sun has never shown so brightly and will--no matter the hardships or even the end of the world as we know it (December 2012)--always rise again.

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