A Slow Fusion Is Better Than None

No matter the purpose of my appointment with the neurosurgeon, the conversation always comes down to autoimmune disease. Today’s visit was no different.

This is the same neurosurgeon’s office that–a few weeks ago–rescheduled my appointment without telling me. Beyond that, there was an additional conversation about another scheduling error.

However, we all showed up today at the same time, same place.

As I strolled through the door with my walker, I was greeted as if I were an old friend. Doors were opened for me; lots of chatting ensued.

By the time I saw the neurosurgeon, my volume was on voluble. This was my annual appointment regarding my C2-C4 neck fusion. Only screws and a metal plate are holding the donor bone in place. There has been no fusion.

Until today. What looks like a bit of a blur on an x-ray turned out to be the beginning of healing. It’s slow but it is happening.

“Is my body just slow?” I asked her. The surgery was two years ago.

“Yes. It’s the autoimmune disease, the biologic, and the steroids. They slow down the healing.”

This is always her response. She’s not wrong. The chronic disease process and the medication that limits its effects also limit the fusion process.

I’ve struggled with this since the initial surgery that released my pinched spinal cord. It kept me from becoming a quadriplegic. Methotrexate and prednisone make it possible for me to write every day AND perform my activities of daily living. They give me a life.

The neurosurgeon and I have had long, usually thoughtful–sometimes lively–conversations concerning this obstacle that is my path. We both know that stopping the medication does not guarantee the fusion process will continue, much less speed up.

The war within my body—autoimmune disease—will go on whether I stop the medication or not. I will just know its effects more readily if I reduce my troops.

This is the rock and hard spot that is my path but it is not without a sliver of light. That I am healing means more than a blur on an x-ray. Full fusion is not guaranteed but now, it is a possibility.

Consistency in diet, yoga, and meditation have had an effect. None is a quick fix; all are a lifetime practice. For now, the practice includes methotrexate and prednisone.

I work with the reality I have, and in this moment, it is a sliver of light.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

“Poem” Pause: Being By a Cat

Nothing grounds me like a poem. Nothing. It brings me to life right where I am. Crossing the gulf of today’s #DailyDose is not a task too tall. It is paw by paw focus.

as the cat
climbed over
the top of

the jamcloset
first the right
forefoot 

carefully
then the hind
stepped down 

into the pit of
the empty
flowerpot.

(William Carlos Williams, “Poem”)

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

Is There Really a Choice?

Be impeccable in your word

Don’t take anything personally

Don’t make assumptions

Always do your best.

Don Miguel Ruiz

In yesterday’s post, I made a passing reference to Don Miguel Ruiz’ Four Agreements. Is there ever a time when they are not needed? Has there ever been a time when it was easy to practice them?

In these dark days, we know we are not hearing one another. In any conversation, who will put assumptions aside in favor of thoughtful discourse?

Anyone? It’s hard. Often, it does not work. Why make it a practice?

I focus on word choice, aiming for impeccable. I don’t always reach that level. Still, I remind myself that in equanimity there are no enemies. My heart remains open rather than shut tight. I only need a sliver of light.

What I’m saying sounds far-fetched, perhaps impractical. Yet, the few times that I have stood in mindfulness—trusted it–drama was left without a stage on which to play. I fueled no fires.

It has happened enough to reinforce my practice of the Four Agreements, especially on those days when my skin is too thin, and I react rather than respond.

One mistake need not necessitate another, so I am more thoughtful in my word choice. At the very least, it changes up the pace of the conversation or social media commentary.

My recent blog post on childhood and its innocence sparked a comment full of hate, truly vitriolic. The words were so raw I could not take them personally. Neither, could I decipher the reader’s meaning.

It is the kind of spew I see far too often on social media. It does not deserve a response, ever. That said, such hate has always been part of the human experience. The Internet only makes it more immediate.

Our language returns to us, sometimes unrecognizable. We effect change with our word. Do we have a choice other than to be impeccable?

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

More Than a Title

I once wrote a blog post entitled “Forgiveness Is More Than an Afterthought.” The title contained more substance than the post but it did offer a fine quotation:

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.

These words are often attributed to Mark Twain or have been since the 1970s. There is no evidence he wrote or said them.  The sentence seems a compilation that crosses centuries.

Sometimes, words work their way out of one story and into the next anecdote until reduced to a single sentence. Words are like that, aren’t they?

They come together in ways we least expect or even hope, especially when we are careless with them. We forget they will come back to us or we hope they don’t. It is only when we are “impeccable with our word” are less violets crushed (Don Miguel Ruiz).

With forgiveness, debt is involved, and it includes all parties. I never really thought about debt and forgiveness until I read a story of a mother forgiving her daughter’s killer.

Over and over she told herself that she must be able to forgive the debt; forgiveness was not complete, however, until the man who killed her daughter no longer felt the debt, either. Only then was the fragrance released.

Few will ever know this mother’s love and strength. I will not but I carry her story with me as a reminder forgiveness is only possible when no one holds onto it.

M. L. Stedman wrote that “You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.” It is a heavy load, this debt. Only when resentment and regret are crushed does the violet give its last breath.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

On the Thin Side

Sometimes, I am keenly aware of the metal in my hips, as well the plate and screws repairing the fracture in my right femur. It’s not a sensation of pain, it’s warmth, a light sunburn.

I am in awe of sinew uniting metal with bone and muscle as I move into my next yoga pose. I am grateful there is less of my body, not only metal replacing joints but simply less of me, physically.

The words of my orthopedic surgeon return, you tend to the thin side. He has only known this body and not the one that once was so much more; as well, he speaks to this mind that, too, shed “a lot of stuff.”  This mind-body is lighter, simpler now, by necessity.

Perhaps I do live on the thin side. I meet life with as few expectations as possible. It makes meeting the impossible less daunting.

Losing weight was not about numbers. I was desperate for food, caught up in my cravings. I had no idea about real hunger versus comfort eating. The more I ate, the more difficult it was for my body to process food.

And I did not know anything about food so I had no understanding of nutrition or inflammation, an issue that has been with me for 40 years. What I did know is that tests revealed a serious allergy to both wheat and yeast (Brewer’s and Baker’s). I began there, seven years ago.

My digestive issues all but disappeared as I removed wheat (and essentially all grains) and yeast from my diet. The relationship between yeast and sugar is a close one. I reduced my intake of high sugar fruit and high carb vegetables as well.

My emphasis was on what food worked for me, understanding that my body is unique and so are its nutritional needs. It is true that weight vanishes with nutrient dense food. Inflammation is another matter but food plays a role.

To help reduce inflammation, I increased my intake of greens, my fluids, and certain fruits, for me blackberries. For a time diet controlled my inflammation but no longer, as my disease process is now chronic. Yet, medication works better when I feed my body what it can use rather than what it cannot.

If the way I live is a tendency to the thin side, then yes. I carry less, which seems to make more possible. The opposite was true years ago when I was so much more but on the fringe of life, a side too thin.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

#LongerView: Exploring the Richness of Self

Today’s #LongerView looks into the caverns of the heart in “No Ground Beneath My Feet.” Mostly, it considers letting go from the perspective that the action has already occurred. It is in the acceptance that we struggle but need we? I’m just not so sure about that anymore.

I read your thoughtful comments carefully. If there is some aspect of AFE that you would like to see more of,  please let me know in the comments or contact me at evennessofmind@gmail.com.

I’m so grateful you are here. As always, I provide the bench. 

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

A Congress of Old–and Getting Older–White Men

This morning, I “celebrate” the latest GOP idea about healthcare with gluten-free, chocolate chip cookies dipped in unsweetened almond milk. Yes, I know. It is this kind of decision-making and behavior that leads to pre-existing conditions.

Gluten-free or no, what is involved here is sugar, even in unsweetened almond milk, which also contains very few almonds. I just like how it tastes. It is this lack of judgment that has characterized my life. And that is an unforgivable pre-existing condition.

So be it. As a Facebook friend pointed out, being a woman is considered a pre-existing condition by most of the old–and getting older–white men in our current Congress.

Mysteriously, male members have no pre-existing conditions or if they do, those conditions are covered. Just to be safe, Congress has excluded its healthcare system from its citizens.

How can one group of pre-existing conditions be acceptable and another not? That is such dangerous thinking. Human beings evolve. That is the life experience; it is why we are here.

We make disastrous choices–witness our current Congress–then, we learn, often soaring above original intention but not always, witness our current Congress.

If I had consumed less sugar and fewer grains, including gluten-free, would I not have a pre-existing condition? How could that ever be known? There are too many variables. It can be surmised, suggested but it cannot be known absolutely.

Medicine is a science and it evolves. As it learns, it changes. What was once an accepted practice is sometimes discarded altogether. “When we know better, we do better” (Maya Angelou).

It concerns me to come across conversations about pre-existing conditions that carry fault versus those that do not. It is buying into the mindset of exclusion, witness our current Congress. It is a scramble to safety not designed for everyone.

We do not come from the same mold nor should we. We are not here to be clones of one another. We are one for all and all for one.

Human beings need loyalty. It does not necessarily

produce happiness, and can even be painful, but we all require

devotion to something more than

ourselves for our lives to be endurable.

Atul Gawande

Be careful what you wish, old–and getting older–white men.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.