One day this week, I tried a one-hour sample of Tibetan bells (see below) on YouTube, supposed to reduce stress, which put me to sleep though I felt nothing really soothing about them. Maybe I don’t know how to listen to them. I read another 1–2 chapters of a book by an ALS patient (Philip Simmons’ Learning to Fall) but find his thinking abstract and difficult. I am too impatient for a feeling of achievement or progress or reward, which seems to be part of my problem with a discipline of self-care. The real reward to be aimed for, if I understand this right, should be Nothing. This kind of thinking reminds me of those unfinished jigsaw puzzles at the Cancer Center the patients there work on.
This week I began using the dictation app on my new computer to create blog posts (like this one). Saving the clumsy typing thanks to numbness in my left hand, it may do more for stress reduction than other more arcane practices. Still, 1–2 hours at the keyboard leaves me weary by noon, and I rejoice in the relief of just lying down for a while. And relaxation deepens as I pick up a new novel to read, sinking into the oblivion of it, until I doze off. This, one day, despite 12 hours of mostly restful sleep the night before.
|Ragged rainclouds with a patch of blue|
More stress. My lowish blood pressure has been something of a gift for a long time, but now it’s likely to produce faintness when standing after sitting for a while. I’ve learned to quickly sit again or sink to the floor to avoid falling when my head starts to swim.
Reynolds Price, in the first chapter of his book A Whole New Life seems to settle on “fighting cancer” as his metaphor of choice for treatment. But as someone diagnosed in his early 50s, he could be expected to find in himself a fighting spirit. At my age of 72 I’ll leave the fighting to my doctors and trust to their best efforts, hopefully extending my years with the help of their “pushback,” while using the time remaining to some good purpose.
I have not been taking morning walks, the effort being more than I can manage these days, most of the blame for that being the meds. But one morning this week I make it around the block with my wife and the dog. The wind blew my hat off once, but I soldiered on before heading home again, ready for another lie down. I last longer on the stationary bike, where a half hour easily passes while I read a book on my kindle.
Shopping went OK though we quickly filled the cart to the $275 level (walnuts are now $20 for 3 pounds; how did that happen?). After checking out, I waited as my wife used the coffee grinder, and I tried putting into practice some of the spiritual practice I’ve been learning in my reading: to make brief eye contact with passersby, remembering to think, “We’re all in this together,” and discovering again how difficult this is for me, long lost in my own separateness and easy judgments of others.
|West wind, waiting for an ode|
I reached for Reynolds Price’s book and read his hair-raising description of agonies and loss, which make my own difficulties pale by comparison. At one point, he notes that the uncertainty of his cancer prognosis has been simplified to two wishes: to have life as long as there is work for him to do, and to have work as long as he has life. For someone who needs to feel useful, that focus (as Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chödrön would say) was news I could use. Reading and writing about westerns for a blog called Buddies in the Saddle stopped seeming frivolous for a while.
Emails continue to surprise me with the contact they offer me in unexpected ways. I get a long email from a cousin’s husband telling me of surviving a critical illness with the help of alternative medicine, and a faith in what many would dismiss as magical thinking. Yet I’ve been far enough down this road to believe that faith of almost any kind is better than no faith at all. I am humbled by his story of recovery. It triggers a sense of having been guided for most of my life and attended in ways that invite me to connect dots stretching over decades, including nowadays the appearance of hummingbirds at odd moments. Yeah, true that.
Previously: A delicate balance