Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Liver-Kidney See-Saw And The Paradox of Longing

I received a deluge of emails after yesterday’s entry asking, “Are you okay?”
Can we start with an easier question? I have, at some point in each day, an incredible array of apparently contradictory thoughts and feelings. I am all over the map.

A paradox is something that seemingly contradicts itself. Two extreme opposites might both be true. There is some magical alchemy in embracing this enigmatic tension of opposites. Something unexpected nearly always arises from the paradoxes I meet each day. My days never have just one theme or emotional texture. My days unfold with the surprising and the unforeseen.

Before my infusion yesterday I saw the oncologist, who is concerned about my pain, fatigue, and elevated liver enzymes. My kidneys calmed down and now my liver is calling. It's like they're on a see-saw, taking turns being up or down. So much for staying home and mastering “being in nothing.” Enough Zen for now! I'm scheduled for more blood tests, a CAT scan and an MRI. I know I spoke out against it, but I’m going to need to make a list. . .

. . . and then I’m listening to music, sitting on a large gym ball, lightly bouncing, making amoeba-shaped circles and figure-8s. I crawl under the covers, dive into puffed-Os and involuting wave motion for a while (Continuum folks know what I mean,) drift into a deep sleep, and have a little dream. It’s actually deeply satisfying and enjoyable. Does it really mater in the moment of bliss under the smooth sheets whether or not I have an opinion or an emotional reaction to my liver enzymes? My days are not just made of test results, pain, fatigue, and biopsies. I have my joyful moments: Steve calls unexpectedly in the middle of the day just to see how I’m doing and say, “hi”, someone calls who wants to deliver dinner, I get a massage, I sleep for almost 2 hours on the acupuncture table, I hang out at the kitchen table with Steve and Ben and Luke telling stories for an hour over breakfast, we watch a movie and laugh, I abysmally lose a game of Settler’s of Catan and bask in the teasing by my fellow "Siedlers," my brother calls and we talk for a long time about something only he and I know about, I sit on the beach and watch the clouds change shape, or someone calls from New York or Vermont or Germany to tell me it’s snowing and they are eating in one of my favorite restaurants and wishing I were there. These are just a few of the things that have delighted me in the past few days.

In my last blog entry I didn’t mean to give the impression that my life has become so dismal with nothing but misery and fatigue and futile waiting. I have blissful moments of silence and stillness too. I have stretches of time that blossom with authentic reverence for the life force expressing itself through me. I have a great appetite. I enjoy my food, and I frequently dream about eating ice cream again someday.

My earliest memory is of myself inside a chest freezer in the basement of the Philadelphia home where I was born, sitting on a stack of frozen vegetable boxes, eating out of a half-gallon-sized carton of what I then called, “cockie tzip,” chocolate chip ice cream. I was 18-months-old and already passionate about ice cream. I actually could have done without the chocolate chips. I just wanted the plain vanilla ice cream, but chocolate chip was all that was there that day. I pulled up a chair, climbed up, and reached in dangling by my waist, but could not get to it. I strained to grab the edge of the carton, but lost my balance and fell in. The freezer top stayed open, otherwise I might have suffered or died that day. My mother found me within 5 minutes, judging by how much I had eaten. I scooped the stuff up with my chubby little pink fingers and was delighted to indulge in my favorite treat, not traumatized in the least.

Now when I long for ice cream I derail my desire by reciting Rumi’s poem “Love Dogs
     "…This longing you express is the return message.
     The grief you cry out from draws you toward union.
     Your pure sadness that wants help is the secret cup…”

Until I feel like there is wiggle room in my “nutritional chemotherapy” I will abstain. In the absence of the real stuff melting on my tongue, I will fill my secret cup with longing and drink god’s answer. Life force lives in the longing.