Friday, August 7, 2009

Who's on first?

Every morning around 3:00 a.m. Tricycle, the Buddhist Magazine, sends me a Daily Dharma. I like to imagine it is the one cool thing someone with a clerical-level job gets to do. It might not be 3:00 a.m. where they are, they could be in England or China. They don't have to speak perfect English; all they have to do is transcribe a few lines from a book or article. It's a small thing, but I enjoy getting it among the 87 ads and maybe one personal message I download every morning. This morning it is a quote from Michael Wenger, who informs me, I am in charge, just like all those Much-too-positive Thinking books I've given away. Here's the whole thing:
The perfect student is you. You have within you all the ingredients you need to practice. You are in charge, and once you realize this you will seek—and find—all the help you need.
Actually, the place I am at in life this moment is that of a fallen leaf being carried down a swollen river. To make this telegraphically short, I spent my life being told I was in charge of my destiny, believing in the power of personal will and intention, and trying to Do Things. The old Chinese way of seeing life calls this yang, a sharp, pointy approach.

That gets us to now, when I find increasingly that my body trumps all my intentions, or more precisely, that I am aging fast, and I don't get a week off just because I want it. e.g. Last week, I spent three days in the hospital with a mean infection. Slowly, with physical therapy, I am getting back my very small bit of conditioning. And yesterday morning I was sitting talking quietly with Tom when I went into tachycardia. I felt my heart start pounding in my chest. I became short of breath getting dressed. Something new.

We are not unprepared for it - I am wearing a heart event monitor to try and catch the next "episode" of arrythmia - so we had the technology to record this a couple of times and transmit it by land line to some strange place of business that might be on the moon and is open to receive these calls 24/7/365, quite unlike the actual doctor. There, we are told, a knowledgeable person will read the results and they will be transmitted, maybe, to the doctor. I imagine the vague copies of my little printout lost on the guy's desk in a flurry of faxes and pens from pharmaceutical companies. So doing my "you're in charge" part, I called the cardiologist's office this morning to let him know about this.

If you want to feel blown around like a helpless little sailboat on the raging ocean, try getting a message through to a specialist. His nurse's voicemail informs Wun that "Leaving multiple messages will not advance the priority of your call." She means, "Please don't keep calling and crying and screaming and leaving incoherent messages. We'll get to you if we think you're important." What is wrong with these people?

Actually, I know. They are trying to make some order of the endless tide of the frantically ill and dying that washes up on their doorstep. Think about it - a cardiologist never treats a healthy person. But it is exactly this bureaucratic approach that makes western medicine a nightmare, and means someone is punching an IV into your arm at 3:00 a.m. when you're going home the next morning.

When you deal with the western medical establishment, you battle endlessly to have the tiniest bit of control over your own life, to convince people that you must not, no, never, be given steroids in any form, no matter what they usually do. To get the doctor to acknowledge your husband's presence in the room, sometimes to acknowledge yours. It is a perfect recipe for the disastrous loss of hope and any sense of self.

I don't mean ssssssself, that annoying construct Zen wants to help us de-construct. I mean just being, being alive, being real, being you. I suppose it was in the spirit of insurrection that I smuggled a little packet of salt into the hospital last week. They put me on the renal diet, which they interpret ferociously to mean measured grams of unadorned food. Sometimes the menu calls the food "herbed" but those herbs have been dead a very long time. Maybe all I could do to be Me in that place was gleefully sprinkle a little salt on the hamburger that came in a white bread bun without mustard, ketchup, or god forbid, dill pickle. Sometimes you feel like committing suicide by eating a hot fudge sundae (high phosphate).

Time to go to the acupuncturist, who does his best to keep me well. So I'll cut this off. The image: Elizabeth Taylor with her dog. Once I said to Tom bitterly, "Elizabeth Taylor gets better medical care than I do." He said, "Jeanne, Elizabeth Taylor's dog gets better medical care than you do." Too true.

No comments:

Post a Comment