Thursday, November 26, 2020

Sacred Contracts and Leaky Vessels

After a recent move, I found this poem that I wrote while I was navigating the waters of menopause, an agonizing relationship breakup, and the loss of my life as I knew it. While I don’t regret giving up that life to move back to Florida, where I needed to be in order to fulfill a sacred contract to take care of my lifelong best friend during a health crisis, it still caused me heart-wrenching grief.

This poem, which looks like a leaky vessel itself and is missing the whole first page,  describes my sense of myself and my energy at the time of writing. For physical and emotional reasons, I felt very much like a cracked and leaky vessel. There have been times since then when I have felt shattered to bits. I have felt like Humpty Dumpty. Fortunately the God I know and love is considerably more resourceful that “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men.”

Here is the found portion of the poem:

“It becomes apparent what the filling is 
by what seeps out through the cracks 
in your broken and glued back together heart.
If you fill a cracked vessel with emotions, 
which are like liquid, 
that filling will leak out through the cracks onto others. 
If you fill it with toxic substances, 
too will leak out from the cracks 
and poison the surrounding environment 
and anyone who treads there, blind to the danger.

“Fill your cracked and glued back together heart 
with the Light of Eternal Love, 
and what leaks out onto the surrounding world 
will help to heal the wounds of others, 
even as it heals you and adheres the remaining pieces 
into a whole heart again.

Fill your broken and glued back together heart 
with The Light of Eternal Love.
“You won’t get back the lost pieces of your broken heart. 
Let those go. 
The parts that were lost were not part of the eternal you, 
which is why they could be lost in the first place. 
What will never be lost is Eternal Love 
and its myriad fragile, earthly  expressions. 

“Your heart will heal again if it is filled 
with the Eternal substance of Love.
The light of this Love will shine through the cracks 
of the broken and torn tissue of your heart, 
fusing and mending the remaining pieces 
until your heart is whole again.“

Despite all the leaking and shattering that has occurred since I made the monumental decision to move back here, let me say that I would do it again, knowing full well how hard this stage of my life would be. Once I got down here, I figured out quickly  the main reason I was here, and as I suspected, it was because I needed to be with my buddy to get her through a second cancer battle.

The first battle occurred in the early nineties. While I had to travel back here to help her out, I only had to come down from North Carolina for the surgeries she underwent. She had to undergo emergency surgery because she was in agonizing pain, so they had to open her up to find out what was wrong. What they found was horrifying. Her ovary, which had been hurting terribly for months and had sent her to her incompetent gynecologist several times, had burst, spewing cancer cells throughout her abdominal cavity. After a lengthy surgery,  during which they performed an oophorectomy and cleaned her out thoroughly, she was able to go home after a few days of recovery. They operated on her while my then partner and I were driving down to Florida as fast as we could, driving straight through the night.

It was because of this trip that I started taking my cats with me on many of my driving adventures. I had been setting things up for my boy, Sandy, to stay at home with a friend of ours checking on him every couple of days. He saw what was going on and came to the door with me and stretched up my leg for me to pick him up. He was not about to let me leave without him. So I rapidly changed plans. I got a plastic storage box with a lid that I could use for a travel litter box, packed some water and food and took him with me.  He was well behaved and rode on the back seat, watching all the lights, always getting up to get a closer look when a big rig passed us. Instead of being terrified of them, he was mesmerized by the lights.

We drove back after staying down there for a week. Then I flew back down for her second surgery several weeks later. They performed a complete hysterectomy that time. Of course, Jan and I joked that they should have put in velcro so they could just rip it open again instead of having to cut into her twice. During this trip to the hospital, I slept in the chair next to her bed for several nights, so she didn’t have to be alone. It was during this hospital visit that I started writing my novel, Artemisian Artist. One of the characters, Dr. Terri Jackson, was based on a woman in blue scrubs I encountered in the hallway. That was the creative catalyst. No words or glances exchanged. Nothing. The story is pure fiction based on a random passing with a stranger in a hospital. I don’t remember how many nights Jan was in the hospital, but I stayed with her as much as possible until she was able to go home. Her father was still alive at that time, so she went home with him for the post-surgical recovery and chemo treatments. I returned to North Carolina and graduate school.

Since then, her father has passed. I’m pretty sure he was the one on the other side of the veil lighting a fire under my butt to motivate me to move back to Florida so I could see his daughter through the second cancer battle. Although I didn’t know that when I was packing to move back here, and I certainly didn’t know the year before, when I started downsizing my home like a woman possessed, that I was about to move far away from the life I loved in Washington state.  I didn’t know for sure why I was back in Florida until shortly after I arrived. It was not until after I had to have my fifteen-year-old cat, Dustin, put down a mere two days after I got here because he was in renal failure. The following day my human buddy was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the day after that she had a mastectomy.

There I stood in her doorway, still somewhat shell-shocked from the ordeals my cats and I had survived on the trip back east, ready to take over the care of feeding of a small herd of cats. One even had to be given insulin shots twice daily because he was diabetic. While Jan’s two cousins and BFF stayed with her at the hospital during and after her surgery, I fed, petted, and injected kitties and continued to do so after she returned home. I took on the role of nurse and caretaker too, dressing her surgical wound, soothing her soul over the loss of a body part, chauffeuring her to and from all her medical appointments, etc. I got groceries and takeout to feed her body.  I picked up her prescriptions and took her cats to the vet when they were sick or injured. She wasn’t supposed to drive for three weeks, but she had to return to school two weeks after her surgery.  It was the beginning of the school year and she didn’t want to miss those critical first days. She turned down my offer to drive her to and from work because it was only a couple miles each way, but I continued to drive her everywhere else for months until she was physically and emotionally ready to go solo to her appointments. I continued for two years to take care of all the cats until nearly two years after the move back to Florida, I drove all the way back to Washington for six months to fulfill another sacred contract. That one was to take care of the infant sister of the little girl I babysat for the first year of her life, which turned out to be my last year of living in Washington state for the foreseeable future.

I had gotten my buddy through this second cancer battle, as well as being able to drive every other weekend to spend the day with my mom, laughing and talking. That was pure joy, even though my back didn’t always enjoy it. A few years later when my back spasms started causing my right leg to go ramrod straight, I had to hang up my car keys and go for fewer visits when Jan was able to drive me there to visit with my mom.

I reinjured my back while I was living back in Washington taking care of an infant. What hurt my back was not taking care of the baby as it was dragging my laundry upstairs in the two-story house. I had to squeeze in as many visits to the chiropractor as I could before the long drive back, which first involved a drive to Cape Cod to attend Women's Week in Provincetown. My back really took a beating during that journey,  hauling my four cats in and out of motel rooms all along the 4500 mile trip.

It took more trips to my Florida chiropractor,  and some blood work, to find out that I was very low on magnesium. Looking back, I realize that the magnesium deficit had probably started in Washington, in 2010, when I packed and sweated my way to the collapsing point in my garage. On the final packing day, the weather took a bizarre turn and went from consistent highs in the high 60s to 95 on the last day of packing. While packing my car with the last of my possessions, my legs simply collapsed beneath me and refused to allow me to get up for several minutes. When I did get up, I knew I had worn myself out completely so when I was finally able to get my cats loaded up and we got on the road, all I could think about was air conditioning and never moving ever again, and I don’t mean moving house. I just mean that I didn’t want to move my body any more than what was required for driving for a very long time. Fortunately I didn’t have to move much for many hours because I drove for a long time that day despite a late start. That day is when I suspect my body first started starving for magnesium.

Years later, my chiropractor recommended soaking in Epsom salts along with taking a magnesium supplement in powder form to be added to my drinking water. I was feeling great relief by doing that. I suspect that if I had done that as soon as I got to Florida, my back would have healed with some months of being gentle with it, but I didn’t learn about the magnesium deficiency until five years later. I went through menopause and bled for weeks at a time until I figured out how to stop the excessive bleeding naturally. I made green smoothies with fresh organic spinach leaves to help with the excessive loss of iron and other essential nutrients my body needed. It was during this heavy bleeding that I felt my life force or “chi”  draining from my body. It was during this time in my life that I wrote the poem about being a leaky vessel.

When I ran out of the plain Epsom salts I was using to ease the pain in my back, my friends picked up more while shopping for other stuff. For some bizarre reason, the gigantic Walmart ran out of plain Epsom salts so they got some that were lavender scented. I wasn’t thrilled about using anything with a fragrance because I am terribly allergic to fragrances and dyes so I avoid them if at all possible. I knew that I wasn’t allergic to real lavender though, so I finally relented and used the scented  Epsom salts, hoping it would be okay. It wasn’t okay though.

The first time I used the scented Epsom salts, I didn’t experience the major relief I had from previous Epsom soaks. The second time I used them, I suddenly started feeling sick to my stomach and wretched all over. I turned on the fast drain plug and got out of there as fast as I could. I felt awful, and I didn’t know why, though I suspected it might have been the fragrance in the Epsom salts.

Within a day or two blisters began to form on the lower half of my legs. Not only had the lower half spent a lot more time immersed in what my body interpreted as poison, but I also had tiny perforations on my lower legs because Tai and Chi were still kittens who like to race across my legs, or they would forget that they weren’t tree trunks and would start to climb them until I hollered and they thought better of that idea. Jan and I were forever performing first aid on ourselves or each other so our cat scratches didn’t get infected. The perforations on my legs had been cleaned but they were still tiny openings that provided access for the chemicals in the Epsom salts to enter my body. Chemicals that my body viewed as deadly poisons.

I went to the doctor right away and underwent a round of antibiotics immediately. When that did nothing to stop the blisters that would swell to a diameter of 3-4 inches before bursting and spilling hot clear liquid down my legs, recontaminating them and starting the battle all over again.

After trying to keep up for three months with the frequent (sometimes hourly) unbandaging and rebandaging of the wounds on my legs, I succumbed to infection, which eventually turned into septicemia. I had chills frequently and would fall asleep, sometimes in a doorway. On occasion, my back would spasm and, in my sleep, I would pitch forward out of my wheelchair. I had taken to a wheelchair because of the pain of walking and standing, but until the allergic reaction, I could still walk a short distance to the bathroom or bedroom.

After the allergic reaction, and subsequent infections, I couldn’t even transfer to my bed. I fell asleep in my wheelchair whenever and wherever exhaustion overtook me. The third time I fell out of my wheelchair, I pitched forward in my sleep and landed headfirst in my wicker laundry basket, which rolled with my body, laying me as gently as possible on the cold hard terrazzo floor. I don’t know why my empty laundry basket was sitting near my bed, but it was perfectly placed to keep me from landing on the floor, bashing my head open or causing me brain trauma, as happened to my mother several  years later. Finding myself on the floor, I knew that I would have to go to the hospital, even though I had no insurance and had been unable to work at all for months. That reality is what had kept me from going to the hospital earlier. I knew I had no way to pay for my care, but I also knew that I would die soon if I didn’t get help immediately. So I reluctantly allowed the EMTs to drag my weary body on a tarp through the house to the awaiting ambulance.

They took me to the local hospital where I stayed in an isolation room for a month. I had to be hooked up to multiple IVs during this month long stay in the hospital, battling the septicemia. During the months both before and after my hospital stay, Jan had to take care of all our combined cats. It took me several months to recover sufficiently to resume even some of the cat duties.

The allergy debacle happened in 2015 and has caused recurring challenges until my last trip to the hospital in April of this year. My back injury also continued to cause issues. I did, however, recover to varying degrees over the intervening years. I was able to regain the ability to stand and walk a short distance several times until Hurricane Irma passed right over Jan and me in Haines City. We lost power at three in the morning. I recall Jan walking past my bedroom on the way to her bathroom and saying, “It’s three o’clock and the power is out.” Somehow I had the presence of mind to quip, “Why can’t you be like all the other watchmen and say, ‘It’s three o’clock and all’s well?’”

Having being without power for two days, the temperature was rising both inside and outside. When the news foretold further heat increases, and all my attempts to get rides from my insurance-provided non-emergency transportation failed, Mitzi came over in her car and took me over to our friend’s house, who still had power and a bunch of hurricane refugees filling her house. I stayed there a couple days until staying up all day proved to be my undoing and I collapsed on the floor in the bathroom. Fire Rescue came and my blood pressure was dangerously low, so they took me to the emergency room, where I stayed for several hours while they checked me out. Finding nothing dire beyond the low blood pressure, which returned to normal after enforced bedrest and a complete chill down from the morgue-like temperature in the ER. When I got news from Jan that her power had been restored, I had the ambulance service return me to Jan’s house.

We all felt the after effects of exhaustion and trauma after the hurricane. Jan and I had planned to attend my 40th high school class reunion not long after the hurricane, but we were so wiped out still, we couldn’t muster the strength to drive a couple hours then have to stay overnight in a hotel. We just couldn’t do it, so we canceled.

I moved out of Jan’s house about 6 weeks after Hurricane Irma. That probably wasn’t the best idea because it was a huge change to undergo when I still wasn’t back to full strength, but it was all planned and the move was made. I stayed there for two and a half years, until I fell and broke my ankle this year, which signaled the beginning of a difficult ordeal, which I am not yet able to describe. I seem to have to process some events longer than others. I’m nowhere near ready to write about the five months I spent in and out of the hospital and rehab centers (nursing homes) during the time of Coronavirus. That will have to wait. Suffice it to say that I am in a new home, beginning on a new chapter of my life and the fulfillment of my sacred  contract with Jan to adopt the cats I swore to take care of them in the event that something happened to her. In the process of fulfilling that contract, and I am blessed daily in doing so. I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be when I’m supposed to be here. That level of assuredness generates a “peace that passes all understanding.”

I couldn’t have articulated ten years ago what I can say with confidence today. In 2010, all I knew was that I had to downsize my belongings greatly because I had to move back to Florida for an indeterminate amount of time. There was not one molecule in my body that wanted to do this. I only knew that I had to do it. If you are not aware of sacred contracts in your life, then you probably think me nuts, and that’s okay. I’m used to being far left of normal. If I had lots of money, I would merely be viewed as eccentric. Since health issues drove me to a place of bankruptcy and disability in 2015, the choices I make in life just seem looney from the outside. Oh well. So be it. If you’re curious about the subject  of sacred contracts, I highly recommend Caroline Myss’s book, Sacred Contracts.

The place and time I find myself is not particularly comfortable. My circumstances are not necessarily giddiness-inducing, but I am happy mostly. I wouldn’t say that I’m content because there is still so much I have to do, but despite present circumstances, I do feel like I am gaining speed in regards to my physical challenges. Anyone looking at me from the outside would find that a pitiable statement at best, but I witness daily the increase in strength and endurance. I started out in a bad place indeed, but the rate of growth and recovery is exponential.

I’ve been home for twelve weeks now, and I’m pretty amazed at how far I have come in that time. I look forward with great excitement to how much farther along I will be in another twelve weeks then another. With the rate of my progress proving to be exponential, I think I should be in pretty good shape by year’s end. Already I am able to do most of what I need to do with the exception of laundry, but that is a matter of access rather than ability. At the very least, I should be able to do as much physically as I was doing before I fell and broke my ankle in April of this year. I spent an extremely difficult five months just to get strong enough to get home and survive.The first week home was mind-bogglingly difficult. The only reason I made it was because angels were watching over me, family and friends were checking on me regularly, and God was giving me the grace and grit to push through it. 

I know I still have a long road ahead of me to get back to full recovery and complete functionality, as far as writing and publishing is concerned, but as long as I focus on what is right in front of me and keep a steady pace, I will get there. With this exponential rate of increasing health and strength, I think 2021 will be an amazing year for productivity.

As I unpack my belongings from storage, I am setting up my living space to be a fully functional office and publishing house, as well as a kitty haven and cozy home. What I lack in space, I will make up for with multifunctional arrangements. I can see the biggest part of this happening by year’s end with some help from my friends. As I sit here writing this, I can see at least ten steps ahead on what needs to be moved next to what location in order to create a living space that allows for creativity and organization, while also allowing for comfort .

While I have taken only a few hundred steps on this journey of a thousand miles, I can see clearly what I have already accomplished. I can see how far I have come. As long as I stay focused on what is immediately in front of me, I will make it to the finish line faster than anyone, including me, thought was possible. This broken and leaky vessel is healing at an astonishing pace. I look forward with much gratitude to heaven and all of my earthly friends and family who have supported me and helped to make it this far. I thank in advance all who help me make it to the next milestone and the next. Namaste.