Backstage, JCS

a hand on a hot stove

Backstage, JCS

I get these little sticking points, these moments of non-acceptance. I’m cast from my place of ease and serenity, or at least my finger on the pulse of the dharma – into confusion, a small smudge of despair – rudderless.  Tonight it’s in the car, as we drive to the hospital and my 12 year old daughter hears her mother praying aloud and crying, the helpless cry of abject suffering. Finally pull over at the side of the road – this is at about 9:30 PM – to vomit. Drive up to the ER and check in for pain relief. Pace and pace and breathe – finally on the bench in the lobby, rhythmic humming sounds. Placing myself in a trance to endure.

My daughter knows I won’t die, I’m only in severe pain. She gets to learn what it’s like to offer someone moral support – a loving presence. She puts her hand in mine. I tell her it means so much to me that she’s here.

These days, kidney stones pass about every three weeks. Most are a couple hours of pain – intense, distracting, maddening – but often such that I can walk about and focus on the business of others. Most times the pain eventually eases off – blessedly.

Tonight wasn’t like that. The pain started at about 2:30 and came and went, getting worse. Bringing a nausea that kept me from eating for about eight hours. At seven – right when we’re ready to take the stage for tonight’s performance – it steadily worsened. It took all I had to stay in the show to the end. The memory of getting through each bar of music, each song, each act. I was in a small, fourth-dimension place of a pain so acute the world seemed a Victorian-era vignette, unreal and distantly depersonalized.

I am home now. Exhuasted, but pain-free except for the ache in my lower back.

The hospital was kind. I am fretting about another medical bill. I haven’t yet moved off of that (futile) worry.

Still – today was, somehow, a good day. I kept a glad spirit – or I started off that way and it sustained me. And then: help, from so many quarters. A friend took me out grocery shopping. Another friend bought us our Christmas tree (!) and then delivered an oilskin envelope along with it – folded twenty dollar bills. Another friend sent me an online donation. Another friend let me help her with a home repair project. Another friend hosted my son this evening and took him out to a diner, and played video games with him besides. Another friend asked me along to her lunch. Castmates gave me hugs – castmates who aren’t particularly demonstrative.

If it weren’t for friends, if it weren’t for kindnesses large and small – my life would have little meaning.

And now, exhausted, I am back to pacing myself. Tomorrow: a matinee. I am behind on work for clients. I am tired and will need to recover further.

I can’t figure out tomorrow, today. That is for certain. I am grateful for the help and support I get. May it always remind me how worthwhile it is, to help and support others!



I’ve had kidney issues since I was sixteen, stones only (no infections, thank goodness, and no urinary problems otherwise). It was under a year ago a specialist first told me I had renal tubular acidosis, type two, and that this was a birth defect, in other words a problem I’ve always had and that I didn’t “cause” in any way. Which is still a bit odd to think about. Maybe because by and large I got about an eighteen year hiatus from horrible attacks, I’d just have one now and then, a few achy pains. I had some acute painful attacks last fall which resulted in treatment and a (minor but unpleasant and terrifying) surgical procedure.

Today, to my dismay, I had to drive myself to the ER because at about twelve twenty I realized I was about to have a world of hurt, as the pain ramped up and up and up. Passing a stone, I guess, or my body is getting ready to. It’s a pretty horrible pain, and I’ve experienced gallstones and natural childbirth (and unnatural childbirth!). So.

I didn’t want to take myself to the hospital. I didn’t want to be in pain, I didn’t want to have to change plans, which meant changing other people’s plans. I didn’t want to incur more medical expenses. And while writhing in a helpless and contained way on a small cot, and feeling more nausea than I’d ever felt in my life, so far, and crying by myself in harsh lighting, I didn’t want to consider another invasive procedure in my future.

But anyway all of that went down, and I chose to accept this, as exhausting as it feels. My kids and husband came to my side and helped me at the hospital. And everyone on the hospital staff was very, very kind.

In other news, yesterday some apparently very kind and loving ANONYMOUS soul left me a monetary gift at a local shop I teach at. That was wonderful timing as we are 1 1/2 months behind on rent, so this gave me some grace money to take the kids out and get some food, and save a little besides. I can’t think who the donor might be, and I suppose if they are anonymous I’m not supposed to know. I wanted to write more about this event, but I’m not feeling well at the moment.

So yeah. I’ve had a tiring day, full of pain and nausea, four needle pricks, IV fluids and strong medicine, and lots and lots of vomiting. I’m also having a medicine hangover so I need to rest.

But I’ll write more soon when I can.

Good night.

the sunshine in which virtue grows

After my medical procedure on Friday I didn’t want to be by myself. Once home I was inclined to rest (as I was under the influence of a small cartload of drugs), eat (as I’d had to fast since the evening previous), and listen to and talk to my family while they went about their business. And I received these gifts. I was in a bit of a haze when Ralph brought me home, although I knew my mom and children followed behind in her van. When the latter carload stepped through the door they brought a large vase of flowers, roses in many colors. They’d gone to the florist’s between the hospital and my home. While in the flower shop they ran into a family friend and got to talking about me. After listening to what were likely ebullient shows of love by the quartet in attendance, the florist wouldn’t take more than $30 for the generously-styled bouquet, her own gift for the occasion.

Ralph has been caring for me steadily. Cooking and making coffee and bringing me water. He’s bought me sopes and tea and Ibex wool gloves and every kind of juice he thought I’d like. He’s brought me blankets and kitties to cuddle and he’s done dishes and lit candles throughout the house (he knows I like candles). Very valuable to me, he’s helped me in my daily commitment to have a walk, something that has meant a great deal to me.

My friends and family have called, texted, IM’d, DM’d, and emailed, but with a great deal of consideration for my rest and recovery (that, physically, was quite swift, likely as the procedure was minor and the surgeon knew what he was doing). Friends have looked after (and fed) my children and tonight someone brought me an orchid as a gift. You know? I’ve wanted an orchid a long time. I once bought one for a friend, a beautiful and expensive specimen, and only a few minutes after I delivered this to the home of this friend, our other friend had cocktails and got nervous and knocked the beautiful thing over with a swoop of her ass. I remember thinking it was very funny, although my friend with the errant posterior probably was embarrassed. I knew even those years ago I’d like an orchid but I never gave myself permission to buy one. Tonight the blooms occupy the highest position in my home, a reminder, a flag of friendship.

I’ve been saying (and writing) “Thank you” a lot for a couple weeks now.

I write these events out as I want them recorded somewhere besides in my heart. I think in some way people’s kindness amazes me and it finally breaks down some barrier, some resistance I’ve long held very deeply. I am not invisible, and I am not unique, and I do not need to suffer alone.

There was a time in my life where I felt I’d been unfairly done by. I remember stewing over a great deal of unfairness, dealt to me and others, angry over embarrassments and humiliations, large and small. I remember worrying a lot about what I’d do for paid employment or how my kids would turn out or what people thought of me or if something bad would happen. I’ve felt angry at those who had more material wealth, I’ve felt superior to those who (seemed as if they) had more troubles than I. I’ve felt eager for the good opinion of some while ignoring others entirely if they did not seem in some way useful or special.

But over time many of these judgments and perceptions have fallen away, and I’ve been left feeling more curious and grateful, and a bit more tired for some reason. And now I simply must accept the goodness and kindness so many have to offer, either that or pretend it isn’t what it is.

Today the wonderful nature of people evidences itself in so many ways. I have been loved and cared for far more than I “deserve”. This is not to say I believe I am a wretched person, only I believe I cannot in anyway repay, or even pay forward, the great deal of care and consideration that has been afforded me. I must only admit the world is a wonderful place full of lovely people, and I’d like to be a part of. In time I shall likely feel better again, after recent seeming setbacks, but I do not need anything other than I have to exhibit kindness as has been shown me. It’s a wonderful meditation, and a wonderful practice to cultivate.

nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt

I am supine on the cold table and something is beamed at me and takes pictures of my insides. The technician is very friendly and conversational, quite professional. I am subdued because I have been enduring medications and procedures that are not especially fun, although I am struggling not to retain a poor attitude. My children are in the hallway, clean and neatly dressed, reading to themselves. After I get my pictures taken I dress again, gather the kids up and get them a bubble tea to share before we head to the specialist’s.

After review of my results they tell me a series of little reports, mundane to their field of expertise, but each one a blow which threatens me into a smaller and smaller corner of myself. They recommend a procedure that will involve general anesthesia and intubation, have a device installed within my body, and then wait two weeks where I must rest while likely enduring chronic pain that cannot be corrected by medication, during this time which among other restrictions I am recommended to not lift more than ten pounds. Two weeks of very likely chronic pain. This sticks with me and the fear threatens to consume me. Then after this time, the removal of the device, a procedure which also hurts, lots. When a doctor tells me it hurts, I know it hurts more than they say.

Today I am not in much pain, but I am in some. I am not in as much pain as I will be, so I take that time and enjoy it. But what to say when people say, “I hope you’re feeling better”, and things aren’t better? We assume those sick improve, but not always so. I should know this acutely watching my father go through cancer (and, worse, cancer treatment). Sometimes there is no “better”, or better takes time.

Attending me I have a loving family, competent (as far as I can tell) medical personnel, some medical insurance, and most of all, my sobriety and spiritual practice. Indeed these last two are the only things I can rely on, these practices. I can tell you without them I would be consumed, eaten alive by fear and misery.

“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.”

After great pain, a formal feeling comes / The Nerves sit ceremonious, like tombs

In the ER they have these fancy little barf bags I don’t remember from eighteen years ago when I suffered, I suspect, from the same malady that brings me here today. Back then the Emergency entrance was on the north side of the building and the whole bit was a little more pinched and darker and dingier; I remember throwing up on the floor between my feet while the intake lady looked on in disapproval, her nails angrily clack-clacking my low class to her keyboard.

But today I cough and vomit into a tidy little blue bag and the personnel there are cheerful, trying to make conversation while I’m a bit blind from sensation, except to note my systolic blood pressure is up thirty points due to pain. My daughter strokes my back and puts her head against mine and eventually I’m on a narrow bed in my own room writhing around. After a while the grip of convulsions slow a bit and I can lie still and formulate some thoughts; I instruct Phoenix to call and cancel her own dentist appointment, and to call Ralph, to cancel this or that (like a little VIKING I finished a meeting commitment today, the last twenty minutes distinctly uncomfortable, before driving myself directly to the hospital where I got up to the weeping and choking), to let my mom know where I am as she has my son. Meanwhile they put a needle in the hollow of my elbow and take blood and ask for urine and put stuff in an IV and my arm is cold.

I watch some bad television but it really is Bad. I click it off and stare at the thin cotton blankets not keeping me warm. Soon Ralph is there and more stuff is put in my IV and them I’m wheeled in for a CT scan where the operator pulls down my jeans, belt and all, and has me push up my bra, and I lie on my stomach under blankets and tubes and curiously comfortable but in the most undignified state of sartorial disarray. The operator is friendly too, and he wheels me back and I feel distinctly odd at being wheeled anywhere, and it also occurs to me how fun it would be to have remote control and bang through the halls like a maniac.

The pain is rising again and they give me some more meds. The doctor comes back in eventually and tells me bad news. I am kind of shocked although I kind of also knew what was likely wrong. I am told to call so-and-so Specialist tomorrow. I sit helpless on my little gurney under blankets. My blood pressure is finally down to normal again, thanks to a rather effective pain medication that unfortunately makes me vomit again, although this time I don’t mind nearly so much.

All in all it’s exhausting to go through but you can imagine how relieved I am to not feel pain, and when I get home my mom comes over with my son, and they’ve brought roses. But they bought the roses even before they knew I fell ill which kind of is the Best Thing Ever.

You never know what the day will bring. Here I thought I’d be making a double-chocolate bundt cake, sewing a Halloween costume, going to a book study, and up late on a date with my husband. Instead I’ve been on the couch a while, only breaking for a bath and to sit up and eat pizza, and Heather is up late a few feet away writing a poem about pancakes. I try not to worry about the onset of more pain and I shall instead use my time to appreciate the sensations in my body now, agony-free.