Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

Late Night Ruminations

I’m scared. So I am writing and eating Hershey’s Kisses milk chocolate. Putting my fears and worries down in writing helps me make sense of them. Eating chocolate, well, one can always find a reason to justify eating chocolate, even Hershey chocolate.

As I write this, I’m on the southbound Amtrak heading for St. Louis. My mother has an intestinal blockage and was hospitalized this evening. She is in Barnes Jewish West. This isn’t the first time. She was hospitalized for another blockage last year. One thing I can say about my mom, she’s a survivor. She’s been through a lot the past few years.

She is a ten year plus colorectal cancer survivor. She was diagnosed at stage four, after the cancer had already spread to her lungs. Lately, however, she has had numerous health issues, including persistent chronic leg edema that has left her unable to walk without a walker. She is in constant pain and her health is on the decline. 

Tonight, I found out she has been having medical issues I haven’t been aware of. I just wish I either lived closer to her or had a car. She needs someone with her with a medical background. Unless her doctors can figure out what is going on, I’m afraid her family is going to have to make some hard medical decisions.

Reminders of mortality are everywhere. I’m turning 50 next year and have a friend who is celebrating his 50th this year. He has been taking stock of his life, ruminating on where he has been, where he is now and where he is going.

I have been taking an accounting of my own life. And, to tell you the truth, I feel like an abject failure at times. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. I had dreams of going to medical school. I cannot tell you the conversations I had with our family doctor, Dr. Bill. He was so proud I wanted to follow in his footsteps and become a doctor.

I gave all that up for the life of a writer, and have spent the past two decades running away from writing. When I was 17, I was in such a hurry to grow up and be on my own. Going to school, juggling three jobs and supporting myself, I kept pushing that dream further and further away. I never had time to write, as I pursued a collective litany of jobs that led nowhere and provided little satisfaction. Writing, like any tool, if unused, gets rusty. I gave up on the dream, but, fortunately, the dream didn’t give up on me.

I wonder what I would have accomplished if I hadn’t given up on the dream. Where would I be now? The missteps you make in your youth can come back and haunt you when you’re older. We can play the game of “if only I” or we can move forward.

In the overall scheme of things, we are insignificant specks in the grand universe. Consider this. Does what we do truly matter to anyone except ourselves?

Change

I have lost my voice. On March 2, I was hit by lightning while walking across a parking lot. As a result, because of extensive nerve and muscle damage, I no longer have full use of my right hand. I am typing this post left-handed. It is a rather slow and tedious process.

There was severe weather in the area. We were having a full-out thunderstorm with driving rain. I had my umbrella up. At one point, there was a simultaneous thunder boom and lightning flash. Part of the lightning stroke arced over and hit my umbrella, what is called a side flash. I smelled something burning, felt an electric shock in my right hand (the one holding the umbrella handle) and saw sparks shoot out the handle of the umbrella. My first thought was: “Did I just get hit by lightning?” Other than a damaged hand and a singed umbrella, I was otherwise unhurt. I’m fairly lucky.

I am adjusting to a one-handed life. I’m reminded of an old Mash episode where Major Charles Winchester operates on a young soldier and has to amputate his right hand. When the soldier wakes up, he lashes out at Winchester for cutting off his hand. It turns out the soldier is a concert pianist. I feel a little like that soldier.

I am a writer by trade. My life has been on hold this past month. Other than for a story submission to NPRs Three Minute Fiction contest, I have not done any writing. I have deadlines and commitments. I have an article to write for the Illinois Times. I have various writing projects I want to pursue. I have spent the past month bemoaning the loss of my voice.

Just like the soldier in the Mash episode, I have to adjust. As Major Winchester gave the soldier piano scores for the left hand, friends have offered me voice alternatives such as Dragon. I have been resistant to change but am finding I need to open myself to it. I still have a voice. I just need to learn new ways of expressing it.

It feels as though I’ve been granted a new lease on life. This event has marked a turning point in my life. My life has been steered in a new direction. Full of my new-found knowledge about lightning, I am putting together a lightning presentation. I am working on storytelling programs. In fact, I will be telling spider stories for students in the young naturalist program at Lincoln Memorial Garden.

Most importantly, I have realized writing is what I want to pursue. It is what I am. I was happiest while pursuing a freelancing career last year until the work dried up. I was let go from the temp job I was working because I am under medical restrictions. I don’t want to put myself in that position again. I want to be responsible for my own income, not fattening someone else’s pockets.

I recently purchased the May issue of Shambhala Sun. The lead story is about embracing change. I am a Buddhist. A major tenant in Buddhist philosophy is the concept of impermanence. Everything changes. Nothing lasts. By embracing impermanence, recognizing that change is an inevitable, painful part of life, it allows one to come to terms with change. Rather than finding change frightening, one can find within it peace and understanding. With that understanding, one progresses along the path to enlightenment.

Change. It’s a big part of my life right now. According to my hand specialist, it may take up to six months for the nerve damage in my right hand to fully heal, if it ever does. Nerves grow at the rate of one inch per month. We won’t know the full extent of the muscle damage until the nerves heal.

There is a lesson here for me. Nothing happens without reason. I just have to be open to it and accept it.