Burning Mercury and the story of Bathsheba

This was written a week ago. Enjoy…

We’re on an extended camping trip, simultaneously waiting for my broken foot to mend, waiting to find out when we can move our travel trailer into a long-term spot, and figuring out how we are going to manage this relationship over the long term — which involves a lot of waiting. So things are quiet and scenic, but, on the whole, not very comfortable.

I was sitting by the cold firepit, looking out across the sere grass and low hills, in a quiet reverie in a quiet hour. I sent my imagination off to find something utterly irrelevant.

What came back was the sign of Pluto, which approached in a portentous manner —
astrological glyph for Pluto
And, in the sideways manner of dreams, said it was Mercury, which normally looks like this:
astrological glyph for Mercury
Then it grew flames, starting from the ball.
pluto glyph with small flame on ball
The flames spread, and as they spread around the symbol and over it, the symbol came close to me.
Pluto glyph nearly engulfed in flames on top
Closer.

Closer still.

Then it hooked its barbs into my side. It was intrusive as dammit. It poked right into my flesh, as if it wanted to climb in.

Trying to pull away, I said, “What the heck are you doing? What do you want?”

It said, “We need your stories.

I thought of my science writing at my biowizardry blog, and it said No. I thought of my anecdotes here, and it said No.

It waved a few pages of books and stories I’ve half-written and said, “We need your STORIES.”

Oh. The imaginative stuff. Didn’t think that was the most unique thing I had to offer, but hey, I’m a writer … I usually do what the little voices tell me.

So here’s a story.

One day, there was a woodcutter and … no, wait, you’ve heard that one. How about this, and I’m writing it from sentence to sentence, no idea what comes next, so be kind…

The story of Bathsheba

Bathsheba was beautiful and did not know it, despite her luscious name. She wanted little, and got slightly less, but she had a gift for appreciation and made the most of it.

One day, while dumpster-diving (she did even that with grace), she came across half a salmon, nearly fresh, cooked with red wine and oranges. It was heavenly. She was only three bites in when a bully named Tom came by, heard her happy little sounds, and cursed and smacked her away so he could have the rest. He never learned that it’s wrong to hit people smaller than you, especially girls.

She scrambled out in a hurry, but he didn’t come after her, so she calmed down and wandered away to somewhere more peaceful. She was glad she had gotten the three bites, and sat on the curb in the sun, licking her lips and enjoying the aftertaste.

A car drove by, spitting fumes and loud music, and a half-empty can nearly beaned her. She leaned aside to dodge it, and went back to soaking up the sun. It was part of city life — she could tell that they hadn’t been aiming.

Another car pulled up, partly blocking the sun, large and with something sturdy on the roof. She pulled her feet in neatly. The occupants didn’t seem to notice; they were busy talking, sounding uncomfortable and distracted. The one on the street side got out and opened the back up, then returned to the front. The two occupants opened out an enormous sheet of paper between them. A map.

Bathsheba loved maps. It had been ages since she’d been able to just relax and look at a map. Curiosity flashed a fin.

Very quietly, she sidled closer to the car’s rear end.

No reaction from up front.

Very gently, very quietly, she leaned — oh so casually — against the rear bumper.

They were having technical issues: the space was too small to turn the map over in, but they were trying.

Bathsheba put one foot on the bumper, experimentally. The piles of clothing and sleeping gear obscured her view.

Up front, the map turning had not gone well, so there were some knocked mirrors and banged knuckles and bumped heads. The trivial dip of the bumper didn’t even show up in the chaos up front.

She shifted her weight, oh so carefully… just to see …

And, up front, the map tore.

One of the occupants burst into tears.

Bathsheba leaped towards the front of the car, then remembered herself — you don’t just go up to strangers, even if all you want to do is comfort them!

Instead, with wide eyes, she crouched behind the back seat, half-buried by piles of clothing and pillows, her back against the hard plastic side of a cooler, looking all her sympathy, yet terrified of the very questionable position she found herself in. She had absolutely no idea what to do.

The conversation up front shifted gear, from frustration and recrimination to apology and comforting. Eventually, and more or less in the middle of a word, the driver put the idling car into gear and pulled away from the curb.

Bathsheba clutched the clothing under her, eyes now very wide indeed. She definitely didn’t belong here, but the car was going too fast to jump out; all she could do was hold onto the clothing, which she was now half-buried in, and hope with all her might that it didn’t fall out the still-open back.

Some time later, she was startled awake by a thud. The driver had stopped the car and put the back lift-gate down. He apparently hadn’t noticed Bathsheba, curled up among the tumbled clothing. The car lurched forward and took off again at highway speed.

She peered over the cooler and gazed out at the darkening sky. There was a great big wall along the road and city smells blew in through the vent, but not the strong stenches she was used to.

She wondered if being homeless out here was any better than being homeless in the heart of the city. She couldn’t even begin to think of how she’d get back. It wasn’t a great life, sure, but at least she knew where the good dumpsters were, and who to avoid. Mind you, it smelled better out here.

She wanted to cry, and maybe she whimpered very quietly so nobody else could hear, but she didn’t dare to announce herself. She had no idea how she was going to get out of this, but maybe something would go right… later…

With nothing else to do and a short lifetime’s experience of stress under her belt already, she burrowed in and went back to sleep among the strangers’ clothes. They smelled kind of nice, like cotton and lemon and something crisp and soft which she couldn’t name, but felt so at home with.

She woke later to a voice, a nice gentle man’s voice tinged with wonder: “Kate, come look.” It was one of the occupants.

The car was still. The air was full of that crisp, soft smell. The sky was dark, with millions of points of light — stars, so rare in the city. There was a fire burning nearby under a grill loaded with wonderful things. The other occupant got up from her seat by the fire and came over.

The two people looked down at Bathsheba, utterly tangled in their clothing, utterly helpless, and curiously at home.

They didn’t snarl. They didn’t throw cans. They didn’t invade her privacy or try to grab at her.

They just smiled — two kind, sweet, wondering smiles. They looked like they were witnessing a minor miracle, and like Bathsheba was someone they already considered a friend.

Bathsheba couldn’t help herself. The clothes under her fingers curled. Her chest stretched. Her eyelids squished gently closed, then opened again. She purred.

“I think you’re going to like it a lot better out here, kitty,” said Kate.

Bathsheba wanted to correct her, and say her name was Bathsheba, not Kitty. But just then, Kate reached out with two hands and gently scooped her in. Bathsheba felt Kate’s slow, solid heartbeat — thubump, thubump, thubump — against her own soft little body, and melted into joy.

Don’t worry. There will be plenty more science, and plenty more stories too.

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First, keep breathing

I say that a lot.

The first thing our bodies do when we get a burst of pain or other shock is, clench. Hard to breathe effectively when clenched and, oddly, it’s hard to do anything else — except let the anxiety-mad sympathetic nervous system run riot.

For normal people, the exercise I’m about to describe is a calming exercise, but for the chronically ill and chronically hurting, it’s more like an elementary coping exercise.

That feeling of being frozen? It’s shock. It’s normal to go there, but don’t dwell in it.

Ways to help yourself through it are largely little physical shifts that send a message back up to your brain that it’s time to process now.

Notice where your shoulders are. Just notice. Notice how your neck feels. No judgment or “I should”s, just notice. Notice how you’re sitting or standing. Notice how your hips are rotated in relation to your posture. Just observe these things.

Now exhale all the way. Not to the point of straining or coughing, just comfortably emptied out. Let your lungs spring open naturally and — this is key — open your teeth as you inhale.

Now, when you breathe out, purse your lips softly, as if puffing out a match. That does two things: keeps your jaw unlocked and nudges a little extra oxygen into your lungs.

When you breathe in, after that first open-mouth inhale, breathe in through your nostrils if you can. If you can’t, put your tongue tip on the roof of your mouth and breathe around your tongue. Either way, it opens the back of your throat slightly so you can…

Imagine the breath sliding down your spine and into the bowl of your pelvis. This helps your body do an end-run around the clenched-torso breathing we get into when we freeze. Just let the good air wash into your spine and slosh into the bowl of your pelvis.

Then let it out through gently pursed lips, and in through opened throat, then down, and back out, and so on.

Do ten cycles. It’ll be a different and better world after. Notice how your shoulders and neck soften, and your hips unwind. Colors are a little brighter. Feelings are closer, but less overwhelming.

You can do this. I have faith in you. You are life warriors and we handle it. It’s our gift to be this strong and still be this alive.

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T’ai chi and emotional pain

When I’m out in the world, my reflex is to shove grief into a bundle and push it aside, and try to act as if I don’t feel it.

It’s always surprising how much energy that actually takes. When I’m doing anything else that takes much effort, it’s nearly impossible. It makes me forgetful and clumsy, just like a pain flare.

When I was at t’ai chi class yesterday, shoving and pushing one way with my mind while I was shoving and pushing another way with my body was so exhausting that I was wringing wet with sweat. Then I remembered something I’d tried briefly before, and decided to try it for the rest of the class.

I mentally drew the grief into my whole body. The grief turned to sadness and stretched out into every muscle fiber, every moving part. And I did t’ai chi with a body that was swarming with sadness.

It was, above all, peaceful.

I certainly wasn’t as tired. The sweat vanished as if by magic. I don’t even remember it drying on me.

The important thing is, I wasn’t expressing sadness in any deliberate way. I didn’t move more slowly, or try for any effect. I moved more deliberately and with better focus, because I was integrated. My body was filled with sadness, and I moved that body through the t’ai chi form.

The point of t’ai chi is to clear things up, straighten out what needs straightening, and separate muddled body parts and muddled energies into their proper alignments. Therefore, the sadness got a heck of a massage, and by the end of class, it was like it had been processed into something more wholesome. There wasn’t nearly as much sadness, as such. There was a lot more peace. There was a sense of strength I can’t put a name to.

I must add, as a footnote, that it’s been a long time since my feelings were capable of unshadowed joy. I have learned to cultivate a certain shallowness of mind at times, so I can be insulated from the deeps and be simply happy in the moment.

Therefore, when I say that I was happy as I left class, understand that it was a deep happiness. The shadows were very much a part of it, but that was fine. They were in the right place.

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Breathing

Sooner or later, it all comes back to breathing.

Without adequate breath, obviously, nothing else matters. As a sometime ER nurse and continuing asthmatic, I’m more than usually aware of that fact.

I mean something beyond that, though. Something more pervasive.

Breathing, like walking, is one of those things that I keep coming back to as an interesting study — one that’s so fundamental that I forget, in between times, exactly how deeply it changes everything else in life.

I first began meditating in my very early teens, after basic instruction from my mother:

1. Think of a simple, unemotional mental image, like a burning candle flame, and breathe.
2. As thoughts come and go, let them go (sometimes, especially at first, I had to chase them off) then…
3. Bring your attention back to the image and the breath.

The image didn’t do me much good – I think fire is a little too emotional for me – but simply being at home to my breath, and letting the haywire-ness of the day drift off into the mist… with my odd and beguiling little cat softly nestled against my leg under the covers… did me all the good in the world. Especially at 13.

The language of breath is interesting. Breath, spirit, life, and insight often share the same word or sounds in languages around the world. For instance, in English, “inspiration” means both a breath, and a sudden idea; the root word means spirit. There is no divide between these ideas.


(Life, breath, spirit, ideas… how can these be separated? How can a life worth living, let alone a bearable life, let alone a pulse, exist without all of them?)

As I said, I’ve been breathing intentionally for decades. In my 20’s, I taught my ER and ICU patients a particular form of breathing which, I’d noticed, cut their pain response, lowered their blood pressure, and improved the level of oxygen in their blood — no matter what they came in with.

In 3 breaths the difference was noticeable, and if I could persuade them to take 10, we were halfway home.

It goes like this:

1. Breathe in through your nose.

2. Draw the breath all the way down into your lower abdomen.

3. Let it out through gently pursed lips, like softly blowing out a birthday candle.

4. Repeat.

The abdominal breathing improves lung expansion. The slight backpressure on the exhalation nudges extra oxygen into the system (the importance of oxygen can’t be overstated, especially in emergencies) and sends a gentle message to the blood-pressure sensors in the neck, telling them to lower pressure.

This kind of breathing activates the “calm down” part of the central nervous system, that is, the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system.

The extra oxygen helps clear some of the oxidative damage away.

It feels wonderful.

And it always works.

(Clinical note: for people with COPD, I did 2-3 breaths, and checked in. As with most adults with a chronic disease, they could generally be trusted to sense their limits and stop. Youngsters soon learn, though very few youngsters have COPD.)

Recently, I’ve learned a slightly different technique from the same psychologist I mentioned in my last post…

1. Notice my breathing. That’s all. Let everything calm down for a bit.

2. Draw the breath into my abdomen.

3. Gradually increase the size of those abdominal breaths.

4. Let the midchest join in, getting still more air in. Exhale from the top down.

5. Eventually, let air into my abdomen, then midchest, then upper chest — inhaling from the bottom up. My lungs are pretty fully expanded in the inhale now, and I still exhale from the top down.

6. I tell myself: My arms are heavy and warm. Soon, they are.

7. I tell myself: My legs are heavy and warm. Soon, they are.

8. I tell myself: My lower abdomen is warm and relaxed. The whole bowl of my pelvis becomes a sea of lovely calm. (I had no idea how much standing tension was stored there, at the bottom of the spine and where all the exits are — though it makes sense, when I think about it…)

9. Then I stop contriving my breathing, and let it just flow.

After about 15 minutes, well, life is good. Really good. Talk about activating the parasympathetic nervous system.

I’ve forgotten what else I was going to say. I want to be that peaceful and warm right now.

Oh yeah. The point is this:

Breathing well makes everything better.

It shouldn’t be that simple, but it is.

Excuse me. My limbs need to be heavy and warm… In a good way.

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Back in the saddle again

The grip of the last round of the Yucks started to break right after posting my last. I hate it when I have to go that far to get past a bad spot, but hey, I’ll do whatever it takes to keep heading in the right direction.

Dignity is optional. Progress is not. Words I live by.

My new kitten has changed apparent gender twice, and is back to being a boy kitty — not that it matters in any practical way. I was looking for a name as elegant, good-natured and playful as he/she/it, while treating an upper respiratory infection that made that left eye look like a mouse:

My cat’s mouse

But then, with returning health and strength, his natural energy and violence reasserted itself. He has exactly two gears:
1. Unconscious (or nearly so)
2. Full-tilt, greedy, grasping, and spikily impulsive (as the scratch-marks around my blinked eyelashes attest)

So I’ve named him Siddhartha, in the hope that something will rub off.

Siddhi playing hide-n-seek.
(“Siddi” is an Arabic address used towards a respectable gentleman.
Another fine malapropism from the chronically punny.)

All of his front nails are trimmed now…

In health care, we call this “desensitization”

As for my own care, I’m up to 2/3 of my reiki time and 2/3 of my basic qi gong routine, and hope to get some t’ai chi in today as well. This is tremendous progress.

Vegetables are once again a chief component of my diet, thanks in no small part to an enormous bag of frozen “Normandy style” blend from Costco and our local dollar store, which sells cheap organic produce out of cardboard boxes.

I actually did laundry yesterday.  Today, I hope to take a shower and — gasp — wash my hair!

 

I realize only a minority of you will find that truly inspiring, but the rest can have a good laugh… and then think for a minute 🙂

For me, life with CRPS is indeed a matter of tiny triumphs and great goals. For the record, I’m still bound and determined to advance the search for a cure, and yes, I’ve gotten slightly more concrete in my ideas about that… More to come in time.

And now, just for the deliciously hokey yodeling at the end…

Links list:
Here is a recap and explication of the links used in this post:

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Think zebra

This title has two meanings:

  • Medical students are often told, “When you hear hooves, think horse, not zebra.” This means that a set of symptoms is probably due to a common cause, not an uncommon one. Zebras are rare.
  • There was a popular book about chronic stress and fear that pointed out that, when prey animals like antelope or zebras are attacked, they get really upset; as soon as the attack is over and the predator is gone, they chill right out again. It suggested reacting like the zebra; respond fast, then relax when the threat is gone.
Zebra face
I have a rare disease — a real zebra.

One of its many effects is to hair-trigger my fear, because of the disruption of the autonomic nervous system that regulates the fight-or-flight response and everything that comes with it.

My bf and I are dealing with a crazy ex. It’s an unpleasant experience for anyone, but truly trippy for a former ER nurse (talk about comfortable under stress) who now has a CNS hotwired for the fight-or-flight response. I keep blinking to check whose life this is, anyway.

In between the bouts of crisis management, I’m doing my very best to “think zebra”, do a logical assessment, and chill right out again. One must function, after all.

The daffiness of CRPS-brain (especially one that has been overtaxed with a long trip and multiple moves) means that things I need to do occur to me bit by bit, not in a tidy list. However, I do make lists, and have the backup of good friends with relevant experience: I follow their advice promptly and to the letter.

All that’s left to do is keep on with my mental disciplines: meditation, contemplation, qi gong, and prayer. Studies show it works, though they’re vague as to why. Doesn’t matter what format or religion you meditate or pray in, as long as it’s sincere.

Makes perfect sense in quantum physics — but medicine is stuck in the 1600’s, with the radiant Sir Isaac and classical physics. Maybe it’ll catch up one day.

Meanwhile, here’s a zebra. Time to meditate and pray, then stop and chew grass.

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Re-learning how to drive

I’m either half a day ahead of schedule or half a day behind, and I’m honestly not sure which. It’s roughly another 5 days to Denver, and with my sweetie’s troubles slowly and expensively resolving, it’s probably best not to try to rush, but to let things unfold.

Mind you, an hour’s reiki this morning might be helping me think that way.

Badly as I want to be there already, snuggled up to him and brainstorming, here I am …

View Larger Map
Between Richmond and Centerville, Indiana.

My room has a fog of mildew which stopped me on entering, but I paid before asking to see the room, so I’m stuck. I can’t remember where the AC power cord is for the car’s air filter, though I may have tossed it in a burst of mindless efficiency before leaving.

The window is wide open while I do laundry on the other side of town, so we’ll see if that makes enough difference. If I wake up brain-dead, I’m sure you’ll hear about it.

Despite good energy and good progress, I decided to reef it in and stop early tonight — largely because I’m out of long-sleeved shirts, and needed to save arm-time for dealing with that.

I stopped here, precisely, because I had mail forwarded here to me at General Delivery — a system that actually seems to work. It included my permanent Massachusetts driver’s  license (which might be handy after the temporary one expires) and a really lovely card from one of the really lovely people I’ve met on this trip. A wonderful cherry on top of a rather good day.

It occurred to me that I haven’t discussed  my accommodative strategies much. Here are a few things I’ve done, redone, and learned on the way:

Grabbing the wheel

Those of you who know CRPS well know that vibration is absolute hell, and a steering wheel is a big vibrating thing that’s made to press against the weakest, most pain-frazzled tendons in my entire body. So that had to be dealt with.

I’ve learned, from all my adventures with tools when I lived on the boat, that no amount of padding will make up for harsh hardware.  So buying a vehicle with the lowest possible level of wheel-vibration in the first place was a major consideration.

My car, Henrietta, is a Toyota truck:


… but it’s built on a Camry base:

This means it has a much more forgiving frame than trucks and truck-mounted SUVs (though it can still tow 5,000 pounds!) and it handles the road very gracefully.

I’ve learned through many years of athletics that gel provides the cushioning my body likes best. So that was the next thing to go on:

That’s extra-thick gel-padded bicycle wrap on the steering wheel.

(And, incidentally, that’s the driving grip I use half the time. Holding the cover, rather than the wheel, nearly eliminates vibration altogether, and it’s very easy to grab the wheel if I need to dodge.)

Years of nursing and my own experiences with increasingly, um… responsive skin have made me a HUGE fan of good wool. It breathes even when wet, pads even when squashed, and if you keep your eyes open, you can find wholesale prices on new sheepskin (– and get sturdy sweaters of cashmere, merino, or alpaca for $5-10 at the right Goodwill stores, but that’s another post.)

In Massachussetts, I live near the Sheepskin Outpost on the Mohawk Trail, and I lucked into a sale there. That got me:

– The steering wheel cover, to provide more padding and keep my hands off hot rubber;

– The seatbelt cover, to keep the edge of the belt off me and keep the skin on my shoulder and chest aired;

– The seat covers, which I wound up getting for half of wholesale, because they’d just bought the stock of a company that went out of business and had more inventory than they could afford to store.


Boy, did that ever work out for me!

Covering my can

This is about traveling with disability, so here’s some physical reality.

I started megadeath antibiotics a few days ago, and the first symptoms are making themselves felt. Kefir just isn’t enough to save my skin.

My very favorite brand. I’m getting nothing for saying so, but I’d like that to change 🙂

Also, I’ve really been having trouble getting the circulation in my left leg to behave.

Today, in the middle of my day, I had a brainstorm that would minimize the reduction of circulation to my legs and maximize airflow to my antibiotic-ravaged sit-down.

I swapped my underpants for my white silk long-john bottoms instead, and decided I could just wash out the silk each evening and hang-dry it overnight. Besides, the extra layer kept the chill from cutting into my leg every time I opened the door.

Tonight at 6:22 pm, my left leg is feeling better than it did at 2:22 pm, when I made the switch — despite a couple of hours in the car and far too little activity. Who knew such a little bit of material could make such a difference?

And I’m happy and relieved to say that the parts my undies have to cover are doing better, too. I had no idea that white silk was so healthful.

No more elastic around these legs. It’s too bad, because I’d just stocked up on undies. But of course, I got them on sale. It could have been worse.

Gratuitous toilet humor…

I stopped in a gas station that had the kind of bathroom I grew up thinking of as a gas station bathroom. It’s not chair-accessible (in fact, there’s hardly room for a standing person to turn around in) and the tile might be original with the building.

However, in a totally novel approach to graffiti, this gas station found a new use for the wrongest possible shade of brown paint:

There’s really nothing to add, is there?
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I’m awake now

After an obnoxious 4am pop, not surprising after a cortisol-saturated day like yesterday, I dozed until 7 when I could persuade my body to take consciousness seriously.

Thinking in terms of an early start. It was great. Then I tried to move.

So I spent a little over an hour on qi gong, stretching, and PT exercises. Much better.

I used my hot pot to make tea and my self-important Oster blender to make my shake, not with kale but frozen spinach, a soft mutzu apple and slushy blueberries.

It burned out the blender.

When I tried to take a picture of the really impressive clouds of smoke, my phone declared it needed updating. I took it as a cue to move forward rather than stand there gawping.

But I needed to get it off my chest. The scary negative crap can stop any time now.

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"Plan" is a 4-letter word

Last night, in an effort to give my autonomic nervous system a chance to calm down, I turned off my lovely hostess’s wifi while I slept. Eventually, I did sleep, after several hours of meditation.

Why the insomnia?

People change with time. My sweetie is discovering that in the harshest way. A friend of 20 years is sinking into the pit of addiction and her transformation has put him at considerable risk, due to the company she now keeps and what they think of him.

I hadn’t heard from him since midday yesterday, and since we had agreed to call twice more that day for different logistical reasons, not being able to get hold of him was deeply worrying.

I followed my inner prompting to head away from the coast (where another storm is heading in, this one bitterly cold) and get to Cleveland, with the option of flying out from there to get to California to do whatever was needed for my sweetie.

I took off at 9:30 (woefully early for me) after plugging the router back in and forgetting my jacket — which my lovely hostess chased me down to my parking spot to return.

Worth a thousand words

Dr. Goyal and White Plains Urgent Care were a small parking lot and two buildings over from where my nav device had placed them yesterday. /sigh/

She was saddened and intrigued by CRPS, making notes in the margins of my sheet.  She was initially somewhat dismissive of my description of the bite, because this morning it was being coy, hardly red at all.

I said, “I knew I should have taken pictures. Let me draw you a picture.”

Despite my having explained its vacilating nature clearly, I know from long experience that they need to see it to believe it.

So, using the big white paper sheet they have you sit on, I sketched the bite when I first noticed it, half a day later, a day after that, and so on. I wound up drawing a series of concentric circle patterns, growing, then shrinking, then growing, then shrinking.

I finished by drawing an arrow from top to bottom and saying, “Would you trust that pattern? Because I wouldn’t.”

I walked out with a prescription for 3 weeks of doxycycline and having promised to follow up with my CRPS specialist.

I know it’ll take 3-6 months just to get my insides back into any kind of order. Could take up to a year. I had a bad feeling about this bite, so I’ll consider it time well spent.

 When people talk about Mercury Retrograde, this is what they mean

 While I was in there, my lovely hostess texted me: “Internet still not working – what to do?” An hour (and a lot of non-Mac behavior from her Mac) later, my best answer was, “Call the cable company; it’s a hardware problem.”

Doing unsuccessful telephone tech support for one dear friend behind you, for a problem you might have caused, while driving at highway speeds on strange roads, when you’re sick with worry over another dear friend ahead of you, is not something I would recommend. In fact, now that I can check it off my bucket list, I think I’ll try not to do it ever again.

Her life depends on the internet even more than mine. It’s not optional. I wanted to whip around and ride back to save the day … but for the lashing in my brain to go on, and the fact that her hands work better than mine and I know the interfaces by heart, so there was nothing — in practical terms — that my presence would have added.

I had a fierce feeling that, if I could get far enough away from the tangled vibes behind me, both of these problems would resolve themselves.

So, with solid logic on one side of me, and crystal-clear intuition on the other, I charged ahead.

I crossed the New Jersey/New York state line. Then my lovely hostess texted me to say that she had found a second loose connection — and that the internet was now working fine.

How to search for someone who’s gone missing

I crossed into Pennsylvania. I’d been stopping every hour to stretch and breathe, but I couldn’t stop mulling my sweetie’s situation, so I pulled over to start the legwork of searching.

Here’s the drill. The order varies depending on what you think the situation is, but, when someone has gone missing and you fear the worst, I find it’s very soothing to rule out the worst as soon as you can bear to:

– Contact the police in the area you last knew them to be in. (Use the non-emergency number; the goodwill is worth the effort.) Have they had any dealings with that person? Car accident, fight, anything? One of the first things cops do is ask for ID, whether it’s appropriate or not, so they’re likely to have records of even minor events.
– The police can connect you to the morgue. Rule out the worst, breathe a sigh of relief, and move on.
– Call the hospitals.
– If they aren’t admitted to the hospital, ask for the Emergency Room admissions, which may be a different number.

If all of those turn up negative, count your blessings and wait for them to get back into signal range or to realize they let their phone’s battery die.

First, I surfed the police logs to see if anything was reported. If there was any violence, then it’s a small enough town to turn up on the online blotter. Nothing matched.

I mulled whether it was worth calling the non-emergency number to see if they’d had any other dealings, and I decided to go straight on to calling the hospitals, on the grounds that any police involvement in the situation would be blotter-worthy.

Then the phone rang.

And it was him.

I really think there were gouts of steam poufing out of my ears. My eyes closed and I dropped against the door, so I’m guessing, but it felt like it.

He was slightly shaken, but intact, and maybe beginning to really “get it” about how some people change.

He told me emphatically to be careful who I trust, not to pick up hitch-hikers, and be careful who I talked to.

Naturally, I promised him that I would.

Just for the record, I have really great friends who always have my back to the best of their ability. I am one lucky human, and I know it.

Kylertown, PA (don’t blink… No, really,  don’t blink, or you’ll totally miss it)

After sorting out some logistics and stopping for a quarter of hot roasted chicken (definitely a local bird — tasty!) I came to the sinking realization that Motel 6 doesn’t go along I-80, and I can’t afford the ones that do.

Garmin is no help, because they just list the upper scale lodgings. Lots of B&Bs, but no cheap little roadside doss-houses.

I don’t need much, and can afford slightly less. It can be a problem.

I stabbed “Kwik-Fill Motel” on my phone’s map. What the heck, truckers know a thing or two about cheap dossing.

I spoke to a woman, which was reassuring; when I blew past the exit (# 133, if you’re curious, and it’s right after a wooded curve) she did a swell sales-job that convinced me to drive the 10 miles to the next exit and come back… and it turned out to be a good decision. 

This place has been in business since the 1970’s and has only raised its prices $10 since then. It skips the kitsch, thank goodness. My decent-sized room has the tasteful modicum of furniture with classy Colonial lines, with just the occasional bit of ’70’s carpentry or carpeting peeking around the edges. Decoration and color schemes are quite tasteful, for a motel, and — most importantly — the heater works.

A total find.

Next time you want to come to the wilds of Western Pennsylvania, you might as well plan an overnight at the Kwik-Fill; you can’t do any better, but you could do a great deal worse.

The only downside is, I wasn’t prepared for Pennsylvania water. I’d intended to bring a case of bottled for PA, but it was just like I didn’t have time this morning.

I’m going to run the bath and the fan, and give the whole thing time to clear the copious chlorine. If it doesn’t smell bad after that, I’ll have a nice bath at the end of this roller-coaster day. If it does, well, I’ll let it go and be grateful for the rest.

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Tern to the present

This is the third major purge of my possessions in 7 years. 

The first time, I decided that anything that I was keeping for sentimental value had to trigger only good feelings; I’d keep nothing that made me unhappy.

The second time, I moved onto the boat, so everything had to have at least two uses.

Now, I’m eliminating everything that isn’t easy to handle, as well as being useful and pleasing.

That meme is extending into the realm of perception. Images and events that used to trigger emotional cascades, because of memories and associations, are finally losing their sickening zap. Associations fall away, and images and events stand out  in simple splendor as just what they are: unlayered, transient, colorful, done.

For instance, I used to hate terns, because their cry sounds exactly like a drowning cat. I blame their awful caw for my not being aware that my cat was in jeopardy when he died. For a couple years now, I’ve gotten snarly at tern-time, when they come here to breed. But, with this shift in my perspective, a tern is just a tern. My excellent companion was still an excellent companion — and, obviously, a kindred spirit.

A tern is not about the past or the future. It’s here now. It’s just that, at this moment, one is floating past with its strange sharp wings twinkling; then it hovers and wiggles for a moment; twists, plunges, spears the water; bobs up again, looking smug, with a little fish in its mouth; takes off and disappears.

Usually, there is no fish. But right now, there goes a pleased tern, enjoying the moment.

It’s just a tern, and it’s doing tern things in a ternish kind of way. Tomorrow it will do tern stuff in a slightly different, but still ternish way. Doesn’t matter. It’s just a tern — nothing more nor less.

There is no furry friend dying alone.

There is just a bird.

Gorgeous photo: Geert Wilders at http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/2426290/posts

And I want credit for resisting the obvious urge to make a crack about taking a tern for the worse.

Oops…

Anyway.

I stumbled across a quote that seemed shiningly appropriate:

“To live here and now, you must train yourself: in the seen there will be just the seen, in the heard just the heard, in the sensed just the sensed, in the thought just the thought. That is the end of  sorrow.” – Gautama Buddha

I don’t know about the end of sorrow, but it’s true that it is far easier to manage my moods, notice my body’s signals, and do what I need to do, when I keep things in this charmingly simple, deceptively rigorous perspective.

It’s rigorous because it goes against all my socialization about the importance of hair-trigger reactions and emotional responses: Am I an ice-queen? Don’t I care about things? Aren’t I human? What’s wrong with me?

I’ve gotten all of those remarks in my time, when I strove for calm in former years — especially from mere acquaintances and random strangers, which always shocked me. How I, and those around me, survived my 13th-23rd years is unimaginable at this distance of time and self-certainty, but falling into the reactivity trap was one good way not to get verbally assaulted.

One advantage of being plumply middle-aged is that, for one thing, people watch you less; for another, a degree of equanimity seems to be less … annoying.


Exqueeze me?!?

I’ve had it up to here with emotional reactions. CRPS is a roller coaster par excellence, for emotional reactions. I’m quite done, thank you, and I’d like to get off now.

Actually, I think I just did.

And now, a tern is just a tern. For better … or worse.

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