The Numbers Don’t Tell All

“We only test the front line workers.”

This from Public Health. My daughter has been sick for days with cough. Via video chat, her family doctor says she likely has COVID-19. She prescribed inhalers and cough medicine. It didn’t really help. So she called the doctor again.

“I can’t see you in my office if it’s COVID,” the doc told her, so she called Public Health.

I understand saving resources for frontline workers, but Amanda is a single mom of an eight-year-old and needs help. If it is COVID, I can’t risk being exposed, and her sister has two kids, one of which has asthma. My son said he’d go, but his wife has a sister with MD who they help out regularly.

This is painful.

A nurse friend told her to go to ER. There they did an x-ray and sent her away, saying it’s possible she has the virus, but more likely just Bronchitis.

Her doctor called two days later to say she has infection in her lungs. She’s now on antibiotics. Too early yet to know if it’s working. The ER doc called again to check up on her. She tried to sound hopeful.

Amanda is tough. I have no doubt she will pull through. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions. This disease is terrifying.

How many others are there like her – sick, but untested?

Her nurse friend says many. They see it everyday.

The numbers we see on the news don’t tell the whole story. Stay home, and stay safe.

VJWC #2: Synchronicity Part I

An orange flash dipped in front of the truck, with no time to veer.  We arrived at our destination to find a Baltimore oriole embedded in the front grill.  I was heartbroken.

At any other time, the appearance of an oriole would be auspicious.  Usually showing up in pairs, these birds arrive in summer and bring with them such cheer.  This is the first oriole I have seen this year, and the circumstance is horrific.

sparrowmarkingsCall it superstitious, but I’ve always believed birds are messengers.  It’s a relationship I established as a young child, when locked outside of my house for hours on end.  I would wander through the back woods, and commune with an invisible force I called Mother.  Times when I felt afraid or anxious, I would ask Mother to send me a sign, and little birds would land at my feet bringing reassurance.

Decades later, when my marriage of seventeen years ended abruptly, and I was falling apart, I pulled into a parking lot one day and put my head down on the steering wheel to weep.  I said a prayer to God to help me find the strength to go on, and when I raised my head all around me were birds.

Birds bring me joy, and an undefinable sense of comfort, and to know that we were the cause of this beautiful bird’s end leaves me with a sense of foreboding.  Is something off?  Is this a warning?

A spiritual teacher, who taught me much about the ways of nature, once said that if a bird sacrifices its own life to bring a message, then it is important to pay attention.  I like to be pragmatic, and would think this just a sad coincidence, but the oriole is a bird that means something to me, and I can’t help but think of its mate, now woefully left behind.  It echoes my own fear about losing my mate.

NewlywedsAt the very least, this incidence serves to help me face my fears.  Ric meets with the oncologist, his family doctor, and another specialist this month.  In a few weeks we will know how he is faring.  Since 2012, he has gone through treatment for stage III cancer, and triple bypass surgery after surviving two heart attacks.  Concern is inevitable.

I am the one who put forward the challenge to be on the lookout for synchronicity in our lives.  Makes it hard to ignore this one.

I’ll keep you posted.

(V.J.’s weekly challenge #2 is synchronicity.  Featured image is actually an Altamira Oriiole, taken in Texas.  The last image is Ric & I on our wedding day.)

 

Healing Steps

Fear is insidious; it creeps into the psyche and buries itself deep without any conscious effort.  It manifests in anxiety, stalls progress, and threatens to define its host.

Today, I did something I haven’t done in well over four years; I went for a walk in the woods, unattended.  I took my camera and my cellphone, donned a jacket in case of rain, and headed for the trails here at Living Forest Oceanside Campground in Nanaimo, B.C.

skullrock.jpgOf course, I was not alone.  Fear taunted me at every bend in the trail.

“What if someone comes along,” it hissed.  “You are defenceless.”

“There are people nearby,” I countered and kept walking.

“Listen to how quiet it is here; doesn’t that alarm you?  What if there is a bear or cougar nearby.”

Gulp. I kept walking.

“You could fall.  These paths are treacherous, and then what?  Who would save you?  Ric can’t walk in here.”

I took a deep breath and slowed my pace, carefully choosing my steps.  “I have my cellphone.  Ric can call for help from the office.”

Fighting fear can be a step-by-step process.  I thought about my childhood and how the woods were, for so much of it, my home.  Was I not afraid then?  I certainly spent hours alone, exploring.

“The child hasn’t had the life experience necessary to develop these kinds of fears,” I thought.

LivingForestflightThe trails are well marked here.  At every junction there is a map and while I am not normally good at following directions, I made myself study it and concentrate on where I was in relation to where I wanted to go.  At the far end of the trail was a place called Eagle Point.  I wondered if I could make it there.

I would try.

The next map warned of steep slopes and dangerous terrain.  I decided to be cautious and headed instead for a break in the trees, so that I could see the water.  It was so quiet that my footfalls sent the ducks swimming below scattering.

I decided to head back, not wanting to push my luck.  I had come out without a walker, and there was no obvious place to sit and rest here.  Following the map, I took a different route back – perhaps not the best idea as I encountered a steep hill.

3trilliums.jpg“Slow and steady,” I told myself.  My heart pounded and I felt breathless, but I made it, and while I waited for things to calm down at the top, I took in my surroundings.  This forest, like so many on the island, is a contrast of the dead and fallen limbs and trunks, and varying shades of green.  White trilliums dot the velvety forest floor.  Apart from a black squirrel and the odd bird that flit by in a blur, there was little other movement.

Being independent, even for a short time, felt wonderful.  How long had it been since I had the confidence to go out on my own?  Too long.

blacksquirrel.jpgThe end of the trail was now in sight, and not quite ready to go back to the RV, I lingered a bit longer, noticing the buds on trees and bushes, trying to imagine what this place will look like in a couple of weeks.

My ankle snapped just as I hit the main road.  By the time I reached our site, my right leg muscle spasmed too.  I would head in and hit the bed, pleased with myself.

I thought of other possibilities, wondering when I’d be able to drive the car again.  Maybe even going to the grocery store alone.

Fear slapped me in the face.

Sigh.  One step at a time.

The ‘C’ Word

“I sat in the waiting room, naked from the waist up save for the hospital green awkwardly tied in front.  This was a call back: not the kind you pray for after an audition.

“In nine out of ten times, it’s nothing,” the voice had said over the phone.  She added they wanted to do a spot check and an ultrasound.

The first was really just another mammogram, only focused on one area.  I had been in and out quickly for that one, but now I watched the hours tick by, and other women come and go.

“I think they might have forgotten about me,” I flagged down the first technician I could find.

She asked my name, disappeared, and a short time later another woman appeared with what looked like a clipboard.

“Let’s find a private space,” she said leading me into an empty examination room.  She handed me a booklet.

imagesThe only words I caught before my heart started to race were:  Breast Cancer. 

“We found something,” she started to say.  “We are still going to do the ultrasound, but only to make sure it hasn’t spread to both breasts.”

The rest of my appointment was a blur.  The second breast appeared clear, I do remember, and there was something about a biopsy.  I sat in the car and shook before pulling myself together enough to drive home.

Two days later, I was called for the biopsy.

“Your doctor will have the results within ten days,” I was advised.  This waiting was killing me – too much time for the imagination to run wild.

“I just went through the same thing,” a friend told me later.  “Had the biopsy and everything, but they are just keeping an eye on it.  No cancer.”

That sounded good to me.  I could live with that.

The doctor called me in.  “I’m sending you to a surgeon. You have abnormal cells and that is worth checking out.”

“We’ll perform a lumpectomy to remove the area, possibly followed by radiation.”

“Can’t we just watch it and wait?”  I asked, thinking of my friend.

“No!” the doctor and her resident said in unison.  “This is far too aggressive.  We are scheduling you for the first available surgery.”

Christmas was approaching, and as a teacher, I had a lot to do before sending the students on holiday.

“Can we at least wait till the summer break.”

th-3“Six months will be too late,” the doctor said kindly, then: “December 13th will be your date.”

I had a few weeks to prepare a substitute, finalize my Christmas shopping, and get the house decorated.  Thank God for distractions.

The downside was that once I had the surgery it would be five weeks before I’d know the results, due to the holidays.  Five weeks of waking up in the middle of the night, terror gripping me.  Five weeks of trying to convince myself and others that all would be well.

“You should have told them to remove both breasts while they were in there,”  a co-worker had told me.  Her cancer had recently come back and she’d had to have a second breast removed.  “Better to do it all at once, then bit by bit like me.”

“There is no breast cancer in our family,” I discussed with my cousin’s wife.  She too had been battling breast cancer for many years.

“There wasn’t in mine either,” she said.

Once the ‘C’ word presents itself the anxiety becomes a permanent cloud.  It’s been six years since that Christmas of fear.  The lumpectomy was successful – I didn’t require any radiation.  I receive yearly checks now – so far, so good.  And yet, every once in a while, a sudden pain or twinge will catch me wondering.

Does the fear ever go away?

 

 

RV-Able: The Fear Factor

“Don’t you get scared?”

Yes and no, I think.  Many things frighten me:  a decline in my health, the loss of my spouse, something happening to one of my family members while I’m so far away from home.   This is not what my mother is referring to, though.  At 90, her view of the States is formed by what she sees on television:  mass shootings, protesting, rioting, and a president, who according to her: “grows crazier every day.”

While I have some ability to cull through media hype, my mother is overwhelmed by what she sees.  We are Canadians, and while we share a continent with our American friends, our countries could not be more different.  Guns, for instance, are not something we argue about – we just don’t have them to the same extent as our American neighbours.  The idea of travelling in a country where the number of guns is greater than people is somewhat disconcerting, but not reason enough to stay home.

“We have the right to bare arms,” my husband likes to joke.  “I’m wearing short sleeves now.”

“No, Mom.  It’s fine here, really.”  I wish I could show her the beauty we have encountered, and demonstrate how friendly people have been along the way.

“You stick together?  Lock your doors tight?”

“We do, Mom,” I reassure her, but don’t go on to explain that I have the same phobia at home.  I watch way too many true crime dramas.  If Ric pops into a store and leaves me alone in the car, I lock my doors.  Doesn’t matter where I am.

She was like this was when our youngest son married a girl who also happens to be Muslim.

“This is how it starts, you know,” she warned me.

“How what starts, Mom?”

“Indoctrination.  Next they’ll be recruiting him.”

“What?!”  It shocked me that my mother could be so closed-minded, so obviously ignorant, and then with sorrow, I saw through her eyes what so many others see:  I saw the root of Islamophobia – the irrationality of fear manipulated by power and press.

“You have that all wrong, Mom.”  I might have been a bit harsh with her, but this was my son, her grandson, she was talking about, and I couldn’t believe that propaganda could overpower what she knew to be true of him.

“Fear is like a big, old dog asleep in the doorway.  You just have to step over it and get on with your life,”  I used to tell my children.  Bottom line:  I refuse to let fear dictate my life.

Every day,  Ric and I are choosing to face the unknown, and so far, it has been incredible.  There is so much to see, and learn, and experience, and yes, I will lock my doors, but I will not close myself off from this opportunity.

“Truthfully, I envy you,”  Mom concedes.  “It’s quite amazing what you’re doing.”

“It really is, Mom.”

And, yes, I’m scared at times, but a little bit of adrenaline is good for the soul, don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

Is Abundance Just a State of Mind?

“What’s the worst that can happen?” Mom likes to muse.  “If you can handle that, you can handle anything.”

When a marriage of seventeen years fell apart, Mom said:  “There is always Welfare.”

th-4I didn’t want to accept the ‘worst’ for my life, and so I fought to stay afloat, and rather than succumb to Mom’s bottom, I even offered to give up the children to their father (who promised to meet all their needs while they were under his roof) until I could get on my feet.

It never happened, and I continued to scrape by,  but in hindsight, I see that it has been a pattern in my life:  always trying to stay one step ahead of disaster.

When my husband was diagnosed with stage III cancer my mind automatically went to the worst case scenario, and we adjusted our living situation by downsizing.

To me, this is pragmatic:  living below one’s means is security, right?

th-3Lately, I’ve been wondering.  New Age philosophy suggests that abundance is a state of mind, and that just by affirming so, all our needs will be met.

Except this has not been my life experience.

“You live as if always waiting for the other shoe to drop,” my former husband once complained.  “As if you’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t.”

Of course I denied it, and yet, something in the back of my mind is niggling at me.  Why do you always anticipate the worst? it’s asking.  Why do you never allow for thoughts of abundance?

What would abundance even look like?  Having all my needs met, not afraid for the future, feeling at peace with self and life.

Have I ever felt the joy of abundance?  Yes, ironically, when I was at my bottom.  It manifested itself in the glowing support of friends, quality time spent with my children, and a burgeoning faith.  Money was scarce, but I felt rich in so many other ways.

Even now, on my good days, I feel how fortunate I am to have a caring husband, and family and friends that are close to me.  But I am not without fear, and fear is that bedevilled spirit that dregs up the past and slathers me with slime, reducing me to unworthiness.

There I said it – breaking every rule of affirmations – I am not worthy of abundance.

Heartbreak, loss, trauma – all acceptable in my life’s repertoire – but, abundance?

Why the hell not?  Why would it be so bad for me to feel fully alive, special, appreciated, deserving?

Because that is not who we are!  cry all my inner selves, especially the littles.  We’re supposed to suffer, be strong, and always help others.  Wanting for ourselves is selfish, and bad.  Don’t even think that way!

Wait a minute, I am an adult now, and this kind of thinking is just not right.  I know how we feel; I know what we’ve been told, and;  I also know what we’ve experienced, but Breaking News!, we are still alive, and I’m pretty sure God in Heaven (like any good parent) wants the same for all His/Her children – abundance.  I for one, am tired of pretending I don’t want it in my life, so what do you say we all come out from our hiding places, step into the light and try opening our hands, arms, hearts to let God know that we are grateful and ready to receive.

What’s that?

th-5A little voice speaks up:  We already have a lot of abundance in our lives. 

What do you mean, we already have abundance?

Well, it’s a beautiful day, for one, and our granddaughter is here with us, and Ric is puttering away in the yard, and there is adventure in our future, and isn’t that everything you’ve been asking for?

Well, yes, but what about the fear?

Well….fear is just an excuse, it’s not really real.  You can listen to it or not, but I kind of think it just gets in the way….

…and stops me from seeing the abundance right in front of my face.

Exactly.  How can God offer you more abundance if you don’t accept what you already have?

You are sounding New Age.

I’m not trying to….I’m trying to make sense.  Besides, when you aren’t happy about your life, it makes us feel like we’re not good enough either – like you don’t appreciate us.

But you are part of me…..

(Silence)

Ohhhh!  Oh God!  I see now.  It’s not that I don’t have abundance in my life, it’s that I’ve been acting like a petulant child not appreciating it in my life, always devaluing what I have.  So, I guess what you’re saying is….

Abundance really is just a state of mind, after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear or Legacy?

I have been reviewing and editing my first blog, “One Woman’s Quest” and came across this posting from May 1, 2012. I found the entry chilling considering three years later I would be diagnosed with ME/CFS, a debilitating chronic disease.  Reading my earlier thoughts brings to mind the saying:  That which we fear, we create.  

One Woman's Quest

I fear illness.  I grew up in a household where dis-ease was the norm.  My mother had her first dance with death as a child, then suffered a broken back in her late thirties, followed by three bouts of cancer.  In her elder years, she lives with constant pain and many health issues.  My oldest sister had congenital heart problems all her life, and at the end, leukemia.  The next sister has schizophrenia and now Parkinson’s.  Diabetes, heart problems, and cancer run rampant in my mother’s family.  Ten of my generation have died.   My father and his siblings all died from respiratory conditions.

In other words, genetically, the promise of a long, healthy lifespan is not very bright.  When disease first knocked on my door, I made drastic changes to my diet, but I wonder if it is enough.

Fear, I know, can be a self-fulfilling habit.  But how…

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Paranoia Will Destroy Ya

Can’t remember the last time I had the luxury of a full night’s sleep –
not blessed with an eight-hour bladder – and when I got up for my nightly trudge to the bathroom I noticed a light under the closed bedroom door. As I approached, the light went out and my heart stopped.th

My husband lay sound asleep on his side of the bed, and since no one else lives with us, the only people who could have turned off that light were on my side of the door.

What to do?  I tried to calm my heart’s pounding enough to listen for the intruder, but of course, I couldn’t.  The blood throbbing in my eardrums deafened me to outside noises.

I weighed my options.

A younger me would burst through the door, take command of the situation (such bravado) and oust the invader.  But I am neither young, nor strong.

So I sidled back to bed and perched on the edge, programmed my phone to call for help at the touch of a button.

Waiting for further proof was excruciating.  I put on my glasses and tiptoed to the window that overlooks the driveway.  No sign of life.  th-1

Did he come on foot?  I wondered.  My mind flashed to the series of recent visits we’d had from an odd character who strolls the sidewalks of our end of town on an endless mission for what, we cannot fathom.  He has taken to ringing our doorbell when he passes, having happened to catch us outside one day and striking up conversation.  He never says much, just asks the odd question which leaves us all startled.

The last time he showed up, I jokingly said to my husband that maybe he was scouting out the place to come back and rob us.

Now, in the pitch black of night, the possibility seemed more than real.

I couldn’t stand the tension – had to know.  th-2

Armed with the phone, I crept to the door, where once again I could see the thin line of light shining from the other side.  With one finger poised over the dial button, I opened the door abruptly hoping the element of surprise would be in my favour.

The light switched off again and we were plunged back into darkness.  I held up my glowing phone and as my eyes adjusted to the dimness, I realized I was alone.

Had he escaped to the basement?  I was not willing to venture into the basement!

I checked the front door for signs of entry, but it was securely locked.  I did the same with the side door – still bolted.  I stood at the top of the stairs and listened, but was already feeling the foolishness of my terror, when light flooded the front room again.

A bus had gone by.

Every time a bus goes by it sets off our motion-activated front porch light, which normally is imperceptible from the back of the house, except when we leave the front window blinds up.

Feeling foolish, and now fully awake, I returned to bed and pondered what had just happened.

I was certain we were being robbed at the very least, and had built myself up to a possible assault or worse.

I had almost called 9-1-1.

Of course, I didn’t get back to sleep for sometime – the adrenaline now coursing through my body – but my mind now eased, I was not immune to the lesson of the moment:th-3

It is so easy to jump to conclusions – rationality blinded by fear – and without the clarity of calmness, it is human nature to revert to defensive mode, which sometimes translates to violence.

I am a senior, living with disability, and I was ready to plunge head first into confrontation to protect my home.  No rationality to be found there.

That is the power, and danger, of fear.

 

Patterns of Expectancy

I have noticed recently that many of my dreams begin innocently enough and then end in panic, with the need to call for help.  Recently, for example, I dreamt that I was shopping with two of my best friends from high school, and, as we would back then, we were teasing the one friend, who was never able to venture out and take risks:  always wore the same clothes, kept her hair the same, and had trademark John Lennon glasses.  In the midst of this lighthearted excursion there is suddenly an attack:  a sword-wielding male who leaves his victim lying in a pool of blood, the weapon protruding from her neck – an emergency situation. th-4

While not all my dreams end in such bloody violence, the pattern of alarm and panic at the end of each episode is undeniable; enough to make me question my relationship to bad endings.

“Your whole family are man-haters,” my former husband once told me. “I feel as if everyone is always waiting for the other shoe to drop.”th-8

He had a point.  The women in my family are overly cautious of the other sex, for valid reasons – many of us have been let down.  Even this husband left me destitute when a much younger model showed him attention.

His words have stayed with me, though – do I live in anticipation of the worst case scenario?  If I’m honest with myself, I do.  It comes from living with a father whose nature was unstable at best, violence always lurking beneath his carefully controlled exterior:  a tyrant who ruled with intimidation.  But that was many years ago, and he is long gone, and   yet still the fears persist.  How do I shake this condition?

Sometimes just by rewriting the dream we can alter our perception of outcomes.  In this case, I would finish my outing with my former friends by joining them in a quaint restaurant, sharing a bottle wine and good memories.  That is how most of our visits go these days.

And if an intruder struck, I would usher us to a safe place, away from the violence and bloodshed, leaving dramatics to the proper authorities – let go of responsibility.  An ‘aha’ moment.

No wonder my dreams end with me having to call 9-1-1.  I am always in rescue mode: a shoe-in to take responsibility, cannot tear myself away from pain (mine or others) without feeling somehow obliged to take action.  Apparently, according to my dreams, this is interfering with my own life’s progress.  th-6

It’s as if I’m addicted to crisis – a pattern I will happily replace if I can just figure out how.

If I write a new dream for myself, it will include confidence in my own acceptability, and allow a belief in the fortitude and capability of loved ones to defend themselves: faith that each of our paths bears lessons worthy of the challenge.  I will celebrate and support, rather than rescue those in need – a risky proposition, for a co-dependent – knowing that we all have the right to fight our own battles, and that in taking responsibility for others I am robbing them of that right.

Hopefully this insight will change the patterns of my dreams.

Dental Decisions

“Have nothing to eat or drink after midnight,” the woman told me on the phone.

“They are going to put me out,” I tell my daughter, “I’ll need someone to drive me and be with me the rest of the day.”

“It’s only a tooth, Mom!” says my eight-month-pregnant middle child.  “I’m happy to stay with you, but really?”

I flashback to childhood visits to the dentist, the room going dark and a voice telling me to push against his arm until I regain consciousness.  That dentist refused to treat me after a while.  I have been squeamish since.

“I hate dental work!”  I tell her, but she has a point.

“How long will it take?” I ask the dental surgeon who is about to extract a molar, crown and all.

“Likely half an hour.  Whether you are sedated or not is your choice.  Should you choose to be, we’ll insert an IV and get you started, otherwise we’ll do a local anesthetic.  You will hear the banging and feel the pressure.” th

Give me the drugs! I want to say, and then I think of my husband awaiting a triple bypass, and my daughter about to give birth, and how much I will inconvenience everyone if I opt for the sedation.

“I’ll give it a go with local freezing,” I vow.

“Are you sure?”  The nurse looks surprised.  What does she know that I don’t?

“Yes!  Well, no, I’d like to try.”

“You can stop us at any time and we can start an IV,” the doctor reassures me.

No, I’m in, I tell myself, and try to move my awareness away from the room and onto something else.  I say a prayer for my husband, for my child and the child she is carrying, and as the dentist starts to push and pull on the obstinate tooth, I create an affirmation:

th-3It’s okay to let go.  I willingly let go.  I am now able to release those things I’ve clung to that no longer serve me.  I am ready to be free of the poison in my life.  I let go.

The tooth did let go of course, and after a short drilling intrusion to break the remainder up into smaller pieces, it was out.  A couple of stitches, a mouth full of gauze and I was good to go.

No problem!

“Imagine that I thought about full anesthetic,” I marvel to my daughter.

“You were very brave, Mom!”

I made the right choice – better to suffer thirty minutes of discomfort than to put someone out for a whole day.

Now, what can I eat…..  th-2