Archive for December, 2010

December eighth. A perfect day. I launched my book online, secured “Amazon bestseller” status, and I watched my daughter’s school’s Christmas show.

Then came the phone call.

“Your mother’s in the hospital,” were the first words out of my step-father’s mouth. I just listened. Turns out she almost died, and we were lucky to still have her with us.

Here’s the short version. My mother is a very strong, fit and stoic woman. She doesn’t complain much. So when she does, you know it very deep and very real.

A few days before December 8th, she complained of cramps. She and her husband when to the clinic in their small town. They poked and prodded a wee bit, then sent her home with Tylenol 3s and a pat on the back. The T3s didn’t help. The cramps worsened. Back to the clinic. Back home with the instruction to wait it out. The the pain got so severe that they headed for the hospital, an hours drive away. At the hospital they did a CAT scan and they determined she had an bowel obstruction. Twelve hours later (yes, it actually took that long) she was under the knife and they removed three feet of dead bowel tissue.

They figure (meaning, they are guessing) that this dead bowel tissue was a slow cellular deterioration that might have began as early as when mom got her tubes tied about four decades ago. The surgeon remarked that had they not removed it when they did, my mom would have died.

Two days later, now out of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), mom’s biggest physical achievement is to walk past two doorways without dropping. And her highest item on her list of things to do is pass gas.

On any given day, some experts estimate that anywhere from 10-25% of a doctors diagnosis is accurate; the rest is guesswork. [1] I’ve heard it said that your family physician is guessing about 50% of the time when she or he has to diagnose a patient. I’m now starting to think that that is a very kind and generous estimate. Given the advancement of science and technology, these claims are astounding. And, sadly, they also appear to be true.

Anyway, this post is not meant to be a diatribe on the abysmal state of current medical practices. (That’s just a pleasant aside.)

Really, what I’d like to point out is how my mother’s breathtakingly close flirtation with death has caused me to notice something.

The observation, in a nutshell is this: If I were to freeze-frame this moment in time, upon examination I’d have to say that it’s pretty good all things considered. That’s an assessment based not in what this moment contains (objects, status, achievements, financial acquisitions, wealth and so on) but rather based on what has not yet been taken away from me. My mother is still alive. My daughter. My still-smoking-one-pack-a-day brother. My other brother who teaches overseas and has first hand accounts of tsunamis and floods that have killed thousands. I still have a roof over my head. I’m not hungry or thirsty. I have no chronic pain. My muscles all work. I can still breathe.

If I move beyond the moment, if I contemplate what tomorrow might bring, the pain of living returns. Imminently looming financial destruction. Marital disintegration. Neighborly discontentment (gossip, rumors, higher-order catty exclusions, trickling down to our daughters). Women not reading my book. Women reading my book and hating me for it. The fear of dying obsolete without impacting anyone else’s life, without making a significance difference when I know that I have it within me to do just that. Personal and professional rejection (inevitable when you’re marketing anything; and more hurtful when that something you are marketing is your own sweet self).

And beyond tomorrow’s truly insignificant and topical fears (those I just listed) lie the deeper ones that touch the very core of our being. For it is inevitable that my parents will die,  that some of my siblings will pass before I can make the grand exodus myself. And in the news are constant reminders that there are times that our children die before we do. A greater pain I cannot imagine. I don’t know how parents survive such a sadness.

Life is the great gift, and the knowledge that it will end in an unannounced death is the great tragedy.

My mother did not will death upon herself. Louise Hay would solomly state (without even cracking a smile) that mom has a fear of letting go. That’s what  Hay would quack. Her diagnosis would simply be a the affirmation, “I freely and easily release the old and joyously welcome the new.” Mmm. Let’s see. A fear of letting go. Of life. Yep, I think we all do. And, no, contrary to the stupidity of some LOA advocates, we are not eternal beings; neither she nor I will live forever[2]. Two conflicting truths exist simultaneously. This moment is all that we have; and this too shall pass.

When someone tries to sell you happiness-dressed-in-green (millionaire status), packages it in promised ease, sells it as your inherent universal birthright, and then ultimately charges you thousands upon thousands of dollars, give your head a shake. Jump aside. Fast. For the lights you see are not the divining graces awaiting your long overdue arrival at the end of some dark tunnel. It’s a freakin Mac truck baby, barreling towards you at full speed.

Don’t freeze in the headline. But do freeze just this moment. Look at what you have. Look at it in terms of the big sadnesses that have not yet struck you. This helps you see what you have. And in that, you might be able to say that in this moment, I am actually happy.

Most of the time, though, we miss it.

You don’t need a guru to wake you to it. Save your money. Put it back in your pockets. All you need to do is notice this very moment. And then stop. That’s all. That’s the real secret.

NOTES

[1] http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_22/b3986001.htm. Surgeon Dr. David Eddy  states that “The problem is that we don’t know what we are doing.” The article goes on to say that “[a] great many doctors and health-care quality experts have come to endorse Eddy’s critique. And while there has been progress in recent years, most of these physicians say the portion of medicine that has been proven effective is still outrageously low — in the range of 20% to 25%.” Dr. Eddy is calling for a new medical model, one  that is evidence based. Evidence-based “is a term he coined in the early 1980s, and it has since become a rallying cry among medical reformers. The goal of this movement is to pierce the fog that envelops the practice of medicine — a state of ignorance for which doctors cannot really be blamed. “The limitation is the human mind,” Eddy says. Without extensive information on the outcomes of treatments, it’s fiendishly difficult to know the best approach for care.”

[2] one friend of mine actually believes he can pre-determine the date of his own death. He’s picked a number, and he’s adamantly going with it. What the hell, I say. If you believe you can pick a date, then why not choose never?? Our blessing, our one true blessing is life itself; our curse, our one true curse, is knowing that it’s temporal. It’s this curse which continues to sow it’s misery and sorrow throughout mankind in the bitter-sweet disguise of faith aka religion. Don’t get me started.

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Violence against [name-your-cause, mine is women] happens because there is a cluster of so-called “thinkers” out there who believe that [women] are inferior, objects to be owned and controlled.

According to the extremist Law of Attraction advocate, a woman gets raped because there is something innately within her that desires to get raped.

Some might soften the blow a little, and say (as they do about violent acts against children) that the thoughts that the child/woman was emanating to the universe was of smaller significance than that of the perp. (Other’s might blame it on the mother’s inability to protect the child because her thoughts are all wrong.)

When the h#ll did we get so f*cked up with our thinking??

As a feminist years back, I jumped on the bandwagaon that made violence against [women] a woman’s issue. We’d build our little victim recovery centres and pat each other’s hands and say there there dear, it’s all over now but tell me again about your pain. You need to let it go, little sister.

As a feminist today, I am jumping on a different bandwagon that is making violence against women a man’s issue. No more hand-holding, just a straight-up acknowledgement that, yes, you’ve been physically assaulted, but honey, you will heal; the person who’s psychologically bent is the frigger who did this to you. Now there’s one soul who seriously and immediately needs a good therapist.

Interestingly, I’m not alone. There are other groups out there who advocate it. Other men’s groups. Watch Tony Porter, a speaker at a TED-Women event. Here what “vibes” this guy is putting out into the universe.

Now, here’s the interesting question (or more accurately series of questions) that I’ll put out there to the LOA extremists who dare to read this blog (and other’s like it): If we can agree that the bulk of all men are not rapists (even though the bulk of all women experience sexual interruption), why is it that rape still happens in epidemic proportions? Whose thoughts are manifesting it? Are the women manifesting it? Or are womanly vibes not “strong” enough for the universe to register, and it’s actually the men’s thinking that brings it about? Can we say that when rape is used as a very specific war tactic (as it was in Bosnia), that when rape is conceived by men as a strategy, that the women have caused it to happen specifically to them? to her? to that one?

If there are men out there like Tony Porter who advocate that men step up to the thinking part of their brain, and women like me out there who subscribe to the belief that violence is a man’s issue (not a woman’s), why in the hell aren’t our thoughts significant enough to change the way things are?

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