Monday, November 02, 2009

Pills For Enlightenment

It would seem impossible that I could live a life without painkillers at this moment. This morning was a bad one that required one morphine pill, a Xanax and three Vicodins to get the pain to a somewhat bearable level, but I can no longer stand what these medications are doing to my spirit.

As I felt the pain battle for supremacy in my face and jaw (despite the meds), I decided to just lay on the couch at one point and give in, to not fight, to boldly tell it to get as bad as it wants to get--that I can take it.

It's always remarkably relaxing when I do this, as I suppose in these moments I can compartmentalize the pain, set it aside, and live with it instead of fighting it. But for some reason, I seem to do this only when I arrive at the point where I'm realizing it's winning handsomely, and the only way to win the war, so to speak, is to surrender the battle.

When I do this, the pain does ease up somewhat, and I wondered this morning if this tactic would be successful if I went off pain medication altogether. It seemed like such a shockingly bold move, even stupid, but the idea intrigued me.

Yet when I significantly decreased my pain meds in an experiment last week, the pain skyrocketed, and it took two days to get it down again. It's actually been pretty bad ever since.

But I literally can't stand this medication fog anymore. As I've been so isolated and sedentary for most of the past year, I joined a gym this week, and man, what an effort not only to exercise, but just to walk over there! My malaise fought me every inch of the way, and the depressing thought kept creeping in, "Why am I bothering?"

What's keeping my hope afloat, though, are the memories of more joyous times, when, despite my problems and issues, life could also feel electric and exciting, and I would be wildly filled with creative ideas that gave me more than enough fuel to execute them.

But my days are so very different now. And I have to wonder how they fit into the overall pattern of success/defeat defeat that has defined so much of my life. If everything around us is truly connected by some kind of universal web, where past, present and future are illusions of our three-dimensional world, and if I go on the assumption that I'm here on this earthly plane to learn deep truths via the gift of free choice, then what is the lesson?

Of course, my malady may be nothing more than a freak occurrence of bad luck, but for the sake of argument, if this ordeal does somehow reflect a bigger picture, what in that picture am I missing?

When I think along these lines (which always seem to effortlessly surface during these moments of surrender), it all feels so profoundly obvious to me--that of course this is all connected, you numnut, but you just don't want to go there. You don't want to face the sheer terror of the wild blue yonder before you, and instead would prefer to stay in your hovel of pain and medication, where the space is oh so small, but oh so familiar.

As I've written about before, most of my adult life was devoted to music, to being the best singer/songwriter I could be. Those were heady times indeed, but when one is so singularly focused on JUST ONE THING in life and that thing no longer exists, it's hard to feel anchored to the earth anymore, despite my other artistic endeavors.

And why was my life devoted to JUST ONE THING? Because I felt so incapable of succeeding in love relationships. Time after time, I made such poor choices in men, which had less to do with them and more to do with my low self-esteem. And let's face it...a life without love, or even the potential for love, is hardly a life at all. I dare say my fear of intimacy borders on something pathological, and I am the less for it.

Of course, now that I'm so ill, in such pain and on so many medications, I continue to feel myself unworthy of a love relationship, but of course this is just more of my bullshit. I'm aware that I'm actually quite good (for the most part) at handling extremely difficult physical conditions, and I'm also aware that no one is perfect; that we all have our proverbial crosses to bear and baggage to unload. Pain and illness does not deem me unlovable, but in my own mind, it gives me an excuse to melodramatically retreat, which is made all the easier by the fatigue created by the meds.

It's a vicious cycle indeed. Pain and fatigue keep me isolated, yet isolation keeps me away from any possibility of love, which would restore much-needed balance in my life, whether the pain was there or not.

It's certainly no easy thing to wake up with severe pain in the morning, and would be harder still to take a stab at not medicating it, but something has got to give. I've become frozen in time, remembering the person I used to be, yet only vaguely seeing the person I could become. And therein, perhaps, lies the rub.

With all previous definitions of myself shattered, who am I now, and who do I want to be? Where do I go from here? I can't see it, and this terrifies me, frankly. And with pain taking up so much real estate in my brain, it's difficult to formulate a new vision for myself or for anything...even some nutty creative endeavor.

Before all this happened, I was actually feeling okay about setting the music aside for awhile, by exploring new paths, by venturing forward full speed ahead in faith and love.

But of course, my faith was shattered, too, when pain exploded onto the scene. God not only vacated his co-pilot seat in my life; he actually hit the ejector button, leaving me to crash land in some foreign sea all on my own. I've been trying hard ever since not to drown.

And so my present is now largely defined by reruns of Criminal Minds. Nothing soothes the tortured soul, it seems, like stories of sociopathic serial killers.

I watched a preacher today during a Sunday morning TV program, and he talked about faith, about putting our troubles in God's hands. He focused mainly on the recession and the joblessness that many of his followers were no doubt experiencing, noting Bible passages that basically said to quit worrying, have faith that God will provide, and just enjoy your life.

When it comes to money and my freelance work, I can get with that. But how those parables apply to someone in chronic pain still has me stumped. Maybe they don't apply, or can't. Once again, I'm reminded of Buddhist teachings that say there will always be suffering in life; the trick is to rise above it (no matter how harsh the circumstances), relinquish your attachments, and enjoy the bliss that ensues.

But I'm told by this one Buddhist sect that I'll have to chant two to three hours a day to attain this enlightenment. Huh? What? Is this a joke? I get impatient with how long it takes to walk to my kitchen. Can't they just make a pill for it?

Note: Watercolors are some new entries in my illustrated journal. I'm using them as inspiration to get back to my flamenco classes!


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