Posts Tagged ‘loss’

Fresh spoor


I follow as closely as I can the tracks of my silkee as she wends her way along the strand.  The call of the sea has been strong of late, as she is suffering most grievously here on the shore.

Shortly after the previous post, some nine months ago, she began to have painful spasms in her throat.  Soon she could not eat normal gluten-free food.  She had to go to a soft food diet.  I took her for an EGD.  A few days before the procedure, she began having a different kind of chest pain.  We told the anesthesiologist, and he demanded a cardiac workup.

Off to find a cardiologist, who found low to moderate blockage of one cardiac artery, and prescribed a vasodialator that kicked off abdominal migraines (twelve to eighteen hours of non-stop, uncontrollable vomiting).  Then another med, and a third, all triggering abdominal migraines, before she dropped her as a patient.  The GP refused to prescribe her abdominal migraine meds, because of the heart condition.   She was having ten  to twenty episodes of cardiac pain a day, sometimes passing out, popping nitroglycerine pills and enduring the resultant headaches.  Off to find a second heart doc.  Insurance refused to pay for an arteriogram, we waited to get one done as part of a research project.

By this time she was barely holding on, the cardiac pain and fatigue were so severe, she was unable to do anything:  write, read, watch TV.  Her depression worsened.  Her FTD was getting worse.  Before, she had a wall up to keep out the unwanted thoughts generated by the dying neurons in her brain.  She has practiced for fifteen years a Theravada Buddhist mental culture, anna-panna-sati, mindfulness of in-and-out breathing, the Burmese Forest School version, brought to the United States by G. V. Desani.  She has also her japam, and ishta as a bhakti yogini.  These kept up the wall for years.  Now the wall came crashing down.  Nightmares happened while awake as well as in sleep.  Hallucinations occurred, quickly recognized as such, but disturbing, nonetheless.  She sometimes feels abandoned by God, and has to fight through her own dark night of the soul.

She began falling, and re-injured her knee, repeatedly.  This kicked off pain crises involving her RSD.  Her pain  has been out of control for months.  She now must use a chair-side toilet, as the bathroom is too far away for her to walk.  Other, new pains appeared.  Intense, sharp, deep joint and bone pain; greatly worsened fibromyalgia-like pain.

Cardiologist number two had no clue about how to treat cardiac angiospasms.  I did the research and recommended a treatment plan for him, which he prescribed.  At least he finally gave the approval for the EGD.

The EGD found no pathology other than mild irritation of the lining of the esophagus and stomach.  Smooth muscle spasms again.  Again, GI had no clue of how to treat it.  Referred her to other, useless specialists (we could do some tests, but we couldn’t do anything to treat you, regardless of the outcome of the tests).  Twenty minutes on the internet yielded therapies apparently beyond their ken.  Now off to find a doctor smart enough to prescribe them.

Her heart pain is now fairly well controlled, using the beta-blocker, metoprolol.  This med also eased the nightmares that she has suffered for years.

Her throat spasms are worse, she cannot have even soft food.  She’s on a liquid diet, and sometimes has problems even with that.  Cooking was a way to show her love, now that is gone, too.

Typing is more difficult for her, neurologically.  So we adapt.  She will tell me what she wants to write.  I draft, she comments, and we repeat until she’s ready.  This is the first product.



I am thinking about the importance of words.  I think most people take words for granted.

A friend of mine sent me an article by Tony Judt.  He wrote about the importance of words in this family when he was growing up, about the times in the beginning of the 1950s when speaking proper English was very important.  In college he was a master with words, but he didn’t really understand the importance of silence.

Over many years and during my illness I have learned the importance of silence.

A few weeks ago I went to see a play based on The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.  C. S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors and I will be talking more about his work in future.   In one passage Screwtape is advising his nephew Wormwood, a fledgling demonic tempter on Earth.  He suggests that Wormwood try to fill the human’s head that he is trying to corrupt with noise.  For if our heads are constantly filled with noise of people speaking, trains running, babies crying and dogs barking, we will never know the peace of silence and the knowledge that may come from within.

Tony says for him rhetorical flexibility allows for a certain feigned closeness, conveying proximity while maintaining distance. I see this in people who don’t walk the talk. I also agree in matters of language, outsiders are frequently deceived.

I remember that when I was the director of a health information department in a hospital, the director of human relations often sent down recruits who he believed were just right for the position I had requested.  He often based his decision on the person’s flair for words, what we call in Texas a bullshit artist.

I have always thought of language as a gift. When I was young I was too shy to speak so I wrote down my thoughts.   As I became older, I realized that many times people only listened to part of what I was saying to them because they felt like they needed to think about what they were going to say in reply. First to test this theory, then out of frustration that I was not being listened to, I would often stop in mid sentence.  Most people did not notice.  Has a pause/silence become so uncomfortable?

When Selch and I started dating, I would stop in mid-sentence and he would say “Yes, continue?”  I was somewhat flabbergasted realizing I had fallen into this rather lazy way of speaking.  Fortunately, I received enough prompting from him and was even able to finish my sentence even though it might mean talking over someone’s premature response.

As Tony wrote in his article many people talk the abbreviated language of Facebook and Twitter and texting.  It is still confusing to me because words used different ways can have so many ambiguous meanings.  I communicate on Second Life quite a bit.  Everyone has forgotten how to spell or they just don’t care about spelling anymore.  I will be texting with someone and am later shocked that I am talking to a philosophy teacher with a PhD.

We have voice on Second Life now which adds an interesting depth to conversations on Second Life.  If a person is speaking in text, it is easy to hide whether you are male or female.  Voice morphing software is available but they do sound like a male trying to impersonate a female or a female trying to impersonate a male

What I love about voice on Second Life is I have the opportunity to really speak with people from other countries.  Yes, there are some language barriers perhaps made worse by not being able to actually see the person but we usually seem to work it out and are for the better for having the experience.

I, like Tony when he wrote this article, am in the grip of a neurological disorder.  He says what I think so well that “the view from inside is as rich as ever.”  Fortunately, I am still able to speak fluently at times.  What you do not know is often it is a struggle to capture the words in my head and speak them out of my mouth or type them onto paper.

So many of my characters are suffering from locked-in syndrome.  For awhile they were all yelling at me, wanting me to tell their stories.  That is the way it has always worked.  I dictate the drama they play in my head.

In most people there is a control mechanism in their heads that they take for granted.  It is like a gate you walk through to get to the subway.  It helps order tasks and projects so that you aren’t constantly overwhelmed.

The reason it is hard for me to say or write my stories is the same reason I am unable to do activities of daily living even though I appear to be capable of doing these tasks which I’ve done all of my life.

I feel like there are so many tasks and I can’t do all of them at once, so I become paralyzed with fear and eventually I just give up.  The doctors term this apathy because that is what appears to be to them.  It is a much more complicated than that.

Now, my characters and ideas aren’t screaming at me.  They haven’t left me.  I spend much more time in silence now, contemplating, using Theeravada Buddhist mindfulness practices and saying  prayers.  This has opened up a world to me that many people cannot see because they are so busy living their lives and caught up in mortality, and noise.

I am not through using my words.  Selch is by my side, my life partner, helping me to pull expressions out that use to flow freely.

As Tony wrote, especially now in this world today, good honest communication is how we sustain and grow and solve the problems we are having in this country and in the world.  We were given the freedom of speech by God.  It is a gift that can be taken away.  Please use it wisely for ourselves and our future generations.

The Light and the Tree


A  few nights ago, I was looking out of a window and saw a street light that was next to a tree casting an eerie artificial light on the tree’s leaves.

For a few minutes, I was transported back to a night when my 16-year-old self was staring at a light shining on a tree outside of the window of my great Aunt Jewel’s house which was located in a small town in Texas

I had just received my driver’s license a few weeks before.  Ever since the movie, American Graffiti, many fad’s had been revived from the 50’s, one of them being “cruising.”  Early in the evening, I had been cruising down main street in my yellow Maverick with my younger brother who was a reluctant passenger.  We had been going to visit my grandparents at least one weekend a month ever since I could remember.  My cousins were much older than we were and there wasn’t much “treasure” left up in the old closet upstairs at our grandparent’s house  for us to discover.   I was thrilled to be able for the first time to  drive up and down Main street, windows down, radio playing “We Are the Champions” and local boys honking their horns and shouting, “Baby come take a ride with me.”

When I was looking at that light many years ago, I remembered at that moment feeling excited that a new world of possibilities was opening up for me and also secure in an environment of extended family that wrapped their  loving arms around me.

Then I came back to myself as I am now  looking at the light next to the tree.  I thought about my grandparents, my great-aunt who passed out of this world years ago.  I began sinking into constant pain and and dwelling in disappointment that my grandchildren will never be coming to “Grandma’s house for the weekend.  I  lived in a world where I had lost much.  Before I feel  down any further in the well of despair, I stretched my back and lifted up my head and whispered a short prayer.

My mind flooded with many life  lessons  that have resulted in strength,understanding and compassion.  I realized I do have in front of me a world of possibilities and ahead lies the preparation for shedding this broken shell. I will continue my journey  with my true identity, that part of us that always will be  Imagine those possibilities  and as Captain James T. Kirk, Starship Enterprise, once said, “To infinity and beyond.

Looking for My Lost Bass Clef, on Celtic Moon


I love music.  I’ve played the piano since I was seven.  The last time I tried to play, I discovered that I wasn’t able to read the bass clef on a sheet of music.  Also, my left hand had lost its musical memory for the bass clef.  I visualized playing the saxophone, which is treble clef, and my left hand remembered the notes.

I could not remember the most fundamental things:  notes. Like almost everyone who learns to play the piano when they are young, your piano teacher encourages you to make up funny lines to remember the name of each key and letters on the clef.  As I sat in front of my piano, my mind was blank.  I longed for those phrases I tossed aside long ago.  I opened the lid of my piano bench where I use to store trinkets, such as an an apple green spiral notebook with crazy white notes scattered on the cover, that contained my first six months of music theory.  Then, I remembered that I had put what was left of my beginning piano music in a file drawer.  Three rows of steel cabinets were downstairs in the basement.  There was no way I would be able to navigate the stairs.

When I was a girl, my teacher use to give me plastic busts of composers each year.  My favorite bust was given to me by my mother.  It was as larger bust of a handsome young Chopin with blue eyes and cornflower blond hair.  Once, when I was eight, I was having a difficult time playing a piece and I took the bust outside, placed in on the grass and danced around it.  I was wearing a sunny yellow dress then, in Texas.  But as I sat there at the piano that day, I pictured myself going outside in my house dress and dancing a jig with the crazy old Turkish woman who lived across the street.  No inspiration there.  No bass clef.

Now as I sit here typing, those childhood phrases are flooding my mind.  Every Good Boy Does Fine Always, FACE Good Boys, Bad Girls Eat Candy All Fall, All Funny Black Geese Eat.  My piano is in storage now.  But, down the hall in a small room there sits my childhood piano, terribly out of tune, its legs gnawed from a crazy dog and sticky keys from a gaggle of young nieces trying to play Heart and Soul.  Maybe it’s time two old friends got together.  Maybe I can find my lost bass clef.

Right now I’m listening to Live365 radio on the internet.  One of my favorite stations is Celtic Moon.  If you are a fan of Loreena McKennitt‘s style of music, then you should tune into this station.

What I love about Live365 radio, is they provide so many small radio stations that play different types of music.  My brother listens to it when he gets home from work.  He is also a fan of Celtic music.  But, his tastes have always been more eclectic.  I will never forget the timeless melody of Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road which he played over and over again on his turntable.  He is the only person I know that has the entire musical collection of Focus, a yodeling foreign rock band founded by a classically trained flautist.

It’s time for me to go to an on-line support group meeting, so goodbye for now.