Day 5. Go Ahead, Murder Yourself.

Murder!

Join me in committing a murder.

I’m asking you to be accessory to a crime; I’m also asking you to commit your own murder(s), most likely plural.  Most likely we will be joyful afterwards.

The idea of having 5 days left to live is abstract.  As you know, I don’t intend to die on 11/13/12.  But having to confront the idea of dying from so many directions this year has brought me to consider it from an entirely different perspective, one that finally put me in a powerful position over the last several weeks.

What if someone, or more accurately something, does die, but (as is true with vegan dinners) nobody gets hurt in the process?

What if the 13th becomes is a deadline for murdering, or killing off, the parts of ourselves that are unhealthy, or that aren’t serving us well anymore. I don’t anticipate taking off limbs, or even eyelashes, yet in the process we will chip away minute parts of ourselves, parts that don’t weigh any more than an eyelash, small enough not to cause injury, but large enough to show slight differences in character in their absence. These distinctions, for example, would cause the new “me” or “you” to react entirely differently were a new doctor foolish enough to assign one of us an expiration date.

Think about it.  The idea of killing off yourself in this way becomes appealing, right?  I’ll start.  Then, I want you to jump on.

Here are ten pieces and parts of me that I will murder over the next five days.  Won’t you join me?

—  my rigidity, which might be termed my “my-way-or-the-highway”-ness as well as my obsessive nature.

— my difficulty with staying with any single task until it is complete.

—  my tendency to look up the truth on the internet during family discussions, unless that’s what we seem to want to do.

—  my tendency to accept the first assessment the doctor makes as THE WORD, or THE TRUTH (the replacement for this tendency might be a mixture of the above tendency, looking it up, with consulting second opinions when necessary).

— my tendency to obsess over unnecessary fine points, frequently to avoid dealing with the crucial.

— my propensity to want things I cannot have.

— my selfishness.

— my tendency to worry about everything. 

—my poor social skills (esp. at parties when I don’t know anyone).

 — my impostor complex.

 My list feels like the ultimate rough draft, as though it would take 100 or more list entries to approach the topic with any real seriousness.  But if I am truly to jettison, to murder, my obsessive nature, I must commit this murderous assignment, take its tenets seriously.

f about you?  Has this blog made you think about making changes year (or do you need to go back and start reading from Day 365 to understand what I’m talking about?  Don’t be intimidated by length; I wrote nowhere near 365 entries, or even nowhere near 100 entries).  What parts of yourself will you murder?  Why?  Let’s’ talk about it.

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Day 180. All About Eve 2 — Converting to Medical Qi Gong

On the morning of my second visit to Eve Soldinger, my Medical Qi Gong practitioner/miracle-worker, I knew my mission from the moment my eyelids slid open.  It propelled me to arrive in Dupont Circle twenty minutes early.  There is no question that I can get out of bed and move quickly when I am motivated by something so powerful, so good, so so….delicious as a bakery that makes Gluten-Free, Vegan pastries.

Yum-yum gimme some.

At the end of our first visit, Eve and I had spoken some about the vegan diet we had in common.  I told her that it was tricky to find foods that were as highly specialized as my dietary restrictions required.  She mentioned that she thought a local bakery made Gluten-free and Vegan treats.  “Both?” I asked her.  She wasn’t sure, but she thought so.  She told me it was just around the corner.

That was all I needed to hear.  In fact, all week long I fantasized about potential creamy, flaky, pastries that I inhale in clouds of powdered sugar the way addicts inhale….well creamy, flaky pastries.  You must understand that for one who never gets to eat such delicacies, the urges can become reasonably faint; but when the potential to eat the foods seems imminent, fantasies can overcome.

To walk my triangle start near the M in St. Mathews. Go up Conn. Ave (not labeled; walk toward the circle).  Form the bottom of the triangle on Mass ave, and come back around on 18th St.

So I got out of my car and walked around the block from 18th Street to Connecticut Avenue; it’s one of those funky little diagonal blocks that occurs nearing a traffic circle, the likes of which we have all over the District of Columbia.  The folklore about their origins is that Pierre L’Enfant, the architect of the city, was a big drunk who frequently rested his drink on the city plans; wherever he rested his drink landed a circle.  But I digress.  (See the map.)

It was not hard for me to walk around the acute angle of the block and up the Connecticut Avenue side.  I was like a dog with his tongue hanging out, “Duh, where’s the bakery, where’s the bakery?”  Well, there was no bakery.

The sun was exquisite, the wind cool, and the sky the most perfect azure, a rare perfect day in Washington.  It could not have been a better day to walk.  Not only that, but I love that neighborhood.  My Dad & Stepmother used to live down there when I was in high school, and I have so many happy memories of walking around; it used to be incredibly hip.  Now it’s still pretty, cool store fronts.  So I kept walking.

“Duh, where’s the bakery, where’s the bakery?”

No bakery.  So I ended up walking all the way around the block.  Way, way, way too far for me.  I’m about a five-minute-r.  This was fifteen minutes.  When I came upon Eve’s building, I was relieved, excited, and in tears, all at once.

The best comparison is always the base:  we all measure up to the most common denominator, or she-nominator.  You know how you can have to pee something fierce, but somehow you manage to keep a cork in your vast keg as you ride or drive up to your building.  No matter how bad it is, it is manageable until you get to your front door.  Then, suddenly, there is no more cork.  It’s just your finger and that hole, and good luck keeping the enormous keg plugged until it matters.

Stop shaking your head in disapproval (you know who you are!).  You know exactly what I am talking about.

Well, this was precisely my misery when I stumbled up to Eve’s building— only my bladder was fine.  I just rather fell apart pain-wise.  I had had to keep it together walking around that vast triangle of a block, because once I had started the walk toward gustatory paradise, it was too far to turn back.  Then, to have begun to concentrate on the misery of the pain would have made it impossible to continue.

If you think, “Well, Heidi, why didn’t you just hail a cab?” you have clearly never been to D.C.  I won’t laugh at you.  Cabs are decorative in D.C.  They are not used for transportation, that I have experienced; mostly, they are used to soak tourists.  Until 2008, they didn’t even have meters!

Anyway, I started to cry when I got to Eve’s building, and when you’re in pain, everything falls apart at once.  I looked ahead at the week:  busy — oh God, I’ve got to go to Baltimore to see a very important doctor on Friday and I’ve probably destroyed that, and it takes four months to get an appointment with her, and the weekend is probably blown, too.  Ugh.

Eve’s groovy antique elevator cheered me up, and I realized I couldn’t walk into her office blubbering like a fool, so I composed myself.  I think now about a friend in college who always asked, “Why are you so positive???”  I used to admire her ability to be genuinely pissed off, without liking someone any less, necessarily. There is something so Wonderbread, Shiksa, deadly dull about my predictably perky, “Well How Dee Dooo, Eve, how are you?”

A cooler person would have said, Where was the &**))#(**^%ing bakery?

We did get there.  But I really did want to talk to Eve.  I like her, and I wanted to know how she was….and we had to talk first about the fact that the previous week really didn’t work.

So then I almost started to cry again when she responded to that.  You’ll never believe it: “You had a migraine?  You should have called me!  I would have fixed it over the phone!”

Really?  I wasn’t tracking so well. My “journalistic” mind was plugged by the bath of neurotransmitters involved in the pain cycle.  I remember looking up and seeing her shake her head at me earnestly as in, “No joke, fool.”  Eve is not one to be tangled with.  I’ll believe it until proved otherwise, because when you’re in my position, well, why the hell not.  (There’s more logic to my logic than this, but that’s all I had at the moment—think back to the magnet analogy I used last time I wrote.)

Finally, I explained to her about my long walk and that I was in pain.  Eve was sorry—she had used the euphemism “around the block” the way I would, in my normal suburbanite, car-fueled way, to describe the locale of the bakery.  Now she drew a map for me (for the record it is Le Pain Quotidien — like the one in West Hollywood where Margie & I ate — This one at 20th & P, where the old costume store used to be, if that makes sense to you.  You know you are old when you start defining your city in terms of where things used to be….).

Eve said, “Well, then, let’s treat this pain.”

This time when I was on the table, I wasn’t so afraid; I opened my eyes a few times and saw big hand movements above my body, bigger than ones used, typically, in a Reiki treatment. Eve spoke to me and explained what she was doing, trying to repair my energy.  She said that there was a big tear in my energy where the aneurysm ruptured, over my left leg, that the energy there is “in ribbons.”  It makes sense.

Unlike last week, she was working very, very slowly.  My body does not seem to be able to handle even the most incremental energetic changes.  That is true when we are talking about Western Medicine as well.  I don’t manage PT or anything else.  So not surprising that she encountered this in Medical Qi Gong.

Eve reported as she worked up that body that the energy over the aneurysms in my superior mesenteric artery & renal arteries is not ruptured.  That’s very good news.  We want to keep it that way.  The energy shoulder-level and above is frenetic, whereas below shoulder-level is stagnant.   That certainly describes the status of my physical ability.  I asked her if there was any reason she could find that would explain my trouble focusing to write.  She said, that the situation she had described was precisely the problem:  I am not grounded, meaning that the frenetic energy transpiring in my head doesn’t have any connection with the earth.

“So we’ll work on that,” she said.  Yes. Yes. Yes.

By the time she finished, the pain in my legs and feet had not only improved; it had stopped.  

….All this time, I have to say, I have not suspended disbelief.  I’m still thinking, well, this can’t really be happening, right? I want it to be happening, but anyone with a three graduate degrees should question this more, right?  What do you mean, “The pain just stopped.”  Wish fulfillment, Heidi.  I’m thinking that there is no way this is working….

As Eve was completing her work I continued to get a few electric shock pains on my left leg, so I showed her where they were.  She did some more work right there and stopped them. I still would give it a level 2 on that nutty pain inventory for a sort of all over electric shock readiness general misery that I was still feeling from my walk.  But the awful pain that had been making me cry, the kind that I could have expected for easily the next five days? She turned it off like a light switch.

How does that happen?  …..Well, for the most part, WHO CARES?

It was remarkable, people.  Pain control is one part of the fight.  Fatigue is another I don’t even know how to bring into this argument.

It is still staggering to me that I had the energy, then, to go do a list of stuff right after my session with Eve.  I went to Mom’s Organic Market to kill some time before I went to get my daily tan. So that involved walking a whole grocery store, and carrying two way too heavy grocery sacks.  Then I walked a couple of blocks and back to the tanning studio, and I walked up to the apartment and back for the cart, and then schlepped my groceries.  Even after I got home, it seems as though I set myself rather feverishly at completing a mountain of small tasks around the house, never sitting myself down until evening, at which time I was in some considerable pain. But I would not have been able to move past noon before, and would still be lost now from that long walk, before.

So there was hyperactive Tuesday, a more restful Wednesday because I needed it, but the pain was manageable.  Remarkably, I had another hypomanic Thursday, in terms of frenetic expenditures of work.  Then I traveled to Baltimore on Friday.  This is Saturday.  A pace like this usually puts me in the hospital.  Today, Saturday, I’m having to rest, but I’m capable of writing.  That’s because I’m still feeling Eve’s effects from Tuesday.

I have already recommended it to a cancer-stricken friend, who is in serious pain.  What better medicine could anyone take?  Medical Qi Gong has no side-effects, theoretically, although we do have to take into account the migraine I got. This is rivaling narcotics in effectiveness.

I would recommend it to you.  It’s certainly been validated and tested over many more thousand years than any modality any of us is using in Western Medicine!

I can’t wait to go back on Tuesday.  What can she do next?

Hot tip:  Do yourself a favor and read my new favorite blog, A Taxi Dog DiaryThe author’s tag line is, “After I died, I got a whole new appreciation of life.”  That was enough to capture me as a reader.  Instead of what you are expecting—another hearts and flowers tale of realizing life’s beauty and thanking God for a fantabulous disability—Dr. Taxi Dog takes a New Yorker’s approach to life after death—darkly comic.  His discussions range from the brilliant to the artsy; today’s was Disney’s animation of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue followed by some interesting info.  Be sure to check it out!

Coming next:  I went to see the magical Dr. Francomano on Friday, and…what a relief…she was just as wonderful as she was the first time.  Sometimes you go back to wonder-doc and find out that first wonder-visit was an anomaly (particularly when you turn up with as many incurable illnesses as before).  Turns out, Dr. Francomano truly is the real McCoy!  More this week…

Day 261. Touching the Ceiling

Sunrise at Pollution Pond

Just got back from art class tonight.  My painting looked so much better in class–but don’t blame me for the colors:  she only let us use two!  Think of it as sunrise at pollution pond.

Blame it on my mood.  I’m pure nerves about the costs of my healthcare today.  When will I touch the ceiling….and crash to the floor?

One reason I love about writing creative non-fiction, such as the work in my book and the writing in this blog, is that it involves a certain amount of research.

So a research question is embedded in the topic I pose myself today: What is the ceiling on your health insurance, Heidi?

                 I find myself stuck on this one.

Yet, it isn’t as though my poor little hypermobile fingers won’t type the question at Google‘s receptive, blinking cursor, or that I can’t compose the precise search term.  Rather, it is that I can do it spot on, and Google will respond in 0.040126678 seconds.

 I don’t want to know the answer.

While I talk a good game at being poor at mathematics, I could in seconds have a running ticker in the lower left-hand corner of my “screen,” that is to say my personal visual field.  Then, every minute, waking and non-, for the rest of my existence, a dwindling balance would be ticking away there, like the doomsday clock does in Times Square.

Oh, I have a days-left clock going already (thanks to Dr. Dimwit of the “You have 261 days left to live fame”), which I try to grey out for my own sanity.  But the fact is that I write a $512 monthly health insurance premium check, and, again, math disability be damned, the figure turns red as I write it.

How can this possibly be, it wants to know, that you can be paying this amount, exorbitant to be sure, and it’s not enough, until we realize that you’ve had three MRIs and two cat scans in the past four months. Let us devise a broad estimate that each of those studies costs $1500 (without taking into account the cost of the radiologists’ time to read the exam and report on it).  So that’s $7500.  Add to that a $12,000 hospital bill for December (again, without any of the doctors’ bills). Not to mention that is one of only four hospitalizations in 2011.

The good news is that while I am not a cheap date, 2011 was not a bad year as they have gone for hospitals. Compared with 2008, for example, when I spent some six weeks in the hospital, 2011 was a banner year. In 2008, my hospital bills totaled more than $50K.  Are you keeping track?

I’m not. I have already purged these numbers from my poor, diseased mind.  Good Lord!  There is only so much a chick can tolerate, and when you supposedly have 261 days left on the planet that type of data is disease.

This reminds me, actually, of the era when I first had a credit card, back in the early 1990s.  If you don’t know me, then let me apprise you that I just paid the last one off last year.  That’s twenty years of paying off balances. It took that long to rebound from my original accounting method, which involved my putting a figurative hand over one eye daily or so whilst making large purposes and shouting loudly “Oh, ah just can’t possibly have reached mah $25,000 limit yet!”  My goodness, I was expert at that shout (and loud could be so relative, particularly when I was unaware they raised the credit limit a few times).  But I perfected it at a time when my therapy was conducted via the retail channel.

It wasn’t my fault.

So I can see myself with these medical bills too–oh, the fault is on the insurance company.  So what if it’s $50K? Or $100K?  Who cares?  I don’t care what the limit is because I have an expiration date–so I can leverage my limit against the insurance limit, see?

I realize how dumb I sound here. Irony. Measured Irony.

My only hope, actually, may be the threatened “death committees,” which reportedly will vote (supposedly frequently against) benefits to those who have situations like aneurysms and genetic diseases.  They will make the decision for me.  I won’t have to worry about whether I can pay for the insurance.  I simply won’t be able to afford for my treatment out of pocket, and out-of-pocket may become my only option.

I guess that it’s sort of like pollution, though.  I sort of have to look at it like the repulsive person my age that I’ve become:  What does it matter if I’ll be dead by the time it  becomes unavoidable?

Life is a picnic, at least for now.  I think I’m going to eat desert first from now on.

Day 306. Looking Back, Looking Ahead

This is an idea I’ve blatantly plagiarized from the Crazy Sexy Life Blog (where you can read about Green Smoothies and all kinds of good, healthy living options and vegan food).  Kris Karr’s ideas are pretty compelling when you read her story:  Karr (who is gorgeous) had stage 4 breast cancer, which is very serious, and decided to treat herself with food, supplements, and healthy living.  Seems like she’s doing pretty dandy.

So, I liked her exercise.  Here’s my version:

2011 in Review (with gratitude)

  1. Started a Blog
  2. Said “no” more.
  3. Got to see Casey and Johnny.
  4. Wrote a lot, sometimes more than two pages at a time–a record for me in my present shape.
  5. Hung out more with friends
  6. Great CT scans! The aneurysms did not grow, and if they don’t grow again this time, I can graduate to one annually.
  7. Started literary Salon.
  8. Took a writing class with SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) and met tons of friends who are writing books, too, who turned out to be better writing teachers than SARK.
  9. Spent a lot of good, happy times with my family.
  10. Kept up with my watercolors, making a couple of fairly good paintings.
  11. Met up with my oldest, dearest friend Scott, who I now hang out with regularly.
  12. Took several tele-seminars in great topics like World-Changing Writing.  They were fantastic and turned me into a full-time writer again.
  13. Got a PEMF machine; use it around 45 minutes every day.  Lowered pain meds dosage on most days.
  14. Tried to be kinder to myself.  Easier said than done.

2012 (What is to come)

  1. Join PeTA (check! done!….I know many of you will be haters because of their very public stunts:  those are the very reason I am joining.  I believe
    that PeTA’s popular culture status does more to promote veganism than any group like the Humane Society [with its obnoxious commercials].)

    Released into the public domain by PETA.

    Image via Wikipedia

  2. See Art.
  3. Visit museums of every kind once every month or two.  And just deal with the mobility issue.
  4. Finish my book enough to start sending it around to publishers.
  5. Get to see more Goddard friends like Lana, Gerard, Mary, and Christian.
  6. Go to the theater.
  7. Take an art class.
  8. Go to the movies more often.
  9. Be organized and present for my writing group, so that we can get our new ideal group off the ground.
  10. Hang out with Scott.
  11. Make art:  watercolors, tissue collage, lunch boxes.  Many media.  Make something once a week.
  12. Try not to think I’m dying right away when it’s just another health thing.
  13. Spend lots of time with the boyz (Harrison, Aiden, Greg, Jacob).
  14. Spend time with the parents.

Day 357. Approximating Realism.

After Henry Miller by Heidi 11/20/11

I’m posting this monstrosity because Randy and Lana wanted to see paintings.  It truly is a rotten painting to post as exemplary, since it is not my typical style; so think of it as something you can print out for the lining for the bottom of your bird cage.

I’m reading Henry Miller’s book, Paint as you Like and Die Happy. I was trying to paint in the style of his 1950s paintings, which looks much easier than it turns out to be.  Here is one similar to the one I was looking at.

Sooo, it’s back to the watercolor workshop for me.  Today’s lesson:  it is far, far easier to approximate realism than it is to do a really fine abstract piece.  I’m going back to The Tao of Painting, I think, which has an altogether more elegant approach.