Saturday, August 17, 2013

Wandering Spirit

Staples out.

The funniest thing someone said to me during my whole seizure-brain-tumor ordeal came from my reliably hilarious friend Scott. He said: "Sweetie, your life is just like Knots Landing these days."

As I was wheeled down the bright hospital hall, I saw looming over me Dave's loving face, a medical guy in scrubs, and the white institutional ceiling--like one of those point-of-view shots designed so you empathize with a doomed character. I laughed and said, "Wow, this really IS like Knots Landing!"

In the pre-op room, the anesthesiologist--looking like a hungover surfer--introduced himself and asked me a few questions. He then said, "I'm going to put a little in here to begin" and injected something into my IV. My eyes closed then opened. I thought, When are they going to get started? 

And then I saw Dr. Harraher, my surgeon, who told me the surgery was done. She said it went well except that she had to leave behind a microscopic "skin" of tumor attached to an artery (can't cut into that!). That's not really a problem since the tumor is benign, but if the little piece grows, she might recommend radiation.

I detected a tightness in my scalp, the former location of my little walnut. In its place, beneath the plate-reinforced skull, was now a hole slowly filling with spinal fluid, remarkably adapting to the new normal. I knew this because I heard creaks and groans and pops in my head, like a house settling.

Incredibly, a memory came to me--of something that happened during surgery. The best way I can describe it is this: My body was stoically enduring the breaking open of my head. And my spirit said something like, I'm outta here. I could be anywhere right now. I want to be free!

And my body--like a dog trainer, like a parent who knows best--sternly said to my spirit: "Stay!"

There I was, in post-op, giggling at the notion of my body ordering my spirit around. I suddenly understood myself more deeply. I've always had a wandering spirit and a pragmatic streak. They are very real parts of who I am. But I never realized my body had a mind of its own. 

And now I can see that there isn't a hierarchy of mind/body/spirit. They are more like interlinked circles. Even though the body eventually perishes, it's a super-duper space suit that allows for all kinds of groovy sensory experience that isn't possible without fingers and skulls and colons and noses and skin. And it's through sensory experience our spirit expands until it's onto the next thing. So at a key time, my body reminded my spirit of that: Hang around. You might get something out of this!

And oh yeah, my spirit is getting it. Its awe at what humans are capable of has expanded tenfold in the 10 days since my surgery. That post-op room was filled with medical technology and experience that had initiated from someone's thoughts. And then there was the energy directed to me that was palpable over the last weeks--thoughts, prayers, texts, emails, Facebook, you name it. The physical presence of doctors, nurses, aids, my husband, my sister...

I think what I'm getting at is this: What's been most striking about my experience has been the intricate interconnection of everything. The dazzling, pulsing design.

I spent one night in the hospital. After 14 hours, Dave went home for some well-deserved rest, and my friend Ellen came to spend the night with me. A woman with a gift for healing and soothing, she gave me an incredible foot rub. My sister Crystal had also given me one earlier in the day. People kept coming in and out of the room, checking me and the zillions of attached bodily tubes. 

All these ministrations made me feel like a queen--not of the soap opera type, but genuine royalty. Especially the sponge bath an angel of a night nurse gave to me at 6 a.m. She handled me so tenderly. 

I liked the idea that my body--so militaristic in standing up to my wandering spirit--could be vulnerable, could accept the gift of compassion, could relax and be home.

My spirit was happy. It curled in my body like a dog at the hearth.


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