Sigh! (And yes, it really does deserve an exclamation point.) For the last year oftentimes I have struggled to write, uncertain of my emotional and psychological footing. My opinions are lame, (being only opinions after all.) I’m also exhausted of others’ opinions, their precious positionalities suckled close to their solar plexus. Consequently, watching the state of the world and my place in it has been nothing short of confusing. Just when I think I get a grasp on making sense of things, or even one small corner of things, murkiness creeps in.

PERPETUAL CONFUSION

In the past 12 to 18 months people have been born but many have also died. The pandemic has been nothing short of bizarre in its population birth-death cycle. And who knew a virus could be so controversial! Some people feel afraid to not wear a mask out of personal and communal responsibility while others have felt the pandemic is all a hoax, justifying their own self-righteousness. A greater majority of folks (mercifully in most places but not all) feel a sense of duty to mask up for the good of all.

Between the rapid decline in democracy and societal norms, it may be that America is in a death spiral, irreversible in its demise, as certain to keel over, gasping as an individual human body does as it gives up the ghost. The longer all of this chaos and division go on, I do not see how America can recover any more than I can reverse my own aging process. Collectively we are all responsible, having ignored the cancerous tumor born out of deception and lies as if it had smoked cigarettes for two hundred plus years!

PARALLEL PROCESS

As I age, my body is breaking down too, slow but sure. I know in my bones that’s the way of things and yet it seems I fight against acceptance of it. I have never been terribly good at grace under pressure. Even though I’ve had lots of experience of the pressure! My trials and tribulations have been numerous and sometimes extreme, although, in the main, my life has certainly been that of relative ease and comfort. Oh, the drama of it all!

It makes me irritated that I have lost physical capacity—and for all I know mental capacity too. There are things that I do like about the aging process. For example, I don’t care much about impressing anybody about anything anymore. When I watch younger people do it, all puffed up, I can’t help but laugh at myself that I even operated in that mode. It truly is a marvel, and now it seems an embarrassment.

LOST IN TRANSLATION

I have recently moved to another town in Sonoma county, safely ensconced in a tiny house out back, by a shed, on my son and daughter-in-law‘s property. I used to joke with my son when younger to just put me out back in a shed when I get old. By God, he’s done it! Now I get to joke about me and Elon Musk living in a tiny house—just not together! Ha! A stale joke maybe but one in which I still take perverse pleasure. A mixed blessing, this easier downsized life yet with it, an accompanying loss of personal voice and scope. Like Alice in Wonderland, I’m literally and figuratively shrinking!

For years Audrey Hepburn had a very small apartment in New York City, sparsely furnished. She mostly used it as a weigh station, a respite between Africa trips for the UN children’s program that she managed. To this day, I take comfort in her boldness, clearly in full control of her decision. Sometimes, when I’m feeling sorry for myself I think of Christopher Reeves too. How miraculous it seems to me that he soldiered on after barely surviving the polo accident—a whisper of an excruciating existence that ended up a roar, creating something so incredibly positive for others. How brave he truly was.

MENTORS AND ROLE MODELS

There are others. Helen Keller often surfaces in my consciousness. My disabilities pale in comparison. Yet she, along with other heroes of mine, provide a potency—an inoculation if you will—allowing me to stave off a darker grief when recontextualizing my own physical losses. What would I do without these larger-than-life role models? While I wish I could sit in a room with each of them, holding hands and comforting them along with myself, the mere thought of each of them sustains me at times when I have felt the worst.

And so I trudge on, until dis-identifying with the body altogether, resting instead on the buoyancy of spirit.

I swear, I don’t know which is worse: to lose vital functioning body parts or to lose one’s memory and therefore mind. I’d say they both pretty much suck! And if that sounds indelicate, too bad. You’ll just have to get over your proper, persnickety selves. Yes, I’m in a kind of a funk today, and all too often, too many days. I can be an Eeyore like the best of them. Just keeping it real.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep a sense of humor or to have a whole lotta Grace in the face of either intermittent, ongoing pain, or the inability to do simple functions I used to be able to do like go for a walk without the aid of hiking poles or a walker. I have come a long way and can even walk short distances on my own, but I cannot sustain it throughout the day without pain.

Pullease

 And I must say, it really frustrates me to hear someone complain about what seems to be, in relative terms, a little ache, a little pain, the equivalent of a hangnail or a papercut. Now, I know that when I am in this kind of a mood I not only do not want to stay in it long, even though I indulge myself. Just as importantly, I can guarantee I will end up laughing at myself. It never lasts (although I sure seem to circle back to it.)

But sometimes I get stuck. It is hard to have the body continually deteriorate bit by bit, body part by body part—this otherwise exquisite, yet prone to break down communication device. Quite frankly, I’m too friggin young for this! Besides the tumor that was removed a year ago, along with 2 1/2 GI portions, I also have had a series of vertebrae’s fracture and collapse. (Yes, yes, I know I’ve complained about this before.)

I really have made tremendous progress since, but it seems the deterioration and decay is not done.

Eye to Eye

Recently I was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in old people. But I’m not old! Am I? This really should be someone else’s problem, a much older person, not a 67-year-old’s. This latest diagnosis has been particularly sobering. How will I write?? Of course there’s a way. Braille. How will I drive? The flat out fact of that is, I won’t. While I haven’t been driving since my surgeries a year ago, I was viewing that as only a temporary condition. That could change.

And then of course—horror of horrors—how will I change my colostomy bag? Do they have bags in braille? Can I have little dots put on my belly right around the stoma so I can guide the bag opening exactly where it needs to be? This is important stuff for me. It’s certainly more important than teeth although they are going too. (Resorption!)

Eruption and Turning

I started this little series of paragraphs really pissed – – at people who are healthy (how dare they!), at young people, people who encourage me to keep on keeping on (oh sure, you try it,) at well-meaning folks who tell me this is a “growth opportunity”… a blessing in disguise for serious spiritual advancement!

And then of course, as night follows day, as I am writing this, I cry, feeling sorry for myself, pitifully, pitifully sorry for myself, and always, always, dammit, end up laughing at the absurdity of it all. For I know deep down where the One True Thing of me really lives, I survive. I am completely intact! The cursed package, the previously robust, svelte, athletic even, container is a facade. The cute clothes adorning curvy hips, the bobbles dangling from ears once nibbled on by seductive men, the ferocious energy I once displayed in jobs and select social occasions as a younger version of myself has all been part of a long one-act play.

My Body Not My Self—The Gameboard

Play, that’s it! A fraud perpetrated on myself, a kind of make believe  colluding along with everyone else in our society. The lies we tell ourselves about who we are are just that: lies. A deception so sophisticated we drink it up like Adam and Eve, until of course the body starts breaking down and we are naked. But the beauty about being naked, which is to say, exposed for not the Who but the What of us—of me—the essence that lays beneath the facade, is not just the truth insisting on being released. It is that kernel, the seed that carries the One True Thing of “me” effortlessly given by life’s originator itself, a Grace not of ourselves. I can pretend I make myself but at the end of the day I know I cannot. I can only grow, morph, transform even as I chafe against the constraints of Earth School.

And of course I understand, clearly, “ah yes, this is how it was always meant to be.” The thing we thought we were will always unfold, or emerge, or transform— whatever language you want to ascribe to it—into the state of being, of awareness, evolution one could say, it is meant to be. The beauty of each state has been intoxicating until of course, it wanes, followed by disappointment, anger, regret, sorrow, a husk of its former self waiting for the new perspective to gradually come into focus, with or without benefit of a literal, physical vision loss that forces not a narrowing of sight and understanding, but an expansion of it.

 

It may just be your average “age associated memory loss” I’m experiencing, the one most people in the mid 60’s undergo. But I have to tell you, it’s alarming when someone younger is trying to tell you something that is a NLO (New Learning Opportunity, allegedly good for the neuronal net) and you can’t really follow. In the last few years, it has become increasingly difficult for me to learn new things. I swear I can feel the brain creak, struggling to function as it gets slower and slower with each passing year. Read more

Why, you may ask, would I need to know how to sell a kidney? Well, let me tell you, it’s an ugly story. Recently, I went for a routine teeth cleaning and my annual dental exam, only to discover I need 5 crowns. Why? To save one molar and four incisors (two central and two laterals.) When learning of this, and in a state of shock I might add, I asked the dentist “is this because my teeth are old?” She informed me that the molar already had a large filling that had begun to leak (who knew,) but that it now also had a large cavity. To save the entire tooth, she would need to drill it down to a nub and put a crown on it. Read more