Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The year in review

Like so many bloggers, I stopped blogging this year. This had something to do with getting serious about your writing, something to do with having Facebook to express yourself on/distract yourself with, something to do with having now shared all the wisdom you've got. In the autumn of 2014 I took an online course from the University of Iowa, which has one of the best creative writing programs in the country. It gave me new ways to understand writing fiction, and I got going and wrote half a dozen short stories. I entered one in several contests. Didn't win. Life is unfair.

Why didn't I keep sending out these stories? My vitals page and my calendar tell the answer. Doctors, doctors, one UTI infection after another. The infections are not like the UTIs many women get while young, maybe from enthusiastic sex. They evidence themselves in the depression they trigger in my authentically bipolar brain. So, no writing then.

In late June I was hospitalized with extreme shortness of breath which turned out to be due to no other cause than a UTI. While I was there I told them I'd recently fallen, so they did a scan that showed a subdural hematoma - brain bleed. And I hadn't even hit my head this time. But when you're old - I turned 74 this year - the brain shrinks a little. If you land hard, your brain bangs around in your skull.

The second scan showed the bleed wasn't getting worse, so they released me. The third scan months later showed it was gone, so nothing to worry about. Except . . . my short-term memory is much worse ever since. Much. And my processing is much slower. The new neurologist felt sure it wasn't dementia and would resolve. That was six months ago, and it hasn't. Next time I see my primary care doctor I'm going to ask him to suggest an evaluation for dementia.

I am now very afraid of falling. Because I fell for no reason. I was deadheading the peonies, walking backward in tiny steps on a concrete sidewalk, and just lost my balance. Then time moved very slowly, there was nothing to grab hold of, and I landed hard on my bottom. Because of the concussion, I couldn't figure out how to get up until Tom came out and helped me.

So now I use a cane outside the house. I have two canes, one leopard-skin print, one giraffe print, that's one for each vehicle. We won't have both vehicles forever. My 2000 Civic is low to the ground, and it's gotten hard for me to get out of. Tom's van is much better for me.

This calendar year I had 12 UTIs, yes, one right after another. I had to go to a urologist - I dread those tests - to rule out specific bladder problems. Now I'm on a maintenance antibiotic. It has been working for several weeks now.

I forgot things till I looked at my calender. I had a procedure to fix the artery in my left leg, which went great; the foot doesn't get numb walking now. I was hospitalized again in November with a skin infection called cellulitis from a tiny cut on my lymphedemic right arm. These are a common threat for people who have had lymph glands removed. Old age and being immune-suppressed are risk factors.

Me me me. I meant to look at what I did this year, but it seemed like I had to point out first that I barely had a year. I don't know how I would have taken all this if I hadn't had a good grounding in the dharma. I thought often about karma, about how our lives are not just in our own hands. My health problems started with the kidney transplant six years ago, and the immune-suppressing drugs we have to take. The kidney failure started with taking lithium for 20 years. The bipolar disorder was the result of a combination of childhood trauma and the genes for it. The childhood trauma . . . 

I miss you folks.


  1. Christine commented:

    I have missed you. Your blog is a laser of light along the Dharma Path. Thank you for your insights, commitment, soul-bearing honesty, and good cheer.

    Within our deepest suffering resides the abiding glow of all that is and will be. Meditation the portal to this fierce light.

    May you continue to flourish and reach out. For we all benefit from the spiraling ripples of community that form as a result.

  2. So good to hear from you. I too have fallen off the blog wagon in the last few years, just trying to keep the spark alive while we live off the grid.

    I'm sorry to hear about all the medical- what advice can you give this young monk about my own nature to grow old, sick, and die?

  3. I hope you have a better year this year! And I hope you come back to blogging. As a grandmother and aspiring Buddhist too I find myself understanding where you are coming from.