31 January 2017

After my first forays into the magic realms of physiotherapy and osteopathy, I am exhausted enough to resume my stranded beetle position and crawl into the tunnels of the interwebs where the people of the world are screaming and lamenting and analysing and explaining. I follow the links and remarks from friends and poets and writers and scientists and aging hippies and old comrades from my rebel days.
I even dusted off my almost defunct twitter account. I know, desperate times.
From time to time, I click here to watch the numbers pile up. Of people in Great Britain petitioning for trump to be prevented from visiting the UK. The numbers are climbing so rapidly here that the UK parliament has to debate this petition on 20th Feb (live). Nice.

Then there is this here:

(by historian Heather Cox Richardson (Boston College) who is probably right in assuming that Steve Bannon is behind trump’s recent Executive Order on Muslim refugees)

What Bannon is doing (. . .) is creating what is known as a “shock event.” Such an event is unexpected and confusing and throws a society into chaos. People scramble to react to the event, usually along some fault line that those responsible for the event can widen by claiming that they alone know how to restore order. When opponents speak out, the authors of the shock event call them enemies. As society reels and tempers run high, those responsible for the shock event perform a sleight of hand to achieve their real goal, a goal they know to be hugely unpopular, but from which everyone has been distracted as they fight over the initial event. There is no longer concerted opposition to the real goal; opposition divides along the partisan lines established by the shock event.

(The) Executive Order has all the hallmarks of a shock event. It was not reviewed by any governmental agencies or lawyers before it was released, and counterterrorism experts insist they did not ask for it. People charged with enforcing it got no instructions about how to do so. Courts immediately have declared parts of it unconstitutional, but border police in some airports are refusing to stop enforcing it.
Predictably, chaos has followed and tempers are hot.
My point today is this: unless you are the person setting it up, it is in no one’s interest to play the shock event game. It is designed explicitly to divide people who might otherwise come together so they cannot stand against something its authors think they won’t like. I don’t know what Bannon is up to– although I have some guesses– but because I know Bannon’s ideas well, I am positive that there is not a single person whom I consider a friend on either side of the aisle– and my friends range pretty widely– who will benefit from whatever it is. If the shock event strategy works, though, many of you will blame each other, rather than Bannon, for the fallout. And the country will have been tricked into accepting their real goal.

But because shock events destabilize a society, they can also be used positively. We do not have to respond along old fault lines. We could just as easily reorganize into a different pattern that threatens the people who sparked the event. A successful shock event depends on speed and chaos because it requires knee-jerk reactions so that people divide along established lines.
 If people realize they are being played, though, they can reach across old lines and reorganize to challenge the leaders who are pulling the strings.

And rather more intriguing this here:

(. . .) a story that many people haven’t noticed. On Wednesday, Reuters reported (in great detail) how 19.5% of Rosneft, Russia’s state oil company, has been sold to parties unknown. This was done through a dizzying array of shell companies, so that the most that can be said with certainty now is that the money “paying” for it was originally loaned out to the shell layers by VTB (the government’s official bank), even though it’s highly unclear who, if anyone, would be paying that loan back; and the recipients have been traced as far as some Cayman Islands shell companies.
Why is this interesting? Because the much-maligned Steele Dossier (the one with the golden showers in it) included the statement that Putin had offered Trump 19% of Rosneft if he became president and removed sanctions. The reason this is so interesting is that the dossier said this in July, and the sale didn’t happen until early December. And 19.5% sounds an awful lot like “19% plus a brokerage commission.”
Conclusive? No. But it raises some very interesting questions for journalists to investigate.
The (. . .) theme is money. Trump’s decision to keep all his businesses (not bothering with any blind trusts or the like), and his fairly open diversion of campaign funds, made it fairly clear from the beginning that he was seeing this as a way to become rich in the way that only dedicated kleptocrats can (. . .).
This gives us a pretty good guess as to what the exit strategy is: become tremendously, and untraceably, rich, by looting any coffers that come within reach.

 And finally, there is Dutch humour:

30 January 2017

One day we will ask ourselves how life could proceed in such an ordinary way in the face of what was going on. This will feel even more unbelievable because what is happening isn't a natural catastrophe, a volcanic eruption, a massive gas leak, a killer virus  etc. but something caused by careless people and without any need.

And we all know it.

29 January 2017

During our quick Sunday morning phone call, my father, as always eager to get back to the winter sports competitions live on tv (biathlon is his favourite), shouts his disbelief down my ear, do they not have schools? Where do they get these harebrained ideas from? 'They' being the people who voted for trump. As usual, he is convinced that everything boils down to a decent enough education. He has a point. But neither of us knows much about the US or its school system, so we just change the subject. Admittedly, I am still fairly perplexed by it all. And I don't want to come across presumptuous, we have a similar populist movement here (albeit hovering around 12%). But 'alternative facts' without a great outcry?

Before I crawl back into my thick warm layer of self pity and continue with the general theme of big-time whining (believe me I am aware of it), some interesting thoughts :
I think Trump ultimately is going to do America and the world a service by becoming the vehicle that will finally take down right-wing conservative politics for a generation or two. He is getting the entire Republican conservative establishment to buy into his regime. He is creating an administration that is blatantly all about rule by — and for — billionaires, sold out to the oil and carbon industries, and celebrating an out-of-control corporate capitalism. It will be a caricature of conservative policies. In short order he will completely and irrevocably alienate all the growing political constituencies of the 21st century: the Millennial Generation, people of color, educated professionals, women. He’ll eventually do the same for a significant number of more moderate Republicans. And does anyone out there really think Trump will do anything for the white working class that got him elected? Watch as repealing Obamacare blows up in his face.
I think the backlash will be fast and furious. And it won’t just be Trump that goes down — it will be large swaths of conservative Republicans who will be almost helpless to stop Trump or distance themselves from him. They will pay the price for creating the conditions that created him. I think the next 4 to 8 years are going to see a serious sea change in politics — to the left, not the right. The analogy is closer to what happened to the conservative Republicans coming out of the 1930s — they were out of power for the next 50 years.

Peter Leyden (just a tech person) 

and this from Garrison Keillor:

What we know so far is that the man is who he is. There is no larger, finer man inside him trying to get out. Everyone who is paying attention knows this.
The man is clueless, tightly locked inside his own small bubble. A sizable minority of Americans, longing for greatness or wanting to smack down an ambitious woman and to show those people in the hellhole coastal cities what the real America is all about, has elected him. To him, this minority is a mass movement such as the world has never seen.
Everyone knows that the man is a fabulator, oblivious, trapped in his own terrible needs. Republican, Democrat, libertarian, socialist, white supremacist, or sebaceous cyst -- everyone knows it. It is up to Republicans to save the country from this man. They elected him and it is their duty to tie a rope around his ankle.

And another not so pretty picture (source):

28 January 2017

Cabin fever day.
Last night a friend called who had a similar experience, surgery, lengthy recovery etc., two years ago. She was on her way to an office party, out for the night. There are so many voices hissing and shouting in my head trying to debunk her sound advice and recommendations. Never mind her healthy self jiggling her car keys as she skipped out the door.
I am my own worst enemy.

Almost no frost and warmer, wetter weather coming. The wisteria has started to come alive.

26 January 2017

Every morning I get up charged with another load of enthusiasm, or rather, I carefully turn from my back to one side and lift my body en-bloc to crawl out of the bed that R has raised (using four small concrete blocks) to the level recommended by the trauma surgeon.

I am half way through the six weeks of life as a stranded beetle and well, let's be patient. The stitches are out, the wound is healing. I am shaky and shattered. Of course I wonder if there is something else going on, after all that's my strength, waiting for signs of the volcano to erupt and yes, there are some signs.  But generally, I am fed up to my teeth of having to lie flat on my back - for another 21 nights, after which I should be better equipped to handle another autoimmune flare.

Sometimes I do dramatic things like standing upright for a much too short while with my laptop resting on a pile of books so that I can edit a paper on chronic liver disease management, or I slowly walk downstairs and make coffee and microwave-cheat chocolate brownies, followed by a brief walk through the winter silence of the garden.

There are tiny moments of amazing rest and clarity, when I see it all before me, recovery and so on. But mostly and despite my careful attempts of regular patterns (shower, relaxation, reading, tea and hours and hours of online tv)  I am swirling through chaos. Well, at least there's a certain because surely we all know that there is no way to order chaos. Nothing can be charted, ordered and predicted.

I sent the man out to show me that the world is still waiting for me and he came back with fresh fruit and this reassuring picture.

24 January 2017

My paternal grandmother is sitting in the front row, the fifth child from the left. The year is 1897. The school is in Feuchtwangen, a prosperous Franconian town in northern Bavaria.
This is the oldest picture I have of my grandmother. A cousin (from my mother's side of the family), a retired historian, tells me that the children in this picture are all from prosperous families. How can you tell, I ask him. Look at the shoes, the white lace collars, the aprons.

My grandmother's family has lived in this town forever. I have many cousins there, all I need is to knock on a door and ask. Apparently. I never have. We meet every couple of years, birthdays, jubilees, funerals, and everybody is polite and friendly. We promise to visit each other. But we never do. This family is utterly divided, there are feuds that go back generations, about land and money, brothers returning from WWI unwilling to talk to each other, the women whispering mean gossip behind closed doors, my grandmother in her element.
I only know of the feuds because she always talked about them. Endless stories.

Here, she is just a small girl. I don't for a moment believe she was ever shy.

22 January 2017

from my distant observation point

On BBC Radio 4, English writer Robert McCrum talked to six American writers about the new president.
Of the six, these two, I found most informative, if not inspiring:

Marilynne Robinson (the complete interview here):
I think he embodies something dark in the universal psyche, you know, it's terrifying to see how willingly he will divide a country that (. . .) historically, depends on the fact that we don't dwell on these kinds of divisions. And I think that if he really puts his imprint on American culture, it will look a lot more like a lot of the unhappy or failed states in the rest of the world.  
I think we can look to the people who did not vote for Trump, and they are the majority by a considerable margin, to be a very meaningful resistance.
The thing that bothers me so much (. . .) is that the apparent tendency of his government will be to undercut social supports that have helped exactly the people who voted for him.
I blame the churches (. . .) for radically misstating what are in fact Christian values, that the great opposition that has developed in this country against helping the poor, against, God knows, doing justice to the foreigner, all these kind of things that are ancient classic biblical values have been swept away by people who claim Christianity as if it were a tribal membership rather than as if it were an ethical, moral, metaphysical system of understanding.
When you watch this man with his ridiculous gold plated everything and so on, you get the feeling that perhaps we really have fallen back into (something) primitive.
Meaningful democracy is built on a very deep and wide ranging integrity of individual people (. . .) and that's what we have to make sure we have secured, that's what people have to be very serious about.
The future is a strange beast. The word optimism I am not quite comfortable with. The future will be as good as we make it. And a huge burden has fallen on us.

Malcolm Gladwell (the complete interview is here):
If you are someone who is unwilling to engage with the normal institutions of government, one of two things happens: One is that you create a revolution. The other  is that the institutions govern without you. Were Trump a more  dynamic, effective, charismatic, disciplined person, I would fear the former.  That he might actually usurp the existing institutions.  
What I suspect is that he is simply too lazy and undisciplined to have anything happen.  (. . .)  the tweets don't really mean anything. (. . .) They are the kind of half baked thoughts one has at two in the morning. I don't think they represent a clearly articulated ideology. He doesn't have a clearly articulated ideology. (. . .) This is a man who two or three years ago in public said how much he loved Hillary Clinton and how he thought the economy was in fine form. (. . .) Virtually any position he takes now, he didn't take a couple of years ago. He doesn't have positions, in other words.
So in the absence of any kind of coherent political philosophy, personal philosophy, what happens is that the permanent government takes over. (. . .) 
A man who has a kind of murky past, who has done all minds of questionable things (. . .) this is the last guy who should be crossing the CIA. This just suggests that he is someone who hasn't the slightest clue what he is up to. Trust me, we will see the consequences of him anatgonising an  organisation like that. Let's just start with leaking. They're going to very quietly embarrass him any chance they get. 
So does Trump set an example of vulgarity, coarseness, superficiality, does he lower the bar or does the opposite happen? That by finally exposing the kind of emptiness of that kind of politics, does he create a backlash which says, it's time for us to elevate politics once again. I don't know. 
The last experience with a true American bully, someone who was this crass and vulgar, was Joe McCarthy. And the Joe McCarthy experience is incredibly instructive. What happens is, for a number of years,  everyone goes along with it and by being so coarse and vulgar and by being willing to go places where no one else will go, he has enormous political success in the short run. And then what happens: people finally get sick of him.
This kind of rhetorical strategy has a very limited lifespan. After a certain point, people long for a return to some kind of dignity. I think (. . .) those people on the religious right who voted for Trump and who have given him a kind of tentative support (. . .), they know he is not one of them, their patience for his vulgarity will be limited. There is only so long that people who have been raised in the genteel culture of the church will put up with someone who is so profoundly other. That's what happened with McCarthy. Fundamentally decent people who were willing to put up with that for two, three years, finally said, you know what, not doing it anymore. 
That same kind of thing will happen. I think someone's going to stand up and say, you know what, enough. And my guess is that when that happens, there will be a surprising wave of public support, in favour of it.

20 January 2017

this is the end of the world as we know it

aerial shot of the lakes forming on the Arctic ice cap

The (photographs are) beautiful, but what you’re looking at is climate change at its worst. My favourite is the one that looks like an eye. It’s a half-circle of concentric blues at the top of the image – it’s almost as if global warming is looking right back at you.

Timo Lieber

19 January 2017

Beware, my body and my soul, beware above all of crossing your arms and assuming the sterile attitude of the spectator, for life is not a spectacle, a sea of grief is not a proscenium, and a man who wails is not a dancing bear.

 Aimé Césaire

16 January 2017

Here is another photo from my father's stash. The box I was allowed to take as my share of his estate. He thinks these are useless mementos or maybe he imagines I sell them and make lots of money.
It's all in my head anyway, he says, what do I need old photographs for.

The year is 1943. The location, a Franconian town in northern Bavaria, first history records dating back to the 13th century, dominated by a large Baroque castle with impressive grounds. Napoleon's troops passed through it on their way to fight the Prussians. The group is standing on the stairs to the back entrance of their school, which was founded in 1528.

It is the last day of school, not because the boys are about to graduate (they are barely 13 years old), but because of the war. The school will shut down, the last remaining teacher is posing here with his class. He taught the Classics, Homer and Tacitus, rhetoric, logic, debating. Unlike his colleagues, he is too old to be drafted. However, in less then two years, he and all of these boys, will be put into ill fitting uniforms, armed with the dregs of the remaining weaponry and sent off to utterly and completely unsuccessfully defend their hometown against the approaching US army. But that is another story.

My father is the tall one on the right in the front row. When I asked him about the pins on some of the lapels, including his, he was not sure. There was so much you had to be careful about, even in this sleepy town, he said shaking his head. We were reciting the Iliad, debating Plato, what did we know.
They all survived the war but today, my father is the only one still alive. The small one in the front was my father's best friend, an artist and professor of fine art at the university of Munich, a member of the Munich Secession. When I last met him three years ago, he was wearing a handwoven tweed jacket with a dramatic pink silk scarf, his leonine hair like a white crown. He kissed my hands and told me to always wear something blue to match the colour of my eyes.
After his death two years ago, my father almost cried, little Ernstl is dead, now I am all alone.

15 January 2017

in which I try to come up with a positive outlook

I just wrote another whiny post about my life as a stranded beetle in pain and halfway through writing it, I knew. This. Won't. Do.  All my pep talks about how my body constantly produces new cells striving for health. Useless at 3 am. Anyway, it is down below as a record of this cloudy January morning with a few snow flakes here and there. 

For now, let's take a look at this:

I found this in my father's sideboard last summer. Apparently, this is the wedding of someone from my paternal grandfather's family, maybe his sister's. I recognise nobody, my grandfather is not in it, so it must have happened before my grandparents got married in 1919.

This was the Munich branch of the family, the wealthy educated bourgeois members of a wealthy society. They had salons and debating clubs and musical soirees. These men were judges, attorneys and senior civil servants. The women were wives and sisters and daughters. They did needlework and played musical instruments. To my eye, the picture looks like a game of charades, the "crying" girls, the "angel" holding her hands above the couple. I wonder if they were ready to burst into laughter. Or maybe it was a fashionable thing young people did at the time, barely tolerated by the more elderly (female) family members. 
But maybe it simply was like that, two upset little girls, the sister of the bride a bit tipsy on a chair in the back, playing up. The spinster aunt on the right not amused. The protestant pastor on the left keeping his distance.
Actually, I think this picture was possibly taken before the first world war. If so,  Munich was still the capital of the kingdom of Bavaria.
I wish I knew more about photography and fashion and eye glasses to date this picture.

Whereas the lament earlier was as follows:

Once again I wake at 3 am with that pain all along my right leg.  And my mind goes into overdrive. Before I know it I see myself battling a future life with chronic pain. Jeez. This is night 10 after surgery. Early days. I hope.  

Thing is, I recognise nerve pain. It's bloody obvious. Ten years ago I lived through the great dentist disaster and although I eventually came out at the other end alive and well I very much don't want to have a repeat experience elsewhere in my body. 

R is grumpy and worried and coughing and insists on me eating some toast, which I find almost impossible. My brother calls and again, we compare notes on our various surgeries and injuries. Stay on top of it, he tells me. Distract yourself. 

Make yourself small, says the tiny voice in my head. The world is enormous and this is a small event. Watch yourself cope and remember that millions are also coping, mostly under worse circumstances. But also: prepare yourself and seek help. 

I am scared. It's the easy option for now. I am not proud of myself.

13 January 2017

First things first: 

Thank you, thank you, thank you, wonderful readers. Thank you for your supportive and kind comments, for your suggestions and your encouragement, for reading and letting me know that you are there.

Woke up at 3 am tossing and turning with aches and increasing pain and after that, little sleep and working hard on keeping all that miserable worst case scenario thinking out of my mind. I eventually settled on the theory of the two steps forward, one step back recovery road and argued for a while with my impatient self. In the end, I saw my daughter's feverish face, aged 9, during a week of a nasty childhood illness, and I could hear her tiny voice whispering: right so, I have to get through this and then it's over, yes?
She doesn't remember but I do. She did say this.

I took one ultram from the emergency pack they gave me when I was discharged and it had no effect, which is a relief in a way. It is not a nice drug. 

The snow chaos has not (yet?) happened. My man went to work coughing. Life goes on.

When R was 20, his mother, my beautiful future mother-in-law, had a terrible accident. Her car was hit by the delivery van of her local grocer and pushed against a wall. She just about survived it and spent six long months in traction, unable to move, staring at the ceiling.
Many years later, when I had become a member of that family, I was told various versions of this time, bits of memories here and there. The main story was always that her hair, her beautiful thick dark brown hair, after it was shaved off grew back white. She had just turned 51.
Whenever I ask R about the time, he tells me that his memories are all very vague, hazy. That he was busy being young and wild, ready to move to England for the summer. I ask him if he spent time with her in hospital and he replies, Oh I'm sure I did, and I love the certainty in his voice. 
And occasionally he mentions her shaved head with the holes in it for the traction cables and how close she was to being paralysed. He also remembers quite vividly the white leatherette sofa in the grocer's sitting room where they all sat that evening, crying, the two families, neighbours, a priest. Imagine, white leatherette, R says, shaking his head.

I always have a hard time imagining this. My wonderful mother-in-law was such a lively and energetic woman, talking, laughing, singing, dancing. And playing. On the rare occasions of actual snow in Dublin, she had us all, dogs included, tobogganing on bin bags and dinner trays down to Saval Park Road from the Killiney Hill car park, with a massive snowball fight at the end. 
Six months in traction. What have I got to complain. 
I loved her dearly, she changed me, she helped me, she loved me back. She died much too young. That bastard, pancreatic cancer, swept her away in three short months when she was 67.

12 January 2017

The key instruction is to stay in the present. Don’t get caught up in hopes of what you’ll achieve and how good your situation will be some day in the future. What you do right now is what matters.

We are both not well, R is coughing his lungs out every night and I am doing my best to encourage him to stay home. But the man is so dedicated and after a lifetime of almost never being ill, he is finding this difficult to admit. Right now he is contemplating staying home at least tomorrow, resting on the weekend.
Heavy snow forecast for today and tomorrow. Hard to imagine, the evening air so mild, a soft rain. This morning I was watching the first blackbirds checking out the hedge for their nesting places.
The days are getting longer.

(this wonderful music is from Sweden)

11 January 2017

One week post surgery report

The day will come when I will look back on all this with a slightly bemused or possibly even blasé expression on my face before I completely erase it from the part of my brain that stores the really important stuff.

Today's achievements include a short and very tiring walk through the very soggy garden, cancelling a whole lot of stuff like the train tickets to my father's 88th birthday celebrations later this month, the qi gong with the muslim women, various suddenly unnecessary dates and appointments here and there, but most importantly, securing an outpatient follow-up MRI for next week AND keeping my breakfast down.

I still have to figure out the logistics of how to get to the MRI and back without asking R to take half a day off. Our reliable circle of friends includes only people tied to work commitments or currently battling various seasonal infections.

My energy levels are dragging way behind me. I could find this alarming but I am too exhausted to give a damn.
Pain comes and goes and while I try to handle this like a proper grownup it freaks me out totally. I kind of get the idea but the mind is weak.

The right foot is still a lead weight and most of the leg remains stubbornly numb but I can report some tiny improvements in my walking skills.

My steady companion is this nifty grasping tool for picking and lifting things,  incl. pulling up my pants. Actually, I am forever forgetting where I put it last and as a result I am kind of relieved that I am alone at home during most of the day.

Otherwise, I am resigned to accept life as it is right now as long as the wifi works.
Yesterday's therapeutic distractions included a documentary of George Michael  (fell asleep after 20 mins) and the excellent two part BBC drama of Agatha Christie's The Witness for the Prosecution.

Of course, I also read the news and keep myself informed, i.e. trying to be a serious, resonsible, informed and involved citizen who is just going through a tiddly bit of health bother.  OK, OK, at least some of of the time. It's a work in progress here.

One week done. Five more to go through until officially predicted recovery. I will believe it when it happens.
Isn't this exciting?

08 January 2017

Home and struggling in my familiar surroundings.

I feel like an invalid, I said to R last night,
Well actually, you are an invalid, he smartly replied, but a valid one (this in response to me hissing with mad fury).

That whole healing business is bloody hard work. I should have known but I am the last to face reality. Not fair, I want to shout out the window. But the place is deserted and utterly still with heavy frost. At 5 am we got a black ice warning from the local authorities. So I cancelled all plans to be active today. Ha ha.

Picture me mostly lying flat on my back or on one side, trying to keep a straight STRAIGHT back, occasionally standing upright or sitting - briefly - on a hard chair fitted with a slanting foam seat, shitting on the upstairs toilet only because this one has been fitted with a raised toilet throne, forever looking for that gripping tool to pick up stuff that requires bending, plus nausea from painkillers - or maybe a bug I picked up at the hospital. 
Every two hours or so I get up and try to walk for ten minutes, or until I get the shakes, forcing my daft right leg to move and trying not to plop that right foot down like a sleepy brick with each step. 

I am fucking exhausted, typing this makes my hands shake.  You have no idea how sorry I feel for my miserable self.

Yet, every once in a while I reassure myself that all this will get better, trying to picture the cells of my flesh and tissue and skin at the two large incisions in my back weaving and mending and meshing away, doing what they are supposed to do. Hurry up, I whisper, get it done. But they just send a few shivers in response.


07 January 2017

a very cold day, no sun
R brought me home, he drove extra carefully
I chatted like a silly teenager and then I sobbed my heart out
and now it seems all my energy has gone

06 January 2017


Healing hurts. I guess. I am not good with that pain. Not yet. At least I hope it's healing pain. Gosh, I am an impatient mess.

05 January 2017

So much to figure out. So much to remember and to trust. I used to be much better at this.

All that coping with a rare chronic illness does get in the way now.

Suddenly I am in a situation where the doctor produces the evidence, explains procedures in precise sentences, expertly circling shadows in the MRI printout, almost bored he stresses how often he has performed this surgery in the past.

Whereas the usual scenario is that baffled questioning look. ANCA vasculitis, yes I heard of that one but never met a patient etc. And I usually provide the prompts and watch them taking notes or doing a rapid search online.

So strange being a normal patient with a common and garden sequestered  disc that had to be removed from the spinal canal to release the trapped nerve and halt the advancing paralysis of my right leg.

Last night after surgery as I was lying flat on my back attached to various tubes I was unable to sleep for sheer delight that I did it and that the most awful pain was gone. I silently cheered my healthy self for her unexpected reappearance.

But now, 24 hrs later, I am again in familiar terrain, battling with the constant undercurrents of a chronic illness, the what if dragons, the supersensitive nerves and the overactive inagination of all the worst case scenarios ever.  There is a slight nagging pain in my right shin.  Possibly the end of the world. Etc.

It's hard work. But this is only day one.

For the next four weeks no lounging, cycling, driving, curling up in R's arms. But also no laundry, no filling or emptying the dishwasher, no housework. Period.
I am not allowed to bend or turn or lift anything. And lots more don'ts and no nos.

All I have so far figured out is the basics: getting in and out of bed and brushing my teeth with a straight back. And pouring a cup of coffee.

They tell me I am doing very well and that I can go home on Saturday. Maybe.

Must get ready to climb my very own Everest.

There is a world out there after all

My brother calls on his way to work and explains to me all he knows about the slow healing of deep gashes and cuts and tendon surgery and all the sport injuries he has survived and he makes me feel so much better. There are two deep wounds on my lower spine and I am slowly convincing myself that they will indeed heal. But I am a wimp when it comes to pain. That much we know.

John Berger has died. I don't know how to insert a link to his bio but do look him up. Read his quotes on women as art objects.  Watch "Ways of seeing" on youtube, esp. episode two. Or read his 2015 lecture on hospitality as a human right.
It's all out there to lift us up and open our eyes. He was an inspiration, he still is.

"The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied...but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing."

John Berger

04 January 2017

The rain is pelting on the large window of the hospital room. There is a storm coming apparently.
I accepted the sleeping tablet last night and now I am still drowsy. Waiting for the day to unfold.
After 10 days of conservative treatment, cortisone infusions and being wrapped in sheets of hot clay and electric currents running through suction pads along my leg (very nice!) and mysterious injections in my spine, the wisdom of the MRI images has won and around noon today I will dress myself up in that gown and hold R's hand until they wheel me on this bed down into the underground operating center.
This will be the fourth general anesthesia in my life. Someone once told me that we lose a certain amount of brain cells every time.
All I know is that I was much calmer and blue eyed on those previous occasions. Well, I was years away from editing medical research and interpreting risk statistics.

Then, I knew all would be well because I had child that I needed to raise and so many adventures waiting in my future. Contemplating risks or complications would have felt almost insulting to my sense of entitlement.

Now I am not so confident. But there is nothing I can do apart from chickening out which is definitely not on. Because I don't. Not in my repertoire.

So. It's: Roll it there, Colette.
(This is another of our family sayings, based on Gay Byrne - a very popular Irish tv and radio personality with a weekly chat show on Friday nights watched by the nation. He said this to introduce a film or a piece of news or a song. Colette was his long time assistant. My father in law would call it across the hall when he had the sherry ready before Sunday lunch. My mother in law would whisper it when she rolled the dice playing boardgames, R says it when I pour the tea and he fiddles with the remote to start the film we are going to watch together. We both say it when we take/drive/cycle off towards an adventure. Etc.) 

01 January 2017

Happy new year

Another first. Served by this life of mine. Or circumstances in general. Or maybe it is all a result of my mother's faulty genes, according to my father (who has developed a liking of superficial genetics when it suits him).

Anyway, watching the fireworks at midnight from the large window of a dark and silent hospital room. That's a first. And yes, it was a lonely watch. Oh never mind. I am not alone in this world. But a week of sleepless nights has screwed up my mind somewhat. Producing deep waves of miserable self pity etc.

In the early hours,  the night nurse added another drug to the cocktail and we discussed the relationship between nighttime and pain and low cortisol levels.

And so here I am. Watching the January morning sky turning pink. Hoping for miraculous pain relief. Trying to sort through my fears and hopes for surgery which appears by now most likely.

Above all the thought that this new year could be amazing and wonderful.