“I’m sad,” I tell her, looking for analog
in a world of constant digital connection.
“I know,” she said, “you used to write
great letters, too, and you know a lot of people,
but you just need your roots.”
“Go outside and listen,” my mother advises.
Outside, I see all the life looking for hands,
all the living things that need me back,
and I understand what they want—
flowers for vases, tomato vines withering
but weighted with so much pendulous red.
It’s all thirsty, even the sunflowers nod and
hang their heads.
The fires are burning still, more now every day
acres of smoke closer still than farther away.
It’s hard to see, so I listen.
Windchimes in a dusty breeze, paper crisp rose edges
and black spotted leaves. A dog barks, children scream
playing near dark, screeching brakes, and the Jade District
festival thick with voices and music, pounding echoes,
War drums sound, apocalypse theater, Taiko, large and loud. I reach for shears,
and go to ground. I pull the small dandelion fluff of lettuce tops
into a silver kitchen bowl, swirl until the seeds release
the temple drums continue, the clouds go grey
the rusty gate opening screech call of a Scrub Jay
pecking black seeds from under the yellow bonnet,
the neighborhood, haunted.
The early dusk, a yellow-green cyclone sky,
wildfires make for softbox sunsets in the summertime,
the dried up lake beds reveal ancient forests,
the grass has all died, save for the clover.
We may need them when this is all over.
“Go outside and listen,” she said.
I don’t see any people,
but I hear them all.
… our phones used to be bells
our photos used to be paper
our paper used to have words
and we used to spin each other
the way our music moved
in dark and dazzling circular grooves
only a needle could interpret.
we used to mend our clothes with needles.
and we used to pick up the phone
and the pen to mend ourselves
and our friends.
we used to take our time,
try to know each other better.
I sat waiting for my lunch to be ready. Closing my eyes, the sun warming me, honing in on nearby conversations.
“It was just awful!”
“Do you want to meet later?”
“We have to get back soon.”
“What are you hungry for?”
And then, “Think of a Chinese word you’d like to see written.”
Two young women, students conducting a written language experiment, held a small, dry-erase board and the woman in the steel-grey wool skirt looked sheepishly to the man-in-tow standing next to her, scanning his face for a word, for approval.
“Tomato,” she smiled and shrugged.
“What an uninteresting word,” I thought to myself. Clearly, hunger and condiments dominated her thoughts to choose such an oddly simple thing.
The student began to draw the two characters, then handed the board to steel-grey skirt and asked her to draw it, to copy the lines in her own hand.
“Like this?” She fumbled through and the student asked to take a picture of steel-grey skirt holding up the sign, which she obliged after being assured it wouldn’t end up on the web or Facebook.
Steel-grey skirt and man-in-tow collected their lunches and wandered off back to their meetings and spreadsheets and before the students could walk away, I volunteered, “I have a word I’d like to see.”
“Great! What’s the word?”
“Oh—I’ll have to look that one up, it might be kind of difficult, the Chinese don’t really have an expression for that. Well, depending on the context I guess.”
“I suppose weakness is not a good emotional or political stance,” I mused.
She typed it into her phone where there must’ve been a pinyin and symbology translator of sorts and she mumbled, “Ah, hmm, that’s really pretty.”
She sketched out what looked like two number 5s, curved, bent and spooning, little animals with two quick hatchmarks in the coils and crooks, something warm in their bellies perhaps. The second symbol, like a little house on stick legs, or a bird laying in a field of short reeds or soft, matted grass, or a boat on uneven waves jutting a mast with no sail attached.
She handed me the board and it was my turn to draw.
“Very good!” She encouraged. “You could do calligraphy.”
And I suddenly thought of my high school art class, how I attended my prom for free because I volunteered to hand write every student’s name in my graduating class and their respective date’s name on folded white cardstock for all the seating arrangements at the dinner tables. How I painstakingly wrote every letter with a copper pen tip, sinking the nib into a bottle of crow-black ink, scratching out letters and then with a glue gun, affixing a black bow-tied ribbon and burgundy rose in the corner of every one.
She took my picture holding up the board with “vulnerable” written twice and asked, “Why are you so interested in this word?”
I considered the tomato. Heart-shaped, red, plump, viscous inside, thin-skinned, vulnerable and thought perhaps, it wasn’t such a bad word after all and I said, “I think objects are fine, but I am more curious about concepts, especially emotional ones that are difficult to describe with one word. Like love or home or wonder.” I thought about how big ideas cannot, should not easily be boiled down, compartmentalized, or compressed into a single word or worse, an acronym. Americans are really fond of acronyms and especially mnemonics, trying to make big ideas memorable, and easier to digest, when really, what must be done is some digging, some spelunking, some serious unpacking followed by a gentle examination of all the parts.
I thought of other languages where speakers might have cultural differences and difficulties expressing emotion. For instance, one way of responding to the everyday greeting of “How are you?” in Russian is to say ” I am not unwell.” As if, already expressing in the negative was a way of conveying strength. Things could be worse. I’m not dead yet. My friend told a story where in high school, a Russian exchange student staying at his home was being chastised for taking her host family’s young son out to play in his school clothes on a rainy day. His mother wasn’t at all happy that they had returned so filthy, caked in mud and muck, but the Russian girl sweetly explained to the mother, “he is not unwashable.”
What does it mean to be vulnerable? To be “accessible, assailable, defenseless, exposed, liable, naked, on the line, on the spot, out on a limb, ready, sensitive, sitting duck, sucker, susceptible, tender, thin-skinned, unguarded, unprotected, unsafe, weak, wide open, open to attack.” Why is there no strength in vulnerability when it takes all the courage in the world to allow yourself to let something, some ideas, someone in? To yield with grace to the often terrifying, ever-shifting locus of love, of home, and of wonder.
All three of these ideas have changed greatly for me in the last several years. Losing a beloved pet to cancer, losing a home by being priced out of the neighborhood, losing a job and a marriage; and all of these losses and changes at nearly the same time. It was like witnessing all the love and home and wonder I nurtured suddenly evaporate out from under me. There was a serious unpacking. There was a gentle examination of all my parts. Especially the ones that went missing, where I identified myself.
I thought of many loves lost in my youth, how some of the most tender pieces of me were carried off by wild wolf boys and buried like edible treasure to devour later. How sometimes there were wounds I ignored and over and over I had to revisit the same old traps that closed upon them to extract myself very carefully so as to not lose more pieces still. Sure, I came out licking my wounds, scathed and dirty. But I emerged whole.
Turns out, I am not unwahsable. I am not unwell. I am still hungry and I am getting reacquainted with wonder. I have redefined home. I still don’t fully understand the nature of love, but I am very much an eager student and believer of it in all of its necessary function and beautiful, new forms.
“There are things you do
because they feel right
& they may make no sense
& they may make no money
& it may be the real reason we are here:
to love each other
& to eat each other’s cooking
& say it was good.”
::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: :::
“I’ve been a bad yogi this week,” I mused sadly to Joe. Even talking about yoga to Lia in lieu of actually doing it got my muscles to tingle and miss it.
“Yeah, but sometimes forging new friendships takes the same kind of commitment,” he said to me.
I am consoled to think that at least I’ve been a good friend. or have been having a good time. I can also tell it’s been a full, week of good people, food and silliness when the fridge is full of tasty leftovers, there’s a bouquet of lilies on my living room table, there are a lot of dishes to do, there’s silver spray paint and glass beads in strange places, the laundry turns up stickers, candy wrappers and tiny plastic babies, I am pleasantly tired and I am editing photos of it all.
Sufjan Steven’s “The Henney Buggy Band” lyrics and melody occur to me in snippets.
“Oh life, with your colorful surprises
Eleanor, how you put one on disguises”
“Far in the morning light
We let the movies play
A weekend from the holiday
. . . Forget about yourself and all your plans”
This past Saturday a group of friends all dressed up as Villains attended the Alter Egos Power Struggle. It was pretty much a Heroes & Villains pub crawl all brought to you by Alter Egos Society and Drunken Rampage. And Benja said it best with:
“the event included games and prizes along a route through several downtown Portland bars. The games included initiation games (such as “save the kittens” for heroes and “steal candy from the babies” for villains), “You’ve Met Your Match” finding an Arch Nemesis speed dating style), and a dance-off between good and evil. A number of local businesses (bars and comic shops, etc.) and organizations (Stumptown Comics Foundation, etc.) supported the event as part of official Portland Comics Month.”
But for me to tell you about the evening from the streetside and onlooker POV – well, is to tell the story of running through the city, engaging in an en masse, public, costumed rubber band fight, taking over bars of every variety including strip and gay (Portland famous), community pole-dancing, swinging from the ceiling (on a literal swing suspended by chains) climbing elephant statues in the park, catching free prizes in the air like porn, latex whips, silver-studded leather chastity belts, oh – and comic books too. Sure. To give you ALL the details would read a bit Gonzo-esque so . . . “No. We can’t stop here. This is bat country.”
But there are some photos where my friends are harpies, mad scientists, robots, caped, cylcloptic evil overlords with interchangeable blue & red laser monocles with minions to match, judges dressed in cinched robes & a wrestling unitard, and futuristic underwater murderers of dolphins (it’s quite a backstory). A bit of “so long and thanks for tall the fish.” Dolphins are super smart and take over the world. See: Douglas Adams.
The next morning, Easter Sunday we threw a Pagan Potluck to celebrate Eostre, the goddess of spring fecundity, love and carnal pleasure. How appropriate. There was so much wonderful food! A big spiral-sliced ham I cooked with an orange-maple glaze and served with a side of “last nite’s costumed bar crawl hangover,” with a friendly diner smile. Quiche, potato salad, fruit salad of blood oranges and tangerines, quinoa, spinach salad with goat cheese, potato salad, deviled eggs, chocolate angel food cake, cherry cobbler, coconut balls and more mimosas and white wine than humanly necessary were consumed. Eventually it devolved into a game of Scattergories and Celebrity. Somehow, my dumb ass did NOT take pictures. I was off duty that nite, I suppose.
Last nite we gathered for a loose dinner party at Jeremy’s apartment themed “food on a stick.” The colorful spread ended up consisting of cheese & chocolate fondue with dippers of olive bread, meat, angel food cake, strawberries, apples, pears, sushi and skewered teriyaki chicken and beef, wine (hey, stemmed glasses are on sticks!) the comedic Pabst Blue Ribbon that Cooper brought up from the depths of the ice cooler, carried in on a large branch and hoisted into the room like catch of the day, and Benja’s contribution of candy with Chick-O-Stix. Surprisingly, no popsicles, perhaps a rather obvious choice. This in no way detracted from the rainbow of bountiful foodie goodness we enjoyed. (Once again, no photographic evidence!) Later, we all lay on collective couches in a food coma watching Val Kilmer in Real Genius. A good old fashioned 80’s “nerd saves the world” movie.
Tonite while drinking cold beer on our warm sunny patio talking to Lia & Cooper who were getting ready to depart for their stay at home happy couple date nite of dinner and cuddling, I was cheered as I received, fielded and answered text messages:
Tiffany: “If I get enough work done today i was thinking of going to the tulip festival tomorrow – interested? It’s going to be a beautiful day.”
Chelsea: “Thought I’d take advantage of the sun with a book and my dog. Ran into friends on the Beach. Dungeoness crab for dinner. Call ya when I’m headed back.”
Claire: “We went to the farmers market and now we are relaxing at a park in the SE. If you were at Stumptown I’d join you. Nap in park instead! We are going out for Pho if you are interested.”
And later from Lia: “We love you guys. Seriously. Like love love. U fixed my music collection! i owe you my life.”
Jeremyasked: “What time tomorrow?” in reference to the brunch we’re having on the deck at my house since the weather promises sunny and 74 degrees. i instructed, “Let’s call it a casual noon. Brunch in single digit #’s is called breakfast & is lame.” Claire is coming over to cook some spicy eggs, i’m gonna to fry up some bacon and make a stack of fluffy pancakes. hmm, i have no champagne for mimosas . . .
i smiled to myself a lot for a lot of little reasons today. Odin was hiding in the freshly washed bed sheets in an effort to stalk me. i realized that if i want to fall madly into bed with Joe tonite, the bed must be made, cat or no. There was a time when we got so distracted and caught up in each other, too busy making love that we could rarely be bothered to comb our hair or pack properly for a trip to the woods. The apple butter in the fridge reminded me of the camping trip where, because we were too busy “packing” we had forgotten a knife to cut and spread food, so we simply tore off hunks of bread and dipped it in pumpkin butter (no more apple butter to be had at the roadside stands that late in the afternoon.) How that nite, Joe and i flipped the script on the traditional camping roles: i built a fire and secured the goods from bears and he, my would-be-husband cooked a fabulous dinner of beans and onions and summer sausage. I thought of our long looks in the fire light, and the sound of a large skunk trundling through the brush into our campsite making my eyes go from lovestruck at half-mast to wide and panicked. “Animal. Biggish.” i whispered in a fearful assessment. And he laughed.
i washed the tablecloths from the Easter Pagan Potluck we threw last week and tossed in a few old throws. One of them, a bright blue with red stripes i didn’t recognize until turned the tag to read it:
British Airways. MADE IN ENGLAND. Airline use only. Please do not remove from aircraft.
And i smiled, thinking of Joe taking me to Rome after we got engaged.
“Hey, did i ask you to steal this blanket from the plane ride?” i prodded.
“Well, one of us stole it. It’s unclear who, “Joe smiled.
it’s in my lap right now as i type this in the office.
i am about to take some fruit down to thaw for brunch: a bag full of frozen mango & berries – something called “Mangolicious” from Trader Joe’s that i put with some Vanana (vanilla & banana flavoured yogurt) and some local Hanna’s honey in a cup. i am thinking fondly of myself & two dear friends in our pajamas eating apple pie for breakfast. In bed. Laughing. i am thinking of not waking up earlier than 11 am tomorrow. i am thinking the red & yellow tulips in bloom in my garden should suffice if i don’t make it out to the Wooden Shoe Tulip festival.
My favorite plum
hangs so far from me
See how it sleeps
and hear how it calls to me
See how the flesh
presses the skin,
It must be bursting
with secrets within,
I’ve seen the rest, yes
and that is the one for me
See how it shines
it will be so sweet
I’ve been so dry
it would make my heart complete
See how it lays
languid and slow
me here below
I’ve seen the best, yes
and that is the one for me
~ Suzanne Vega
::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: :::
He said, “I have seen a very strange sight. As I was coming hither, I saw two girls walking. Trees grew on their heads the boughs were covered with plums and the roots which came through their hair were fastened about their necks. They were beautiful and seemed to be very happy.”
“We will go and see them!” cried the women. They had not gone far before they saw one of the girls lying on the ground while the other pulled at the tree on her head. The roots gave way and the tree came out but all the hair came with it also. Then the other lay down and her friend in turn pulled the tree from her head. They were very angry and said, “If we meet with the man who played us this trick we will punish him.”
~ from The Algonquin legends of New England, or, Myths and folk lore of the Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot tribesBy Charles Godfrey Leland
::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: :::
The soft, white gardener’s gloves are coming off. i have been tending faithfully to my recovery. But two days before the full moon on the 11th, something moved in. Something came to a head, some terrible creeping vine got snarled in the works, slid through the garden, curled up around my ankles, tripped me up, sent me inside, put me in bed with cookies and tea and a warm cat and pulled from me a sobbing, frustrating confession that i laid out, soaking the cheek of my poor husband as i looked at him for consolation and answers.
i found myself frustrated, feeling ravaged, angry and sorrowful. It was all underneath there when the moon, a monstrous lever, became a shimmering coin wedged under me, a tightly capped bottle, and opened a geyser. The far away moon, a silver spade of light shot down a deep well, struck the ground and water erupted. i cried on and off for three days, mostly to myself, to a few patient and listening on the phone, and to my Joe.
For three days, i allowed myself to unravel, and found my heart weary and wrung out, resigned to being heavy and wet as a sodden sponge. My brain, a rabbit running circles in a electrified cage looking for an inch of wire that doesn’t shock. My insides, a calliope of dark, oceanic sound, guttural bagpipes under a taut waterbed. You think a waterbed is a good idea until you try sleeping on one, or moving it. Both are disappointing and painful endeavors and Buddha help you if you spring a leak somewhere. It will take all your effort to track down and fix it, if you don’t grow wildly impatient in the process. And my bum, well, it’s an occasionally unpredictable vending machine; every food an unmarked denomination that drops a bauble, a sticker, a spider, an unrecognizable & mysterious something or other and yes, we can end the metaphor right there without getting too indelicate.
My acupuncturist has said that i am very aware of my body’s innerworkings. Mmmhmm. i probably pay more attention to what i know is “me.” In fact, the biggest obstacle is likely “me” getting out of my own damn way and up from the circular pool that is my head, swimming with worry, diagnoses, concoctions, medications, and self-perpetuated misery which i think, despite the goodness of yoga and meditation has been affecting my sense of healing.
Still, i should not have to wake already dizzy and exhausted, twinged with fear; i still feel fatigued sometimes, even after decent sleep and for no good reason. i think i am in some sort of mourning stage and trying very hard to make peace with this major change and upheaval in my body. This good little machine which i feel has betrayed me somehow, or more, been betrayed by the path of care not clearly employed by my doctors and better researched, hacked at, tried and carried out by my own overwhelming desire to heal. i turn the whole puzzle with pointed questions around and around in my head: Why did my gallbladder go bad? Have i been unnecessarily harvested and robbed of a small but important piece of the original factory model? Will the rest of my body recover and compensate? Will i lead some compromised digestive and internal version of my former life? Will i ever truly heal?
how long how long how long was my teary mantra. i’m so impatient, i just want to smack myself out of it! i keep wondering “how long until i am completely well?” “how long until i have a day where i wake and feel mostly normal?” (aside from normal wear and tear or self-deprived rest). i keep asking the outside, the place without me, how long how long how long instead of delivering the directive be well be well be well to the place within me. i am not being as kind to myself as i should, i know.
What i noticed lately is this lump in my throat that appears and dissipates some. i felt it once the first week and apparently, it’s not uncommon after surgery as i’ve read other people complain about it. It’s also associated with GI disturbances and is mostly seen in the realm of anxiety and stress. My acupuncturist said it was know as Plum Pit Qi. Here’s where the explanation gets ancient, interesting and illuminating:
“The feeling of an obstruction in the throat (when there’s not an actual physical obstruction) is called Plum Pit Qi and is associated with Qi Stagnation (Liver Qi in particular). There is actually an emotional cause to this manifestation, Chinese Medicine diagnoses it as Qi and Phlegm knotted in the throat. Emotions such as sadness or frustration can produce a lump in the throat or Plum Pit Qi. The root pattern is a binding depression of Liver Qi with a concurrent inability to deal with an overwhelming emotional situation in which symbolically the patient cannot swallow. The Liver Qi attacks the Stomach causing Qi counterflow and thus interferes with the Qi transformation producing Phlegm and Dampness. The Lung and Stomach Qi counterflow causing Phlegm to become stuck in the throat so that the patient cannot expel it. Due to the severe depression of the Liver Qi there may also be rib-side pain and stuffiness in the chest.
Plum Pit Qi is first mentioned in Chinese literature in the Jin Gui Yao Lue, a treatise composed at the end of the Han Dynasty (ca. 220 A.D.). The text addresses miscellaneous disorders, mostly those suffered by women. In Chinese medicine, Plum Pit Qi corresponds to globus hystericus or neurotic esophageal stenosis in Western medicine. Sometimes, it’s even diagnosed as cricopharyngeal spasm. It refers to a sensation as if something were stuck in the back of the throat which can neither be spit up nor swallowed down. In the Chinese medical literature, this feeling is likened to a plum pit stuck in the throat or a piece of roasted meat. As its Western names suggest, this is a psychiatric diagnosis associated with anxiety, depression, and stress.”
:: sigh:: Great. In Eastern terms, i have blocked energy, stagnant blood, dampened, gummed up insides which lead my organs to attack, invade and otherwise kung fu the hell out of each other’s energy flow. In Western terms, succinctly, i am officially, a nutter. But if nothing else, and after all that fascinating text, i can put a name to it. i can actually visualize it all in terms of energy or in somewhat physically impossible metaphors. i KNEW it’s been my angry liver kicking the ass of my spleen and stomach.
i suppose you could categorize my private, internal emotional state as mildly depressed if not weathered by the experience of going from merrily eating and drinking up food, wine and life to this cautious balancing act with my body. So, my acupuncturist and i, through open discussion, have been concentrating on those points dealing with the liver and depression or mood. i DO feel better after yoga and meditation, but it’s been rather like an episodic bandage over an unclosed gash. i realize that the change for the better is going to be incremental, but what i’m really wishing for is for that big, red panic button in my brain to become the reset button or to be shot through with sudden, glorious, radiant, healing light.
This plum pit of mine is also thought to be associated with GERD & the like, though all i can say is the Pepcid i was prescribed for nausea from suspected reflux gave me headaches on top of it all and didn’t seem to affect anything dramatically over time or from withdrawal. On it, off it, nothing really changed.
i was never instructed how long to take them, never followed up with and i NEVER had acid reflux before, so why now? If i have to campaign aggressively for my own health, i’d rather do an ERCP, a barium swallow or MRI studies to determine the actual likelihood & amount of acid reflux if any. Then, at least there would be reason to have any given medication prescribed. The whole, “I have this symptom, so give me that med” without any physical diagnostic tool can’t be very accurate. That’s how the meds pile up. It becomes a Jenga game of stacking up pills that mask the inital symptom with a new, undesired symptom that requires counter-measures by way of new drugs further inducing another crop of symptoms until it’s about livable through layered pain management. By then, you are taking the first through fourth medication, you’ve built a wall around the actual foundation, the original underlying cause which, if pulled out gently and addressed is just like pulling the crucial block from the bottom that’s fucking up the whole balance, thereby, finally – bringing the unhealthy, leaning tower down.
As you’d expect, it’s also recommended from the Western side of things to try soothing the plum pit with anti-anxiety meds & anti-depressants (globus hystericus or neurotic esophageal stenosis) and/or to see if Valium or a similar muscle relaxant stops it (cricopharyngeal spasm). Now, i’m not worried about the stigma of anti-i-can’t-deal-anymore meds. They are a familiar friend in my family and we didn’t ask to be crazy or to live in such an occasionally mucked-up world. Trust me, when things got bad, i have used them to straighten out, click the serotonin up a notch and get back in the game.
But now, i seem to want less pharmaceuticals in me, less things for my liver to clear out and cough up and more vitamins and supplements for my body to take in. i added digestive enzymes which includes acidophilus, and that seems to help with meals and the end-product of, so to speak. They are also reputed to help with the supposed reflux problem i may or may not have. So, buh-bye Pepcid. This next visit to the acupuncturist will include new liver points and a specially formulated Chinese medicine specific to my symptoms, weight and constitution. Again, i have to ask, why doesn’t Western medicine do MORE of this special, individualized care better?
The time of the liver on the Chinese circadian clock is between 1 and 3 a.m. Guess what time i wake up to write and pace the house? Yeah. Even now, it’s 1:49 am as i type this bit of the story. Go to sleep liver, you’re wearing me out.
For those three days i argued with myself, maybe i SHOULD get on some anti-something-or-anothers to straighten out a chemical imbalance and let the rest of the healthy activities take their course & full effect. It’s so strange . . . i don’t really feel depressed, i interact normally and cheerfully enough with people, i’m still productive (albeit in personal endeavors alone since i am STILL unemployed) but people close to me have noticed i am not as light and confident as i used to be, that something in me is stifled. And it’s true, in my private moments, i DO have those dark blue thoughts, feel discouraged and notice the tension and discomfort move through my body in unpredictable cycles and in new, sometimes unpleasant sensations. So, perhaps there are these organic after effects i’m not consciously aware of, clouding things up in there. i am producing plum pits that rise and fall and when it falls to the bottom, what will grow then?
i am trying to count blessings; i am not battling cancer, i am loved by family, friends and completely supported by Joe in every manner as any woman could want for. i have all that i need to survive and well beyond basic necessities. But simply stated, eating to live is necessary and enjoying eating is difficult, thus life has become more difficult. Some days i am just throwing belly timber in. Food and vitamins and supplements to keep the fire stoked and the machine working. Good days, i actually enjoy the food. Bad days, i get it past my lips and worry if the enemy has crossed over and smuggled in a tank of gasoline to set the place on fire and shut the engine room down. But it appears the engine room is missing a particularly important cog. And in keeping with my current interest of interpreting maladies through Chinese medicine . . .
The functions of the Gallbladder are:
– Store and excrete bile
– Govern decision making
– Control sinews
– Affect dreams
– Close relation with the Liver
There is a reason i cannot sleep – my liver is angry, i feel indecisive and weakened besides the actual trauma of surgery. It is explained that “the Gallbladder affects the quality and length of sleep, if it is deficient a person will wake very early and not be able to return to sleep. When the Gallbladder is deficient, one dreams of fights, trials, and suicide.” (Spiritual Axis). Further, “the Liver is considered to be responsible for the ability to plan life, the Heart oversees all mental functions, the Small Intestine gives clarity and wisdom to decision making, and the Gallbladder gives the courage and capacity to make decisions. All these functions must be harmonized to plan and lead a harmonized life. If the Gallbladder is weak a person will be timid and lack initiative and courage. The Gallbladder gives us drive and the passion to excel and the action potential necessary for these to come to fruition. Dealing with adversity also comes under the role of the Gallbladder. It is often necessary to tonify the Gallbladder to support the Heart’s function.”
I wonder what Chinese Medicine says about cholecystectomy. About carrying on with missing, integral parts. Well – let’s deal with the big part that’s left . . .
i’ve begun to imagine my Liver as a powerful, insightful, well-educated, well-informed and well-manicured woman dressed to the nines, and someone stole her favorite little purse with all her money, identity and mojo. My liver was a vibrant lady and i though i gave her plenty to do, i never taxed her too hard. But without a place to store and concentrate on who she is inside and where she’s going, she currently finds herself rather lost in cortisol-laced, moonfaced dreams.
If i could paint the image of how i feel inside it would look like this:
A red-haired girl in the lotus position sitting below a Weeping Plum Tree, reaching up with both hands at the top of squared elbows, her fingers in Gyan Mudra, her index fingers and thumbs signaling ‘ok’ with her palms upturned to catch what may fall from the tree. She looks up, her chin lifted slightly, reaching more with one hand to draw down the perfect plum, dangling just out of reach. Scattered around her in the grass below, the flesh of half-eaten plums are lit upon by ladybugs, butterflies and pushed about in the mandibles of stag beetles, glossy as patent leather, trundling in circles like dark little bulldozers. The plum tree is unusual and split in half between two seasons of growth. Half of the weeping tendrils are covered in wintry, Valentine blossoms of red, pink and white with bare, black bark twisting though in burls and spirals; witchy, clawed fingers stretching down and pointed out as if to touch. On this side, orange-amber prescription bottles hang, some without caps, raining white pills like the petals of Ume flowers. The other half is covered in Spring & Summer leaves, drooping under the weight of fat, glimmering, thick-skinned, purple plums.
The Ume flowers on plum trees are celebrated and adored in both China and Japan. In China, the blossoms symbolize struggle and endurance of winter’s hardship; they embody resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity because it is in the winter snow they bloom most vibrantly. Conversely, Japanese see the Ume blossoms as a harbinger of Spring and tradition holds they function as a protective charm against evil.
That moon pulled on me as it does the tides, drawing the water down, out and away. In all those tears, the plum-pit in my throat has softened, but there are still these knots inside. Plum pits swallowed, waiting to surface, to be spat. There is an approaching midpoint; the fear of dying off, the relinquishing of control, the surrender in letting go and the promise of rebirth. Of something allowed to die in order to come back in a new form. The last fury of Winter Solstice. The first whisper of Vernal Equinox.
i am that girl, in seated meditation, grounded and split between two seasons, with both hands reaching for protection, for nourishment, for my favorite plum and for the small things tending the garden to carry away and bury the pit.
February is and in my case WAS such a short, sometimes brutal month. Then you have March, which does the ins and outs of wild predator to tame sweater maker. But in the short month of February i packed in a lot of healing, writing & music readying myself for the tempest of March.
Qi To The Kingdom . . . Or, i Am A Tiny Pin Cushion
i began seeing an acupuncturist to well, to unfuck my qi. Being a stickler for detail, i’ve kept a calendar since my surgery detailing and tracking my symptoms, moods, foods, internal movements, etc. i’ve been drawing a gradation of faces from frowny to flat to a simple upturned bow to smilies with big dotted eyes and a row of piano key teeth. i doodle and color my calendar with markers, moods, faces, any sign of discomfort and yes, even when i poo to be consistent with patterns. i do this NOT to become the obsessive spaz, holding onto illness like a war medal, but to determine severity & frequency to see if i am improving or moving towards healing. And if not – to do something very proactive about it.
My acupuncturist is a very kind man who went over my extremely detailed laundry list of complaints and undesirable changes in my body. We talked for over an hour before he even put a needle in me. Hardly any practitioner of any healing art, takes the time and energy to do this; there simply is no time to listen or touch or get all the detailed information that forges the craft of a good diagnostician. This is especially true in Western Medicine. Which is why i chose the modern miracle of Western Medicine for surgery and the centuries old Eastern Philosophies for healing.
“Wow, this is great,” he said, scanning my list of dates and list of maladies, “No one does this. It’s really organized.Very helpful.”
He went over the whole page with me.
Once we figured on a plan of how acupuncture and Chinese medicine could help me, i felt a sense of calm purpose, and he began tapping hair-thin needles into my legs, wrists, shoulders, neck, ears, all along my abdomen near the floating ribs and liver, a few near my stomach, even some threaded underneath the scar tissue on my stomach to soften and flatten.
Then he took what looked like a big black crayon, a half-smoked cigar, or a pointed smudge stick. It was moxa, heated Mugwort which he applied near the needle tips to send heat into the acupuncture points. It felt pretty wonderful actually. My stiff, knotted trapezius muscles softened, nausea vanished, headache faded and my stomach and bowels were still and calm. This last visit, i told him i had a creaky knee, he touched around, squeezed lightly and asked if i had been using my quads to do some lifting and bending the day before. It was true as i recalled all those half squats in yoga and he stuck one in for that. i also expressed difficulty falling asleep, and damn it i LOVE me some sleep, so he tapped a little silver needle right into the top of my head to clear the airwaves. Then he put a crinkled mylar blanket over me: light as air, silver as Mercury and i lay there, a little Fembot, conserving heat and energy under my quasi-futuristic Austin Powers blankie.
i feel like things are definitely improving inside. Much calmer and less symptomatic. yoga’s been great, food is becoming my friend again, acupuncture seems to be helping and i’m taking a Chinese herb called Shu Gan Wan (liver soothe) to stop my liver from being so pissed about my gallbladder being gone. They are miniature versions of Whoppers chocolate malted milk balls, but they taste like curry. The most interesting visual diagnoses delivered upon me: liver invading spleen and liver invading stomach. Not a bad way to think about it really. The way the Chinese see it accurately describes the miniature battle that’s been raging in my guts since surgery. In the 2 days following treatment, i’ve sometimes felt an internal struggle for domination, like there are knots being untied, like i’ve been damp and bit drowned inside and then i come out the other end and it’s all Snow White & bluebirds. i have more energy, i get ravenous and my outlook improves.
i’ve added a Calcium, Magnesium & Vitamin D supplement combo (what a horse pill), A Vitamin B complex & Spirulina. Rather than those amber bottles clogging up the cabinet, i now rattle vitamin supplements onto a little red dish in and effort to boost my immune system and well-being. i would say i’m at about 75%. i guess i’m just looking for time and worry to pass and toss me the other quarter.
Usual Suspects – Netflix – Matrix – Conflicts
i’m still unemployed, but trying to occupy myself. If i didn’t have yoga or the occasional social outing with Joe and his work mates, plus Tiffany & Chelsea, i’d be a house mouse for sure. Of course, this may change when Spring comes into full bloom and i expect it to. i can see happy little yellow & purple crocus poking through in the backyard, so there’s a spot of sunshine yet . . .
i fire off about 4 resumes every other day. Then i hear stories about how an ad for a front desk position at a local yoga studio garnered, not 6, not 60, but SIX HUNDRED applicants and i get to thinking, unless my email arrives blinking or on fire, there’s no way i’m getting noticed. i applied for a local position at a Chiropractic office, found my best business casual with a little Portland funk and showed up in person to the office where i found myself on day one of two amidst a light cattle call. 5 women were already standing in a room like Star Search & American Idol contestants, beauty pageant finalists, the weakest link, a lineup.
And it was the usual suspects. The over-bleached & frosted tan woman with alligator handbag face (too may hours poolside) drinkingCoors Light, guilty of wearing fluorescent cotton jumpers, coral lipstick and hair scrunchies, probably just relocated from the Carolinas or Florida. The dumpy girl in business casual, pock-marked, unremarkable, practically invisible, hunched back from self-deprecation, flinching & shying from imaginary social punches, shifty, downcast eyes and shuffling feet looking for a nice quiet office to answer phones in, listen to soft music, eat bologna and American cheese sandwiches in and hide. The Sweetie-pie mouse girl, flat brown hair, doe-eyed, squared off chiclet-smile, high-pitch, pedamorphic voice both docile and simmering. The other two women were variations on a theme. Background noise. i was just waiting for the talent portion so i could showcase my baton twirling.
The rotund, possibly former high school football coach now Chiropractor with soft, spiky, salt-and-pepper would-be-Mike-Ditka hair shuffled through our resumes like quiz sheets. Doctor Ditka then asked each of us if we had undergone any chiropractic work and for what ailment. Turns out i was the only candidate who hadn’t been cracked and i couldn’t tell if this fact was a help or hindrance to my cause. No previous body work and one couldn’t truly expect to explain the process or how it feels. Previous work and you may just be looking for some free medical care.
Then the assistant spoke up. She was Doctor Ditka’s little frau, and i caught her checking out my legs in black tights and eying my skirt up and down. She made a lot of eye contact with me but probably because i was taught it was polite to look speakers in the eye. Even when they’re addressing a group.
She went over the finer points of duties and representation at the job, stock still and legs straddled with a clip board held in one hand and wedged into her belly like she was about to call off a cheerleading squad roster, or note how slow your last lap was, or go body surfing. Except, this was winter and she wore burnt-caramel suede & beige fur boots, tight blue-black jeans belted off with a strap of leather i imagined she could unbuckle and snake through her belt loops to beat you quickly with. It was all topped with a grey angora sweater. A snuggly little snit, a real fuzzy blowhard, probably a former stoner, rock chick & bully known to sit on the smaller, smarter girl’s chest at school and bloody her nose for her.
i quickly assessed who was in charge of this operation and it wasn’t Doctor Ditka or the nice older woman smiling at the front desk. After receiving frau’s full up & down measure, i also knew that job was not going to be mine.
People aren’t going out much, home entertainment and movie watching is up, and this is true of me as well, so i applied at Netflix for shits and giggles. They called within hours and scheduled a phone interview. Apparently Netflix is a rarity in corporate customer service. They decided to employ human voices, eliminated e-mail-based customer service inquiries, chose not to outsource or go offshore, and set up their big call center in Hillsboro, Oregon “because it thought that Oregonians would present a friendlier voice to its customers.”
So, i had a nice chat with a woman who conducted a phone interview, went over some of those basic, “tell me about how cool, calm, successful and how much of a suck-up, pretty little cog, team player you are.” And then she asked two strange questions. “Would you like to be considered for a second interview?” Oh, no thanks Judy, i’d like to stay in my pajamas all day and ask my poor working husband to bring me bon-bons and tampons since i’m not a financial contribution to the household, but this has been a real hoot, thanks for asking. And,”Would you like to work in a call center?” Oh, yeah, i mean, i dream of sitting in a desk with open cubicles in a sea of heads wearing headsets jacked into the hive mind, assimilated like the fucking Borg, pausing just enough to slurp down a salty, stryofoam, pseudo nutrition container called Cup O’ Noodles and get right back to it at any time in the 24 hr span you’re open. Who needs a circadian rhythm, right?
But i answered safely, and quite honestly. “i’m highly efficient and i think i am fully capable of working in a call center.” Translation: “i am made of sturdy human material able to withstand the inquiries of irate morons and confused grandmothers and techless luddites. i am able to hack the necessary mundanity and the flexibility to talk to anyone from any walk of life even if all they want to do is talk. i am a meat popsicle. And yes, i will do it for $12 an hour.”
i wasn’t going to lie about it. What we want and what we are able to do, are often quite different. i want for things i am unable to do and i am able to do things i don’t want.
All of the above line of inquiry is mostly about touting one’s own work ethic, But i wish i had known about Chelsea’s latest answer to the interview question, “What do you consider your weakness.”
She simply rolled her eyes, tossed her head softly, sighed and helplessly replied, “Chocolate.”
Foolish Words, Bird Song & Shiek Music
Joe, Chelsea & i went to see Christopher Moore as he stopped in on Powell’s Books in Beaverton, touring in support of his new book, Fool. He didn’t read excerpts, but DID regale us with funny stories as any good jester would.
i waited for a little over two hours to say hello and have him sign my book, while i fumbled through half stories of the times his writing kept us entertained on road trips.
“Hi, we’ve met,” he said.
“Well, i comment on your blog.”
“Right, well, good to meet you in person.”
He actually recognized me, i think, and probably through pictures but maybe he says that to all his MySpace / Facebook buddies. So i dropped him a quick public thank you:
‘thank you SO much for coming out to Portland (Beaverton) and staying so long to sign books and chat with everyone.
i was terribly flattered you remembered me from photos here and said i’d looked familiar. (probably from blog comments). i’ll be riding that cloud all week . . .
i really enjoyed your stories (“sorry”). i also really enjoyed meeting you in person since, like a good friend, you’ve made me laugh at so many times in my life.
i probably should’ve said that, but you know, the mind goes blank in the “awkward moment” that accompanies book signing as you put it.
also, i probably should’ve offered to take you out & feed you, since they had you shackled to a podium then a table so long, but didn’t want to imply an undue familiarity. just sayin’.
next time . . .thanks again!‘
He was kind enough to write me a quick personal message back, which, as i informed him, made my millennium. i wonder if he’ll read this . . .
That same Saturday, Joe & i went with friends, Janet, Adam & Hillary out for a nice little dinner at Thai Peacock at then to see Andrew Bird at the Roseland Theater. i will not bore you with my full-blown review because, as anyone who knows anything about me, i am a HUGE fangirl of Mr. Bird and can gush at great length. Suffice it to say, it was one of the warmest, most intimate, tightly performed and emotionally charged shows of his i’ve ever seen.
Five days later, i’m sitting quietly at home reading my email when a blast comes through from the Aladdin Theater for FREE tickets to see, Duncan Sheik. Do you all remember him? Sudden unexpected pop heartthrob who put out “Barely Breathing” then apparently went on to compose, quite successfully, for film & Broadway musicals. Somewhere in that road he found Buddhism, explored his pop-roots and electronica and went from blue-eyed crybaby crooner to what appeared on stage to be softshoe hobo, railroad vagabond. Complete with floppy hat. No offense, but i like my pop-candy to be a little more polished. Even so, he was soothing enough and perfectly entertaining, particularly when joined onstage and accompanied in harmony by pianist/vocalist Holly Brook, a spritely, red-headed songstress with an easy voice who perked my ears with “Mama Who Bore Me.” i thought she sounded like those pitch-perfect singers on Broadway and indeed, the song is from Sheik’s Spring Awakening and was sonically delivered as such.
He seemed humourously self-aware onstage, in that sort of clumsy, rushed and fearful of rejection way that makes you check your fly and crumple your hat or roll a piece of paper into a straw. He began every introduction with, “Ok, so . . .” then while fiddling with one of 5 guitars, explained the song’s meaning and context as it applied to storylines in one of two Broadway plays he wrote music for. Then he’d crack a small joke or two, launch in, finish and begin again, “Ok, so . . .” Here and there he sprinkled in familiar pop tracks and love songs.
It struck me while i was awash in the soft repeating flow, that certain artists have a “sound” and so, i found myself trying to figure out the landscape of his music, the places i went to, the things i imagined. That sound for any given artist can be mathematically complex, assaulting, heart-beating, ass-wiggling, spirit soaring, a warm bath or just plain vanilla. Music to vacuum by. But it occurred to me that Duncan Shiek’s music, nearly the whole of it, sounds like a day at the beach, and not all the sunny, splashy, sandcastles & coconut lotion bit. But the white noise of the ocean, the call of circling birds, the cool that moves in around 6pm after a long day of swimming and sunbathing, the blue sky gone grey and overcast, the part of the day where you are tired and melancholy and have to pack up the blankets, shake out towels, rinse your flip-flops in the surf and walk back half a mile to the car with sand on and in unpleasant crevices. And you didn’t even get to stay and watch the sunset with a good bottle of wine, because the kids were whining, because the wind kicked up, because a storm moved in, because your lover/wife/husband is not who you think they are / hope they’d be. That’s what it sounds like.
But boy, the people were into it. And probably vacuumed up sand to it regularly or settled in with a pint of Vanilla. You know, after the beach.
To his credit, Duncan Shiek is a fine & thoughtful songwriter, he’s just not as deeply provoking as some. Gold star finish though – he ended his encore set with a most righteous cover of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees.” Finally, something real.
Welcome to the world of big monsters in pants and big possibilities!
If my SPAM is any indication of my shortcomings then i definitely have a small penis and should do something about that if i ever intend to satisfy ANY woman. i should also invest in discount Viagra & Cialis to keep my new size erect and in check. And if i really want to impress, i need “a status symbol of today” because “an expensive watch makes a huge difference socially and at the office.” Because, people look upon an expensive watch with “feelings of envy, wealth, and wanting.” But why would i want to spend all that money i don’t have? i should invest in a replica watch. Big and expensive to match my new “enormous manfullness in my pants.”
Even my SPAM is trying to tell me i’m an inadequate man in the working and dating world, which i guess is fine, seeing as how i’m an unemployed, married woman. They’ve got me all wrong. But i save the real gems for a laugh:
“You’ll be able to invade so deep into woman, she’ll scream and shout like crazy.”
“She will stay by your side as you have that bulgy pride.”
“No matter how you are dressed everybody will see that you are blessed.”
From Writing Under The Influence to Creatively Sober
i encourage anyone who fancies a good scribble, wants to write, practices writing or contemplates the writing / creative life seriously to watch it. It actually made me cry.
As a background, Joe & i listened to Eat, Love, Pray while we trekked across the country to from Springfield, VA to Portland, OR and though i found most of it moving but some of it rife with her own personal drama and insecurities, this speech of hers was much more coherent and truly inspiring. i liked the idea of something passing through you, urging to be captured and caught by the tail, then wrestled to the paper, else it chooses to move on and select someone else to come through.
And well . . . i have to agree with her and her stories of other creative types. i have muses, sure enough. Guides. Voices. Faeries. Things that keep me up at nite or prod me on in the middle of the day, with something loud and clear to say. Often in the shower, sometimes i hear it right in my head or chest, a booming, filling voice. Sometimes it is in my own voice. Sometimes, it’s not. It’s ok – i’m no stranger to odd voices and old muses. it is my Greek Chorus, my accompanying soundtrack, the movie voice over. The Blathering Other.
Then, when the voice(s) go dead on the line, i write stuff like THIS too, just to address the situation . . . So even when i’m not wrtiting, i’m writing about it. very reflexive if for nothing else but the mere exercise.
What i’ve learned is that, for me, it IS an exercise, it’s a voice (or several) that like any good relationship, need cultivation and conversation to keep them active and accessible and “flowing.” As in “real life,” there are some friends for whom, if you don’t call for awhile, get offended.
But the bigger question about torturing oneself with the expectation of follow-up, or creative force, or the fears of “can i produce if i am NOT miserable?” And “do i have anything to say if i am not suffering?” Or “do i have to descend into madness in order to arrive at genius?”
Recently i was asked this:
Is it true, that hard times make you even more creative, allowing you to produce great art?
Perhaps there was a time in my life when it was somewhat true, but now it’s more about transcendence. that’s where our ‘art’ or trade or practice of the thing we do best comes in . . . and i’ve talked about this at great length before.
In essence i have learned not to abuse my “art,” not to squander talent into personal transformation through miserable expression. Suffering is apparent, pain is necessary, yes – but it is NOT the desired or correct state, purpose or constant in this life. And if it is – you’re doing it ALL WRONG.
i think getting to the other side of bad times bravely, however you document it in your art, is the goal. But making sure you have something to say or paint or photograph or film when life is blissful, is just as important.
i can remember a time where i’d plunk down in front of the computer, get to writing or editing photos (or Christ almighty, compose email) and kill a bottle of wine by myself, no problem and with little effect. i did this mostly because it was there, partly because it was business (i sampled wine from distributors for restaurant purchase) and lastly because it was wet and slightly more interesting than water (which i kept stacked in bottles within crates. Hydrate while you drink, people.)
Now, lately when i bring a drink to my face, i can almost feel my liver raise up and bitch slap it out of my hand. The smell of beer, fresh or stale in a room, on the breath in my face, or on clothing makes me sick. Apparently, my liquor license went out the door in my bellybutton along with my gallbladder. This is coming to you from a woman who in most pictures i am smiling, with a wine glass thrust forward in the frame as if to toast to anyone looking on and willing to share. These days, i’m afraid wine will turn my guts into a pit of roiling acid and deliver a mean hangover. So i guess i just wait, until things calm down and my liver and i come to an understanding.
And when it comes to sharing & understanding, for me, it’s often those random letters and email messages from old friends, new friends and complete strangers that i find myself sitting down to flex and exercise my writing muscles. Often, i cut and paste bits from email correspondences into the blog and vice versa, so don’t be upset if something we might’ve shared in supposed privacy ends up in some public form. i hope that doesn’t cheapen the exchange. i like to remember people and things they’ve made me consider and think deeply about. Sometimes it happens when i write them.
In some ways, i suppose i repeat myself, but i do this because, i “said” it once already, just the way i wanted to, and i don’t want to repeat myself. Redundantly unclever, i know. Didn’t you get the memo? It’s the primary reason for having a blog, it’s better than having you dig into my email, my word documents, my sketch pads in my car door and desk drawer or rifle through the stacks of dream journals at my nitestand. i mean, that’s where i go to collect my thoughts and try to reassemble them later.
Stories For Boys . . .
So, on the topic of later assembly, i dug up an old document from an upper-level creative writing course i took years ago. It’s about 70 pages loosely forming some sort of memoir. It’s not strictly linear, like you’d imagine, “i was born, this stuff happened, my mama, my pop, my sister and the hamster and the dog and the cat and the cute boy and the asshole best friend.” There are some elements of that, to be sure, but mostly i seem to mention the various people, mostly men whose friendships and entanglements pushed my personality forward and helped define me and what i do or do not want out of any configuration of friendship or relationship.
Now, that said, this is not a Willie Nelson & Julio Iglesias joint, a wide-sweeping “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” type proclamation, nor is it a tell-all rockstar biography. More like, what it was to grow up and make sense of the self. i’ll admit, probably owing to the time in my education and life, it smacks a of little feminism, trying on clothes, trying on lovers, divorce, mommy & daddy issues. But i think it’s a pretty fun & revealing romp, things even i’d forgotten about, so i’ll probably just intersperse them like chapters in between actual, current blogs at random, as i re-work them and under the title “Stories for Boys: (#).” They’ll be easier to tag, bag and search for.
As you might’ve guessed, i don’t change the names to protect the innocent, either. After all, we were just children then, honey. Trying to figure it all out.
This morning a text message came in from the East Coast at 5:45am, PST. It was Meg and i was glad to hear from her, but i was also incoherent and back to sleep in moments. Then Joe kissed me goodbye as he does every morning just before 8am and i look for this happily, then listen to his shoes, the cupboard opening, the retrieval of a travel coffee mug, the door locking behind him marking that i’m safe again and i drift off once more. Then my Google Calender texted me remotely at 9am to remind me to pay Geico car insurance. Greedy lizard bastard. And just when i was drifting off for what i had hoped was the third and final time, a symphony of slamming ensues, the garbage truck begins its Thursday morning rumble through the neighborhood and i am officially awake and staring out the window at a misty fog and as i am surfacing from a sleepy fog of my own, i realize – today marks one month since my surgery . . .
As far as my health goes, forgive my over-explanation, reiteration and just plain TMI-fication if you find it tiresome – but i need to do this, to document it so i can look back on it someday down the line and say to myself, “see, you were going to be fine all along.” Several months from now, i’ll be looking forward to NOT overly concerning myself with all transportation of items in and out of me.
Overall, i AM feeling much better, there are some days i feel awesome and a few days last week where i felt, not so awesome. A couple bouts of the loosey gooseys and a bit of late nite nausea plus vomiting once. Today i feel fine, and it’s mostly because i’ve been able to sleep and eat MORE for several days; both of those things are hard to do when you are anxious and nauseous. Rice and stirfry type food arrangements seem to make me most happy, so i guess i’ll just become Chinese.
i realize that i must give my body time to adjust. Since i no longer contain an organ receptacle for the biliary system, my liver’s all, “WTF mate?” and it just tosses bile down there willy-nilly. This sends acid production into overdrive and makes my stomach go wild, which is the cause of the queasies & uneasies. It’s hard enough out there with the peanut butter salmonella scare or my grocery cashier coughing, blowing her nose and touching all of my food as she scans it, or my friends & family assuming that a female my age just might be pregnant . . . so i tried to separate all that out and got some advice from my doctor as well as friends who’ve gone through this, even if it was anecdotal.
p.s. the next person to attribute my nausea and poo spells to pregnancy gets their gallbladder removed by me. with a spork.
i am also aware that this adjustment is different in different bodies and can be 3-6 months or even a year before things settle down in there, and sadly, some of the symptoms end up being recurrent or chronic in a handful of people. in most other cases, it’s just learning the triggers during the culinary adventure and hoping i don’t have to deal with anything that affects my eating. most food is cool and i’m taking it in smaller meals more often (as i did before, really) it’s obvious and pretty much immediate when food is NOT cool – it’s a straight lever pull to the luge. Amazing really . . . i know potato chips are OUT, perhaps unless they’re baked and Progresso soup proved to be an inexplicably bad experiment. And yeah, i know, i’m a real lady and all, but it’s the humbling stupid human tricks that make us all equals . . . Nothing like being a grown woman and filling your pants. uggghhh, fantastic!
i have added a B-complex with Folic Acid, and have chewed 1-2 Citrucel chocolate/caramel fiber chews (what am i, 60?) this seems to help some with energy and digestion. And the caramel ones aren’t bad, though the chocolate ones taste like a lame-ass diet Tootsie Roll. i don’t want to do the carb/fiber overload and i’ll be damned if i have to mix up some orange bum Tang cocktail in the morning everyday and fuck with my tea ritual, you know? My digestive system is rewiring for sure in there, but seriously, to go from a wealth of crazy delicious cuisine & wine to the BRAT diet and water, tea & juice well . . . did i mention even a leeetle bit of alcohol tends to make me really drunk and also, suddenly nauseous. i have to wait on that a bit too . . . oh, how the mighty have fallen, huh?
My doctor sent me in for more bloodwork to check my liver and pancreatic functions. They got me in both arms, the vampires. It all came back normal, thank goodness. She put me on famotidine. Yup, Pepcid. A histamine H2-receptor antagonist that inhibits stomach acid production. The amber bottles with my name on them just keep lining up in the cabinet like matryoshkas, little nested Russian dolls. i am hoping to pull them and my ailments out from inside each other till i am left with the tiniest one and i can get all the way healthy without them. But i am happy to report, eating has been much more pleasurable since Pepcid, as well as the necessary by-product of eating. It’s calmed me down considerably.
i’ve been mostly convalescing with a smattering of social outings and i think that has been making me a bit batty. Now that the scar tissue isn’t feeling so taut, i am starting back into the swing of things exercise wise, and that includes some yoga. i am also looking into Mayan abdominal and Craniosacral massage to get things moving, to realign and to push the reset button on my nervous system, to let it know it’s all over now and it’s time to busy myself with feeling better. Primarily i need to de-stress and remove the toxins and pain my body has been holding & clenching to itself.
i did find a really nice local yoga studio that i’m gearing up to join full-time. it’s called OmBase Yoga. i’ve been to 4 classes so far this week and have enjoyed the instructors & release in all of them. My legs tremble as they try to support me, my arms quiver under my weight, i can feel the tightness in my hamstrings, shoulders and back moan a little when i call on them to move this way, then push them just a little further, but i am grateful to breathe, to get out of my head-chatter and break existence down to nothing but me and the space on my mat.
The studio is a warm, tall, open space with burnt caramel colored wooden floors and beams, a few orange and magenta colored arches, and a little womb-like fireplace with a fan on top, drawing the heat up out its potbelly to move about. It’s more well-manicured barn than dance studio, crystal singing bowls, lots of Zen-like décor, subtle incense no full-length wall mirrors.
the left side of the studio . . .
i am STILL unemployed and a bit discouraged, which doesn’t lend to the mood of productivity or getting out of my house mouse routine. But, i have a funny little gig lined up for freelance photo work, which is a minor story too. So – firstly, you know, i’m a big fan of socks. Knee-highs & up to be exact. and the more colorful, interesting, sexy, star-spangled, stripey, spidery and silly, the better. There’s this place i used to mail-order from called Sock Dreams when i lived on the east coast (free shipping!) and it turns out it’s located here in Portland. Less that 2 miles from me.
So a few months back i wrote the website, offering my services of ANY type: shipping, storefront, website maintenance, photography, leg model, guinea pig, coffee, tea & bagel donkey . . . you get the idea. i was invited to take a tour of the place where i was introduced to the staff, the 3 resident dogs and her husband/muse who said he’d recognized me through pictures. She’d expressed that she’d love to hire me, but the crush of the Holiday Season, the current economy, possible downsizing already in January, etc. i left with the gentle offer to be kept in mind in the future, perhaps finding some way to edge me in.
This week they got a shipment of baby socks so i took several pairs to photograph on some friends’ one & two year old son and daughter as they “modeled” them. i will be paid in part cash and part socks, per our agreement. The bebe’s get to keep the socks and i may keep a few pairs to send to my friends on the East Coast as gifts, since everyone is busy having babies over there. Barter just works better for me these days than real livelihood. Aside from actual feet in socks, i did get a cute portrait of one of the models . . .
Speaking of lively . . .
As for the Obamamania – i took Joe to work that morning on Inauguration Day, we tuned into NPR, listened to Obama fumble the oath, the quartet bit from John Williams (i joked that the Star Wars Theme would erupt and actually broke into humming the opening strains, which got us both laughing) then i was annoyed that the NPR commentator was golf hush talking over the performance like it was background music. i drove home and listened to the poet in my driveway, then watched the rest through the Luncheon on CNN until i decided that i also, needed some lunch.
Later i went online and caught the highlights of the ball, particularly the Beyonce rendition of “At Last” since i love Etta James. We went to our friend Adam’s house for a party where the guests were encouraged to write all over a 4-foot sketch of Bush taped to wall, including all the things about him we were glad to see GO (we did NOT however spare him the requisite Hitler stache or Devil horns or speech bubbles with Bushisms and his trademark snide, stuttering laugh). This poster was burned in a bonfire in the backyard later. On another wall, a sketch of the American flag hung with empty lines and a star field. With red marker, we filled in all the positive changes we anticipate by having a new administration.
And speaking of REAL change . . . how about the stem cell research approval for spinal injury, and the removal of the Mexico City Policy?!?! Not to stir the shit-pot or anything, but boy howdy, the Pro-Lifers got some tough bits stuck in their craws with those rulings. i don’t know – i just can’t see how you can argue with improved quality of life, healthcare and women’s education and options.
Which really seems to be my trifecta theme lately: healthcare, education and options . . .
Having gone through this has affected more than my body and eating, it has caused me to rethink many things, mainly – what it is i want to DO for work since my previous ventures have always involved the food and wine industries. i know i can’t eat as richly or drink as i once did, mostly because it’s against my constitution but also, i simply don’t want to and i want to simplify my eating. i want to attempt to eat even MORE healthy than before, if that’s possible.
Besides the change-up in my intake, i don’t want to work those late service industry hours anymore. i enjoy time with my husband in the evenings too much. This is a chance to reset everything, really. To see if i might want to go back to school in the Autumn if for nothing else but to finish a few undone things, to re-engage myself in the discipline, to meet people & make connections. To see if something else inspires me. To do something that helps people live better. To not be a server but to truly SERVE.
What will i miss about convalescing besides the sleep, and the forced respite & stillness? i did enjoy some parts of the step back, even if it was for the unfortunate cause of major abdominal surgery. For one, not having to put on a bra or clothes for that matter. Not that my routine was heavy or high-maintenance, but i will miss all the money and time i’ve saved on applying cosmetics and perfume. my skin never looked better! i liked not having to deal with the trappings of going out and presenting myself to the public.
But i will have to do all of that soon enough . . .
Last nite i could not get the idea of a sub sandwich out of my head, it was one of the last things i ate before i went in for surgery and i barely enjoyed it, i had been feeling so poorly. So Joe & i rolled into the local Subway where some quiet, older gentleman, excuse me – “sandwich artist” stood pawing at a box of plastic food-handlers gloves, clearly biding time and waiting for someone to come in.
After some pleasantries and questions initiated by me he reported, “we had a busy lunch but it’s been over an hour since someone came in.”
“My god, this poor man has been making sandwiches for over 9 hours on and off,” i imagined. And probably by himself.
i usually get the BMT but something told me to steer clear of salami and pepperoni, so i had him load up a 6″ wheat with turkey and ham, spinach instead of flavorless, nutritionless iceberg, tomato, extra cucumbers, green peppers, mayo, mustard, oil & vinegar, salt & pepper.
i took this home, unwrapped it at my desk and ate greedily. It was a simple thing, but i felt that sandwich move through and nourish me, diffusing and filling in empty places. It was almost as if i’d been a hollow shell and someone propped me up and filled me with warm foam that hit all the places, even my fingertips and toes. It was the first time i felt full, satisfied and comfortable since, well – awhile.
Of course, this was a relatively “healthy” version of what goes for “fast food” these days, but it was needed protein, needed fiber, needed greens and it was precisely what i was craving.
My body is just starting to talk to me again, and trust me, i’m listening.
So let me just jump right in here and catch you up on the post-Holiday bliss . . . .
December was a CRAZY month. A car accident followed by a week-long visit from my sister & brother-in-law that involved beer tastings, strippers, lost IDs, credit cards, medication, a “Getting To Know You” session with the TSA, a flurry of found & lost employment, a crippling snow storm and a major abdominal surgery . . .
Not much of a Christmas & New Year’s, but – what can you do? Life intervenes sometimes and puts the smack down on all your sparkly plans.
So yeah, from car to job and health matters – it’s been buckets of suck lately, but thank goodness i have my Joe, for better or worse and all.
The Bunny Goes Bang . . .
Joe and i were in a car accident early in December (my poor VW Rabbit). We were simply dropping off a friend so she could avoid taking the bus. Luckily, it was a slo-mo, non-jarring crash that no one was hurt in. In short, some jackoff signaled to go right, then changed his mind and veered into us, even though his lane had ended. This sent us banging into the large SUV to our left, effectively smashing my left quarter panel, taking out the left headlight cluster and ripping my bumper off in one arc over my hood and into the street behind us.
i was all in my Zen-state, post-yoga and coolly remarked from the passenger seat, “well, there goes the bumper,” as it sailed overhead. I was not pleased to discover the no-fault law here in Oregon. The police didn’t even take a report?!?! But we did have two witnesses who volunteered information without even being asked, so it was clearly NOT our fault. i rode home with the bumper in the backseat curled up on the ends like a big, red-lipped smile while the broken eye of the headlamp cluster sat dark and blinded in the trunk.
Surprisingly, all told, it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. Even though it was several days before my sister & brother-in-law was scheduled to visit us from Indianapolis and i thought, “great, now what?” The body shop took us VERY early the next morning and gave us a free loaner car, a pimp-ass white ’00 Ford Taurus with the body shop name emblazoned on the doors. The smell of faux strawberry walloped you in the face when you got in, which was better than say, cigarette smoke, though the history of burn marks dotted the seats exposing the fleshy, pale foam below. Then i discovered the source of the scent.
There was a Little Trees air freshener hanging from the steering wheel. This reminded me of an old friend Dave, who became a police officer and used a special sort of profiling. He noticed that a high proportion of criminals in an effort to mask the smell of open intoxicants and / or drugs have an awful lot of the Little Trees air fresheners hanging from air vents and from their rearview mirrors. He referred to these collections as a “felony forest” and a sure sign of unlawful nonsense being perpetrated. So, in all of its red and white, cloyingly fruit-scented glory, i thereby dubbed the pimp car “Strawberry Shortcake Mobile.”
We had the estimate the next day – $5,081.00 worth of damage (we merely paid the $200 deductible). All of this was completed within a week and my car looked factory show room new. Plus – anyone getting $2,000 worth of work done qualifies for their “Detail For Life” plan, which entitles me to come in four times a year and they will clean the inside and polish up the outside of the car for FREE. Even if i sell the car, for the life of the car. The body work also took care of all minor road, gravel, dings scrapes and insults on the first half of the car since i owned it, so THAT was great too!
Jobless but not Hopeless . . .
Joe is happy & successful with his job at PSU and thank goodness he has a good salary and has made good friends & contacts with his workmates. My job search, not so much. Not since October. i started one, then had my driver’s window smashed & my car broken into while working. i could see someone else nearby had the ol’ window trick pulled on them as well. It was next to a dimly lit playground, plenty of places for crazies to crouch. No way i was hanging out there. i drove home sitting on a grocery bag that nite and had the police come to my house to take the report.
To work there, i was spending more money on transportation and parking (unsafely) than i was making and was generally miserable serving happy hour food to VIPs (Visibly Intoxicated Pricks), hotel and rich asshole marina guests. Nice enough people to work for & with, but i am accustomed to a much faster pace and different atmosphere. i quit that job.
i was also interviewed by a winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle (Erath) one of the oldest in Oregon wine country, until Cigarette giant Altria Group, which owns Marlboro, announced an agreement on Sept. 8 to buy smokeless tobacco firm UST for $10.4 billion. As part of the deal, Altria acquired UST’s Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. In all that, the position fell through or more or less, evaporated when they began reorganizing.
i also interviewed with a woman who was opening a new wine shop. i suspect her bank backing bottomed out or perhaps she chose someone else, either way – i haven’t heard from her again. i worked one day at another wine shop. a week later, he reneged his offer and sent me a check for my time. no loss, i’m afraid i was a bad fit and didn’t make the cheerleading cuts anyway.
i’m sure everyone’s been saturating themselves in the depressing news about the shitty US economy, banks, mortgage crisis, unemployment rates & the systems supporting it crashing & drained. All bad news about how it affects things both locally and globally and i am here to tell you, it’s no bullshit. Being in the service industry, i am also keenly aware that dining out is one of the first things to be culled, the first belt hole to cinch up from the family budget, making my employment search options even more grim.
Then i read this article: Portland’s restaurant scene in trouble. And thought – well hell . . . no wonder i can’t find fuck-all for work! so, i may want to reconsider my line of inquiry and use some of my other “job skills.” this of course being freelance photography or administrative desk slave. i may just start writing that novel i’ve been threatening for years. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Hope & Change guy has in mind and more, what he puts into action.
Briefly, the beer & the boobs . . .
my sister’s visit was mostly, fun. and there are stories i could tell which were hinted at in the opening paragraph, but i will protect the innocent and spare my sister and her husband the embarrassment of me airing a couple kooky escapades that ended in ill consequences . . .
It was during the week of my sister’s visit that i had the surgery consult after an ultrasound revealed several 2mm stones in that useless little bile storing organ, so it slowed things down considerably for us, in a city known for, in addition to its natural beauty, quirky places and fresh local food, its prevalence of brew pubs and strip clubs.
Now – before i get into this last bit, make no mistake, we are eating, and living and loving and surviving just fine. Oregon is wonderful; Portland was not a bad move and my Joe and i are as happy & close as ever, Just little irritating life issues have been getting in the way, like, my gallbladder, for instance.
but let me back up . . .
You Don’t Have The Gall . . .
i had an episode several weeks back where i was waiting to see Quantum Of Solace on Sunday’s opening weekend when, apropos of nothing, i had extreme abdominal pain and pressure – it was so bad and intense i thought it was a heart attack. or a really bad taco. Joe refunded our tickets and drove me home immediately. I thought for sure i would have to go to the emergency room! Turns out that time and the 5 repeat performances afterward were gallbladder attacks. I had a mean, miserable headache for three days after the first one!
and let me tell you – i don’t wish that pain on anyone!
It was as if my body were hi-jacked, my heart pounded, i would sweat and waves of nausea built up into a high pressure weather system that radiated pain concentrated in the center of my chest, lateral right, and shoulder. then i’d wretch and writhe for anywhere from 30 mins to more than an hour until it passed. no position, being still, Maalox or movement eased the pain. the only thing that seemed to mitigate it somewhat was glugging down a big glass of water as the attack symptoms began and i began to ride it out.
Generally, i just felt sorta weak, dizzy & fatigued and simply tried to make myself comfortable, warm, sleep a lot and took it really easy. i’d have several hours a day where i felt good and tried to do some writing and editing photos or read or catch a flick, just to keep myself occupied.
i had another bout of a lesser attacks on and off over several nites following the first major attack, these while my sister was in town. It was all i could do to try to be remotely fun, a decent host, and not a total drag. Those tail end attacks were mostly just overwhelming nausea, pressure, heart pounding, then sudden drop in blood pressure and dizziness (like fainting), the sudden multiple bowel movements/diarrhea (sorry, TMI all indications of a sick gallbladder), but at least it didn’t include any monstrous pain or vomiting. i had some anti-nausea medication (Phenegran), and i took only 1/2 a Vicodin a few times to stave off any pain.
Eating was scary as you can imagine. everything i put into my mouth i worried about, “what will trigger an attack, this time?” i felt WAY too full after even a small meal (which was mostly, lite protein, soups, the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast), juices, mint tea, gingerale, etc.) Despite all that, i sometimes felt like there was a lump in my throat, as if it were food that hadn’t gone down. a sort of creepy indigestion. This really pissed me off, and since i love food, i grew quickly fed up with the baby diet!
i was of course, drinking lots of water & tried to avoid any fatty foods or anything that might trigger an attack & send the gallbladder into secretion or action or whatever it is that it does to try to clear out the multiple stones that are in there. Thus, the suggestion that i hydrate more than usual and at the onset of attack, drink down a big glass to try to i guess, move the bile along.
None of this is fun to read, i imagine, but i suppose it helps me to assess what i experienced and to tune in with my body, recounting what i had to do to nurse myself along until i had that evil little sack of pearls out of there! So – thank you for taking the time . . .
“Oh The Weather Outside is Frightful” – But The Fire Inside My Gut Isn’t So Great Either . . .
i was supposed to have my surgery on December 22nd, except, my surgery was canceled due to SNOWPOCALYPSE 2008. ( SEE my photographic evidence). Or as the local news kept referring to it “Arctic Blast.” It was reported as the most snow they’ve seen in Portland in 40 years, and in its soft, white fluffy beauty, it went about crippling the city, crushing public transportation, grinding everything to a halt. The more the snow fell, the more my anxiety mounted. i worried that in the case of an extreme emergency, we were clearly going to have a difficult to impossible time even getting out.
We were lucky enough to have already purchased snow chains from a quick jaunt Joe and my brother-in-law, Flounder took out to Bagby Hot Springs the week before the real snow hit. As the mayor, Sam Adams (yeah, like the beer guy with the funny bowl cut) reported on the news, snow chains were required to travel on Portland roads, but were also SOLD OUT locally. How helpful. We got to try them out a few days before and survived our maiden voyage out to get cat food and return & rent new DVDs for the Holiday pre-surgery stretch.
The only trouble we had was getting back into the garage, if you can believe it. It was messiest in our back alley, kind of a dirty slushie. One of the chains twisted up & fell off, we retrieved it, got a little mired on an ice patch, and i pushed Joe into the driveway, but then the garage door opener and track decided NOT to work. It’s probably an easy fix, but nothing wrong with using our hands to pull the door open in the meantime of investigation. Luckily, it warmed up and some of the snow turned to rain and the roads became only slightly less sloppy the following week.
While the white shit was busy falling in heaps and mounds from the sky, it was three days before someone even answered the god damned phone at the surgery center’s office! This did not contribute to my sense of well-being. When i finally did get a human, Rose, the frazzled sistah on the other end, was mumbling some nonsense about the schedule being pushed into February, to which i declared shenanigans, “i am not waiting and feeling like this with pain, nausea and strict diet management,” i calmly explained to her. i knew it was “elective” surgery, but i was voting to have it out ASAP. So she “caught up” with the doctor and i was rescheduled for the following Monday the 29th. Sad that i have to raise hell to advocate for my own health care. but it was my first major abdominal surgery and i wanted it over with!
The F criteria . . . family, flights, fairness – does FUCK this count?
It’s been a frustrating, confusing health journey, seeing as how i am otherwise, the picture of supposed health – good diet, whole, organic foods when possible, yoga & exercise, 119 lbs, low LDL, normal EKG, healthy heart & lungs, liver function healthy and all other bloodwork levels completely within normal ranges, including thyroid. Even my surgeon said i don’t really fit most of the F criteria (Female, 40, Fat, Fertile & Fair) and remarked questioningly “doesn’t seem fair does it?” In my case, estrogen in my oral contraceptives & the environment, and family history (my aunt) might be the only risk indicators.
My mother’s initial flight had also been canceled, not enough snow plows in the city or de-icers for the planes. But she was able to rebook, came out Sunday and stayed for a week while i recovered at home. Sure, the main calming factor is, my mother is a nurse and she was able to help Joe administer my post-surgery care, but really, when i get down to the basic emotional component of what was happening to my body, i wanted my mommy!
Ladies & Gentlemen, Nurses, Anesthesiologists and a Surgeon! The Main Event . . .
The laparoscopic surgery (cholecystectomy) involved four small incisions for light, scope, suction and instruments, and they pulled that sucker out through an incision above my belly button. Weee! It’s same day outpatient (unless they have to convert to an open cholecystectomy), routinely safe, well-practiced and the most commonly performed surgery. So, you know, i made sure i tortured myself on the internet, reading up on all the truly rare complications incurred during or after, until i whipped myself up into hypochondriac frenzy. i don’t recommend this method of education, but i was prepared for the worst, so i came out with just about the best, of course.
i scrubbed up the nite before with special special surgery soap called CHG (Chlorhexidine Gluconate). It was all wrapped in foil and had a spongy side to wet and release soap and scrubby side to get under nailbeds. It was quite a humbling ritual to remove my wedding bands, my moonstone rings, the small drop earrings i haven’t taken out in more than 6 years, my moonstone necklace & toe rings. And then, the morning of my surgery, absent of all body decoration, i used the second CHG provided me and was instructed – “no shaving, no deodorant, no lotion, no perfume.” No germs. No scent. No signature.
i showed up in comfy clothes, at the Sunnyside Medical Center, had 2-hour prep which included consent forms, a nurse to take my information, a nurse to start my IV, plus an anesthesiologist and his nurse with another battery of questions.
“Do you have anything of value, any jewelry, electronics, medications . . .” the nurse rattled off a big list in rapid fire succession.
“No. No. No No, nope. Nothing. i come to you naked and without frills.” i answered lightheartedly.
She laughed and gave me a big plastic snap bag with the words PATIENT BELONGINGS and a name & info sticker on the front, then told me to take everything off and put on the lavender colored hospital gown that had the words “Bair Paws” and a little foot print of a bear track scrawled across my heart. Now let me “paws” a moment. Go ahead. Groan. i don’t care. This was one of the best things i’ve ever experienced in medical care. It was a soft, longer, thick gown with the usual bum-showing slit down the back, except that it had a sideways wrap around tie so you could make yourself decent. But the best feature is what the thing actually DID.
Pre-op, surgery and recovery areas are usually kept a little chilly to discourage bacteria growth, so you end up with minor hypothermia, and they merely toss an extra blanket on you to stave off the cold. Not with this thing though . . . the Bair Paws had a port in the side where a warming unit hose attached and a temperature control box with a dial was placed beside me. i suppose if you’re the hot-blooded type, you could choose cool air, but not me . . . crank that sucker up! In moments, it filled with warm air that puffed the gown up a little and filled the little channels inside, flooding warm air over my whole body as i lay there waiting for surgery. Awesome! i wanted to take it home with me when i left!
Speaking of comfort, while i lay there the nurse asked me things beyond the normal health battery that crossed over into personal wellness. “Are you employed?” “How would you say your stress levels are?” “On a scale of 0-10, how much pain are you in right now?” And one of the strangest things the nurse asked me was: “Do you feel safe where you live?” Which one could interpret as, “Is your neighborhood kinda sketchy and do you think you can be a bit incapacitated for a week without the worry of having to fend off an attacker or break-in?” Or perhaps an equally unpleasant implication “Is your spouse / partner / parent / roommate abusive or uncooperative?” But maybe this was just a general assessment of “Do you fear having no help or support during your recovery at home or are you safe in the knowledge that you have a loved one or family & friends to help you recuperate?”
The anesthesiologist asked if i’d like a mild sedative but i felt pretty calm and warm and content. Everyone was so pleasant, calm, kind and assuring. The woman who put in my IV was a pro, it didn’t hurt at all.
“Would you like to see your family now before we take you back? It’s almost time,” the nurse said, her eyes motioning to the clock that was 7 minutes from 8am.
“That would be nice,” i said softly and as she walked away i looked beyond her to see that one of the surgery swing doors had a feminine scrolled, handwritten sign taped to it that read “Door To Narnia.” And this made me laugh.
My mother & Joe came back to pat my hand, rub my feet, kiss my forehead and cheeks and assure me before my passage into the back of the wardrobe and on into snow-laden Narnia.
i was wheeled back past a few operating room doors all looking set for procedures, heads wrapped in institution green caps bobbing in and out of the square fields of glass in the doors and finally, there i was, last door on the right. They bumped my hospital bed / gurney against another set below operating lamps and a nice young man with his mask pulled up halfway told me his name, then a nice woman across the way named Tammy said hello, then from my left the surgeon and another nurse came in.
i mentioned i’d like pictures of my gallbladder, which drew a couple strange looks to which i explained, “Hey, i want to see the thing that’s been causing me so much pain. Can i have some of the stones too?”
“We don’t give them out like candy honey,” the nurse to my left quipped, “they usually get sent off to the lab.”
“Well, it’s just that i spent some time making them, so i want to see them too.”
“i hear some people make bracelets and jewelry out of them,” remarked Right Nurse.” i had already thought of this and in fact had joked about it just days before.
Then the male nurse to my right said, “Ok, scoot over to this bed,” while Left Nurse gently instructed, “Move up just a little so your head is on the pillow, your bed is a little lower.”
While i did this, Left Nurse injected something magical into the midsection of my IV and Right Male Nurse put a mask lightly to my nose and mouth with, “Some oxygen?” which seemed mostly a statement but went up a little at the end to form a question.
“Yes, please,” i half-thought and thought nothing else.
There was no counting back from 10 or 100, there was only sleep, then surgery for 45 minutes to an hour, and then i was suddenly awake. None of this drifting back or blurred cinematic visions of white coats flurrying about or a nimbus of faces hovering near me while lights flashed in my eyes checking for response. It was, “Some oxygen?” then, i was wide awake in a bed somewhere in recovery, back in my Bair Paws and feeling amazing. i don’t know what drugs they gave me, but it was more than relief, more than feeling that some offending organ making me sick had been removed. i felt at peace, warm, well-rested, comfortable, not cloudy, no pain, and an oddly light sense of elation. Truly happy.
A nurse picked up the phone at a desk directly across from me. i smiled at her over the tops of my feet. “Yes, she’s very alert,” she reported to someone on the other end.
i was wheeled back to the room in a line of beds where i was first admitted and my mom & Joe came in to see me. it was less than an hour of recovery where i chewed two cups of shaved ice, gulped down 3 apple juices, had two glasses of water and some graham crackers, proved that i could walk across the hall & urinate and i was free to go. A funny little old man cracked corny jokes and wheeled me down to the car where Joe helped me into the passenger seat, we were home before noon, and i rested for a week.
REAL food . . .
My mother & Joe ordered Hawaiian pizza and hot wings that first nite, and sure, i had my juice and water and all that nonsense, but for weeks, i had been craving fried chicken, so i am happy to report i had a slice of pizza with cheese stuffed crust and three little nubby chicken wings just hours after surgery and was SO happy. Nothing like jumpstarting your system by challenging it. Shortly after that i mostly behaved and ate more mild foods: brothy soups, applesauce, cottage cheese, peaches, saltines, tea, gingerale, and managed to destroy a box of graham crackers.
Then my mom would get to cooking and i found myself eating spaghetti and meat sauce, crock-pot slow-cooked pot roast with carrots, potatoes and buttered biscuits, happy, fluffy clouds of 2 scrambled eggs nestled into Franz white bread with a light spread of mayo and cut into little triangles. She made sure i got my protein and ate “real food” as she called it. None of this “organic” shit we usually eat which as everyone knows, is made of ground-up hippies and probably caused my gallbladder to go rogue in the first place. There may be such a thing as eating TOO healthy and not eating some evil stuff once in awhile.
But man, my mother packed this house with 12-packs of three different sodas: Vernors, a Michigan hometown gingerale favorite, Dr. Pepper and Fresca. Then there was a deluge of junk food snacks: three different types of chips, 2 dips, ranch dressing, a box of See’s chocolates, a canister of See’s nuts, a HUGE canister of three flavored popcorns (cheese, butter and caramel), a pound of Twizzler’s red licorice, Raisinettes and Resse’s peanut butter cups that were Christmas Tree shaped. That was just what i took immediate stock of, there was plenty more. i have considered hosting a movie nite or a party just to get RID of some of this!
I’d Like to Introduce You To My Girls, Vicki and Pam . . .
Diet was one concern which seemed to go fine but pain management was a deep worry. i thought for sure that i wouldn’t be able to tolerate the Vicodin, but a few experiments of breaking them in half in the weeks before the surgery proved to be promising and when i came home i simply tapered as the days went and remained a little sore sometimes, but pain free. First two days were every 4-5 hours, days three and four every 6-8, by days 5 & 6 i was taking one at noon and one at midnite, plus a little Motrin for the pain and swelling and by the end of the week and the beginning of next, i was taking ½ a Vicodin at nite to sleep through the nite peacefully.
Though infrequent, my usual fall back sleep aid is Tylenol PM, who i call “Pam,” and just one, because the suggested dosage of two guarantees i won’t be attending anything the next day until after, oh, say 3pm. i also nicknamed my Vicodin, “Vicki.” i only need ½ of her. And the girls now, well, i just keep ’em around for laughs and a good time if i need to just knock myself the fuck out of consciousness for the nite.
Here Kitty, Kitty Or, Taming The Beast . . .
i’ve been introducing food slowly and lightly as a one at a time lineup to my digestion, sort of like tossing bananas and tennis balls and roller skates and live goats into a lion’s den with “here you go – what do you think of THIS?” Experimental interaction. And because what i know of food is occupational, i think of my gallbladder in food & restaurant terms as having been “86ed” or as i said to Joe while pawing through the random generators for the words and distractedly typing on the computer the other day, “my gallbladder’s been deleted.”
To follow that theme – i’m sure it will be awhile before my digestive system reboots & comes back online. And i’m certain that i won’t be able to hork down a bacon cheeseburger and waffle fries without incident anytime soon. i don’t want to piss anything off in there . . . i know very well it’s a first class luge ticket for any food that offends my system currently rewiring itself and trying to figure out why the bile salts storage facility closed down. Sorry, love – it’s the economy. Things are tough all over. Soldier on. Now here’s some Indian Food, some wine, some corn chowder, a fried egg sandwich, some potato chips – oh, no sorry, i take that back. Baked potato chips from now on.
All told, if you find out your gallbladder is angry and you are considering just leaving it in and dealing with it, DON’T! You have to EAT to LIVE, and there was no way i was going to compromise my lifestyle & diet in fear of food and future attacks. i already had the basics and took care of my body, now i just have to bounce all the way back. The incisions are barely anything, one inside my belly-button that you can’t see, one barely the length and width of the edge of my pinkie fingernail, one smaller than the circumference of a pencil top eraser, and the largest one is about a centimeter. That one has character too . . . a little red edge, like its smirking at me which will fade and flatten over time, plus a little kitten whisker edge of a clear, dissolving suture, which i may snip if it doesn’t go away soon.
The cost of this whole adventure via the care of Kaiser Permanente? $14. Two office visits at $5 apiece, $4 for four presecriptions. No cost for the EKG, bloodwork or ultrasound. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Joe. Thank you PSU. Thank you State Of Oregon.
Well, that’s enough for now. i’m sure i have left anyone who made it this far with plenty to digest . . . sorry about that – you can see what occupies my mind these days.
And you’ll just have to forgive me, you see – i’m not all there . . .
We were on 37th & Hawthorne in SE Portland at the Back Stage pool hall in a small, intimate upstairs room with our own table & tv (we flipped between CNN, Fox & Indecision 2008). When we got done applauding wildly, tearing up, hugging and generally being amazed at what history was happening before us, just after Obama’s victory speech with a few pitchers and cocktails under our belts, Joe, Tiffany & i poured out into the street, looking for a Champagne nitecap. This ended up being right next store at Greater Trumps, a funky cigar bar where the bubbly couldn’t be had and so, transformed into 3 Basil Hayden’s with a cube. There was quite a bit of smoke but some nice outside patio tables & when we wandered out to get some fresh air, a joyful commotion had ensued . . .
Total Spontaneous Human Happening – all emotions dialed up to stun & thrill. Fireworks had been setup right on the block, people were suddenly armed with sparklers, pot lids, drums, trash cans . . . anything that glowed & made a happy racket. There was a man with an Obama mask waving and pumping his fists in the air, a man riding a unicycle AND playing the bagpipes (i couldn’t make that up if i wanted to), President Obama signs suddenly manifested, every car honked as it went down the street packed with people hanging out of every window and howling like animals, chants and drum beats went up, “Yes We Did!” and “O-ba-ma!” And then . . . people lined up on either side of the crosswalk on the corner, by of all namely places, the Baghdad Theater, hooting, hollering stamping, drumming and woo-hooing until the crosswalk indicated it was safe to walk. But they didn’t walk – they ran, like two teams intersecting in a mass, hands in the air, giving high-fives to everyone, every smiling stranger as they passed.