Hanging in

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Recently, a friend mentioned that he’d been checking frequently here to find out how I was since I last posted, because he was concerned about my condition and thought that if I had stopped addressing my fans (both of you!), things must be really rough.  It occurred to me, then, that it really had been a long time since I’d written anything, and somehow this seems significant, as nearly everything does these days… and so here I am.

Well, it has been rough, and although the worst is over (I hope), the climb back up is taking quite a long time and is fairly hard.  Not knowing exactly what I’m climbing back up to is also rough, but rather interesting.  As to the details of this particular adventure, I had mentioned in my last post that, having had successful surgery to replace one knee, I had the other one replaced, only to incur an infection that kept returning and kept taking me back to the operating room, the last time to remove the “new” knee and replace it with an antibiotic “spacer” which would allow for healing, so that the knee could be replaced again.  This meant that I had to spent approximately two months in bed, as I was not supposed to bend my leg or put any weight on it, and I have never had an experience quite like that before.  It was quite painful to accomplish the little movement I was allowed (trips to the bathroom and such), and even more painful was the boredom of immobility.  I spent the time writing, reading, working on my computer, communicating with friends and doing my best to make the time count for something.  In the end, I think it did count for something, but not exactly what I’d first thought, and I am still sorting it out.  In mid-December, the new knee was put in, and hopefully that will be my last surgery.   Now I get to assess it all, while I try to put back together a life that was put on hold nearly a year ago, although at the time I told myself it would be six months at the most.  These experiences are accompanied by some trauma, as might be expected, although I am one of those people who tends to just grit my teeth and tell myself I’ll be fine while the process is taking place, and it is only afterward that I realize I am left with numerous unresolved feelings about the whole thing.  These come under several categories:  first, there is the mainstream medical profession, and the “helpers” that accompany its work.  I have been inclined, as an adult, to steer clear of allopathic doctors, and this major surgery was my first brush with them since my first child was born some 30 years ago.  I do not recommend it, overall, although if one truly needs them it’s good that they are there.  And surgery seems a more appropriate recourse–if necessary–than much of what counts for healing these days.  I needed to have surgery, and I’m glad I did it, but I wish all my holistic and alternative measures had prevented it.  Still, having done all I could on my own, it’s good that I was able to feel that I had no other choice.  Before it was over, I went through three doctors before finding one that I felt actually cared about me as a person and truly wanted to heal me rather than just collect my medicare dollars, and it was instructive to find the courage to take care of myself by doing so.  It paid off, finally, but I wish I’d found that courage earlier.  Then there were the “helpers,” the “little people,” the “mid-level professionals” who took care of the details the doctors left to them, and I learned much about healing and human nature from them.  Some of them became real friends, some of them just didn’t care, and some of them seemed to need my help more than I needed theirs, which is always interesting.  While in the hospital, I noticed myself doing more therapy than was done for me, and I was glad if I could help, but I did wonder about it.

Second, there was the effect of all this on the instrument of my embodiment–my body–and that is both interesting and depleting.  In one of my favorite books, Women Who Run with the Wolves, Pinkola-Estes speaks of the body as the sensor and recorder of all our experience.  My body went through quite an invasion, and it held up admirably, but I am tired, and I often wonder if I’ll ever get back my former energy.  On the other hand, such an experience leaves one realizing that one only gets so many chances on this plane, and I’d better get the lead out–literally and figuratively–if I want to wind things up in any organized and complete fashion before this phase is over.  So I tell myself that this is an admirable priority to hold just now, and I do my exercises faithfully and wait for the return of chi, libido, energy, moxie, all of the above.

Going deeper:  I have the strange sense that this entire experience somehow marks a transition in my modus operandi, which to this point has been largely characterized by shoulds. I should do this, I should do that, I should do it this way, it is my responsibility to do a,b, and c.  Such attitudes are characteristic of adults who grew up in chaotic homes of one kind and another, people who had to do their own parenting, and thus became perfectionists in the attempt to merely keep themselves alive as children.  I notice that this time of life seems to mark a change from that sort of attitude and one that says “how do I want to do it from now on?”  After all, I am a white-haired old lady now, and it seems that this is my time to begin to kick up my heels and thumb my nose at all the nay-sayers who want me to affirm their own positions about life, the universe and…whatever.  And why not?  I tried doing it “their” way, and that only got me so far.

I find that I have begun a process of reflective living, a kind of contemplative style of being that has few shoulds other than the internal ones, one that is actually the one I would have chosen in the first place had I felt I had the choice.  It seems to me that there is a need to find a way to live this, so that my direction in the future will be clearer.  One thing that I am able to acknowledge for myself now is my need for quiet, for loneliness, for silence.  It seems absolutely necessary that I allow myself these in the course of my day.  For someone who has followed  a contemplative path, this ought to be self-evident, but perhaps there are levels, or rings as one goes down into the silence and spins soul.  So whatever I do in the future, I think it will be done largely from my home, my own “dervish well,” where I can hear the truth in silence:

Greatness is in humility; wisdom is in modesty; success is in sacrifice; truth is in silence. Therefore the best way of doing the work is to do all we can, do it thoroughly, do it wholeheartedly, and do it quietly.  –Inayat Khan

In the Hindu religion, traditionally one passes through the numerous stages of life very consciously:  the life of a child, of a student, a householder, retirement and finally, taking up the mantle of an ascetic.  Each of these is preceded by a samskara, a ritual to mark the passing from one stage into another.  In my case, I suspect my samskara was the health crisis I have just passed through, which is ushering me into a deeper quiet, a deeper work.  “Do what you love, the money will follow,” the saying goes, and we will see, because in the world I live in, material needs and obligations must still be met.  Yet,

. . .  what is most necessary is to connect the outward action with the inward journey, the harmony of which certainly will prove to be a cause of ease and comfort. This is meant in saying that one must have harmony within oneself. And once this harmony is established, one begins to see the cause of all things more than one sees it in its absence.  –Inayat Khan

This need for even more silence heals and inspires me, ushering me into the next reality.  It takes me beyond the reach of all the voices that clamor for my attention, urging me to accept their realities, while allowing me to love those voices:

See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things. –Tao te Ching

I can be content with not knowing and healing, healing and not knowing.  I am the Hanged [Wo]Man, “being still in order to learn the secret to freeing myself.” (See above)

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