In August of 1997, at age 45, I wasn’t feeling well and went to the ER. The nurse took my blood pressure and then me, straight to the back. I asked why and learned my blood pressure was 70/54, low enough apparently to cause some concern. I had searing pain in my spine, so they did a spinal tap; there was a virus in the fluid–Viral Meningitis.
At one point I felt God calling me—I had left my body, and remember the celebratory feeling, “I’m free! I’m free!” Yet, I thought of my children and prayed, “I accept Your will, Lord, but if it is possible, may I stay for my children?” They were 11, eight and four. The nice Italian doctor was in my face, shouting my name loudly, over and over, and called me back.
“Yes?” I remember thinking from far away, and suddenly found myself back in my body.
Whatever happened to me that day stopped my menstrual cycles, separated me from my memory and ability to think, reduced my hearing, caused vision fluctuations and body-wide pain so intense that even the sheet on top of my skin was too painful to bear. Less than 24-hours later I was stabilized and sent home with pain medications, an antibiotic for a bladder infection and a note that said to rest, drink plenty of fluids and that I’d feel better in a couple of weeks.
I saw faces in the floor tiles in the bathroom and in the wallpaper in my bedroom, and every time I closed my eyes, I saw human faces by the hundreds, male, female, all ages, colors and conditions. I attributed this to the pain medications.
For the next six months I was not really aware of my surroundings or the passing of time. The man I had married two months previous took over my parenting responsibilities, much to the horror of my children. To say that it was not a good time for any of us would be to understate our circumstances. As soon as I could stay up for any length of time, he left, to our great relief—and his, I’m sure.
Much of my being-sick journey has been spent in a mental “fog.” My short-term memory does not function well and my long-term memory has fluctuating gaps, like the time at the dinner table, when I said, “Pass me the . . . the–“damn!” I thought, “–the plastic bottle with the red stuff in it!” My kids laughed. “Funny, mom,” and one of them passed me the ketchup. This kind of thing is still typical. I’ll be talking to my daughter and she’s staring at me like I’m an alien, because what I think I’m saying is not what is coming out of my mouth, and what is coming out isn’t making any sense. Very frustrating for her, too.
My worst memory lapse, though, was my first appointment at a new doctor’s office. I walked to the receptionist. “I have an appointment with . . . a doctor.”
“Name?” the girl asked.
I stood there, thinking, “Name . . . Name. Shit! This is ridiculous. I know my own name!” She stared at me like I was an alien, too, probably thinking something like, “Oh, this is good. I can’t wait to tell so-and-so about this one.”
“Your name?” she asked again. I could feel eyeballs from the waiting area on my back. The pressure worked, and at last it came to me. “Oh, YES! I know my name!” I said enthusiastically, and gave it to her. She rolled her eyes and asked for my insurance card. (Why hadn’t I thought of that?)
I tell you all this because when I’m writing for Notes Along the Path, like this morning, something happens to me that is beyond my capabilities. Words and sentences flow. Wisdom that is not mine presents itself. My body is here, but I am completed at the keyboard by the loving Force that holds the universe together, who wants you to know how much you are loved. I believe this partnership exists because of my great need to be of some kind of service, a need that overrides all of my human frustrations and desires, such as longing to be a productive member of society again, to make money, to experience a loving relationship–all things that require stamina and a functioning mind I don’t have.
Except when I’m here, at the keyboard, with eight typing fingers (my little fingers refuse to cooperate), sitting near a table with a cup of tea, a stack of books and a printer, all under two hanging red-tail hawk feathers, open to the Goodness flowing my way…
Related Post: Why Get Sick?