Mayacamas sunset by Diana Hindley
Walkin' In And Out Of Your Arms, K. D. Lang
Always somebody there to tell me
'Bout deep muddy water, why do they bother?
Won't be roped and tied down
No I can be found, comin' back 'round
Because I know…
Trigger Alert! Hugs, tears, partings, pain, disease, medical events, animal longings, death, even a gun…enter at your own risk, dear readers!
Thanks in advance for practicing good self care in all ways for always.
Yesterday was my next-to-my-last day at the oncology center infusion suite. When I left two weeks ago, I didn’t see my future clearly. No implanted drain on my near horizon. No transition to hospice soon after. Instead, I made appointments into October 2015, my 25th anniversary with breast cancer.
Would I have done something different, had I known I was leaving my oncology center after 13+ years of weekly appointments?
Two weeks ago, I thought my nurse Jennifer was the one leaving, so I brought her a book wrapped in silk scarf.
But yesterday, when I’m walking in and out of their arms, I’m the one leaving them, the nurses, aides, doctors, friendly receptionist and support staff. And I’m taking something with me – breaking an unspoken agreement we’d made years ago. That I’d keep on showing up week after week, year after year, always kind and upbeat, sometimes worried, often in pain. That they could continue cheering me up and cheering me on. That their care would make a difference and their call to healing touch me at a cellular level.
Sometimes I felt like their hope or, at least, their job stability.
Yesterday, we held one another and cried.
Then there are the signs of the times. This afternoon at my naptime, bellows from Boris the goat startled me into wakefulness. Across the farmyard his mother Bebe (usually the noisy one) bellowed back.
They’d never before been separated. They’ll never again be together.
In just a moment they journeyed from sympathy (sleepy togetherness) to antipathy (wakeful separation).
Boris was slaughtered with a quick gunshot to his head, a quick slash of the knife across his throat.
I watched a living being, my neighbor, be transformed to a carcass. His blood flowed onto the ground; his hide was stripped; head and hoofs removed; guts split, spilt and disposed; his liver and heart harvested and eaten at tonight's dinner.
Will his mother cry when she returns to the barnyard, the site of slaughter?
My friends, sister death mavens, come to read news of impending death. These are not women who watch shoot ‘em up movies, relish violence or act all goth.
Rather, they (we) accept to various degrees the facts of life and death and include Threshold Choir members, natural death carers, home funeral producers, hospice staff and volunteers, death café conveners, mourners, Sacred Threshold Guild acolytes, study group members, anthropsophists, Buddhists, yogis and yoginis, pagan and those who draw on deep, indigenous wisdom.
I’ve been neglecting my death maven friends recently, focusing on offering my survival tips when maybe you’re hoping for my dying tips.
Now that D. has died in body, is living on in hearts, I feel freer to write, though not without a trigger alert.
Many longtime guests here remember my stories of Marcy Westerling and her blog livinglydying.
Here’s Marcy Westerling’s eulogy by her husband, Michael Edera:
And a slide-show by her dear friend Holly Pruett:
(trigger alert – dying and dead body of beloved Marcy)
I titled this update Trigger Alerts! because I read The Beginner’s Guide to Triggering by Gillian Brown: http://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/the-beginners-guide-to-triggering/
She explains, “I developed health anxiety and, whenever I am exposed to things relating to death and certain illnesses, I suddenly and quite dramatically feel all-encompassing panic spread through my entire body. Sometimes, it goes away in seconds; at other times, it lingers for weeks, making it difficult to function normally until my mind reaches equilibrium again.”
Well, this is all very interesting to me, because I’m concurrently reading Stephen Batchelor’s Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil.
Writing about fear, he reflects:
“Existential flight is driven by fear…It originates in the very feeling of being contingent; that deep, intuitive anxiety that one need not have been born and will inevitably die. This diffuse anxiety manifests as my concrete fear of rejection, of failure, of cancer, of madness, of senility. Such anxiety and fear seem to brood beneath the surface of awareness, waiting to rise up and seize me… Fear darkens and paralyzes the mind, transforming a world of enticing possibilities into one of malicious indifference toward me. Fear unnerves me, making me panic and act rashly. When fear rules, I become neurotically convinced that something awful is about to happen.”
So, dear ones, I figure that I’m triggering at least a few of you, because, based on your experience, you imagine what it must be like to live with cancer, dying and pain.
But neither of the above authors reflect my experience. And I suspect many others who actually live with cancer, serious illness, adverse medical misadventures, dying or death don't experience this either.
My self-indulgence in what-if's is more closely tied to:
How can I best care for myself and all I love?
What is happening now?
What needs to happen now?
How do I prepare and care for those I love?
What seems like a sane and loving way forward when there are so few options?
Am I open to more miracles without demanding them?
I’m probably far too conscientious about ameliorating other people’s fears.
That’s a big part of what I’m trying to do here - defuse some very triggering topics.
And I’m really not too interested in scaring or angrifying myself. I feel like I can’t afford the luxury of “going off” and have had very few anxiety attacks or temper tantrums in recent decades. Instead, I must keep my wits and heart, because they along with intuition and gut instinct are invaluable aids for being present with what’s unfolding.
I’ve begun to salivate and do a little jig (a happy dance) in the presence of medical supplies. The plastic scent of a drain bag, like a coming rainstorm, signals release and relief.
Will the scent of the oxygen nasal cannula someday seem a fresh breeze?
What is it to be generating yet more medical expense and waste?
Where Brown and Batchelor both go wrong is conflating their imagined fears with real life fears. And imagined pain with real pain. And imagined death with real death.
Bebe is bleating, looking for her lost son.
Her loss is real, not imagined.
I’ve really overspent my hour with you, dear friends, but wanted to post this before I sleep.
If you’ve come this far, thank you.
If you’ve known to stop and self-soothe, to care for your precious self by avoiding your triggers, thank you.
If you too are headed to sleep, I wish you a fulfilling journey in your sweet dreams.
Hope to return soon with more episodes to share.