Saturday, December 18, 2010

Last Christmas

The other day I was listening to the "All Christmas All the Time" radio program in my area and one of the announcers said that there was a vote in Bulgaria for the most annoying Christmas song. I, along with the announcer was surprised to hear it was "Last Christmas" by Wham. It is not that I do not think that this song seeks its own level of annoying, its just that there are so many other choices.   Why this one? I thought about it last night and I came up with a notion that this song just hits home for me at a very vulnerable time. Every time I hear this song, snappy as it might be, I think of the negative and unsatisfying feelings associated with frivolous and unproductive relationships. How festive. It caused me to think about about my relationships, and how I could do a better job at being a friend, mother, daughter, and sister, lover and partner this Christmas and on into the new year.

Listening to Last Christmas, I have to admit that while I know the feelings associated with the lyrics, they no longer hold any emotional impact on me.  It is comforting to discover this now. It is a wonderful Christmas gift to realize that time and experience can equal healing in a very positive direction. I was talking to one of my dearest friends and business partner yesterday and I told him that 2010 was the worst year we ever lived through, and somehow still one of the best. We did things in 2010 together that I wonder if we would have bothered to do if our life events were not so horrible. I know that if I had faced this year alone I would have flown off the world. Instead I accepted his wisdom and knowledge and navigated myself through changes that placed me in a much better position for living.  I realized that in spite of the hits we both took, the road brought us to a place where we will appreciate our successes all the more.  I treasure this friendship. I treasure this partnership. Sometimes you meet someone thinking one thing and then find out something entirely different is there, something that not too many people ever get to stumble on. I see this as limitless, even as he and I separately and together face some of the strictest limits we have ever had to live with.  The work in front of us is huge. There are physical challenges. There are logistical challenges. There are financial challenges. There are personal life challenges. There is a huge fear factor.  I smile when I think about how crazy we must really be to even consider it.  Especially now. It would be easy for both of us to just shut down and run away and hide from the jagged mountain that we both face in front of us.


For some people, the fast escape is their "go to" maneuver.  When faced with difficulty or the need for self-discovery and change, they shut down, and run back to whatever behavior or environment comforts them like a womb. The only trouble with that retreat solution is that eventually the thing  a person runs from surfaces up in front of them from right inside and cuts them off at every turn. All of a sudden the freedom that was so attractive once again becomes the prison because nothing ever really changed.  Such a person learns to hate mirrors and avoids them at all cost. Along the course of this year he and I have both considered the retreat solution, and yet we know that what we hold in our hands is far more valuable and necessary to nurture. In the past years, we individually wore ourselves down in our endeavors suffering. Just as Sisyphus felt the agony of pushing the stone up the hill only to have it roll back down again in the 11th hour, we came together last year telling the same tale to each other. What we found this year is that our goals and talents dovetailed and coming together yields positive results. Facing this realization makes the retreat solution impossible. It is Christmastime again and here we both are at the bottom of the mountain looking at the biggest stone we have ever seen in our lives and here we go again, only this time, we did a little homework, and now we are going to push it together. I really think we are going to get somewhere this time.


I have been listening to this song while writing my thoughts this morning and I have to admit, it sounds like a weak willed ball of confusion. The video depicts adults doing childish things, with really big hair. Someone  ends up crying....I am with the Bulgarians...this is my pick for the years most annoying Christmas song. 


                                 And may all your Christmases be bright!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Definition of Nursing

I remember sitting in the first class of the first course in Nursing School…It was taught by an imposing woman who to this day makes me just a little bit nervous when I see her. The first assignment sounded simple. Write a definition of nursing. I shrugged…thinking ”how hard can this be?”  Let’s just say it was probably the longest time I ever stared at a blank piece of notebook paper in my entire 40 years of life. After about an hour I realized that I had no idea what nursing was. I spent the rest of the time looking up definitions and concocting a statement that she really liked, but did not show it outwardly past the mark she put on my paper. I was happy to have that good grade on my homework, however I knew I was in trouble because I still really had no idea what nursing really was. I certainly had no idea what nursing was going to end up meaning for me. There was a split second where I nearly turned tail and ran, this would not be a surprise to many, but that one little bit of self rose up and kept me on the course laid out before me.

I did a lot of challenging and difficult things and learned a lot of skills over the next year, none of which brought me any closer to really knowing the answer. I knew what dressings were, I knew what tube feeds and IV lines were, I knew what catheters and rectal bags and enemas were. I transfused blood and I assisted new babies into the world. I knew how to write great care plans, how to document in a chart and I knew how to talk to physicians. What I did not know was, my definition of nursing. I just was not feeling it.  I do remember fretting about this with some instructors who had a reputation for being a bit more kind and indulgent than the first. One in particular told me that what I was feeling was not uncommon, and that sooner or later I would get my hands on something that would change everything for me and make the definition of nursing a reality for me. I hoped it would happen sooner or later because I found it hard to have a heart for something that I could not define or relate to.

On September 11, 2001 I got up early just like any other clinical day, and drove across Fairfax County, VA into Arlington on Route 50.   I was listening to the radio and not paying attention. It was 8:45 am and I was late. I also missed my turn for Columbia Pike. I ended up turning around just in front of the parking lot for the Pentagon, and arrived at the clinic I was working in just minutes later. It was a clinic set up for refugees. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two kids sitting in the same wheelchair together. I remember shrugging thinking I wanted to get out of seeing patients that day. It was minutes later when all hell broke loose in the world. I had taken a quick walk up to 7-11 to buy soft drinks for a few of us still in shock over what I was hearing on the radio about the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings. I was standing outside avoiding the opportunity to see the two kids in the wheelchair when the jet that crashed into the Pentagon that morning came screaming down through the sky just over my head! What I will never forget was the look of a jet from the underside, heading at top speed for earth with no landing gear down.  It was no more than some seconds after the aircraft disappeared behind the tree line that I heard the muffled impact and saw the black smoke pouring up into the sky. Seconds later the sirens were blaring and we were all instructed to close the clinic and evacuate.

I was running for what could have meant my life and I remember feeling relieved that I did not have to see the two kids in the wheelchair. Looking back that fear makes me shake my own head, but that is because I know myself now. I went home and waited with the rest of the world to see what had just happened to our country.  I went back to school two days later and was called into the assistant dean’s office. She told me that someone needed to go back down to ground zero and assist the physician for two school physicals. She said that she did not feel right asking any of the other students to go back down there so soon. I remember looking at her while she told me they were the two disabled kids in the shared wheelchair. I am positive I made a face.  I went anyway though. It changed my life forever.

She was a 14 year old Syrian girl, extremely small for her age, yet strikingly beautiful. She lay quietly on the exam table where her father had gently laid her.  I have the privilege of also being a Syrian girl so maybe that is why once I was closer to her I felt a sort of familiarity with her. I assisted the physician as the physical was performed and she and I discussed her cervical spinal cord injury.  I was studying spinal cord injury in the neuroscience course at school but this was the first time I had ever encountered  a person who actually had one. I was fascinated by the way she managed to move, and how she managed to be expressive when not moving. Her father explained the cause of her injury through an interpreter. It was horrific. It happened in Iraq. The whole event took about 15 minutes and after she was safely back in her chair with her brother, who was also disabled, her father asked me in very broken English if there was a doctor in the United States that could help his daughter walk again.  I never felt so helpless in all my life. I did not  know any kind of answer to give him except some gibberish about finding someone in the Children’s Hospital network.  Her father was very appreciative for our time and was then on his way with his children.  I drove home asking myself the same question I did after every clinical experience. “What is the definition of Nursing?”  I was halfway through my schooling and I still felt like I had no idea, and I felt like I let that father down.  I did know one thing. I was going to go home, and figure out how to find a better answer. 

When I got home that afternoon, I was hanging out with my next door neighbor, Ruthe. Ruthe handed me a newsletter and said it was written by a friend of her brother’s from high school named Steve and she thought I might find it interesting. He had a horrible accident in a swimming pool and broke his neck. The newsletter was about his experiences with his spinal cord injury. The timing could not have been better. I noted that he wrote about his feelings about American nurses, and called them “insensitive bitches”. Of course, I took issue with his generalization. Of course, I opted to send the total stranger an e-mail.   That e-mail led to more e-mails, and over time I found I had made a friend in Steve Crowder, aka Nick Danger. I was blown away by the magnitude of troubles that are created by spinal cord injury. I really had no idea what people had to go through every day with paralysis.  I was immediately interested in the acute injury, the nursing care, and the treatment algorithms.  I had so many questions that Steve pointed me in the direction of Paul, another person with a spinal cord injury in California. For a variety of reasons I can say that, Paul Nussbaum had a hand in saving my life.  I challenged Paul to remember his prior profession in counseling, because at that time it also came out that I was hurting, from events in my personal life. I found him kind, gentle and reasonable to talk to. He taught me about what it was like to live with a chronic spinal cord injury. He taught me more than I could ever thank him for. It was Paul who told me about Care Cure and Dr. Wise Young.

Mary_Wise Young                                                                      

It was Paul who led me to Debbie Kelsoe, and another great California paralyzed man who goes by the screen name, vgrafen.  When I looked up the first posting written by vgrafen, he characterized American nurses as, you guessed it!  “Insensitive bitches.”


I had no idea what clicking on the link for Care Cure was going to mean for my life. I had no idea that by reading the words written in the forums there, and the networking that came as a result of those postings, that I would finally find the answer to the burning question, “what is the definition of nursing?”  The new question became, “could I live alongside the answer?”

       Working 2 Walk 2007

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Boy After My Own Heart - A Man After My Own Heart

                                                                      best day1
In the wee small hours of the morning, 20 years ago today, I lay happy and peaceful in my own home, having run the most challenging physical gauntlet of my life to that date, and in my arms I held the prize. In those moments, my heart was changed forever. Never again could I be selfish, could I be seeking my own. This was true treasure in my arms.  I knew him before he was born, how he kicked and rolled, and those martial arts are no surprise to me. I knew him then as he is now, He is the same person. That little happy baby that I could pass around at parties, has never really changed..except….he pulled a fast one and grew up!   Something told me the day that boy was born that each day was just a little bit closer to the day he would say goodbye and strike out on his own. Younger than most, he is independence minded and I suffer with the pride I have in him.  There is no end to our memories, no end to our appreciations.  There is no greater pleasure I have than watching him grow from a distance, always being ready to still be Mom.  He made me smile so much this week. I carry what he says around in my brain and pull it out when I need a reminder and a laugh.  It is an honor to be his mother.  No one is prouder. No one more thankful.
Happy Birthday!!

CoolJohn  John The Star                              cake 

Lesson From Londo



Autumn 2010

I look back fondly at a time not that long ago when I was greatly satisfied and happy with the man I had chosen for a partner. We spent our quiet moments doing many things, and one of the best for me was watching our way through the entire series of Babylon 5 on DVD. What I remember most was looking forward to going upstairs together and watching an episode in bed before we slept. I remember the warm feeling I would get each time I crawled into bed beside him and how it felt back then to be together enjoying that time together. I remember it being peaceful, I thought it was honest and I believed it to be complete.  

Sometimes when I see something on TV or in a movie, it resonates with me and I never seem to be able to forget it.  It happened in the 16th episode of the 3rd season. One of my favorite characters was an ambassador named Londo Mollari.  Londo was a colorful fellow, sometimes hot and sometimes cold, bred to be unscrupulous but with a sense of justice. Londo was obnoxious and while it was always veiled in deep sadness he also had a great capacity to love.  I loved watching Londo grow and change, and sometimes retreat into past bad behavior. He was always forgiven. I always believed Londo would eventually do the right thing.   

In this particular scene,  Londo was telling Captain Sheridan who had travelled 17 years forward in time how the capital city of his planet, Centauri Prime came to be in ruins, and while it was a short statement it stayed with me ever since I heard it for the first time. 

 "During your little war, you drove away the shadows. Oh yes. But you did not think to clean up your mess! If a few of their minions, their dark servants, came to Centauri Prime, well. Where is the harm in that? Yes?" Londo Mollari

Recently I found myself spinning in all directions as my newlywed husband, that same loving partner, checked out of my life first emotionally, then mentally, then physically. Each step he chose felt as though I was being thrown into a shredder, and nothing that came out the other side even remotely resembled the me that was there when he threw me in. At that time I had come to the conclusion that I had no choice but to lay it all out in front of him and hope he would come to a place where he could see what our lives had become. It was my hope that he would consider the truth and seek to save us but instead  I was blindsided by things that later I realized I should have seen coming.  There was one huge outburst of anger from him, that frightened me terribly.  I really had no idea that our relationship was so fragile on his side that one burst of anger would end it all for us.  For many months I processed this but could never remotely understand what had happened. He announced that he was going to "own" the fact that he was a horrible husband.   He said it was nothing I had done. He said it was all him. He said there was no one else. He said and did a lot of things, none of which I have bothered to believe or accept and none that to this day come close to paying for the overall damage I have been abandoned to repair.  All that mattered was that for whatever reason he chose to seek his own, and that meant I had to do the same.

A number of years ago a friend of mine sat me down and gave me a direct and brutal awakening.  I was fighting for my life on so many levels that I could no longer keep up or keep track. I was living and going through the motions trying to avoid a head on collision but the daily damage control was about all I could do to keep my head above water. The lecture my friend gave me boiled down to this: The only way through a difficult time is through it. You cannot go around it, or over or under it, you have to go through it.  The path is rarely left clear in times such as these, there has usually been a war filled with bloody battles and there is always destruction, there is always rubble. It makes a mess of people, it makes a mess of their lives.

It helped me quite a bit when I recently realized that what was required of me was that I have the courage to follow the steps that were laid out in front of me logistically so that I could pass through. I did not have to "live up " to him or anyone else or anything. I did not have to remain attached, despite his financial obligation to me.   It also helped me to realize that I was no one special in this equation, I was just like the others, passed through, used up and finally thrown away. I am certain I will not be the last.  When I finally got it in my head that he was nothing special either, it all became easier to negotiate. I had to move on.  I had to stop thinking of myself as anything to him.  The truth is that in order for any of us to truly "own" a problem or situation, we have to take responsibility for what we have done.  We have to accept our part in things and act accordingly.  The forms have to be filed, the debts have to be to be paid, and the innocent one's have to be healed.  We have to take the time and be careful to clean up our mess before we dare to drag it all behind us into the next inevitable relationship.  I knew he would have one before me. I knew what he would do before  he did it because he had done it all before, and never, ever, bothered to clean up his mess.

Recently a respected new friend taught me that going forward and really living demands focus and attention towards the direction I intend to go. He told me that I had to keep my mind on the things important and work on them one at a time until I get to where I need to be to be truly free. There is really no other way to be ready for the next chapter of my life.  I had to take the time to clean up the mess. This is real wisdom for reality, not playtime games in fantasyland.  My life is at stake, and I intend to prevail.  I appreciate this man, this protector, this willing friend and guide.  It has been a long time since anyone made this much sense to me, and with such good feeling. 

Yes, there was someone who was applauded in a certain realm for battling his demons which he laid out upon the table for all to see, and yes he fought his little war, not bothering to close the door when he fled and not bothering to clean up his mess.  Will I be like Londo Mollari, living out my existance with a Keeper around my neck choking me into submission in hopes of saving my world? I don't think so.  It is a better choice to take the time to clean up my mess, take stock of all I truly own, and close that door behind me.

Thank you Londo Mollari..for the reminder.  


Friday, November 12, 2010


Winter 2005

I am told that during that time I was a bit of a zombie. I was using a medication created for people who have seizures for the management of the neuropathic pain that was de-railing my life. It was an uncomfortable feeling knowing that I could not just stop taking it. While I was assured that it was a physiological addiction and not a psychological addiction, it seemed to not make much difference to me since I had no control over how I was able to stop taking it.

I made the effort to do some reading and I found a message board that included people sharing their experiences with taking this certain medication. I did find one person's posting about his adverse reaction to the same medication that I was struggling with.  I was gratified to find that I was not the only person in the world who experienced these difficulties with this drug. When I read what the people were writing about what had happened to them it made me feel validated. When I read the horrible experiences people were reporting, all things they chose to attribute to changes in them as a result of the drug, I began to see that I was falling into similar patterns of behavior and that it would only be a matter of time before my choices could potentially become my undoing. I had no choice, I had to figure a way to get off this medicine.

As it has come to be the way with me, traditional pathways of seeking care seemed to never work well. I found myself talking to my dear friend, a doctor who suffered the hard way on a path to discovering a new focus of practice for people with addictions, about my situation. I found it amazing that in order for someone practicing medicine to actually pay attention to my pleas for help with my problem, I had to gather information from a doctor who currently could not practice medicine, learn all I could from him, and change a doctor's mind before anyone would hear what I wanted to propose in order to withdraw from the drug. I was finally hopeful when I found a new doctor and she began to write prescriptions that made sense for a more subtle tapering. I can remember taking smaller doses over the weeks while I had no choice but to endure detox. My body held on to this drug as a toxin and while I was tapering down with doses delivered by an eyedropper onto my tongue all I could think of was being free from it.  I tried hard to keep this end in mind while I suffered through the weeks of low level neurological torture. I had issues with memory, cognition and word finding. I had issues with reasoning and logic and decision-making. I was feeling relentless low-level electro-neurological torture as my entire body tingled, buzzed and crackled with no relief or end in sight. The pain was unreal. The confusion was worse.

I admit this was a shaky time for me. I clung to my Dr. Steve who never once took his mind or attention off of me. I remember now asking him when all of this was going to stop. He said. "When it does". My body burned for weeks after my last dose of the medication. Finally, one morning I noticed a calm in my body that I did not recognize. I had finally done it.  The experience had taken its toll though, and I would not realize for years just how difficult the rebuilding was going to be. I met my second former husband while I was taking  then detoxing from that drug. Looking back I think that may truly explain how the whole thing worked out.

Looking back I realized that I had no idea anymore who I really was because I could not remember anything of my self from my past.  Getting rid of that toxin was only the first step.  I was an exhausted, defeated woman in pain. I chose that time in life to begin a serious relationship with a man. That turned out to be the third biggest mistake I ever made.

Sunday, October 31, 2010



I was alone. I was sharing custody so half the time, I was truly alone. I really never understood why the complete details of my accident and injury escaped my family. I always assumed they had other things that were more pressing in their minds but in reality I think I just never remembered to tell them. 

 I was alone.

I am remembering the day that I saw his profile on Yahoo. I had to read it several times and for some oddball reason, despite the fact that I was nothing like what he said he was looking for that I would say hello.  If anything, it would make a good story.  I took the plunge and said something clunky like “Excuse me”, or “Hello there”. Whatever it was it was tenuous because the non-clinical on-line world was still foreign to me. I was happy when he answered me back.  He was a doctor caught up in his own world of hurt, who despite dodging his own shit-storm, saw seeing to me something worthy of his energy and time. For that I will be grateful until they day we die.  He had a hand in saving my life.

We were chat friends for a few months before we met. We spent concentrated time together that first encounter which was for me a once in a lifetime experience.  Little did I know there was a method to his madness, and I expect that when he reads this he will smile that I finally figured it out.  I was nervous and jumpy when I met him.  I did not understand myself well, because I did not know that the medication I was taking had made a zombie out of me.  It was the most lovely four days of my life but when it was over, we both knew we would not be lovers.  I still remember what the three weeks with no contact felt like, and finally I could not take the “Steve-less-ness” any longer and I asked to see him.

When I visited him for the first time since our “break-up”, I realized that I had been given a far greater gift by the Universe, God or whatever power controls us, than ever before. He was living in sober housing, a place where men in recovery from substance abuse and alcoholism live. He was a non-practicing physician deeply entrenched in his own quest for survival. He had lost everything and while trying to reconcile his life, in the midst of all of that, he took me under his wing and led me safely through the valley of the shadow of death as I faced down one of the biggest physiological demons of my life.  Addiction.

It took two months to safely withdraw me from the medicine that had already stolen so much from my life.  I de-toxed in his arms and throughout my withdrawal he was never far away. For the first time since my accident, I was finally able to sleep soundly without fear. In the aftermath, there were cognitive deficits that he addressed with me. I could not read clearly, and I could not write clearly. I certainly could not think clearly.  He graciously helped me to progress in my graduate education while I was healing.
He did all of this without “practicing medicine”. I will never let him forget that.  I owe Dr. Steve my life. I can never repay what he has brought into it.

In the five years since, he and I have become regulars at a favorite Chinese restaurant, where we ALWAYS eat eggplant, and where the staff think we are a couple. Often, we nap together,  and me, safe and secure,  always happy and satisfied in the knowledge that he watches over me, can finally rest.  
Watching him now, poised at the starting line of a brand new and satisfying life for him, I could not be more honored than to be the one allowed to partner with him in the final professional “push” in the direction of his wildest dreams.

I feel a little eggplant coming on ….and a nap. Aren’t we the lucky ones?



I was adrift. After what happened I was afraid to take the medicine that managed my pain but more than that I was afraid NOT to take it. I settled on half the original dose and after some days I realized that I had created some major problems in the short time I had been living as a zombie on twice that dosage. I could not remember what had gotten me to that place so I had to rely on papers around my house and receipts and what I discovered was that this drug had robbed me of a once profitable and principled lifestyle and replaced it with behaviors that were unmanaged and simply out of control. On the original dose I lived life as a zombie.

The first thing I did was get a physical exam and run every blood test to be sure I had not done anything that would adversely affect my health and the future of myself and my children. All was fine. The second thing I did was go over my business and finances and in that respect I did not fare so well at all.

I owed thousands in all directions and to this day have no idea how I could have spent it. I only knew that it appeared that my income would in no way conquer it. I was financially and emotionally screwed. I remember looking up from the kitchen table, weeping, in all kinds of pain and reaching for another dose. I was addicted.



Most people do not begin a story in the middle but I have no choice, its the only way I am able to tell it. I did not know about that drug. I am told I knew a lot about most drugs but this one was new and this one was prescribed for me and this one I did not know. All I knew was that I was unhappy with what it was doing to me and did not want to take it anymore. I stopped the day before. I went to bed that night sleeping as usual, at attention on the end of my king-sized bed. I do not know what happened to me in the night but I woke up wrapped up in the sheet at the opposite corner and I was wet. (Not in a good way) I remember feeling at odds with myself but not much more than that. What I came to know as normal after that day was nothing but normal. I lost my bearings that day, I lost my sense of being and self because I looked up at the pictures on the walls of my home and I could not remember those days and times. I knew who the people mostly were...but the memories of my life before were gone. I vividly remember standing in my kitchen not really recognizing anything and the knowledge of anything about me or my life had been reduced to a two dimensional image in my mind, in black and white. I was lost.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

For My Connecticut Girlies!!

Dear Connecticut Girlies,

Take a we go!! See you soon!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Everybody Says Don't

It was in January of 2004 and I was sitting pretty in the nurses station on the Neuroscience Unit where I was happily about two hours ahead and on the downward end of a satisfying day of not very complicated neuro patient care. I was in a particularly good mood that day, since I realized for the first time in my post-divorce finances the first positive cash flow since the whole nasty thing had begun two-years before. It was honestly this selfish moment of reflection on my life that kept me from responding to the tech's request for help in transferring that patient the first two times she came through the crowd of us, but finally by the third pass through, I felt my normal irritation at the common laziness that seemed to have settled across the unit  and got up and went to help the poor girl move her patient.

That was the biggest mistake I have ever made in my life.

It appeared completely straightforward and non-complicated. The man was sitting in the wheelchair perpendicular to his bed. I took the strong side of the man and she took the weaker side. I felt confident that this transfer was set up and ready to go, because it was what the tech assured me to be true, and because it was not my patient, I had no reason to not count on it.

That was the second biggest mistake I ever made in my life.

He was not a very tall man but he was a solid, dense old guy, sick from a head bleed, and rightfully frightened at the whole experience.  I introduced myself to the man and his wife, who stood back looking on. I thought I would be in the room no more than three minutes or so. I used the best body mechanics possible to posture myself to support the man in the pivot, yet in the midst of the transfer it became obvious as his bottom hit the edge of the bed that the tech had forgotten to lock the bed down, and the bed took off rolling across the room! The tech was startled and let go of her end of the man in order to retrieve the bed. Not well executed, since in a flash the man had me in a face to chest choke hold around my neck, screaming that he was going to fall. I assured him that he was going to be just fine and that I would not allow him to fall, as I had him in a sound bear hug in a half squat. I told the man that I was going to lower us to the floor to avoid a fall and at that moment he began to thrash and caused my right leg to abduct away from the mid line of my body and I went crashing down in a half- split onto the floor.

I heard the cracking in my back and the popping sounds down my right side and I felt the burn as the muscles all around let go. I held my patient safely in a seated position until help came running, and he was safely lifted back to his bed. It was only seconds before I realized that I was not able to get up off the floor on my own. It was only minutes before I realized holding on to the shredder box in the hallway that I could no longer move like I used to. The pain was blinding and unlike anything I had ever experienced.  All of a sudden hanging over the top of the document shredder box, I thought of the things I had heard from hundreds of patients who have spinal cord injuries and spine and nerve injuries and my thought was: "Oh my God is this what they all keep talking about?"

A lot of things happened in the days, weeks, months and years that followed that day, none of which included me ever being able to take care of patients the way I had specialized and trained myself for again. I could be bitter and angry except that there was as a result also an exceptional experience of triumph amidst the difficulty and suffering and through being a patient I developed into a much better and more creative provider of care.  I have had to find innovative ways to continue to do it. I did try to go back to the bedside for a number of months and my disability grew worse, my pain was intolerable and my mobility was in serious jeopardy.  It was at that time about five years ago that I was told I was "disabled" and unable to do...and the list went on.  For all those years I had no reason to not believe the doctors. We are conditioned to accept these opinions as based on far more knowledge and experience and I have since learned that might not always completely be the case.

There is far more to this story than I want to bother even telling here. I was a woman with a limp, a huge weight problem due to immobility, uncontrolled pain, and a history of injury related co-morbidities. I was "walking" around in a crowd of doctors with my head and brain barely attached to my body, and every aspect of my life was out of balance. Everybody said "just keep going", or "you will be OK" , or "you are going to die from this" or my personal favorite from one limited primary care physician: "weight loss would be prudent". Ha Ha ...having watched my weight climb to 306 shit Sherlock...Ya think??  In the course of it all, I managed to work full-time, support and raise my children, maintain (somewhat) my owned home and have a fairly decent lifestyle. None of that mattered one bit because the bottom line for me was that I was finally convinced that if I was ever going to get anywhere with anything and achieve any kind of balance in my life, I was going to have to abandon all my old ways of doing things and find another kind of doctor.

Looking back now it makes perfect sense why the old guard of traditional medical doctors following standards of care built on a framework of clinical trials financed by the pharmaceutical industry raised their eyebrows at me. They get irritated with me when I now tell them "thank you very much" and I am now getting better because I chose a new paradigm of integrative collaborative medical care for myself. It was never enough for me to be told "You can't." It was never enough for me to be told "don't this and don't do that". I wanted to DO.

All I needed was the right doctor and a hefty dose of courage and willingness to change. I went out and found him, and together, he and I put together a team and are saving my life. My children laugh because I listen to show tunes but I don't care, this one makes me feel good! I hope you enjoy it too.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Finding of the Lost

The events of the past year have brought me to the place where selling my home has become inevitable. I have not been, nor am I even now, happy about feeling as though I have to do it. I have made it as much of a proactive and healthy decision as possible, and my family and friends have been wonderfully supportive and helpful. The task of cleaning out my house to get ready for sale, turned out to be a monster more ferocious than I initially imagined.  Still, the process belongs to no one but me, and I am the one who has to muddle through and make some sense of what goes along with it.

I have been here for nearly eight years. I bought this house after my divorce from my children's father, my husband for nearly twenty years.  In all that time quite a bit of property came into this house and not so much went out. This deck was stacked against me in all directions. It is not that I felt particularly attached to any of these fine items that had residence here, its just that with raising my children, being a girlfriend, then wife, and  building my career and furthering my education I really did not get around to thinking much about what to do with the things in my house.  Because of this, it has now become the order of each day, to go room to room, corner to corner, and into each closet and crawl space, evaluating and examining and sorting what will stay and what will go, some from just my home, and some from my life completely.

I learned early on in this project that there are all kinds of feelings and emotions tied up in the things we keep so I am writing about that and the process of  discovering, thinking, deciding and in lots of cases letting go. It seemed a perfect time to do this once, living in the moment of the thing in my hands, experiencing all it represents then deciding its fate.  

It seems as though this should be a straightforward endeavor, but in reality it is not. For me, nearly each thing I laid my hand on, conjured up a memory or a feeling and presented me with the challenge of having to evaluate it and decide. I chose that not only would I decide IF something could stay or not but WHERE it would be placed and WHY.  It made sense to begin with the big items and then move to the smaller ones.  Since work was to be done in my basement, I began there, purposing to work my way upward. One of the biggest things in the room was my son's Weider Gym rack.

It looked a bit like this one, and was great fun on more than one level of use, for a few years. As happens with young people, they grow, and change and this piece of equipment did not seem to pass the test of time so it was abandoned and morphed into a lovely laundry rack/ clothes closet. I was remembering fondly how difficult it was to get it in the house when I bought it. My former husband's son brought it in the house alongside his father piece by piece. I remember the grown-man boy and his wife working so well together to assemble it for my son. I remembered making dinner for them and their three children who had become accustomed to spending time in my home back then. Watching it come down was bittersweet in more than one way for me, however I admit now that I am delighted that it no longer sits there. I believe it was recycled and that gratifies me because its parts need a new life and less useless purpose.

Next there were two large pieces of equipment that I bought for my rehabilitation shortly after my accident in 2004. Because my mobility was challenged it was easier for me to accomplish my required activities at home. I would never have considered letting them go until my father pointed out that I had come a long way and certainly did not need to hide in the cellar anymore to continue to progress. He also pointed out that there was no real resale value to them.  Before long people who care about me were volunteering to help me stay safe as I worked out so I called back the junk man and off they went. It felt good to see them go out. It felt good to know that I did not need them anymore and that no one but me understands fully the work it took for me to  graduate from them.   It feels good to move forward towards a positive new life.  I believe they will be donated to charity and  hopefully be used to rehabilitate someone less fortunate. I like that.                                     
It amazes me that there was so much junk in my basement. I had fun tossing most of it in a big barrel. I could not even list it off now, but I know I threw away and donated away items in equal measure. I feel good about this. 

One of the hardest things I parted with was the children's table and chairs that my former husband left in my home after he decided that being a husband was too difficult for him and he departed. I was not given one good reason for being abandoned, nor was I really given a choice. Someone else had entered his life to be his confidant, confessor and lover and while not a legitimate nor realistic relationship, this woman made herself available for and enabled him to engage in a closeness with her while he remained living in my house and contributing next to nothing to the running of it.   He cut me out of his life equation with no notice or fault. His connection to her with internet and phone, at that early time all paid for and owned by me, went on behind my back while I foolishly thought that if I remained supportive he would live up to his vows of marriage just a few months before and come back to me. I carried guilt for many months thinking that somehow I was to blame for him emotionally abandoning me on our wedding night and never affecting with me again until much later. For months when I looked at the little table and its two chairs  I felt connected and somehow still trusted but really it was wrong of him to abandon it there just as he had abandoned and split apart our blended family scattering relationships in all directions with a cavalier and selfish whim.  Months later he drew me back in close to him, while confused in his thought processes I reveled in the feelings that flooded back to me until he confessed his confusion over who he really wanted and needed in his life. There was chaos and anger and for me a deeply shocking and emotionally devestating physiologic event. It brought me to my knees and nearly undid me completely, the grief at the loss of what had been conceived in what I believed to be love which in reality was the confusion of two very troubled hearts. As I looked at that table and chairs I knew what I had to do.  I packed it up in my car, brought to the park where he met me, stood in front of him, gathered up my courage and told him the details of what we had made together which I had to suffer the loss of on my own. That is why I cannot treasure that table and chairs anymore. That is why I could not keep them safe for him. He did not keep me safe as he promised me he would. It was his failure and not mine. Had I kept them I would just repeatedly see what was not meant to be or happen, who was swept away in the eleventh hour of our marriage as forgotten as his vows, and that is just too much for me to choose to live with.       


Looking around my basement, standing barefooted on brand new carpeting, and looking at the newness and freshness of the room once dim and dark and loaded with remnants of my past life, I cannot help but remind myself of who and where I was and who and where I am now. The floor is new, and the walls are fresh and there is more light in the space than ever before. Looking around there is nothing but potential, promise and the enticement of an exciting future full of possibilities. I stand strong in the place where just a few years ago I struggled to stand at all,  and I smile confidently knowing that for me forward is a one way road, and while I might take look back a bit now and then I will not turn back and abandon the journey laid out ahead of me. Still for a little bit of time nearly every day I think about who might have been, wondering if God somehow works it out so that one day I can see which twinkling star was given to me, if only for that moment, that gave me that delicious feeling just one more time again, of who I know myself to be. I am Mary, blessed, mother of John and Jacqueline, equally blessed and we are our family.   

Sunday, October 3, 2010

An Unreasonable Fear

     I was never very interested in math. I am educated, but willing to admit I have never seen the inside of a physics book. My unreasonable fear of statistics has stalled my two graduate degrees in midstream and soon I know I will have to do something about that. I am relying on my brainy 17 year old daughter to partner with me and save the day, in order to ensure my future. It is always a little amusing to me that as my mother made a satisfying lifetime career out of math, teaching countless young people algebra, geometry and trigonometry, in the same junior high and high schools that I attended, that I, quite intentionally, made an equally satisfying effort to avoid it.  I could not get very far into this discussion without admitting that as I grew older, regardless of my lack of interest in anything labeled "math", that my rabid and voracious interest in chemistry and medicine created a conflict.  Annoying as it is to admit, chemistry and medicine, appears to be related to, and rely quite heavily on math.  At 23 years old, with my first bachelors degree under my belt, I had to wake up and realize that in order to gather the education and knowledge and experience that I needed to become the healer that I knew I already was, that I had to gather up my fortitude, all of my emotional strength, suck it up and open the black algebra book lying around my parent's house and uh...attempt to learn it.  

     When my mother observed this, her first thoughts may have been something like these: " How come she did not open that book in the 9th grade when she was supposed to?" or " Better late than never " or "Maybe she should think about taking a remedial class".  A few years later I did take that "13th grade" math class at Columbus State Community College, mostly to prove to myself that I could do well in math, and partially to prove that regardless of how good I had become in chemistry, anatomy and physiology and despite my natural medical aptitude, math could still be excruciatingly uninteresting and remain imprinted upon my entire psyche as the irrational fear that I still hold tightly to today.  I am 50 years old, I am a healer, and I do not "heart" math!  Not "hearting" math leads me to also not "heart" physics and alongside that, not "hearting" statistics.  Unfortunately this also leads me to a daunting brick wall in front of my current vocational goals and calling, so I have become irritated.  

     Before  I go on whining about "not being good at" math, I should document here that I am in fact very good at a whole bunch of other things.  I have actually heard my mother point this out on many occasions so I know it must be true. One very cool thing about my mom and I is that we are both strong-minded women and neither of us really have any trouble pointing out the talents and shortfalls of the other.  My mom says she is envious of my creative artistic talents especially in the area of the home arts. Honestly I think she says that to be "motherly" but I think that she feels the same way about all of those disciplines as I do about math, physics and statistics.  I know my mom works just as hard to avoid a sewing needle or a complicated recipe, as I do algebra and geometry.  This kind of relationship is not easy to have.  Having to co-exist in the mother-daughter relationship for the first part of my life being cared for, and now seeing the scale about to tip in the other direction where I see it inevitable that I will take care of her, I have to admit that this was not ever a perfect or easy relational road.  I think my mother and I have gone through life believing that the other never listens or understands, and that each of us thinks that the other is somehow not as good as we might want the other to be.  Looking at my relationship to my mom realistically helps me face what I know is going to happen as time goes forward.  This is not a novel scenario, all of my peers are facing it now and all of hers are too.  Fortunately for me, at just some bit of time before age 80, my mom still "hearts" math, and fortunately for me, I do not.  I think this knowledge creates a parallel resonance for us. It simply works best. We both make faces at each other when we ask each other to make up the shortfall.  That is a bit silly since we both know we really have no choice but to apply our natural gifts and talents to whatever challenges come our way, after all we are both strong, intelligent women, and if we were each asked we would both say that successful life and family relies on achieving a "power factor of unity".  Each should act according to their own talents and a house divided falls. I believe that this is why my parents remain married and happy with one another after 50 plus years. I also know that my house has divided and fallen and at this tender moment my compass is pointing toward north and I am going home.


     For me this one thing is true: Living life successfully with the corner of my foundation missing is exhausting me. Being afraid to face the math is nowhere near as daunting as admitting that I was foolish for avoiding it in the first place. To go forward in my life, and to redesign and rebuild what I allowed to be invaded by a rover, a plunderer... (thank you Henry Miller, T of C for those original words) who built a fortress of dry sticks and a thatched hay roof around my carefully preserved homelife and laid waste to all but some smoldering embers with the cavalier toss of a single torch he carried, will require a whole new architectural plan.  This new building will be set on a solid foundation, with all four cornerstones firmly rooted and set in place.  

It is time I embraced and did the math.