The emotional prelude to the first anniversary of Richard’s death has begun. Kindness from new and old friends undoes me. The smallest gesture of friendship breaks open my heart in stuttering bursts of love. I am extra vulnerable since I have understood the steadily increasing pain and inability to walk, sit, or stand, is due to spondylolisthesis (Greek for “spine + to slip or slide”). For years my vertebrae at L 4-5 have been slipping over each other and then clicking back into place. The clicking stopped some time ago and today they are permanently overlapped. L5 has shifted so far over the top of 4 that it presses directly down onto my spinal cord, severely pinching the nerves feeding information below.
This has reduced my capacity to participate in my new life here. I cannot bear to go to an informational meeting (and there are many to keep this large village informed) that is less than stimulating. Boredom keeps my pain level front and center in my brain. Only if I am truly engaged or entertained can I withstand being part of a group. Even eating a meal with others has been challenging. Sometimes I prefer to get a tray and bring food back to my room. Trying to socialize while paying attention to my meal at the same time as noting the pain, is getting harder to do. I am tired of lying around and it is good that this upcoming sad anniversary is the same date as my second meeting with a back surgeon in the Cleveland Clinic. I need to hear if, how, and when, surgery may bring me some much needed relief.
I originally went to this doctor a few months ago for the stenosis (narrowing of the spinal cord. again due to vertebral impingement) in my neck, C 4-6. That, too, is increasingly causing weakness, tingling, numbness, and pain in my hands and arms. I may end up as a titanium wonder of fusions or with disc implants from stem to stern. I have steadily used every alternative method possible to deal with the early stages of these problems, thinking it was all somehow because of having MS. A lot of muscular weakness to hold my bones in place is because of past MS lesion activity. But my MS has been quiescent for several years, and now I understand the progression of compromise much better than before. Twenty years ago, I once had a Pilates instructor say, “Judi, your spine is a train wreck.” Not what I wanted to hear, but in hindsight, she was right. It is.
I am not unhappy, and when people ask “How are you?”, as we do when we pass one another in the halls, I say, “ I’m fine, but my back is a real problem.” I surely have had moments of despair as I adjust to yet another level of pain and restriction. Overall, I’d still say, I love being alive. And I do. Somehow through all the loss and total restructuring of my life, I cannot relate any longer to that piece of little Judi who always thought it would be easier to leave than stay here in a world full of suffering. After surviving my recent bout with The Nasty Virus, I was so grateful to my animal body that insists on surviving despite immediate misery. I came out of it with a renewed sense of claiming that “I am here”.
I want to experience all of life- including the attending pain and sorrow, and the despair and helplessness. I delight in joy and pleasure and hope, and the deepening peace I find within Silence. I less and less misuse my spiritual explorations as a way to get away from the pain in my back or my heart. I open to all of my personal issues and to those of being a world citizen The horror of losing species after species, habitat after habitat, resulting from the fear-induced denial and greed of our world leaders is also part of being alive in this time and place. I want to live every day as if it was the last one to bring in a new paradigm of stopping human and planetary extinction. I believe it must be that day for all of us.
I want to live as fully as I can as an antidote to potential extinction of the human race. I embrace that I am alive, even as the world as I know it, is unraveling. I welcome all the new souls coming into the world and am curious to see what they bring to the table of apparent Last Suppers. As distressing and sickening as it, I want to live through it all, giving what I can to reeducate and heal. Let us embrace reality; nurture joy, pleasure, and hope, and not delay doing our part. Take action wherever you can. Today.