Sunday, June 26, 2011


To stand in the cascading shower without concern for tubes, straps and plastic bags, but just to feel the thousand droplets, each and every one, roll down the skin was pleasure so simple and so very profound. For the first time in twenty months, my pores opened fully and I stood for an hour dripping in love and excess of freedom, pure lightness of being.

According to schedule, perhaps a little ahead, I returned to Boston on Thursday to pass the test and have the catheter at long last removed. A routine appointment for my doctor and the clinical staff, for me the days approaching had mounted with anticipation as I began to fully comprehend how soon I would be finally free of the encumbrances that had become second nature.

On my daily walks for exercise, I soon would not have to hold the bag to keep it from sliding and bouncing against my thigh. Able to sleep on either side, or even my belly(!) without consideration, perhaps my dreams would be better. Every single movement of my body would not have to be calculated to protect the tenderness and vulnerablitiy of my sacral chakra. The physical straps, extra tubes, bags, gauze and ammonia wipes could all be cleaned out of the bathroom and ceremoniously thrown away.

Perhaps by the weekend, I could even try a dance or two.

The test seemed simple enough: fill me up and film me peeing out. With proper flow restored, they could pull the tube out of my belly and send me on my merry way back into a more normal life of physical activity.

Not having peed a drop in all this time, the event had its pressure and significance for me, not so relaxed on a cold steel slab lifted to a raucous angle and embracing an X-ray machine. Then three young nurses asked to observe the procedure as this was a teaching hospital, making a total of six to bear witness to my passing. While I was doing the work, I entertained them with jokes about performance anxiety in this moment and the penis envy I felt in men’s rooms watching others step up to the urinals.

At first with great effort of muscles long unused, having to hold it in to build up enough to be camera proper, then to push it out, burning the channel so recently repaired, I sobbed with tears of pain, joy and ultimate release. My little audience clapped and cheered in celebration.

In surreal suspension of disbelief, I walked to the doctor’s office, greeted with little fanfare for the moment I had imagined for so long. A smooth pinch later, a squirm through a delicate arrangement of organs internally, and the tube was removed at long last. He put a large bandage over the hole that would quickly ooze closed and I was unceremoniously given an appointment to follow-up in six weeks. So quickly I was in the car and finding no one home to answer my calls to rejoice.

Just before that shower the next morning, I pulled off the bandage (ouch!) and stood before the mirror, just me alone for the first time in nearly two years, naked with no white hospital paraphernalia, no tube or strap or bandage to tangle in my fingers. “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I’m free at last!”

Like a midnight summer’s good skinny dip, I was unwilling to put on my clothes, but strolled around my tiny apartment, confident and proud of my healed physique. I meditated with legs open, my chakra exposed and vulnerable, weeping tears of gratitude. Finally, I could practice proper yoga, sliding my chest and groin along the floor in a powerful and emotional salute to the sun.

Curiously, the muscles are so long out of use I have to re-train my bladder to hold and release, an act so simple and necessary. These little things we take for granted and manage unconsciously as easy as a breath.

Most catheters are removed within a few weeks or not at all. It is unusual to go this long and then recover to a natural state. How blessed I am, no matter how painful the training, to feel this free, to take tentative running steps, to think of kicking a soccer ball soon, and imagine with snow I will fly through moguls this winter.

I have the good fortune of a life returning to normal and a heart expanding ever outward.

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