Monday, January 31, 2011

keeping up...

I haven't had a chance to write in a while. I just don't know how to say what I have to say. Perhaps my thoughts and words are following the season: getting frozen in the mid-winter January freeze. I know many of us northerners hate winter. I especially hate them - some days it's too cold for me to breath. Other more mild days it tends to snow making walking that much more difficult. I have to admit, that I am spoiled. I drive. Everywhere. I can't easily manage without my car. Even though my current living situation is quite close to a bus stop (for healthy people) it's a trek for me. Just the lifting of legs above snow levels gets me out of breath, never mind the cold on the lungs etc. etc.
So it's no surprise that when it snows and I can't get my car out of the driveway because there's no one to shovel the mini-mountain leftover by the plow, I don't go anywhere. I can't. I don't have the luxury and physical freedom to pick up a little shovel and dig a small section for my small car.
I wish I had that freedom - that privilege.
At work we've been having discussions of privilege of late. The newest edition to the team is someone of different race - I'm not sure the politically correct term but I know it's *not* "African-American. She is neither of African ancestry (her parents' parents are from one of the Caribbean countries) nor is she American. I would just call her Canadian, but that doesn't help for all those that would assume whiteness. Anyway, I like her, I like our discussions, and how privilege isn't just about skin tone, but also ability, orientation, marital status, etc. (she is also divorced and knows what that *really* means in our society that looks down upon divorced folk without ever actually admitting it. It's all so implicit.
So, here I am, a supposedly upwardly mobile semi-white (my olive undertone comes from both the eastern European Jewry and the Metis mix) and definitely (over) educated, non heterosexual, and non-able-bodied, single (soon to be divorced if my Ex ever decides to one day participate in this process) chick trying to play the part of someone who can measure up. Because much of my "oppression" can be nicely tucked away and hidden (insight thanks to lovely check-ins with my new coworker), I look and seem completely capable and therefore standards are not lowered to meet my actual (physical not mental) performance abilities. It's like some women who want complete equality, will tests (in the military physical training) under the men's' standards just to show they can measure up. At least that's what's been pointed out to me by the many professionals in my life: my Cardio man, my therapist, my family physician and even the work's chaplain. All telling me that perhaps it's time to test (function) on my (lowered) level than try to meet and operate at healthy people's standards.
That's hard for an Ox with a Taurus moon to swallow.
But I'm beginning to have no choice in the matter.
My work is starting to be affected. Sure I now have a coworker to share in the stress but for some reason it feels like we have even more work (perhaps because our boss seems to be away a lot, perhaps because we are running at full capacity - I'm not sure). Either way I'm not running up the stairs anymore, I'm raising my feet when doing case-notes (can't during a session: could you imagine going to a therapist whose legs are up and you're trying to disclose your life to her? Not). So there I was, feet raised, taking it slow just typing away my case notes when out of the blue the tingles came: I am so proud I can identify each and every sensation and where it will lead: the tingles were in the core and I knew that I was about to faint. And so as my head went trough my legs I apparently reached for my office-mate's hand. Yup, no warning, no nothing, just like that.... I chalk it up to heat. I thought I loved things warm: my coworker loves to work in a sauna. I've had to stand in our cold windowed-in porch (that sits at about 4 degrees Celsius, no joke, the windows can't even shut they're so old) just to cool down. I hope these are hot flashes and not my blood-pressure bottoming out. I don't have my BP reader at work so I don't know.
I've considered taking the thing to work... more stuff to lug around. I'm already taking more pills than I ever wanted to -albeit some are homeopathic, but still!

Ah, the joys of being invisibly disabled: you're expected to measure up, period. And if you choose to tell, you have to deal with the pity-looks because people just can't deal with terminal illness.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"magical thinking"

So I went to see a one woman performance called the year of magical thinking the other night. I went out of curiosity. I saw the blurb on YouTube, Joan Didion herself reading from her book, about her experiences with grief and loss and death. In the book, she wrote about losing her husband - she wrote that book in the first half of the year after his death, while her daughter was recovery from "septic shock" is what I understood. During summer of that year, her daughter did not recover and also died. That's not in the book, because she wrote it very quickly after her spouse's death. I suppose when someone close to you dies, you do something to fill those empty hours, the loneliness, the missing. She is a writer to begin with - apparently one that made a good living to be able to fly back and forth from Pacific time zone to Eastern time zone. And that's the exact excerpt in her piece that caught my attention, when she spoke about him being dead in eastern time zone, but not yet in pacific that made me go see her piece. I happen to be looking at the performance on YouTube when all sorts of things like this crossed my mind. Didion calls it magical thinking because she says, according to her own past anthropological research, different societies' thinking about death operate on a magical or folkloric type of thinking such as (my own): "if I don't pick up the phone, then it's not really that call that I'm getting" or "if I just support my wife hard enough, this won't actually end badly" - yes I had magical thinking as well: for both the death of my step-son and the death of my marriage. (And yes, the divorce books I'm reading now talks about divorce as a sort of death, one that's swept under the carpet by all except those that have been through it- they say in death people send best wishes, warmth, support, but not in divorce. Just what I felt all last year-see below).

And here's the thing, I'm quite aware of that magical thinking - to the point that I didn't really want to accept how over my marriage was last year that I didn't read any of my divorce books that I equipped myself with. Well, now I am and I'm realizing that had I read those books sooner I would have done things differently: not to save the marriage, but to save myself more heart ache in the interactions I had with my ex during the spring/summer. That attempt at friendship would not have taken place. And there's that magical thinking again: if we waited to build on a friendship, would we be speaking today? Who knows, but maybe. The thing about magical thinking, I think, is that it's classic denial. We go through all sorts of 'ifs, ands, buts'. Some people say that's characteristic of the bargaining stage - I would agree to a point. If you're bargaining, you still haven't acknowledge what is - potentially. It's just my opinion. But this is what my lived experience tells me. It's what I see in my job. When a client lost their wife a few weeks ago they walked around in a daze for a week - even though this death was months in the making (illness). Lots of magical thinking there: if we went to the right specialists, if we caught it earlier, if...

Either way, when I listened to what Didion had to say about losing her spouse and then losing her child in the same year, I could only think of one other person that would understand: my ex. so I invited her to the performance, as an act of good faith, as an act of goodwill with no motive and despite all this time and all this work I got no response back (not even a polite no). Yes a year and a bit later and she's still using silence as a weapon. Thing is it no longer hurts me. This wasn't for me, but to share in the humanity of the lived experience of death, grief, loss. With no motive. The silence no longer hurts me - I'm not the one that losses out.

So I enjoyed Didion's piece anyway. If I had time I would even read her book. But I don't have time, and I don't think I could revisit the description of the waiting and pacing and waiting, all over again. It was a treat the other night - to witness the humanity as grief - as she says you don't really know grief until you meet it. And you will, because this too will happen to you - the circumstances and details will be different but it all turns out the same: someone you love will be ripped from you, your life, this planet. I think that's what I've been writing about all along to remind people and myself that life's journey WILL end in death: not "if I die" but when. We cannot escape mortality. No matter how much imagining, magical thinking if you will, I do, I cannot imagine where I'm going, how it will happen or even when - no matter how hard I try to control the outside circumstances. And that's one thing I completely related to Ms. Didion: her need for absolute control - which also came through "magical thinking". It's that description of her saying "if only we were at the good hospital, our hospital" or "after scouring all EMT records and learning all the lingo and realizing they could have done..." or my own magical thinking that goes something like this "call so and so, then call so and so, then my heart goes here, and don't call those people and..." all trying to control beyond life itself.

And then reading about some TA's who are in their 40s and still alive. Thinking and calculating: if I save energy (my mom would say that so much) can I bank it and add it to my life - to give me more time.
That's my magical thinking.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy New Year

So this is my first post for 2011...and I have nothing to say!

Well nothing of great importance. No more visits to the ER - now to report of for this year so far (kieneinhore). My new goals are quite trite: go a month without and ER visit. That's January's goal.

In other news, over the years I've had people contact me with TA to say that hey, they too are still alive, unrepaired and exist. And that same thing happened just the other day. I opened my email to another gentleman in the US who is 42, yes 42! That's all I'll say because it's me who's chosen to go (semi)public and not others but this makes all this writing and reflecting worth it. If someone else says "yes, I'm going through that too" or "I know what you mean, I think of death a lot" then I'm validated and so are they. Our experiences are real and need a voice!

He gave me some awesome stats (hey, if you're reading this could you send me the link). He said that there's only been something like just under 300 live births of TA in the past 70 years and of the 300 something like 52 of us are still around! So, even if that's just the US, when you add in the numbers for Canada it's still less than 100 (our population is like one tenth that of the US).

Not much else, it seems I just don't have time for much, working full-time and going to bed much, much earlier. Winter taxes me out so I'm at home on the O2 machine pretty early. It sucks but it's nice to have a slower pace at home since work is still so understaffed.