Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sticky karma

[photo: a companion animal getting hemodialysis]
Monday night I was talking to Tom about some emotional issue. Maybe about calling a vascular surgeon, which I had not even put on my to-do list for a week now. Maybe about a friend who disappointed me. Maybe I was declaring that I really had to fill the prescription for a wheeled walker, which I'd put off doing for three weeks now. Whatever I was talking about, pow, this bright red ball of pain struck my upper back. I have arthritis in my spine, so I thought the worst, a slipped disc. And I thought, no, not something else right now.

This was pain, about 8 on that scale of 1 to 10, and 10 when I raised my arms to take my tee-shirt off. It disturbed my sleep, coming forward every time I changed position, and it worried Tom - could it be my heart? Women experience heart attacks wierdly. But the next day, the doctor examined me carefully, and became convinced it was a muscle spasm. The muscle relaxant he prescribed has helped. Knowing it wasn't a problem in the spine helped too. And I started to think about why it happened.

It gets obvious now and then that an abused child lives inside me, and is animated when I feel threatened. If there is a magic button you can push and get rid of the million experiences of a dark childhood, my therapists hadn't found it, though they had helped me gain some relief. Post-traumatic stress is what it is.

The walker, that's just an ordinary desire not to be so old. I'll get over that; I do want the thing so I can rest when I walk. But seeing the vascular surgeon involves a more complicated story.
That's what my Zen teacher, Daniel, would have called it, a story; a fabrication in my mind about what hemodialysis will be like, an imagination of dreadful futures.

Mental emissions. I was full of them. Getting an access installed in my arm had meaning far beyond the surgery; it would mean admitting that I really might need hemo fairly soon. And that I would actually do it. Don't want! my abused child was crying out, and I wasn't listening, so my back seized up.

She is/I am afraid of dialysis. The fear starts with being invaded, and goes on to being held down, unable to move. I haven't seen my father's monument these twelve years since he died; I am his real monument, testimony to his cruelty.

My fear extends to another echo of childhood, the possibility of getting a mean nurse. I am afraid I'll find myself in the care of Jan Davis, the nurse I had when I was on dialysis for a short while two years ago. They exist, nurses without compassion. That's who's on your shift. You are stuck with them, like you were stuck with a mother who never gave you cookies and milk after school.

Buddhism says that enough practice will liberate you from your conditioned self. That may be true for some whose childhoods weren't as damaging as mine, who started practice earlier in life. I suspect I was wrong about liberation, anyway - that it only makes you able to recognize your self and control your behavior, but doesn't wipe the past away. How could it?

I felt like taking the day off today, putting heat on the spot, doing some gentle yoga (and blessing the teacher, Kit Spahr, who taught me so generously). No to-do list today. Just random unimportant stuff. Clean out my sewing box and pack up the stuff for machine sewing to store downstairs until my daughter inherits it all. Contemplated summer courses at the local art school. E-mail offered courses sponsored by the James Cancer Center; I signed up for two. As for dialysis, I am taking Scarlett O'Hara's path today - I'll think about that tomorrow.

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