Thursday, June 30, 2011

On the Couch Again

Having suffered the setback over the weekend of a catheter re-inserted up my urethra, I wallow in a state of confusion, not sure if I should stand up and go for a spirit-rallying walk or just lie down and sleep it all away. Sitting is still not an option.

Awakening so alertly from the nine hour surgery a few weeks ago and leaving the hospital two days early created an ebullience that looked like fireworks. Even in pain and making up for lost time at the urinals, to be bag and tube free for that one day was a remarkable joy, confirmation that the universe does provide miracles.

Now the message appears to be I pushed myself too hard feeling so fine, risking serious damage even as it seemed I could have danced all night into next year, maybe even into the next millennium. The joy has caused pain and I have to suffer another week now with the catheter, reminded like a parolee, if I am not careful, it could be for a lifetime.

Home again, I slept nearly thirty hours with interruptions of wakefulness. More like I was in the months after the original accident, I start in on a project and end up on the couch, breathing deeply and staring far into nothing. I gaze absent-mindedly at this yellow pad for long stretches between these sentences.

At the same time, my father, already nearly deaf, blind and frail, has taken a turn for the worse this week and contemplates moving from his independent apartment into the assisted-living section of his community. I am particularly struck by his resistance to the move because he enjoys so much his long hours sitting in the summer shade of his terrace quietly staring into nothing.

This is a man who faces something far more significant than the twelve hours of anesthesia that had caused me such fear. No matter his resignation to the concept that death is just a never-ending sleep and his willingness to go there now that my mother has gone, it makes me wonder and a bit ashamed around my own unease and discomfort.

Compounding the comparison is the fact that his work is done and a part of that financial success is supporting my two year recovery on my own couch (actually, even that is his—a wedding present 65 years ago). He is impatient with the help and wants to see me on my feet with a good job as quickly as I can.

Understanding that our thoughts and fears can manifest our circumstances, I have worried that the accident originally and the delay in surgery subsequently are direct results of not knowing how to go about the rest of my life. Having been afraid and going so slowly for so long, part of my immediate joy post-surgery was feeling I could finally proceed without further distraction, my book complete and ready to find a publisher.

The relapse onto the couch terrifies me that I am actually no further along, no clearer about my future, and the hole I have dug for myself is too deep to ever climb out. I can easily feel old, tired and wounded beyond repair, without the energy to stand up and make something of myself. I fight depression as heartily as my body works to reduce the swelling that will allow them to pull out the catheter once more.

Then the local urologist’s office calls to inform me that I do have an infection after all and will change the antibiotic to be more effective. My spirit lightens a little to know there is a physical reason for this lethargy and I am not just the lazy loser that waiting for my father’s check makes me feel.

Also, as I have been writing this today, the first of what will likely be many rejections of my book arrived in a form letter that indicates my proposal made not the slightest favorable impression, not even enough to get a personal signature. Shortly after, an email just as neutral rejects a short story. My other rationale for staying home and focused is sorely tested. Having no tube in the belly, apparently does not automatically make all things flow.

I scan employment opportunities and contemplate my efforts to pursue insurance sales and financial planning, but return to my couch instead and scribble these words. No matter the life long parental pressure and lack of an agent’s response, my heart knows I love this work more than anything but a good woman and my children.

I have given my all to the recommended and established route and it has served me only half-well. Now is the time to pay attention, settle into the battle for my health, both mental and physical, and prosperity, wielding my pen ferociously and pushing “send” on the keyboard over and over again until I am able to create my own miracle…with God’s blessing and the help of all of you surrounding me with love.

I will soon be off this couch and able to help you in the same way.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Back Set

Even as excited as I was about the freedom from life with a catheter, the pain of retraining my bladder was not going away. Within a minute or two of relief, pressure would begin to build again and in twenty, I would be breathing deeply, nearly moaning with the effort to pee again. Release required a large muscular push and only dribbled, nearly as much in tears as productive and necessary waste.

Being more pressure than pain and so determined to be fully healed, I did not want to identify the problem, but kept convincing myself stoically it would recede even as it grew to dominate every thought and movement. Heading into a second night without sleep, it seemed appropriate finally to check in with the VNA.

When the nurse on call heard I could feel it in my back, apparently a sign of kidney involvement, she urged me to go to the hospital, a long fearful drive in the middle of the night when we can imagine anything is possible. Avoiding calling anyone to sit with me there, I tried to ignore the pinkicity of the elephant telling me the one-chance surgery had failed.

It was even worse on the way home after a catheter had been re-inserted directly into the healing and compromised urethra instead of back into the belly which would have required anesthesia. The doctor in Boston regretted not having me suffer the longer drive down there. Despite their assurances that it was likely swollen tissue that just needed to settle, the amount of excitement I had felt on Friday to feel healed was a fall of twice the distance to think I would have this catheter the rest of my life.

People adapt, they really do. I know this, am proof, in fact, and even living so long with one, sometimes two, I could be grateful for life and sympathetic that so many others are in circumstances far worse than mine. In the overall scheme of things, my life is forever blessed no matter what happens now.

Sobs wracked my body, however, in those moments draped over the steering wheel pulled to the side of the road in the early dawn bird-chirping light because I was so tired, so afraid, lonely and sad, just wanting to be held and comforted and so very tired of feeling weak for even feeling that need.

The world seemed cruel that would give me one sweet day to feel whole again, entice me to celebrate a dance with the most wonderful woman, then yank it all away with a tube jammed into my penis tied to a plastic bag strapped to my leg. The pain of this loss was far worse than what I had suffered in the previous days.

This punishment was not for lack of gratitude: I believed my prayers had been answered and was in blissful appreciation of God, the Universe and all of you who had kept vigil on my behalf. I was determined to live the truth of my heart and honor the gifts of love surrounding me, fulfilling every breath of my healed body. I am committed to writing from the depth of my soul and singing songs of joy, proclaiming life is so very worth the living. Just as the Universe seemed to be delivering such abundance, it astounded me to bear the weight of this pain.

“Why then, oh why?” I cried.

Fortunately, the sun does rise again, the dawn’s early light transformed into broad day and the flag of my faith was thankfully still there. In a stupor of the drugs wearing off, I slept nearly thirty hours with short breaks surfacing to care for the animals where I am staying and quick communications with family.

Perspective is gained. All the gauze, tubes and Velcro so recently discarded with ceremony and celebration are back on my table. The need to adjust every movement to reduce the pinch and tug requires careful attention. I have done this; I can again.

The current evaluation remains that tissue is unusually swollen, perhaps because I mistakenly delayed the first dose of antibiotic or sat too long in the car. Likely feeling so free and miraculously healed, I simply jumped up too fast and walked too far since the first day after the surgery. Held so tightly within myself for so long, it is understandable, to me, that I would leap so lustfully ahead. It is my nature.

When they remove the catheter again next week, I promise to concentrate with diligence on moving more cautiously.

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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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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Graduating Class

Two weeks have raced along since I came home from surgery. Far from the shocked and wounded state I was told to expect, living on my couch with all the movies I had saved to watch, I have walked at least a mile every day, written and studied, and submitted my manuscript at long last for publication.

In love with life, poetry flows out of me.

Every step is a measure of the life I am taking back. Ideas pulse, my writing intensifies. The abundance of joy seems to have wrapped itself around me as warmly as the blankets of comfort in the hospital after the original fall 18 months ago.

A close friend who has witnessed the entire ordeal suggests I have been a little self-indulgent over this time, focused on the injury as the crux of my life, but in a positive context, allowing it to be the catalyst for a profound transformation. Were I of a different mind, she contends, I might have overcome discomfort and gotten back to work—even construction work—more quickly, solved my insurance problem with enough time to avoid the postponement of the surgery a year ago, and much sooner turned my walks into runs.

Instead, with the good fortune of my father’s help and this tube in my navel, I used this time to contemplate the foundations of my life, explore deepest desires, and do emotional work that was necessary to move away from a path that had been mediocre at best. More productive than my four years in an elitist college, I gave myself an education of the soul.

This week, my son graduated from high school, a potentially routine affair made marvelous by several profound speeches, one in particular by a young man I had coached as a little boy. Combined with my own strong steps through a transitional doorway, this lesson of a new generation tossing caps in celebration is a moving testament to the power we have within ourselves and the charge we get acting in concert with others.

The air pulses with lightening bolts of change. In the Sixties, with riots in the streets and division in every home, visions were idealistic and generalized where today they seem to be merging into focus. Resting on my bench, looking into my quiet yard, I know people on a mountainside in Oregon and a valley in France, even among the wreckage along the Japanese coast, are quietly working on many different ways toward a world of peace and emotional prosperity, abundance of the most important kind.

On the surface, the news is full of the chaos of greedy wars, senseless murders and glamorous entertainers living frivolously, but the simple majority are adapting towards mindfulness, smart cars, solar collectors and community gardens. The internet allows me to peek into corners all over the globe and reassure myself that there is far more about us that is good and exciting, inspirational.

In just a few years, I have witnessed concepts that were described as “woo-woo” behind a whispering hand become far more common place in conversation. More importantly, I see people more openly putting into practice the kind of lifestyles and shared resources some few only dreamed about forty years ago.

My experience in these long months, however dramatic, are both more and less than so many stories of individuals globally awakening, reaching inwards to deeper places than we have ever known and outwards to a universe that is kind, forgiving and full of love.

In our various ways, we are all throwing our caps high and with ever-growing confidence stepping into a new world without limits.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Writer, by God

In perfect timing with the two weeks I am supposed to be couch-ridden comes an online series of workshops on how to write, publish and market a book. Full of emotional energy and trying not to move too much too fast, I have hours of informative conversations to keep me busy, supplemental resources to explore, and a new network of blogs and facebook friends to befriend.

The universal conspiracy to provide happiness is further evidenced that in the month prior to my surgery, about 100 of my blog essays have beautifully translated themselves into a full manuscript, nearly without effort, fleshed out with background narratives about my childhood, father/son relationships and the period of life on the Oregon Coast when I was both directed towards and distracted from my journey as a writer.

Marvelously, this tumble from my particular scaffold so long ago that has landed me on the couch today, combined with the fight against a Goliathical insurance company and the emotional examination and repair of the groin injury, have all conveniently added up to a whole second book, neatly wrapped and presented together as a follow-up I now jokingly call “The Peequel.”

Halfway through the twenty-one lectures, this course arouses the energy to stand up and shout, to call myself at last an author (my mother would have been so proud!) and then take solid action to manifest the credentials to back it up, namely find a publisher to officially turn the manuscript into a book. Focused on a genre of transformational insight, my own journey blends nicely with the subject, weaving the backward-turned-forward tale out of marriage into manhood more like a novel than a ten step program.

The course, however, is teaching me in a much broader scale, culling a larger message out of the short essays, a lesson about taking charge of your life and inspiring others to do the same. Having taken such a long course of painfully repressed and joyfully released passion in the first half of my lifetime, I am compelled to share the excitement of the second.

My rapid recovery from surgery this week, after so much dire warning, confirms for me that heartfelt trust in the higher purpose and process of living makes everything happening in the trenches and meadows turn out to be just fine. No matter how scary the world in general and such an ordeal in particular appear, “letting go and letting God” , breathing deeply to allow events to gently unfold, makes everything so much easier.

Too often we think we have a choice, facing fear, to kick and struggle and push it aside, hopefully finding another way. If the lessons are not learned, however, it seems the Universe delivers them over and over in bigger and bigger ways.

Only when I have finally stood my ground, held my head high, and bravely accepted the pain and suffering of my journey, the hardship seems immediately to dissolve. I heal miraculously this week and am ecstatic with heartfelt joy, gratefully alive.

Every lesson in this course, every aspect of my injury and recovery, the cure to my past unhappy days, and the path to a joyful future, centers on living each moment being faithfully responsive to the heart. Listen carefully to intuition, spirit, inner guides. They are all the messages of God, Allah, Buddha, speaking through us, the divine in each of us that wants to celebrate, share and embrace.

This course through the internet links me to countless other authors with similar beliefs and manuscripts in stages more or less complete than mine. The old way of thinking competitively creates fear that too much of the same makes nothing exceptional, when in actuality, each and every story is as unique and refreshing as the drops of water in the ocean. Together, we can be the Tsunami that washes away the fears.

In a week, we should know if this one chance of surgery will have healed the physical rupture. In two, I should finally have this tube out of my belly removed. Over these eighteen months, I have tried and occasionally succeeded to live as if the latex appendage was not a constant reminder that life has its drags. Sometimes, the beauty of a sunset or the serene smile of a loving friend has been just too, too sweet to think of anything less than wonderful.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Planets Aligned

As I settled into the final countdown towards the surgery, I took a great interest in the fact that three eclipses occur this month, the first being a solar eclipse during my last full day at home. Energy seems to be powerful when the sun, moon and earth are lined up together, often portending an auspicious time for new beginnings.

Few times seem more in need of a good energy than the preparation for such an invasive procedure, so I created a day of meditation around the eclipse, including adding my name to the list for a concentrated healing at a particular hour in the early morning. I sat on the sofa where I expected to spend the next month convalescing, my feet squarely on the floor, my legs spread to open my wounded groin to the air and the energy, my heart pulsating with intention to heal.

Connection, whether real or imagined, clearly settled into my soul. Eyes alternately open and closed, I could feel the pulse of energy toes to head to fingertips, the silence roaring with the idea that thousands of people around the world were sitting in that single moment in contemplation of the eclipse, the alignment, and some in particular were thinking of me as well, not even knowing me, but still sending healing thoughts to this stranger across the seas. Throughout the day, I stopped occasionally and considered again the oneness of the universe and my tiny but significant (as much as anyone else's) place in it.

The long-anticipated surgery went magnificently well. The friend who took me gave me a beautiful stone agate which the anesthesiologist taped to the palm of my hand, adding (I saw later) a smiley face and her own name in support. Not in an elapsed time, but definitely in a state of my own conscious unconscious, I could feel the energy of the stone, empowered with all the blessings of friends and readers who held me in your thoughts that day.

When I awoke to the words, “It’s over, all done, you’re fixed!”, my tears flowed freely. Great moans of relief with every exhalation poured out. A palpable shedding of energy released shadows from my soul and bathed me in sunlight even in the artificial light of that basement recovery room.

For three hours, I lay focused on my breath, still so shallow and anesthetized, the alarm kept sounding when it got too thin. I wanted to be back in this world, but rested at last, so grateful to be finally and fully beyond the procedure.

Twelve hours after the first intake of drugs, I sat straight up clear and sharp, alert and excited. Even as I made friends with the nurse, I wanted to be on my way up to my room, on to my healing, on to my life. In the morning, I was cleared to walk across the room. By the afternoon, I touched the windows at both ends of the hallway.

On the third day, two days earlier than expected, I was released from the hospital and we began our journey home. The sun on my face for real, fresh air in my lungs, my spirit soared to not be so sore as I had been after the original accident.

I am convinced that the energy of that stone in the palm of my hand and the love from so many friends is why I am so well today, scribbling frenetically with inspired creativity and joy. Prayers, meditation, a heartfelt desire to be healed and living life more normally; all contributed to a replenished outlook on a life that, living more consciously, only gets better and better.

In the halls of pre-op procedures, in beds side by side, I became familiar with faces recognized the following days still suffering in their rooms as I walked more strongly each step towards going home. Each story is different, of course, but my lesson was so clear that attitude overrules predictions. I was determined to be done with this no matter what the doctors and nurses had said.

My first morning awakening in the clean sheets I had laid last week in preparation, I felt too excited to move directly to the couch as I had planned, but walked instead up to the street to breathe fresh air. One step before the other, I was feeling so fine, I thought it might not be too far to get some coffee, a goal of four hundred yards I had imagined previously might have been a month away.

It was too much, actually. I knew it about three quarters of the way up the road, but I kept walking anyway, thinking I could get a bus ride home or prevail upon an unknown neighbor, the police at worst by dialing 911 on the cell phone now in the palm of my hand; solutions are always available. Still, I trudged forward and back home again, step by slow and slower step, enjoying the sunshine and the smiles of people racing past. It was a relief to my woozy self to get home at last, a good lesson learned to really take it easy in this time, but still so thrilled to be alive and walking at all.

As for the stone that had become such a valuable symbol of my healing, I wanted to set it on the shelf with my mother’s odd trinkets and new warrior talismen, a trophy to remind me of the powerful achievement just accomplished. Lost in the linen or carried out on a food tray, however, it has passed on, having served its purpose for me, destined to appear magically to some one else in desperate need. I have my heart and sacral chakra, powerful once again, to prove what has been transformed.

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