Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Butt and Bliss

I just returned from my first colonoscopy a few hours ago. The stuff I drank in preparation tasted disgusting-kind of like a combination of bad lemonade with a shot of kaopectate. The procedure itself was very uncomfortable but not horrible and over in twenty minutes. The nurse assigned to get me ready was a loving helpful positive irish redhead with a dry sense of humor. As they wheeled me away she said ,"have fun! She has a vipassana meditation practice which she said has helped her stay sane and sober. She was open to learning whole brain posture to help others soothe anxiety. ( legs crossed at the ankle, hands out to T, hands crossed and clasped in front of the body and brought either in to the heart or down onto the lap) I found it very useful today. I also used my circle, the brainspotting grid I have been practicing bringing in the little girl inside me and the new addition of two critters, the red fox and the black bear on the edge of my circle. I learned this technique from my new therapist. The critters are stationed at the edge of my circle to ward off things that I am worried about that aren't harmful to me and to warn me of things that are dangerous so I can do something about that. They have been very helpful in helping me alleviate anxiety and worry. They seem to enjoy their work and I am glad to have them onboard to add to my self-soothing.
Before the procedure I was afraid because my father had colon cancer and I have put off having a colonoscopy for ten years due to a combination of fear of the unknown and not wanting to spends the money. The doctor asked me what I was afraid of and actually listened to what I said. That was very helpful. I am relieved to know I Iam OK and relieved it is over. I want to thank my primary care doctor for going beyond encouraging me to edging on bullying me this year to get me to do this. I am also grateful to Gary for coming down from Gold Hill to Denver in the heat of summer which he hates, to take me and hang out with me.
I learned that if a person has noone with them to take them home after the procedure it is cancelled. Even though Gary and I live far apart we are available to each other for support and I feel very lucky. It's not all luck though. Being in an intimate relationship is a constant challenge. It's like living with a mirror in my face. Gary reflects back to me all the things I love about myself as well as all of the things I would rather go to the dentist than look at. Being single was a great way for me to pretend that some of the things I find most unacceptable in myself didn't exist.
Speaking of using a committed relationship to heal and grow I was gifted a movie called Bliss by a member of the women's spiritual support group that I facilitate. She asked that Gary and I watch it together. Sunday night was the first time we both had time and felt good about watching it. It is about a young couple who love each other very much and have many issues emotionally and sexually. Their courageous healing journey includes the man's mentorship with a tantric sex therapist and the women's discovery of childhood sexual abuse. It is quite explicit but not in an exploitive way and has some strong language. It is rated R aand was made in 2003. This movie had a strong impact on both of us. It triggered me into experiencing pain and helped me to move through it. For Gary it was an opportunity to underst6and what I am going through in a deeper way. We both cried and were very thankful to get to watch. The acting was superb. Terrance Stamp as the sexual guru was compassionate, skilled and very direct. The palpable powerful love between the couple was inspiring and felt so real. It was hard to imagine they were actors. I loved this movie and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the origons of trauma and the healing capacity of love.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

love without guilt

Sister of incapacitated brother. It's hard to take that in. That's what I've had to write on the application forms to allow my brother Ben to qualify for long-term care. His cognitive impairment from his bicycle accident earlier this month is severe. For the past week he has been mumbling incoherently and not making any sense when asked a question. Physically he has been recovering well. He can walk and feed himself and looks unharmed if you just look at his body. The social worker told me that one of the nurses thought he was a visitor until he opened his mouth to speak. I have been in contact with several helpful people at the long-term care facility where Ben is now. The social worker has been kind and patient, answering my many questions. Today they called to authorize continuing meds for agitation,anxiety and depression. The head of his unit said Ben was confused and yelling at people who are trying to help him. He pulled out his foley catheter which could have been very painful but apparently wasn't. I can imagine how scary it must be for him to not understand what is going on. The have an occupational therapist working with him and a speech therapist is waiting for approval from his insurance. I feel helpless. I am doing all I can from here. I know the best I can do is good enough. It's hard to imagine my brother not making sense when he talks. He was always a big talker. One of the reasons I have mostly been in e-mail contact with him is because he could go on and on about his life unendingly. It was difficult for him to listen. I had asked him to ask how I was doing in addition to talking about himself and he was really trying. My heart hurts for him. I hope he's not suffering too much. I hope he will recover enough to return to the community and live a satisfying life. It is hard not to know what will happen. I have to let go of my pictures and trust that his healing process will look like whatever it looks like. I am holding a vision of Ben enjoying his life. Next month his neurologist will meet with him and do some assessing of the condition of his brain with a CAT scan and evalute his cognitive functioning. This is all so sad. I don't even think I am taking it all in yet.
Sometimes it is a challenge to enjoy my life with all I have knowing what is happening with my brother. On the other hand I know that experiencing my gratefulness and the celebration of all of my blessings creates loving energy.
Then I can send love to my brother without feeling guilty.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


My sister and I decided to go to Tucson this past weekend. She drove five hours from Alamogordo, New Mexico and I flew. She picked me up from the airport and we went straight to the trauma unit of the hospital. Our brother Ben had been moved out of ICU after a week following his bicycle accident. His nurse had reported to us on Friday that he had been responsive when she went in his room. She said not to get our hopes up because often brain injured patients are responsive and then go back to being unresponsive.
It felt good to both of us to make this trip. I know we supported each other in making our plans and moving into action to leave the next morning.
When we arrived at the hospital Ben was completely unresponsive. It was as if he was in a deep sleep which he couldn't be awakened from. Looking at him it was hard to tell that he was injured. There were no bruises or cuts on his body.
He had sustained internal head injuries and we were told it would be difficult to tell the extent of the damage to his brain until the swelling went down. I thought there was some way to know the extent of the damage with some kind of brain scan. What we were told is that recovery is measured by recovery.
The second day we were there Ben woke up and seemed to understand who we were and what had happened. He could nod yes or no and seemed to be tracking cognitively. He could wiggle his toes and fingers and seemed impatient to be able to talk and eat. The next day he seemed to glaze over and not be tracking. When we left it seemed he had no idea who we were. The nurse asked him and he didn't know nor could he count. Today when I called the nurse she said they had changed his trach tube and put a cap on it so he could talk. I could hear him mumbling incoherently in the background. I did many Deeksha treatments with him while I was there. It felt good to be able to do something when there was nothing else I could do. In some ways he probably was more receptive than he would have been when he was conscious because of his skepticism about spirituality. I checked in with my guidance to make sure it was OK to give him Deeksha. I got that even if he didn't want to live, hooking up with universal energy couldn't harm him. It was hard not to know what is going to happen to my brother. I hope he'll come back. I felt a lot of love for him this weekend. As I look at the tasks that need to be done to support his healing process I will be aware of what I can give open heartedly without resentment.
The social worker said the person who exists after a brain injury is often not the same person who existed before the injury and therefore it is a good time to start over with a relationship. What I want to do is send my brother love and do what I can.
Loving with clear boundaries is a more effective kind of love than loving with no boundaries. The potential is for love with boundaries to be empowering to both people. I learn over and over that when I take care of myself it allows me to show up for others in a real way that isn't about guilt and obligation and is more about caring and compassion. I am trusting that all of Ben's guides will help him with his healing process whatever form it may take. I know they don't need for him to believe in them to do that. I am going on a four day meditation retreat on Friday. It is my intention to be as present as I can during the retreat and to send healing energy to my brother Ben. If you feel moved to put him into your thoughts and prayers I would greatly appreciate that.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Love and Guilt

When I was in New Mexico visiting my mother and sister I received a call from a Tuscon hospital that my brother had been in a bicycle accident and was in intensive care in a coma. I called and found out the coma had been induced in order to address the swelling in Ben's brain and that he was highly sedated. They didn't know anything about the condition of his brain and wouldn't know until the swelling went down. I was shocked and had mixed feelings about what to do. My brother has been a troubled person since he was a young teen. I am in contact with him by e-mail. I don't know where he lives or works. He was homeless for three months this year and seemed to be getting back on his feet. He had his own apartment and had rented a space to fix cars. I was excited for him that positive things were happening. I love my brother and I set clear boundaries for myself in our relationship. My sister and brother are not in contact and he hasn't been in contact with my mother for three years and his son for twenty years. He has smoked marijuana daily since he was fifteen. At fifty-eight his life has been filled with lost jobs, broken relationships and financial and health crises.
Gary asked me if I was in the hospital would Ben come to be with me? I said he wouldn't be someone I would ever think of calling if I was. I have a really good support system and I don't think of my brother as part of it. He tries to listen and has a good heart but has been so self-absorbed the conversation quickly switches back to him soon after he says how are you. E-mail works better. So why am I writing this? I want to get clear about what to do. The hospital called because I was listed as next of kin. When they asked me who else he is connected to I had to say "I don't know." On Monday the neurologist called and asked for my permission to insert a breathing tube in his neck and a feeding tube so Ben would be more comfortable. When I asked him whether he would do this if this was his brother he said" absolutely." So, I agreed. Today the ICU said that they couldn't do any more for him and were transferring him to a regular floor tomorrow. His apartment got my name and called because he hadn't paid his rent. I called the hospital social worker today to see if they have any contact information about where he works or if he has any friends there. My sister and I are thinking of going there to collect his things for him before he gets evicted. From his lack of responsiveness it doesn't look like he'll be returning to his apartment in the near future. I feel so much sadness for the bright-eyed boy he was. It's hard for me to handle my grief right now and I feel defensive about being protective of myself. This feels so heavy to be in a position to be making life decisions for my brother when I know so little about what he would want. I want to get clear about what is guilt and obligation and what I can genuinely offer to do from my heart without resentment.
That is the key. Am I willing to go inside and see what feels right to me? Am I willing to let go of the stories I am making up about what a bad sister I am and what other people are thinking of me? Can I be OK about how I feel and what I think and let my intuition guide me? In that way I can openheartedly show up and do what I can with love. Can I trust that that will be enough?

Friday, June 4, 2010

bread in a hardware store

I am leaving town today to go visit my sister and my mother in New Mexico. I am breathing and attempting to move through my list of things to do before I go. This morning lying in bed I breathed into the affirmation, There is plenty of time for me. I even did a little deeksha blessing with myself asking to be connected to divine energy. I purposely chose to take a late afternoon flight so I would have some time this morning to do my practices, get myself centered, and prepare for the trip without being in a panic. When I am rushing around urgently I forget things I need. One time when I was going to the hotsprings with Monnya, my daughter, I was so frantic getting ready to leave I forgot her suitcase. Being aware of my breath and what I am feeling now will help me to end up in New Mexico with enough underpants. I bring lots of my own food that has to be cooked because I am staying with my sister who lives in a town without a reliable health food store. This morning I have gotten a lot done in a fairly relaxed manner. When I am off center writing this blog I can tell because I make so many typos it takes twice as long to write. It's as if my fingers are telling me they won't work without breath. They are working quite well as I focus my concentration on typing mindfully. Writing this blog is helping me to prepare for my trip. Thank you for listening.
Last night was my chanting group Spirit Song. We meditate together, then we check-in with each other and then we chant and improvise. In my check-in I shared my nervousness about my trip. My mother has alzheimer's and it is painful for me to be with her unless I let go of any expectations. When I have let go of wanting her to be different and accepted her for who she is, I have enjoyed myself and her. I even felt great love and compassion for her much more than I did when she was her former loving yet extremely crical other self. Spending many hours a day for three days in a place where everyone has alzheimer's is a challenge for me. I have to do alot of grounding and protection to not end up feeling drained and exhausted. The thing is I know how to do grounding and protection and I just need to do it. When I have I have been OK. I can trust that I will do a good enough job even in the midst of worrying that I won't.
The other thing I am nervous about is that there is noone there I can talk to about my feelings. It isn't something my sister is comfortable with. When I have been emotionally vulnerable with her we both end up feeling misunderstood and exhausted. We get to a point where we agree to disagree. I respect her and love her and we share a passion for yoga. I appreciate that she does a lot of caretaking for my mother. My sister and I are very different and I am grateful that we have each other to learn from even though our relationship is challenging for both of us.
After I shared my nervousness with the group my friend Val said that when she was an intern and working a lot with family of origin issues her supervisor said to her. " Don't look for bread in a hardware store." Howmany times have I looked to my family of origin to be heard and validated? How many times have I put , Andie ,my little girl inside's neck on the chopping block looking for bread in a place where they sell tools. There is nothing wrong with selling tools. That's what they do in a hardware store. But if I'm hungry for bread that is not the place to look.
Val said that when she visits her family of origin she calls her partner for support and they talk for an hour each night. I am going to let Gary know that I want his support in that way this weekend. He will gladly do that. My partner and my friends are my bakery. They sell bread there. I get to have my feelings be listened to and validated. After that I am open to feedback and can hear it non-defensively more and more. My family of choice is where I get to be me. Andie is safe with them. I am blessed. It is sometimes hard to ask for support but it is way better to stretch and ask for help from people who want to help me than to try to eat nails. Are there people in your life that you could reach out to so that you won't be looking for bread in a hardware store?