Of This And That And Ravens

I spoke with a girlfriend this morning who I haven’t talked to in over a year, and had a good time catching up on the past year, unfun as it’s been for both of us. We used to work together at Pfizer and she has a medical background, so understood what I was telling her in my short blorp summary of 2009: “this and this and this, so then that and that in order to prevent THAT and now this and these are some of the consequences and other things that are going on out of all of this and that.”  I found myself unable to articulate my primary condition and issues using the proper medical terms – situational or stress-induced aphasia I can remember and label and say – but the other things, bulging and herniated discs and osteophytes and such words as would accurately explain what I have been dealing with, simply stayed in the dark closet at the back of my brain, unwilling to come forward into the light of day.

A picture says a thousand words, so I IM’ed her a link to the images from my last MRI, and we both were silent for a few moments while she looked. As I looked with her, I noticed again a bar marked in centimeters that runs along the left and bottom edges of the image for reference. I’d seen it before and knew its purpose, but I’d never really looked at it and saw what it meant for me: while almost my entire c-spine down into my first few thoracic vertebrae are at issue, the primary culprits for all this are c-5 and c-6. According to the reference markings, the really ugly bits are only about 3 cm by 4 cm, smack in the middle of my neck. Ironically or perhaps not, if you give credence to such things, smack in the middle of my throat chakra.

From that measured perspective, it seems like an elephant-mouse conundrum… such a small volume of biomass to cause such trouble and fuss and bother and pain and fear. How dare it get in my way? And what the hell am I doing balancing up on this beach ball?

I’m still incredulous, still aghast that a car accident I walked away from over 18 years ago will have such a dramatic impact on the rest of my life. I find it difficult to reach out to friends to be social, even the friends who have experienced their own bodies’ betrayal and who might understand the parts I can’t yet talk about because I’m just not there yet. I hesitate to email or call because I don’t know what to say and I don’t want to be a drag or whine or be depressing because everybody is going through something. And I hesitate because I am still terrified that there are more somber consequences than pain and needles and nausea waiting just around the corner, and if I give too much energy to what’s already happened I’ll be summoning the ravens.

In my terror I have sat mostly silent, like a small bird in a war zone, like my two-year old self frozen in a corner waiting for my mom and dad to stop hating each other, hoping no other scary things will notice me if only I do not speak, I do not write, I do not communicate with anybody outside of my smallest circle of intimates – my husband (incredibly supportive in the midst of his own life dramas, of which I am but one), my physical therapist (best PT / office EVAR), my physician (fabulous but super-busy, go away mine RAWR). I’m still finding myself reluctant to talk to anybody else, but have recently gotten back in touch with old friends from high school and been reminded that no matter what else is going on, it’s good to laugh and tell stories and be warm.

After we hung up the phone this morning, I checked out Salon and saw that Cary Tennis had posted a new entry/essay. While what he’s going through and what I’m going through are wildly different in etiology and consequence, this bit summed up for me the contradiction inherent in being a writer and yet unable to clearly articulate my personal experience simply because it is ongoing. Cary Tennis is braver than I, because he’s willing to speak of being in it while he’s still in it, rather than wait for a safe distance in time:

“…please allow it to suffice for now to say that I have been through an ordeal of some magnitude and have sensed throughout that some wisdom must be found somewhere in the experience but that for the time being the experience itself is far too large to be digested or contained or turned into fable or metaphor, and that I am too busy having the experience to contemplate it. At the same time I do feel the need to reach out and talk…

…There is also much to be said about pain, and about drugs and recovery and the particular strained indolence of staying home slowly getting better.

But for now that is mostly it. Everything takes longer now. That, too, is probably a revelation.”

A lesson for me in this – I cannot afford to wait in silence for this skirmish, storm, war to end before I speak of it. Old fears of being seen and heard by the wrong person at the wrong time are irrelevant. Those wee chunks of insulted bone and cartilage in my neck – their choral companions the aggrieved lacy nerves and angry python of muscles who loudly let the rest of my body know that this will not do, indeed – are all parts of me that I literally can’t live without, and I’m tired of being intimidated by them.

I am tired of being silent, it’s just not my style. Come what may I’ll speak my truth and say my piece and laugh with friends and tell stories around whatever campfire I find myself and be warmed by it all. Let the ravens and other scary things be damned.


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