Learning Patience

I wish I had hungered for patience as a child, but I’ll do my best to remember mellow light like honey in a jar, and to feel that warmth granting my bones graceful lassitude when I want to power forward in a panic-fueled rage against time and pain and money and all the things I haven’t done yet that pick at my flesh like crows come to feast on my inadequacies.

My GIST list is behind in posting, but not behind in my head. I have many days of grace to blog about, to account for, to be accountable for documenting here as a reminder to myself when I’ve forgotten the honeyed glow that lights my progress over the last eight months:

March – the MRI
April – the last day in a cubicle
May – the physical therapist
June – the first epidural
July – the second epidural
August – the 16th c. map of Asia writ large in hives all over my arms and legs
September – the third epidural, finally
October – the first lesson in routine pain management, reinforced by the physical therapist
November – the diagnostic nerve block followed by RF ablation of the offending nerves

Today I had the nerve block, next Monday the RF ablation. I am told that the nerve block is a passing promise of what the ablation will offer. First there’ll be burning that may reach beyond my bones and cast an aura behind me, but then, when the coals of those poor screaming nerves have gone dark, I will feel this again. Just this. A sore neck, sore muscles. Only this. I cried on the OR table this morning, despite the Versed and local anesthetic, because the nerve blocks hurt like hell and I had no internal constraints left but the realization that to thrash around and strike out would be a very bad thing no matter how painful the needles in my spine. Six down the left side, then another six down the right, from C3-C7. I was stoned and sore all the way home, slept for four hours, then woke up and realized that the only bits that hurt were muscles. My neck bones were hushed, blissfully silent, for the first time in what seemed my entire life, even though the accident that caused the damage was less than half that ago. I cried again at that blissful silence, feeling light and open in that space in my body and mind that pain had utterly taken over. What a gift, if even for a moment. The ablation promises that once the burning time is past, that gift will remain longer – hopefully another spin around the sun before anybody needs to go poking around inside me again.

I’d never confronted what it means to have [routine + pain + management] as a discrete subset of my life goals until recently. I’m still not sure I’m there, present with it, as proactive in protecting myself without fear as as I can be. When the nerves in my neck have had enough of gravity and my dastardly inattention, and if I realize the pain is worsening before I can no longer think straight, I invoke the blessings of the pharma-gods Voltaren and Flexeril (but only if I’ve already called on the protection of Prevacid to soothe the burn of the other gods’ passage from my gross body to my finer body). Often the pharma-gods are accompanied by the handmaidens of ice or heat, but not until I’ve completed my ritual of pacing, rocking, kneading Angus’ fur or holding Emma closer as she leans into my leg, bargaining with myself and with the python of onyx fire that’s sunk its fangs into my neck for just one more second of clarity so I can stubbornly delay recourse or finally make the right choice.

I worry that I’ve done the right thing. I worry that if I don’t do the right thing I’ll make the pain irreparably worse. I worry that if I too frequently or flagrantly beg the pharma-gods and their handmaids none will answer the prayer of my flesh and stoop to grant me ease. I worry that something in the universe inside my head listens more to my curses and rage and sadness than it does to my desire to be whole and if not completely pain-free, at least functional and useful outside the little box of shower, stretching, writing, on a good day playing with the dogs or having sex or letting my hips free for an emergency reggae jam that I currently live in.

I’ve done a lot of thrashing and bitching and throwing of Kali-fits, mostly in my head, as to physically throw things around would just hurt too much as well as scare the dogs. I crave the release of adrenaline and sweat, but even at a low ebb the pain holds my reflexes hostage and neither motorcycle runs right now and I am forbidden to engage in any sort of physical sparring as the cycle of pain is not yet completely broken, the python not nearly convinced to disengage.

I’ve discovered that I’m a wet-eared beginner once again in another martial art I thought I’d made a passing acquaintance with so many years ago – the art of remaining present as a wisp of fog over a still pond of water no matter what the circumstance. When physical pain reaches a level that neither I nor the pharma-gods et al can suppress, that’s where I seek refuge, in that still pond lined with pretty rocks of every blessed shade of solace and refuge. When I remember that I can go there anytime, I remember to float down and sink myself deeply into that pond, but even that isn’t the true zen of beginner’s mind, that’s just hiding. There’s a saying that we only know how to fight the last war. This phase of my life is giving me a new opening to learn again who I am, because who I’ve been is not who I need to be to handle this gracefully.


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