Sunday, October 28, 2018

Mind the Gap

The sign on the platform
            of the London underground
                        reads: Mind the gap.
The phraseology –
            so polite,
                        so formal,
                                    so British –
made me smile
            when I saw it
                        for the first time.
Now, I am listening to
            Tibetan Buddhist teacher
                        Pema Chodron speaking
about the bardos of
            life, death and after death.
                        She says the definition
of bardo is gap,
            the in-between state,
And so, I recall the instruction
            on that London
                        underground platform,
revealing the most profound
            of teachings.
Mind the gap.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

It Begins With a Call (Part 19): Healing, Ourselves and the World

Everything changes.  Indeed.  We went to meet our new (potential) primary care doctor.  She came recommended by our wonderful previous doc who was quitting medicine for the time being.  

There’s something disquieting about sitting in those small, white rooms with their “beds” covered with stiff white paper and metal attachments, and with nothing beautiful to look at.  I thought this doc was okay – a bit hard to tell on a first meeting.  She was basically business-like until I asked her about acupuncture, in which I’d heard she had training.  That got her animated.  But I can’t say I felt totally comfortable, either there or with her.  It’s that western medicine thing again. I’ve been desperately trying to get my blood sugar numbers down into the normal range by eating a low carb – no sugar diet.  She told me that the way to get it down to normal is to exercise for thirty minutes five days a week.  That’s something I’d never heard before and is more than I’ve been doing.  Sigh.  I can up my swimming from 25 minutes to 30 and add in two more days of something.

I left the clinic with an odd mix of feelings – that the new doc was probably fine, but that I felt not quite comfortable with her.  Western medicine facilities are impersonal.  What I’m really looking for is personal.

I’m tired of all the specialists who seem to see you as just one organ or system, divorced from the others.  The doctors, even the compassionate and well-intentioned ones, are ruled by the bean counters and insurance companies.  Our western clinics are not designed to make you feel welcome or cared for.  Just play the game by their rules and you’ll be just fine.  Right.  I would soon come to hear at the intensive, confirming my feelings and thoughts:  “A practitioner needs to hear your story and not just give a predetermined prescription.”

The upshot?  We went back to another doctor we liked who had moved to another medical group.  She’s still very much an allopathic doc, but a caring and open person who is willing to consider alternative modalities.

What is healing? 

According to Deena Metzger, what is happening in our bodies and what is happening to the earth are very much the same.  She says:
             It is no accident that so many illnesses that we are suffering at this time
             in history are analogous to social and global ills, and so in treating the
             individual we are being trained and called to bring healing to the society
             at large. (“Can the World Mend in this Body?” in Dark Matter #6, May, 2018).

The article goes on to say:
Healing is not necessarily restoring the original condition. It is not returning to paradise. Healing is helping to align the individual with the trajectory of the soul. Healing is the field of beauty through which the details of the larger purpose of an individual’s current life in relationship to his//her own history, ancestors, spirits, the present, the future, and global healing are revealed and enacted. 

This certainly makes sense in light of what I have been exploring and writing about.

My SoulCollage® card for Deena Metzger

The earth is full of brokenness.  I am full of brokenness.  What does that mean?  Can we heal our private and personal selves apart from healing the earth?  I certainly have no answers, only questions.  But maybe the fact that I have felt ill and longed for healing implies something greater than me and my body’s troubles.  Maybe something more or greater is required, not just for the individual, but for the collective.

I defer to Deena, who knows more about this than I do.  She says she had to learn that “… healing the world would be the most direct way of healing myself.”  

I’m not sure how to even begin to heal the world, even a little bit.

One more bit of Deena wisdom:  I developed a mantra: Heal the life and the life will heal you.”

Monday, October 15, 2018

It Begins With a Call (Part 18): Endings, Beginnings, and Reframing the Story

Some reflections on how I got to where I am now…

I retired at age 61, several years before I thought I would.  One day, I simply had had enough.  I had accepted a position that I had once thought I’d never accept, as a manager.  I’d been a children’s librarian for many years, and loved the front-lines work, the story times and class visits, the connecting a child to the right book.  I never wanted to be a manager, and passed up a clear opportunity to go that way several years earlier.  But now I was a few years away from retirement, and I had the chance to boost my income to get a better pension.  Plus, I didn’t want to train some young newcomer how to do the job (with the possibility that I’d have to endure a bad boss in close quarters).  I knew plenty about what bad management looked like.  So, I took the job.

What I hadn’t really bargained on was having managers above me who were far from ideal.  My immediate supervisor did or could not mentor me; I had the sense she herself was way in over her head.  Her supervisor, the big boss, had few people skills. The writing should have been on the wall when I got the job.  They not only made me jump through hoops to get it when it should have been an easy stroll in the park.  Then, the big boss offered me the position minutes before an all-staff meeting so she could announce it, without really giving me the particulars of salary, etc.  Oy vey.  

I actually wound up mostly liking being a manager, as long as I was in my own little children’s library and away from the bureaucracy.  But that was not to be, and one day, after feeling ill-treated at another all-staff meeting, I had had enough.  In addition, the city was threatening to come after our health benefits.  I decided to get out while the getting was good.

Why does this come into the picture?  Well, I had no idea how burned out I actually was.  For four months after I retired, I still couldn’t do much of anything.  I had attempted to ritualize the transition, having been warned by my friend and elder Leona that it was extremely  important to do so. Regardless, I started getting symptoms, problems in my digestive tract, from one end to the other, and which no one, neither allopathic doctors nor many, many alternative practitioners, could truly diagnose or heal.  This was another beginning to my story of healing, or maybe of aging.  Or both.  Almost eight years passed before my SIBO diagnosis came in.  And now, in a 69-year-old body, of course aging is front and center.  I am turned towards my mortality, even as I still have trouble truly believing it.  How can I be old?  How did that happen?  And as hard as it is to comprehend, the fear of it is omnipresent.

About a year after my retirement, we began to consider moving from the peninsula, where we had lived for over 30 years, to the east bay, to be closer to our children and our new granddaughter.  Only friends really held us there; Barry particularly hated what the area had become – a fast-paced, shallow, Silicon Valley-dominated rat race.  We put our house on the market after getting it into better structural and cosmetic shape.  It didn’t sell.  We continued to make changes, swapping the old wood paneling for clean white walls. semi-staging the bedrooms.  In the middle of all this, I broke my foot.

One night, home alone, I got up from the couch and somehow tripped.  I went down hard, my right foot turning under.  It hurt a lot, so I drove myself to urgent care, and sure enough I’d broken it.  They put a boot on me (Which I had to remove to drive home), but at the next day’s doctor’s appointment they told me I couldn’t walk on it.  I rented a knee scooter, an annoying contraption, but preferable to crutches.  People would come to look at the house, and I had to scoot around the block to Starbucks because I couldn’t drive.  On our weekly visits to see Ruby, I had to go up and down their stairs on my butt while Barry carried the scooter up.  The only bright side to this was that Ruby thought the scooter was a blast.  She’d perch in front of my knee and we’d scoot around the house.

Most of the time, though, I felt housebound.  It was stressful.  We had to keep the house perfectly clean for potential buyers, of which there were not many.  I knew I could fall into a depression given the circumstances, so I came up with the idea of regarding this time as a writing retreat.  I started this blog, which I named Hanging Out with Hecate, because it felt like we were stuck at a crossroads, unable to move on.  Hecate is the goddess of the crossroads and plays a small but pivotal role in my beloved Persephone story.  Hence the title.

This idea of reframing is significant.  I chose to make lemonade out of the lemons, as the saying goes.  Of course, it wasn’t a panacea, and there were still plenty of times of depression and fear.  But it helped.

The house eventually sold.  My foot healed.  First, I got to dump the knee scooter and walk on the boot.  Then, I got to gleefully throw the boot in the trash.  Everything changes.  A good thing to keep reminding myself.  It sounds prosaic, but much of the time my mantra these days is:  This will pass.