Lost & Found

OK...so her back, and the rest of her body finally decided to cooperate and come back together (she figured for that, she should say THANK YOU!). By then she realized that there was also the mind and the soul, and those pieces can break as well. They break for different reasons.  She felt the pieces inside breaking apart because she knew that she lost something that had been dear to her for a long, long time.  You see, it was something that started when she was quite young and made her laugh, dance, and sing.  When she was about 8 years old she lost it, only to find it more than 20 yrs later.  

You see it was not a thing but a person, a friend.  But time changes people, and perhaps that is what happened.  What was found, was in jeopardy of becoming lost again.  She did not know what to do.  She found herself thinking about friendship and what it meant to her.  It was something that was not based on conditions, or expectations, or jealousy.  But trust, love, and laughter.  She thought that she had all of those things.  She knew that she had those elements in her life, and valued them fiercely.  It was not about competition but about balance and forgiveness.  She knew of lots of things that had stood the test of time, and friendship was one of them.  Tiberius


Little Doors

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(photo by author)

I put a lot of my life behind a series of little doors after my stroke - work, personal life, love, friendship, etc. Some of those doors are closed -even locked- and I really never intend to open them again.  For example, I reexamined a lot of friendships and pieces of my life that I was not truly happy with.  In fact, I realized that my life would better without these pieces.  So I packed them up, and I put them away.  Yes, I know that they are still there, as are all parts of my life - past, present, and future - but I have no intention of opening those doors back up.


Life is about priorities, what is important and what is less important.  What must you have, and what (and who) you can do without.  Harsh?  Perhaps, but once I was able to come to this realization, and become comfortable enough to pick up elements of my life and place them behind the doors and close them (slam the doors in some cases, and close them ever so gently in others) the freer and happier I became.

Amazing people and places

I have friends - amazing wonderful friends -  who are all doing incredible things with their lives.  Lisa has an extraordinary organic design company with colors, patterns, and designs that would make almost anyone want to start doing bits and pieces of their home all over again... Steevy just started an editing company to "dress up your words"... Jojo has baubles and bling that would dress up any girl on the dreariest of days and make her feel downright sparkly... Jody has one of the best restaurants in Cambridge with charm, class, and oh, did I mention the food???  I recently met Maryam on an exotic holiday to Marrakesh.  She told me tales and stories about the city and its history that would entertain even a snake charmer!  And you might need to pack something to pack your baubles and new fabrics as you pack for your next holiday to Morocco... well then, hop on over to Nankeen and you will find something that will fit everything for your trip there, and all of your treasures for your trip home!  Oh, if all the shopping and travel planning makes you hungry, then you really should order one of Pamela's spiked divine desserts!


Role Reversal

She was back in a hospital again.  It is funny, she had to laugh.  Some people probably never so much as look at the inside of a hospital.  Where as others spend everyday within its walls.  She grew up having lunch with her grandfather - a doctor - in a hospital.  She remembered sitting in his office and unwrapping the Twinkies as they talked about things that a young child of 6 or 7 might talk about.  So they did not scare her, but instead held a fascination.  The monitors, charts, sounds, and solutions to problems that people have not yet heard about - all in a hospital.


And yesterday she was in one again.  Although this time, it was not because her own health, but that of a loved one.  The loved one who has taken care of her since she can remember.  And there she was, unable to really help the one who always helps her.  It was a sudden role reversal.  She was used to being a patient, and being taken care of, and that is not to say that she could not or did not want to take care of her loved one.  Oh she did - more than anything she wanted to fix it and make it all better.  She wanted to click her heels together 3 times and make everything normal.  She hated seeing her loved one lying in the bed - so seemingly fragile.  See, and then it would be like it never happened.  She held her loved one's hand and they laughed at silly stories, and discussed past and present events.  They both knew that it would be alright, but she wished that it would be alright straight away.

But life does not work that way.  No, she learned that it does not always give you what you want.  On the other hand, she has also learned that it never gives you more than you can handle.  

Happy, and healthy New Year.

On Waking Up: December 12, 2006

I remember waking up.  It was hazy, and while there were people there, and I could hear their voice, I do not clearly remember their faces.  The monitors were to my left and the door to my right.  The door stayed open since it was on the ICU floor.  From time to time the window to the outside would come into view, and the dark December afternoon was reflected back to me.  I was safe inside.  But the sounds, the noise, and the sensations were overwhelming.  A man was leaning over me instructing me not to talk.  I was intubated, and he told me it would be impossible to talk. Don't bother he said.  I could not move my arms.  My wrists hurt.  Were they supposed to hurt after heart surgery?  Why did they hurt, why couldn't I lift my arms?  They were strapped down to the bed.  Tied down, so that I would not wake up in a panic.  Well, being tied down and intubated - that was causing a slow and deep panic to set in.  The man told me not to fight it when he pulled the tube out from down my throat.  It will not hurt, he said.  It will be fast.  I gagged and choked as it came up from my insides.  Things faded away...

My mother finally helped to untied my wrists.  I looked down.  Not my wrists.  They were bloated with all of the fluid in my body.  I tried to bend my fingers, but it hurt.  More pain.

One of my friends told me that my father was coming in to say goodbye.  He had to get on a flight that night. She picked up a washcloth and started to wipe the blood away from my mouth so that my father would not be more frightened.  I do not remember him coming in to say goodbye.  They day went on like that.  Time did not matter.  I watched the afternoon sun turn into evening as I drifted in and out of consciousness.  On several occasions, one of the nurses would come by my side and tell me that I needed to breath, that I was not breathing enough.  Every breath took all of my energy.  My entire torso felt as if a sledge hammer had been driven through it, and breathing took too much effort.  My pulse was too low, she said.  And handed me a device to practice my inhaling.  No... it hurt.  Knives in my chest, my throat, and side where the chest tube was inserted to drain the fluid so that it would not build up in my lungs.


The pain medicine only lasted so long, and when it wore off, they put me on a morphine drip.  No, she cannot take morphine, my mother told them.  It does nothing for her pain.  She was right, and so was I when I watched the nurse write this detail on my chart only the day before.  The morphine made my sleepy, things became hazy, and the pain in my chest more intense.  It felt like one of those chefs from the Ginzu knife commercials testing out his products on my insides.  I drifted again, and in and out.  And heard a lot of commotion about making sure that they could find pain medicine.  I tried to call out to someone, anyone.  It hurts, I whispered in a voice that I do not think anyone could hear.  It hurts...  I tried again.  Later, much later they found it.  The new medicine.  Better, and it took the pain away.  The drip went into my IV.  I drifted out again...

That was the day I had my heart surgery. 

Recovery

In December 2006 I spent days, weeks, and months recovering from heart surgery.  Oddly, these were some of the most peaceful days, weeks, and most I can remember.  They felt safe and calm, and I had nothing to worry about except getting better.  Since then, I have not taken the same "time out" from my daily routine to fix what ails me whether it be a common cold, aches and pains, or the much needed mental health day from it all.  That is until this a weekend in Maine with Hector and Kerry and Mia.  You see, there is not a lot to do in Maine except recover.  I suppose there are plenty of people who would beg to differ with me on this statement, but I consider myself a city girl through and through.  I like the concrete.  The coffee shop around the corner, and our weekly Friday night wine tastings with Daniel at Brix.  But this is not really how things work in Maine when it is 22 degrees outside - and that does not even include the wind chill.

So Mia told me to consider it a recovery day on Saturday, and that is what I did...  Most of included staying in my pajamas, the good kind from Garnet Hill, in front of the fireFire From time to time, a glance out the window would show winter berries blowing in the wind.Berries or a peak through the trees at the water that had ice creeping up on the shore, as the sun set behind the winter skySunset Recovery was needed - in fact, I think I needed to recover from myself and my day to day beliefs of what I "must" do.  It had been so long since I allowed myself to just be, and it was so nicely rewarded. 


A test of strength

Facebook... it is one of those things that I started several years ago because some students told me that I would be able to reach out to my freshman advisees.  When I created an account, it was only open to people at universities.  Then Facebook opened to everyone, and anyone.  Interesting how quickly it has created connections among long, lost friends.  Recently I have found a lot of these friends:  people who knew me in third grade when I was the new kid in school and told a friend that her mother ate worms, or those who saw me get pulled out of class by the headmaster because I spit cheetos into a girl's hair on the bus ride to school (this was at 7:30 in the morning - why I was eating Cheetos at the hour is still unknown to me...), but these people and I have history.  We live scattered all over the country right now:  Colorado, California, D.C., and Florida, but with the click of a button, and the fabulous thing called a "Wall" we can "talk" to each other like time never passed.  They know me as I truly am.


Then there are people who you meet as you grow, and these are amazing friends as well, because they are with you when you grow and mature into who you eventually become.  But when I think about who I really count as my friends, I include those who I would like to have to my home for dinner, people who I could open a bottle of wine with, individuals who do not care if I am wearing my sweat pants, or am dressed up.  I also include people who understand and value a friendship, and can give into a friendship selflessly instead of selfishly.  Far too many times I have been around selfish people, and following my stroke and surgery, I gradually started to realized that I do not need those people in my life.  Life is too short to have people in it who are constantly taking, but never giving.  Or if they are giving - it is really only so they can get something in return.

So when I found this group of people on Facebook:  Kristen, Pam, Karen, Brooke, Milo, Lyle (in no particular order here - I am not playing favorites!) I felt incredibly lucky to reconnect.  Memories of 25 years ago came flooding back, and I did not remember silly arguments, or fights, but how much fun I had with everyone, and what good people they all are.  It is truly a test of a friendship's strength that it can withstand time.  

An unlikely friendship

They met almost 3 years ago, and it was only 2 years ago that they really started to know each other.  She needed something from him.  He was the only one who could really tell her what it was like.  He could talk to her about the pain, the experience, and the recovery.  No one else in her life could explain it to her like him.  It was odd  - she was only in her early 30s, and he was in his late 60s, but they had this one thing in common that would turn into a bond very strong.  It turned into a strong bond of friendship.  She was terrified.  She was facing her own mortality at 33, and seeking advice from someone who had not planned to have the surgery.  she on the other hand had spent months planning.  Too many months, and these months were excruciating.  They drained her, and no one could give her answers that put her mind, body, or soul to ease.  There was that first meeting between the two of them when she timidly asked for 15 minutes of his time - his precious time, for he is a man of greatness, and his time is great as well.  People from Heads of State and CEOs have asked for less time, and probably not even been granted it.

She walked into his office:  the mahogany desk, an American Flag, awards that lined shelf upon shelf.  Greatness was everywhere.  So where did she fit in?  She just needed to know.  She needed to know what it was like.  What happened when they stopped your heart?  How did it feel after?  What does it feel like when you wake up?  How bad is the pain?  No one else provided her with these answers, but he did.  Perhaps she found out more than she really wanted to know, and the information send her head spinning and her legs running back to her office so that she could furiously type an email to her doctor with even more questions about the heart surgery.  But at least she knew.  She knew that she might gain up to 15 pounds of fluid after the open heart surgery.  No doctor or nurse had told her this, and she only had 2 weeks to go before the operation.  She now knew that she might receive shots of insulin after the surgery - again, no medical practitioner mentioned this to her either.  She listened as he told her about the pain each time he took a breath or tried to cough, and the fear doctors and nurses had about pneumonia in heart patients following surgery.  Why didn't doctors tell her this before?  Did they not think that she could handle it?

In the beginning, it was a few words of encouragement back and forth to each other. Then, it turned into something more. Their exchanges of words and thoughts became deeper, and they spoke about everything from world events, to cooking with the greats like James Beard. They talked about the financial state of the economy and long days in the South of France, all the while knowing that what bound them together was their hearts... the fact that both of them underwent such tragedy and were able to sit face to face and even joke about it with each other. Their jokes did not make everyone laugh. In fact, at times those around them became uncomfortable as the two friends spoke of blood, beating hearts, scalpels, and heart-lung bypass machines. But the friends knew it was their way of coping. They always took time to ask how each other was doing. She asked him recently how his heart was. "Oh, not so well." She became concerned. Did he need to go through more tests? "What is wrong?" she asked him. "It is still beating," he responded, and then he smiled, and she smiled back knowingly. One of those jokes that only someone who had been through what they had been through would understand.