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“You must have chaos in you to give birth to a dancing star.” –Frederick Wilhelm Nietzsche

I find it interesting that when I am feeling much confusion and despair, I tend to imagine that running to the medical establishment would provide the certainty that I am yearning for. Having had ambiguous symptoms and a virtually untreatable illness, this behavior has never been fruitful. There seems to be an almost unbearable crescendo of panic that builds during such times of uncertainty. When I developed the courage to face the chaos head on and allow myself to feel the futility of the present circumstances, whatever they might be at the time, I could finally drop into a state of deep listening. There is a certain peace that comes from turning toward the conflict, which reassures me that I am on the right track.

It can be very limiting to view the body as an isolated entity. Much can be learned from observing somatic processes with empathy and curiosity. One of my caregivers described an interesting practice her father initiated within her family of origin when one of the children in her family became ill. The family member demonstrating symptoms was placed in the center of a circle and urged to discern and describe why they were ill. It was unacceptable for the individual to minimize the explanation; that they came in contact with bacteria or a virus did go deeply enough since we are always surrounded by bacteria. The family member was required to describe a scenario that led to the breakdown of the body, which often involved eating too much sugar, telling a lie or having a fight with a sibling. This practice taught the children about having integrity for one’s actions and the power of the body-mind connection.

What an education this form of inquiry could provide. To understand that illnesses don’t just happen to  the body in isolation, but that certain circumstances must be in place for illness to happen. It is important to realize that often the illness is a process that brings the body into balance. It is not the enemy where war needs to be waged. It is also important to know that whatever one’s physical state, the body is desperately trying to heal itself, or to come into balance. Often the body is misunderstood and it is perceived to be betraying oneself. Empathy is the most significant ingredient for healing to occur.

That being said, the last few months have provided much turmoil culminating in my 60th birthday celebration. There was facing the ever accelerating conflict with my primary caregiver and ultimate parting of our ways, there was the succession of visitors during the summer, the hiring and training of new caregivers, and feelings invoked by reaching a milestone of a birthday for which I thought I might never reach. All of these circumstances could engender much joy as well, but my seeming inability to listen to my deeper internal feelings contributed to an apparent emotional overload.

Perhaps all of this activity set the scene for pneumonia to occur in August, after my immune system became compromised by the cumulative level of stress. With the added involvement of my lungs, I would tend to explore whether grief was triggered, since in Chinese medicine the lungs represent areas where grief can collect. Just prior to contact with the bacteria, I had an interaction with my former husband that was greatly disappointing. (A fight with a sibling?) I could say that grief was elicited by the interaction, both in the form of disappointment from the outcome as well as triggering mourning of my former life on the horse farm. Since I did not actively grieve in the moment, I needed to listen deeply for the feelings that I had buried and not released.

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If we practice listening deeply to the subtleties in our bodies, we can become astute students. If we miss the subtle innuendos, they will likely morph into symptoms to get our attention. I have often acknowledged with some regret that I have needed “the sledgehammer approach.” Realizing this, I have made it my Sacred practice to become more sensitive. We can learn to listen deeply and perhaps with Grace we can begin to attend to “the feather approach.”

If you have visited with me on Skype, you might have noticed that my Skype slogan reads: “if by green light is on, I am still in my body.” (This statement may sound shallow and possibly offensive, but it also expresses my acceptance of the limitlessness of the Spirit, a concept I have learned while living with a chronic, life-threatening  illness.) I have had a somewhat harrowing few weeks when the dreaded influenza bacteria was inadvertently brought into my space by a loving caregiver. I call her the “sacred initiator,” because she was a carrier who had sensitively offered to not work that fateful Monday, but I rejected her offer after having been given the choice. After all, many of my caregivers have had children in the past who became ill and I was unaffected. Why would this time be any different?

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Thirty hours after contact, I developed the fateful sore throat and swollen glands. It had been years since I had a respiratory infection. The first symptom I experience was profound weakness on the stationary bike. I was weaker than I had ever been including my 1st few times on the bicycle eight months prior. With much optimism, I journeyed forward with the feeling that this was another initiation of sorts. It was an opportunity to engage in a certain curiosity and not fall prey to fear. This was particularly challenging, however, since the infectious disease specialists I have met with eighteen months ago and told me that if I contracted pneumonia, there would be only one antibiotic that I had not developed a resistance to. Three days after the weakness on the bicycle, it was apparent where the trajectory of this illness was heading. At this point it occurred to Matney and me simultaneously that my breathing had entered a danger zone and we needed to call 911. If you know me well, it takes a lot for me to surrender my autonomy and asked for PROFESSIONAL help. Matney wondered if she should have called 911 earlier, but she was reminded, “do you think you would have convinced Aliyah before she was ready?!” Enough said. The teaching of becoming self-referential, or listening to the authority within, I believe is my central lifetime teaching.

As it turned out, the ambulance ride was the most fun part of this latest adventure. Once we have made the decision to call 911, I had the sense that, “help was on the way” and that I did not have to do it all alone. The EMTs were well known to me by reputation. We spoke of riding and writing all the way to Heart of the Rockies Medical Center in Salida. During triage in the emergency room, Mike and Randy were particularly helpful. The chest x-ray revealed pleural effusion most likely caused by this virulent infection. IV antibiotics were started immediately and contrary to the infectious disease doctor’s prediction, within twenty-four hours the infectionwas neutralized. The diagnosis of pneumonia was affirmed with the symptom of congestion being the worst of the experience. After only three days I was discharged. This might’ve been a little early, but ultimately I was able to resume my protocols and rehabilitative programs sooner.

Never have I identified with Kenny’s character from South Park more than I have this week. If you have not read my blog entry from January titled the Tao of Kenny, here is the link. https://aliyahonline.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/the-tao-of-kenny/

One thing I have noticed about myself, after being rigorous with and my protocols during the last two years, is that my healing capacity is tremendous. It isn’t that I won’t develop serious issues, but when I do they clear up pretty quickly and unexpectedly to some. Approximately five months ago, I tore a ligament in my transverse arch of my foot. The physical therapist told me it would likely not heal, but I could get an arch for it to hurt less. I immediately secured an arch on Amazon, my trusty resource, and three weeks later it was healed. There are many more examples, the latest being pleural effusion caused by pneumonia.

I frequently gaze up at my figurine of Kenny that Jordan gave me and identify with Kenny’s resilience. Two weeks after the initial sore throat, I am resuming my rehabilitation. I don’t mean to white wash my experience of the last two weeks as there have been a few times I wanted to jump out of my skin. The support of my friends, children and caregivers has been immeasurable. Casey called me daily in the hospital, which was not an easy task given that someone had to come to my room to answer it for me. Due to her persistence, it happened. There was also an ongoing thread of my loved ones communicating via e-mail for which I am grateful.

I’m sure that the next few weeks will be tumultuous in my healing as has my experience been over the last ten years, but at this point I’m happy to report that my green light is still on!