Monday, February 27, 2012

Ten Days Later - Survival

As the evening comes on, I realize it really has been 10 full days since I woke up from brain surgery. So, first let me say, "Yes, I survived!" There is a lot more to say, and I find that specific words can be challenging off and on still, so I'll try to stay simple this entry. All in all my body is pretty healthy as I return to life's everyday experience. I can walk. I can point and write. I can cook and fold. I can see. My appearance is rather rugged at the moment; though even since this photo was taken a few days ago, my hair is already growing in. I am itchy as the drugs fade away.

There are some good challenges. For the first time in several years or so I want to exercise seriously, do yoga and move my legs and arms. The desire is incredibly deep and has nothing to do with vanity. In the hospital I started doing ballet bar exercises from my childhood when I was left alone. In the middle of the night I have been doing half hour yoga sessions on my daughter's mat in the middle of the living room. I feel like there is this new flow of energy through my whole body that hasn't really been around for more than a few years. I go for a walk in the morning and find it way too cold, though. So that's a surprise. Here I want to exercise, but having freezing air blow into me is completely shortened to the very minimum I can get away with because I can't seem to defend my body's temperature.

Temperature is a funny thing, too. Last week I ran a constant low fever of around 99 degrees, and I'm down now to 98 something. However my "normal" body temperature for years has been 96 degrees. This is all numerical and blah, blah, but the weirdest thing is that as soon as I am thinking -- like now -- I break out into a full body sweat. Does this mean my brain is working out? Maybe so. I am having to change my clothes several times a day, and wipe the scar and staples with a cool wash cloth to deal with the fact that thinking is a very hot business right now that seems to effect me top of the head to the bottom of my feet. I really hope that this will pass in a few weeks.

Thinking is interesting. I don't think with words mostly. Hmmm. It's bizarre. I look out and I have a conceptual understanding of whatever it is, but it takes a bit of time to come to words. Like this. This takes a little bit of extra time to come up with words, though I know I want to recognize these few things and say something that means what my concept is acting out visually. I dreamt of entire life sets for everyone and that has created a whole story in my brain, but I am unable to write it yet. I enjoy the pictures and the meaning of the pictures.

So, of course, I've been drawing. I've commented on some drawings and paintings on Facebook, too. I have appreciation for art. It has occurred to me that my life belongs to the arts so much more than I've allowed almost my entire life until now. For some reason I always thought I'd be more practical and my artwork was not terrific. But, now I kind of like my illustrations and moods and I am inclined to say that there will be more artwork now than there was before. I hope that is true. I really do.

Finally, I'm thinking about filmmaking and screenwriting yet again. I always think that I'm done with it and the fact that I now have three screenplays in mind after fits and starts for the past several years, I'm basically entertained by it. We'll see if the words will come back and explain these visual films I have in mind that explore the edges of the world we believe in and the possibility that just the other side of the door is a new world edge that we could embrace, or pass through on the way back, and that the way they all fit together is like the most amazing faceted gem in the Universe. We'll see.

So, that's it for now. I'll be getting the staples out of my head on this Friday and will find out what comes next. Thanks for keeping up. I need to go take a shower now and change my clothes.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Peace, Disneyland and Win-Win Scenarios

Tomorrow I will finally have the benign meningioma, aka little-gray-ball-of-dirty-laundry, in my left temporal lobe area removed. I have been busy all day preparing, and that might seem obvious to some, and mundane to others. This is the thing. How we prepare really matters, I think. 

It's not like I haven't gone to dark places with this episode of the brain tumor. I have. Believe me. I've gone all the way to imagining my death, wondering if there is any reason to stay in this world. One cannot help it maybe when facing the prospect of having one's skull opened up and exposing one's brain to somethings it was never designed for in the first place. I even went to the dark side this week, and then I saw a squirrel gnawing away on a tree branch, and from the looks of the tree branch it looked like it had been doing a lot of gnawing for a while. It's been a bitter cold winter with lots of ice, and if I recall the acorns were not quite as abundant last summer as they've been in other summers because we got our rains late, after the blossoms had come and gone.

So, I thought about preparing for things, and how squirrels seem to get through these times by hook or crook, gnawing trees if they have to do it. I thought about how worried that would make me, and that led me to think about worry and how destructive it has been in my life at times. It causes me to give up sometimes before I've even begun because I might not have thought of something, planned well enough, or hadn't had the resources to thrive. Sure enough all that worrying kept me so stuck that there are times I've made no progress at all for it. But this time is different. I'm having my skull opened up and my brain exposed and I cannot afford it. I cannot afford to worry about any sort of outcomes other than doing really well.

I'll tell you why. I can only plan for one outcome because that's all the energy I have. I'm now on the full course of anti-seizure medication and after years of getting by on six or fewer hours of sleep a night, I'm now sleeping 13 hours a day! I have my kids, my dog and my dear husband counting on me to pull through. I can only plan for the very best. So, that's what I've been preparing for for days, maybe even weeks, and it may seem like I have a screw loose to those who would rather I take the implications of all of this seriously when I laugh giddily and say I feel like "I'm going to Disneyland!" 

In fact, I do feel like I'm going to Disneyland. I've got a good feeling about this surgery. I have studied enough about the brain to know that while my Left Brain is under duress my Right Brain will be given an opportunity to show me another way of seeing things, and that the Right Brain is, well, friendlier, much more like Disneyland in reality than something more serious. I have sent out requests to the ethers. I'd like to communicate with my guides, my angels, my Temple, people who I've missed. I'd like to see what peace feels like for a little bit even. But, even if I just sleep through the whole experience and wake up without a benign meningioma and a funky scar and a really bad haircut, that's okay with me. It's a win-win situation going on here.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone for your support up to this shining moment. I'd like to especially thank my family for their patience with my evolution through the last four and half months. I'm humbled, truly, by everyone's efforts and wisdom and openness to going through this with me. I have a meal train page, if anyone would like to help locally with meals, and I don't know how to get there. I'll try to figure that out next week, because I'll be able to do that. I have one last request: Tomorrow at 9 am - 4 pm MST send tranquil, serene, blue thoughts my way and I'll know what to do with them. THANKS! See you soon!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Burnished, Deep Splendor

What Life Does To Us

Yes. I said it. Life does stuff to us. I am not of the point of view that we cause ALL our own troubles. I admit we do a good job on ourselves by our choices and habits, but life does a good deal to contribute to the messes we find ourselves in on a larger scale. There are these surprises...earthquakes and accidents...depressions both emotional and financial...unexpected brain tumors. There are genetic tricks that turn into addictions and brilliant savant-ism. There is rape. There are children with cancer. There are starving children. Don't bother writing a comment that those children are paying off past life karma because I don't buy it. We are already forgiven for all that so let's just say that I do not explain what life does to us as pay back.

It would be easy enough to extrapolate that I must harbor some ill will.  You might assume I am resentful. That would be wrong. In fact I am amazed, impressed and marveled by the stuff life does to us. I am unusually humbled by the dings I’ve gotten from a life I hope is only half-way through. There are some doozies, as you will know from this journal of sorts. I view them as the experiences that make me human.

I watched with my kids the Kennedy Center Honors awards show last month where they were celebrating some of America’s finest performers in music and drama. I bring this up because here is a group of people I truly admire for making this world more bearable with their contributions (yes, even Neil Diamond). One would think from the glowing love they got that night that they are an unblemished, untouched sort. I was familiar with four out of five of the artists, Neil Diamond for his amazing collection of pop hits, Yo-Yo Ma for his adventures as a Cellist, Sonny Rollins and his saxaphone, and Meryl Streep the endless Oscar Winner. I had never heard of the fifth, Barbara Cook, though it turns out I was familiar with her work on a few of my grandparents’ “Original Broadway Cast” albums. Not one of them had truly escaped hitting the proverbial wall of life, though, and Barbara Cook may have hit it even harder than Sonny Rollins (though he also hit a wall called “da Man” and landed in prison for a time).

Barbara somehow said the thing that struck me and has stayed with me for several weeks now. She was filmed giving singing lessons to a group of talented up and comers and someone was singing what sounded like a silly, romantic song  in her voice, and then Barbara took the same music and made it downright sexy. She told this girl, “This is a song about sex. Remember that and you’ll do all right.” She’s 83 or 84 years old and she said it just that bluntly. Then the next clip she was speaking to the whole class and she said, and this is the thing that stuck, “These songs, this music is about what life does to us...” and  she added something like - you have to bring it, all of it to the music, to your expression.

“...this is about what life does to us and you have to bring it...”

Here was a woman, that as a young person literally wrote her own ticket on Broadway with this incredible voice that became the model of Marian the Librarian (my first theatrical role as an earnest and unlived fifth grader), but then drank herself into anonymity. Yes, she had that habit and she paid, but the circumstances that drove her, the genetic make-up, the loss of boundaries all piled up together and that is life. Life did it and she complied...for a while... in a soul-destroying, sopping drunk choice. Then she stopped, and that was her choice, too, and she turned her life around and she went on to win the Kennedy Center's Award in 2011. So. It wasn’t just the words she said in that one sentence that impressed me, but that her devotion to sharing all of the dings, scratches and bruises through music is her gift to humanity, and she does it so intimately that you feel you are with her alone. Like this song, that I think she sings to life itself and of what we do to life

And, this makes me think of the author, Oriah Mountain Dreamer, who also has this same kind of relationship with life, a love affair that sometimes forces uncomfortable questions that she so generously shares with us even in the midst of a crisis. These two, of many of artists I have met and admired, leave me stunned with a clear idea of who I hope to be in a year or fifty years...something I call “burnished, deep splendor.” The tender yet incredibly resilient quality that acknowledges what life does to us and polishes it until there is a way to see all the way to the core is what I want to be.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Picking Up Where We Left Off

Remembering presence has been the work lately. It has been absolutely right for me not to focus so much on the benign meningioma in my skull. After seven weeks of working with a wonderful allergist/immunologist, Dr. Michael Volz, we have induced my body to tolerate the anti-seizure drug, Dilantin, so that I may have surgery. Today I had my blood work done to find out if the medication is at "therapeutic" levels that are acceptable to the neurologist and neurosurgeon in charge of my case. I have a good feeling about it, enough so that I'm willing to share that my surgery is scheduled for a few weeks from now.

What a quest! I have learned so much already. By diverting my attention away from the little-dirty-gray-ball-of-laundry in my skull, I managed to start a few projects that I can imagine picking up again with eager joy as I am recovering from surgery. Yay! This is the smile I was looking for in "Resting in Ambiguity" - knowing that there was something in me that was left to express and be in this world. I felt I had to have some sort of baby to birth, even knowing that the baby would have to be myself. I knew that simply looking forward to recovering from having "Titanium Snowflakes" adhered to my skull was not the fuel of living I count on. Now, I know without a doubt that I have work to do, people to meet and stories to tell, and I'm looking forward to getting there no matter what travails I have to wander through on the way.

If you've read any of my earlier blogs, from say 2010, you will know that I've struggled to come into my life meaningfully. After years of  having the main goal of fixing others around me, and, of course, of course, failing miserably, I had to sit in some "fallow fields" and accept there was nothing to do in that moment. In a sense, my journey with the benign meningioma was already well underway, though I was unaware of it. I had a great deal of fatigue, a constant headache, hearing loss, and a general feeling of malaise and I thought I had spent all of myself already on the failed pursuit of my first marriage, and career misfires. My field was full of rocks and permafrost, and from what I could tell, fully depleted, and all I could do was plant a cover crop of experimental writing that I knew wasn't really going anywhere, just to put some nutrients back in the soil of my life. I have to admit I had doubts that it was working even up unto this fall. Truly it felt like a last ditch effort to save my dreams.

When I had the clarity that actually there was something physically contributing to my sense of hopelessness, it managed to actually pull in my focus, like a closing aperture, to find what it is that I do love about living. Besides my children, my husband, and my dog, I knew there was something else. I admit it. I love writing. But, what I love about writing the most is not what I thought I loved. I saw a PBS special in December about our Poet Laureate 2010-11, W.S. Merwin, and he nailed it: "Poetry expresses what cannot be told." Now, I do believe this is what has interested me about poetry for so long, but I also have seen it in the best films of our age.

The intangible quality of fine art that communicates underneath opaque structures and reaches into our hearts rather than into our minds is what I have always wanted to pursue, and what I have always denied myself by trying to write acceptably, commercially and with the audience in mind. In fact, as a writer I have gone down all the wrong paths for my particular longing. Grin. It's all right. I don't have to wonder anymore whether I could be a social media maven, a content provider extraordinaire or a Rom-Com dudette in Hollywood. I can't seem to pull it off. Those are not in my bag of seeds.

Here we revisit the notion of trust. Can I trust this knowledge and pursue, finally, what I am truly capable of producing? Ah. You may rely on the fact that the question emerges nearly everyday still, and so it is with effort that I hang onto, "Yes," as the answer. Brain surgery is not cheap, nor is having two kids. I struggle with the notion of letting my husband carry this weight while I seem to be namby-pambying around with "creativity" rather than practical pursuits.

It so happens with all the effort I put into trusting that "yes," something has happened. I wrote 78 and more poems since September last year. You may see some of them on Kosmic Egg Tarot, and on Kosmicegg and even still I wonder if I can accomplish anything this way. Then as I was devoting my heart to poetry I realized that even that is not enough for me.  I've taken up landscape photography, oil pastels, co-writing a novel with my daughter, futurism and more. I used to say "more is more," and frankly it was a rebellion against my father's mantra, "less is more," but in the field of creativity it turns out that the more diversely I let my talents express themselves, the healthier the productivity and consistent the flow of ideas is for me.

I have a talent for extrapolation that thrills and entertains people and finally looks like it could be a business in futurism for me. This is funny to me since I had such trouble figuring out my own future for a long while, but like me, the world is sort of in a "fallow field" state with glimmers of hope coming and going with each nation's debt crisis. Indeed having a vision for a prosperous future seems to be a battle for more than just me alone. So, as I'm recovering from brain surgery I now have abundant plans and things to work towards. I don't know for sure that it's all going to work, but I do know that I must have this bridge to my future because fording the river Styx is not so wise if one is keen on remembering presence.