Stupid Girls

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's a mental exercise

You are reading

Well, you've managed to knit together a life that keeps you -- as much as anybody can be, I suppose -- protected from the ongoing retraumatizations and chaos I keep struggling with.

So, maybe you don't have huge gulfs of panic and rage through which you must flail. All that Buddhism, and all.

I heard a reference to cancer in your last email. You had/have cancer? Please explain.

Just this afternoon, I had to nap. Now, I never really rest; I'm always on guard. Example: I don't trust this landlord. He's erratic and alcoholic.I've imagined him, just showing up (as he did a month after I moved in, trying to strong arm me for $ to buy his daughter an xmas gift). I fully expected that he -- or anybody else in this town who has decided I don't deserve respect, dignity and privacy could show up here at any time to attempt to torture or provoke me.

But I was really weak with a bad headache that's lasted several days. I fell asleep, covered in cats and dogs, almost immediately. For no reason -- and this happens quite frequently -- I awoke with a sense of dread and panic. That's PTSD and I know it. I've finally learned not to let it spiral into something more than what it is: brain chemistry, misfiring synapses fatigue, stress reaction, etc.I used to inflate it into a bigger drama than that. I could go off on it, citing all sorts of reasons to worry, to escallate, to pity myself, to be enraged and resentful at people who cause me alarm.

Now, I recognize it for what it is, let my physiology settle, and go back to sleep. In the past, it gave me serious insomnia. I wouldn't sleep well for days or weeks, even.

I can't stop night terrors, panic attacks, etc.any more than I can will the weather to change. But I no longer stand in open fields, holding a metal pole, during lightening storms. I shelter myself. I talk to myself. I remind myself of my limitations, situation, even where I am at the moment.

Some time later, sure enough, the dogs started barking at a motor outside. Dang if it wasn't the land lord, with two Jimmy Jo Jeeters in a pick up, backing into the weeds and abandoned cars on the other side of the trailer, fetching Doc's cradle snatcher (a hoist to pull motors out of cars). I called the dogs in, shot the door and puttered on the computer, waiting to see if the old drunk would pester me or not. They left and I went on with my life. In the past, I would have freaked. Even today, part of me worries that, if I think too much about a thing, it will actually happen.

This is a tiny example. When Br threw me off her place, when Rachel beat me (and later, when she stole the truck and stranded me here), when the crack head next door to me in those projects would peer though my windows or slam doors or scream --- these are times when I do my exercises.

I've had several experiences now of nearly dying. I went into anaphelactic (sp?) shock when I tried to sell my plasma once. Just a few weeks ago, I had a horrible reaction to some food that may have been contaminated with salmonella, but was so spiced, I didn't taste anything funny. I ran a very high fever; I had terrible aches and chills. I lay down and choked on vomit. I almost lost consciousness then.

As a kid, I'd be strangled 'til I passed out. I thnk those experiences as a kid taught me to really fear death, pain, etc.-- maybe more than your "average" american, whatever that is.

Living in KY, I was comforted by the nonsegregation of the living from the dead. In Calif., cemetaries are almost always far away from dwellings. In KY, family plots rested next to family homes, all over town. I liked it: no death denial. It's not all antiseptic, shut away. Mom told me stories of deaths in the coal camps in Barbourvile: how the women prepared the bodies and laid them on the kitchen table which had been moved into the parlor for viewings. To this day, many people in KY still tend to their own dead. Death isn't alien, exotic, mysterious.

The first time I ever saw a coffin was the old Dracula movie with Lugosi. On TV. How sad.

I have no spiritual beliefs about death. I sincerely doubt that anything like my consciousness survives. I DO know that energy can't be destroyed, though, only changed. But change of energy can be a very radical thing, and what was before the transformation may be unrecognizable after. Prehistoric plants become gasoline.

Then, there's the issue of the fact that, several billion years from now, nothing of this planet will exist, anyway. Leaving a lasting legacy is pretty much an illusion.

I think that, when I die, I'll be dead.

I've lost a lot of animals in my life. I think it's absolutely fascinating that, whether lizard or chicken or dog or human or . . . we all smell the same when we're dead. All of us. There's no discrimination at all. We all smell dead.

I've looked at many lifeless bodies.There's my friend: someone of whom I have many memories. Often, it's someone who expressed affection for me. Except for my doves, a few fish and a couple of reptiles, each ONE of my animals has/had distinctive personality traits, different from others within its species, or own family, for that matter. I knew these creatures as well as any human can know another species. I'd look at the lifeless body and eyes and be amazed. How could this crumpled, smelly thing be my friend? Where did you go? Maybe the doves do, too, and I just haven't paid enough attention.

Well, the miracle, for me, isn't an afterlife. I don't KNOW where my friend went. The miracle, as I hold that corpse and examine it, is that this creature lived! It was sentient; it had intelligence, consciousness, humor, personality, passion. How did THAT happen? I mean, it's amazing enough that it evolved a skeleton, muscles, fur, sensory organs, brain....that it was a functioning, reproducing mechanism.

But there was somebody in there, in the first place! Whoa!

I can still tell stories about animals I had 30 years ago. They are all distinct beings. So are people.

So, from that, I learned my life and consciousness are truly miracles --- not in the religious sense, but we don't have a word in the English language that's a secular equivilent. And I'd better enjoy them while I've got 'em, cuz they could disappear in a flash.

I'm not going to enjoy dying, I'm pretty sure, unless someone shoots me full of heroin or something. Even then, the body (and I think, again based on my experiences of watching many animal friends die), I think death will be a visceral struggle of the organism (completely independent of any consciousness) to survive. It seems to be built into living organisms at a cellular level.

But my experiences with trauma are teaching me how to not struggle so much on the level of consciousness. I'm not even talking about dying with dignity here. When the bastards come after me, that's the FIRST thing they snatch at! That's why I suspect someone will be laughing at me, deriding me, even in my last moments. And I'm ready for them. When some fool has power over me, I let them think they've won. That way, I win. I recognixe their foolishness for what it is, go deep into the sanctuary I've burrowed for myself in my solar plexus, and don't lose an inch of my integrity. They can smear dog turds on my face, but they can't get to my sanctuary; they can't take that.

I expect my organism will flail. I know I'll lose control of bodily functions. I may scream. I'll probably cry, just from the physical sensations. I'll let my body feel what she feels. I don't deny my body her feelings any more.

Death is a lot like birth: it's visceral, messy, physically stressful (if not downright traumatic) disorganized and emotionally intense. That is, death of a conscious being. The unconscious MAY be "luckier" there.

My ol' body has struggled her way out of several situations in which she would have been perfectly within her rights to have just given up and given in. I know she's going to fight. Don't you find it odd that the ONE distinguishing feature of the individual that marks its gender is always refered to as "it?" The body.

So, my struggles with my broken brain are teaching me about my death. And my death is informing my struggles with my broken brain.

I hope I am a drop in the ocean of consciousnes and that, when I die, this little ego of mine will rejoin her sisters and brothers and others in some enormous, cosmic "I Am," or whatever. I'd like some answers. Like: How DID the universe start, and from what, and how? And could SOMEONE PLEASE explain the Theory of Everything to me now? It would be nice to be blended in with Mark Twain, Carl Sagan, Dr. King, all those animal firends, people I've never met and creatures I never imagined. We could have some interesting conversations.

But I have no guarantees of a ticket to the great, Cosmic Love-In.

I just hope some idiot doesn't drain my blood, pump me full of formaldehyde and other toxic garbage and put me in an air-, water,- and microorganism-proof container and bury me so far down, I don't even make good compost. That would be a waste.

I will probably commit suicide, you know. But not for the old reasons: life's too hard, can't take the pain don't want to live like thi anymore, etc.

I'll do it if and when I get a diagnosis that makes suicide a viable option.

Out here, I wouldn't have to drive very far on my electric bicycle to be in a remote area, where I'd probably not be found until the critters had picked me clean, where nobody would here the gunshot. I'd like to die like that. I'd like my body to be food. I'd like to go on my own terms, as much as possible. I've felt pretty frustrated by my lack of choices during my life. It'd be nice to have choice about my death.

Used to be, I wouldn't own a gun, cuz I was afraid I'd use it on myself, botch the job, and wind up in diapers in a state run hospital.

So, I've been researching how to do it. Oh, and I plan to bring a blanket to cover myself, just in case (and this is a VERY remote possibility) some passerby would be traumatized, esp. a kid.

This isn't any time soon, mind you. I'm 53. I'm not very healthy, 'though I do try. I expect I won't be getting a LOT healthier in the time I have left, but I probably have 20 or so years to go, barring unforseen accidents.

But if I have leukemia (that's how Marianna Dengler, my lifelong friend & jr. hi. english teacer died), onset of dementia, BAD emphysema lke Dad had, etc., I'm making plans.

Look, Kate: there's nobody for a funeral; I don't need a box. My heart's marbled with fat; my brain's fried; my eyes are no good; there's no organs worth donating, 'though I have organ donation on my driver's license, just in case. I don't want to end up a plastic sculpture in China or something. I don't want medical students making jokes over my corpse.If I died here, in Ft. S., the mayor/uneral guy would get me and throw me in the dump or something, anyway. I'd just be a drain on tax dollars as a dead indigent.

Basically, any time I feel pain, fear, rage, panic........ that's an opertunity to practice my dying skills I don't LOOK for it, but, if it's right here, in front of me, I may as well get SOME use out of it.

I'm guessing it's Marsha who has lung cancer. Damn. You can tell her (if I'm right) that I guessed; you didn't tell me. And tell her I'm sorry. She has worked hard about addictions for a very long time. I hope she forgives herself. I hope people are being kind and nurturiing with her. She's a good, gentle and decent person. There is, of course, nothing fair about this. She could have gotten lung cancer without ever even smelling a cigarette. The pan must be terrible.

I don't know if anything I've written about death would be useful to her or not. If you think it's appropriate, you could let her read this. If nothing else, if she has very strong convictions on the subject, it might reinforce for her what she does NOT want to do about dying.

I hope she stays away from hospitals as much as she can; they're no place for sick people!

At least, tell her I said "hi," ok?

Rogi Riverstone