There are roller coaster lives–the downward rush, the upward crawl–as energy and inertia swirl present into past. Life-changing events slow the roller coaster, sometimes to a stop. These are the moments of sifting through the life experience.
Of late, I have been in such a pause, taking a long sit in my past. I decided I do not want to repeat the familiar upward crawl or the rush to a bottom I know too well. I want off the roller coaster. To do so, I return to the moment I decided to ride.
It is a warm, August night in Colorado at Red Rocks, 1976. The naturally occurring amphitheatre provides perfect acoustics. At over 6,400 feet, the stars seem close enough to touch.
On stage, Judy Collins is singing the Ian Tyson ballad, “Someday Soon.” It is a song of a doomed relationship: a young girl loves a cowboy who loves the rodeo more. She is “going with him,” anyway.
I am 24, and what I hear in “Someday Soon” has nothing to do with loving cowboys or rodeos. Someday soon means the risk is worth it, no matter the odds.
I was euphoric, confident in the new life I was about to begin. I am not sure just when I reached for the stars. I only know they were in my eyes.
What felt like endless possibility, however, was only one moment at the top of the roller coaster. It is not always easy to recognize the ride is downward. Not in the early years of chronic illness. It is easier to believe in someday soon.
I ride the roller coaster for nearly 40 years, until 2015. In July, I weary of chasing someday soon. I develop myelopathy—quadriplegia is a possibility–in addition to autoimmune disease.
Successful surgery sweeps me up in the energy and inertia of the ride. So much seems possible as the cervical fusion actually begins to take. As unexpected as that is, there is more good news. The inflammation from autoimmune disease is helping my vertebrae heal.
Inflammation is vital to healing bones. It is the body’s way of dealing with intrusions although my immune system is so exuberant it attacks itself.
Framed within a healing mindset, autoimmune disease does not seem a downward ride. But pain reminds me it is. The stars in my eyes stay until October. It is my last roller coaster ride. Risk has lost its appeal as has the idealism of that night in 1976 and “Someday Soon.”
I hold the memory close for it is a night when a lifetime began. After nearly four decades of roller coaster days, each high and low is invaluable. They are the experiences that make me who I am now.
And that is where I begin, not starry-eyed but focused on the middle ground, accepting what is: framing the pain of autoimmune disease within a healing mindset that includes medication.
There are no good choices but some are less toxic than others. Immune suppressing drugs will affect—maybe even stop—the healing in my neck. Same is true for steroids. In fact, my healing is possible because I am not—nor ever have been—on immune suppressants. Rarely, have I taken a course of steroids.
So, I decide on the drug, Gabapentin. No odds given or promises made but there were none with my spinal cord surgery, either. There is the comfort of impermanence–nothing and no one stays the same.
Oh, I still look to the stars with wonder but I have no desire to reach for them. I am content to explore impermanence. I aim for even.
On this blog, I have written more about chronic illness than I ever intended. Perhaps publishing weekly posts increased my awareness of its presence. 🙂
I will post as regularly as I am able. Everything is taking a bit longer these days but then, I am making a lot of changes. Some I will share here. And the medication seems to cloud my thought process. Writing just takes a lot longer.
As always, I read your comments—I enjoy our exchange—I will respond. And I have missed reading blogs. That, too, will resume. Thank you for reading this blog.