My primary care physician and I are having our usual conversation when she says, “If you didn’t do what you are doing, you would not be living on your own. Others would be caring for you.”
My mind’s memory reels spin, searching for July 2015, days before the surgery to decompress my spinal cord and prevent quadriplegia–this time. I’m told to stay at home and “whatever I do, don’t fall.” So, I don’t.
My stagger resembles a drunken Frankenstein’s monster and more than once, my scrambled eggs end up on the floor, as signals short-circuit. My limbs are less and less.
I meditate a lot and dream, vividly.
I am in a surgery where all the instruments, table, and equipment are white light in a brown paneled room. Dressed in a hospital gown I sit on the surgery table, legs dangling over the side. I’m not alone.
Maurya sits next to me, also dressed in a hospital gown, legs dangling over the side. We talk about the surgery, as if she were still alive but she is not so our conversation is the sense of speech.
“But I will make it through, right?” I remember repeating the question as she leaves, taking some of the answer with her but not all. I will go through stuff, maybe a lot, and I will be all right, but all right will never be the same.
And it hasn’t been, knowing there is no recovering only progressing, and no one, even in dreams, knows what that may mean for spinal cord and autoimmune disease.
I “do” not waste days wondering or analyzing dreams. I immerse myself in the life I have, and the more present I am the larger my world. My days are never long enough for all I want to do.
Mindfulness is not a placebo; it is awareness, raw and unfiltered. Finding the worthwhile in the seemingly worthless, like Leonard Cohen’s cracks that let in the light, imperfect in an impermanent life, one experience after another. It’s in the unexpected that I find out who I am.
This latest round of medical visits began with my driving to Georgia with a tampon up my nose. Who knew that was a thing? This is my kind of unexpected–almost expected, now.
Every three months, I see my rheumatologist and this last Tuesday, just as I was getting ready to leave, my nose began to bleed. These nosebleeds are now chronic, a side effect of Sjogren’s syndrome.
Immediately, I pinch the bridge of my nose, deciding whether I need a light(L), regular(R), or super(S). I don’t want to change tampons while I am on the road so I settle for an R. I close the red door of my apartment, turn the key in its lock, and walk to my car.
By the time I reach the Macintosh Clinic, my nosebleed has stopped. The two-story, red brick building with white pillars once had another life and usually I stop to admire its architecture but on this day I’m grateful not to walk into the clinic with a tampon up my nose, although I was perfectly fine driving through 8:00 a.m. traffic.
When I tell the nurse about the nosebleed she asks, “When you were at the light, did you turn and look at people like this?” And her brown ponytail swirls from side to side as she gives me her best tampon-up-the-nose look. “I would! I’d find a cop and look straight at him!”
It is only recently I have come to know that tampons up the nose are an actual thing, medically. And on this day, I discover that my rheumatologist (and later) my primary care physician believe staring is the preferred behavior when wearing.
I tell my 90-year-old neighbor, Grace, and she, too, wants to know if I turned and looked at people. I get it, I really get it. I’m almost looking forward to the next time, for there will be one when I least expect it.
And all will be all right and all right will never be the same.