Wednesday, October 26, 2005
"Are you sorry," a friend asks, "do you want her to stay?"
No, I am not sorry, and I do not want her to stay. It is time to split, past time perhaps, but the love I have for her has not dried up and blown away just because we need different kind of lives. In the past I would eat my way through painful times, stuffing the pain down with toast and honey, mint chocolate chip ice cream, sugar cookies. Food soothed and pacified, comforted and filled the aching hole.
Now I am letting the pain rise. I know I will not die of this kind of pain, but it catches me unawares. I am driving down the road to a new doctor's appointment, trying to focus on my top three issues, and suddenly I am sobbing so hard I have to pull off the road, because I realize I cannot put Rene down as next of kin anymore.
Rene has begun to look at condos, and I weep as she talks about them. Our hairdresser asks how she is and I'm crying again, he is a member of the community and is sad, too. Plus, I will probably have to change hairdressers because he is good therefor expensive. I go to tell a neighbor, and cannot stop the tears from flowing even as I tell her it is best for both of us. And I know it's true.
I see a lot of irony in the situation. The gastric bypass, which I chose because I want to live a longer, healthier life, is what pushed us over the edge. She is not interested in losing any weight, and has continued to eat as usual. And she has every right to do so. She wants to be free to go to buffets with friends without guilt at leaving me at home, bring home bags of Chinese food, containers of chips, things that must be gone from my life.
She is also very uncomfortable around free flowing emotions. I deliberately chose a path which could only lead to feeling my feelings, many for the first time. She is a stoic, and sees me as hysterical. I see me as freeing myself from all those stuffed feelings, and mourning as the first step.
There will be other steps to take as I move ahead with this journey. For of course I will move ahead. I haven't struggled through the last two years to abandon the trip now. I am working on looking ahead to some of the good things-I can arrange my furniture and altars as I want, have only what I can eat in the house, not have to check in with anyone if I want to stay out late, learn to remember our good times and no longer focus on the difficulties.
It just takes time.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
But people grow apart, enter different phases of their lives in lopsided ways, get pushed around, and off kilter, by the things life throws at them, discover they have different needs, and all that has happened to us. All of this was beginning to happen before I fell and began this medical odyssey, but the last two and a half years have finished us off.
At 66, Rene wants to stay home and putter around on her computer, and stay up late and rise late(she worked second shift for 17 years) and not have to play nurse to anyone, nor deal with any emotional ups and downs.
At 56, I want to get in better shape, and get out of the house more, find people to do things with, and let the emotions that I stuffed down with food all my life come to the surface, so I can experience and/or look at them and grow from the process.
We've both known for a while that we were approaching the end, but having it out in the open is hard. I feel as if I ripped my heart on a jagged nail, and just have to wait a bit for the pain to lessen, the blood flow to slow down, so that I can breath again, begin to rally and move forward.
I think the worst part is that we have to tell so many people, who will be really sad. And even angry. The GLBTQ community likes to hang onto long term relationships, because until recently we have seen so few. They've been out there, of course, but closeted. We're pretty well known, not every couple has been celebrated with a picture of two dykes kissing in their local newspaper.
My daughter Meg will be devastated. She loves Rene dearly, and this is a difficult- but exciting-time in her life right now (more on that another day). She will be angry at me, for it will bring up my divorce from her father. I can only honor her feelings, and still let myself feel mine.
Rene and I have not set a timetable yet, or talked about it much more than to discuss who we need to tell in person, and when we can get ahold of them. It's difficult, because everyone has such crazy busy schedules. Should any of our family or friends read about it here first, I want to apologize in advance. I have had a very high need to share this here, for this is where I find support during difficult times.
I see the irony in talking about closing the prison door so another could open. I had my eyes on the wrong door. I will make it through this door and into the next life. I am continuing to do what I have to do-go to the gym, physical therapy, regular therapy, doctor's appointments, and working hard to get the required protein and liquids in, and will keep on keeping on, of course. The only other option is to stop cold, and that is unthinkable after all I've been through.
Monday, October 17, 2005
I am slowly letting go of the idea that I can go back to prison. I am/was an HIV Counselor/Educator at CT's only Women's Prison before I took a terrible fall, smashed my right upper arm to smithereens, and ended up with chronic pain. I have held onto the hope of returning for over two years now, but I am beginning-just beginning- to admit that this is a fantasy.
I need to be "100% " to return. Of course, I was never !00% to begin with, and you should have seen me hauling my 50-year-old overweight body through boot camp. Yes, a real march-around, do calisthenics, hurry-up and wait, learn prison rules, and how-to-take- down-a-prisoner-who-has-a-knife type boot camp.
I was lucky in several ways. My friend Cindi S. was in the same class, we drove together(one and a half hours one way), and kept each other awake in class. Also, the whole class was made up of nurses and doctors and counselors, so we weren't competing with young go-get-em would be correctional officers. And(sadly) a man had died the class before from a heart attack, so when I mentioned my heart condition to my lieutenant, he blanched and told me not to do more than I could. Definitely no push-ups! I did finally learn to march, though. Useful stuff for an HIV Counselor.
When I finally got to York, I was in pretty good shape, and knew that in a riot, I could put handcuffs on someone, or defend myself, if necessary, with a good right hook. (Not that any of that was ever necessary. The most I ever did was tell a bunch of inmates to sit down while a fight was going on, and to my surprise, they all did!) But I was not on narcotics.
That is the real problem. I have been left with chronic pain which is intolerable without serious pain meds, and I cannot go back to prison on them. I would not, either, because my driftiness might endanger another staff member. And that is the ultimate sin, something to feel badly about forever.
The thing is, I loved my job. It was the one I had been unknowingly aiming for all my life, and I was good at it. In a strange way, I loved a lot of the inmates,too. Flawed, angry, drug addicted, prostitutes, even murderers, most have been sexually and/or physically abused starting very early, filled with shame and self-hatred, but they are survivors, who manage to keep going despite experiences most of us will never know. They are women who want so desperately to change, even when they know they can't or won't.
And the women who are HIV positive are some of the most courageous women I've ever known, especially the long term survivors who lived through the bad old days, many in prison. Their stories are heartbreaking, devastating, and yet they tell them with a hilarity that had everyone roaring with laughter.Then I'd go back into my office and cry.
I was both liked and respected by most inmates. They called me the Gentle Giant, and would sometimes knock on my door(a real no-no in the medical unit) and come in with a bogus HIV question for a couple of minutes of peace and quiet. When I was not flat out busy, I'd let them stay, and talk about the weather, or their kids, or how to deal with a difficult cell mate. The highest praise I ever got was, "You treat me like a human being, not some sub-species of an animal." They still send me messages through Cindi S. who has taken my place there.
Can you tell how much I miss them?
Of course I don't miss the whole prison mind set, the rules and regs which must be obeyed, the way some( not all) CO's and nurses and doctors treat inmates like the scum of the earth, and that there is nothing a counselor can do about it. I don't miss the inevitable paperwork, or my crazy co-worker, who had serious emotional problems, and is now gone.Or the way the Big Brass always did their surprise walk-through's after we had been warned, the whole place cleaned up and painted, and all the inmates were locked down, so the overcrowding was never seen. Typical state bull$hit, under then-Governor Rowland, who is now in a Federal Penitentiary himself. For the record, Federal Prisons are cushier than state prisons, according to my sources, many of whom have been in both.
Friday, I called and left a message for the guy who handles disability retirement, as my attorney has been urging. Luckily he wasn't in, because as I put the phone down, I burst into tears and cried and cried and cried. I'm crying now. I know that when one door closes, another often opens up, and I have to close the prison doors firmly behind me, with me on the outside, before I'll notice other passageways anywhere else. Plus I am facing another surgery on my arm and rehab again (yeah, can you believe it? More surgery) before I can really look around much for something meaningful to do.
This week I will start pushing forward on both these things-leaving the prison behind, and girding up my loins to fight Workers' Comp once again. Both are long term projects, but I guess there is no time like the present to start.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
In honor of yesterday, which was National Coming Out Day(Yes, I'm running a bit late):
My name is Margo and I am a lesbian. I am a proud member of the GLBTQ(questioning) community. I hope I didn't leave anyone out; I think our community should be as inclusive as possible. Heck, I even like straight people. They can't help it, they were born that way.
Someday maybe I'll tell my whole coming out story, which was relatively easy, compared to many, but today I will tell about coming out with a bang to all of New London County. At the time I was out to everyone I knew-family, friends, work, but Rene was not quite so out. She worked at Electric Boat, a Federal Contractor that builds submarines, and a place which was, shall we say, less open to diversity than many private employers.
On September 21, 1995, Rene and I had a Ceremony of Commitment, which took place at the local Polish Club, of all places! It was quite informal, but we had 200 guests-all our families, friends, people I worked with, and friends even brought friends. We wrote our own vows, danced a lot, visited with everybody, and a great time was had by all. We had asked our guests to bring non-perishable food items for our local AIDS project in lieu of gifts, and we filled a small U-Haul!
My father offered a toast. " There is a long history in the Page family of marring good woman. Margo has continued the tradition!" There wasn't a dry eye in the house.
A friend from the local paper asked if they could cover the ceremony, and we said yes, as long as nobody else showed on the pictures, because not everyone was out. Eventually the article ran in the paper.
Imagine our surprise, it was on the top half of the second section's front page, nearly as big as life: Rene and Margo kissing! And not a chaste little peck, either, a full on lip lock.
The extroverted part of me came out with great glee, laughing and speculating on reaction( I actually have an in your face attitude about a few important subjects, coming out being one of them). Rene was a little less enthusiastic. In fact at one point, she considered rushing out and buying up all the copies of thepaper in existence, including going up on peoples porches to steal their papers before they got up.
Eventually,though, she began to see the humor in the situation, for she, too, advocates coming out when a person is ready, she just hadn't realized how ready she was! I worked at a woman's heath clinic-they all loved the article. Rene went off to work full of anxiety, and was surprised that quite a few people offered congratulations, and no one else said anything. Much ado about nothing.
The only negative feedback we got was a nasty letter in the paper from a local conservative Episcopal priest, who seemed to think we were doomed to hell for all eternity(although he put it more eloquently). And positive feedback? We had people coming out to us for months, even years afterwards. I had married women asking me how I had the courage to leave my marriage, patients at work telling me they really were gay, but slept with men so their parents wouldn't guess, stories that broke my heart, but were important for the woman to tell, and be heard.
And good stories, too, we heard from a lot of people who said the article helped them get over the fear of coming out, at least to a friend or one family member. Our neighborhood rallied around us, too, congratulating us, offering food for the AIDS project, and began to treat us as any old married couple on the block. It was amazing, and wonderful.
And so we came out to New London County with a bang, which had a lot of reverberations in a lot of lives. I am proud to have been in the first picture the paper ran of two lesbians kissing!
Sunday, October 9, 2005
Addendum to Last Entry(Yes, Go Read It First)
Of course I know that for every Yin there's a Yang, for every god there's a goddess, for all the darkness there's light and for every Dragon of Misfortune there's a Dragon of Good Fortune.
She, too, is huge, with shimmering, multicolored scales, but these sparkle in lights which glows from inside her and circles around her. Her coiling and uncoiling and recoiling is a beautiful dance, without an even faintly sinister air, and her face slants upward, wreathed in smiles, which change from benign to happy to joyful to laughing uproariously. Her shoes fit. For all I know, she probably sprinkles fairy dust on those who catch her eye.
I wouldn't know, however, because she is perched over the head of some lucky duck who also had WLS on July 11, went home 2 days later, recovered uneventfully, is exercising regularly, eating small, but fairly normal-ish meals, has lost an enormous amount of weight and can't figure out what all the fuss about problems is. You just follow the rules, and everything is fine. She cannot see her Dragon.
Now, for those who might be worried I am either losing it(or have lost it already), or think I am about to have this be the problem that stops Warrior Woman from staggering onward, not to worry.Active imagination is one way I do my inner work, and it only spills over here occasionally. When it does, I let it flow.
Thank you all for your support and prayers and encouragement and love and affection. Because I have spent the last two and a half years as an invalid of sorts, you are more important than you can imagine to me.
Blessings to You All, Margo
Saturday, October 8, 2005
I am almost embarrassed to write this: Good News/ Bad News .
Good News: I am off TPN( IV feeding) and the PICC line(which was sewed into my arm and threaded into my heart for the TPN) Is out!!!!!! I no longer sleep with the sound of the machine, or have to pee every hour or so, or be upstairs in my bedroom 12 hours a day! Freedom!
Bad News: Just before I went off it I began to feel weak, have shivering episodes, and the day after, Wednesday, I spiked a temp of 101.8 degrees. I spent several hours lying in bed soaking wet, sweat rolling down mybody and face and into my ears, too miserable to move. Eventually, I put towels over the wet sheets and slept.
Called the surgeon the next day, and the first thing he did was have someone come take the PICC line out ( it was supposed to stay in two weeks "just in case"), then called in antibiotics. All day my temp was 99-ish, but we packed the car to leave for PA to see my parents the next day anyway.
Alas, by 7 PM, it was 101 degrees again, so I called the answering service, eventually spoke to one of the docs, and there we were on the road to New Haven, yet again. We got to the ER at 10 PM and sent Rene home an hour later. I got a bed upstairs at 2 AM, and fell asleep by 4 AM. They woke me at 6. Big Gun antibiotics, IV fluids, and I was home by 4 PM the that day, Thursday
Alas, my last chance to see my parents before they go back to Colorado had to be canceled. After Mom and I cried over the phone for a while we began to concoct a 83rd birthday party for my father in CT in Feb. Hope it works, and they both stay healthy enough.
So, how am I doing? Well, I hate plucky people, but one part of me is certainly moving pluckily onward. I got up this morning, made my protein shake, drank my fluids and kept going. I am refusing to cry in front of Rene, who is sick of the whole uncertainty thing-I don't blame her, I am too-I am telling callers that I am doing much better, concentrating in the part about being off the TPN, I am making appointment of one sort or another to fill up the time we were supposed to be gone. These are all the right things to do, I know.
The dark half of me, of course, is waiting for the next shoe to drop. The image just arose. High above my head is the dragon of misfortune, multi-legged, many with pointy green leather, the kind the old shoemaker in some fairytale makes).She is huge, with shimmering, multicolored scales, and she undulates above me, periodically blocking the sun and the stars until the whole universe is black as coal.
Her face changes as she coils and uncoils and recoils above me. Sometimes it reflects a mild malice with a laissez faire attitude, others times She seems more angry, mouth frowning, eyes narrowed, calculating, other times, She is pure malice, big ironic smile, every tooth showing, eyes mere slits. And sometimes it is hatred pure and simple, shining out of Her eyes, radiating across Her face, and out into the universe. She carries great power, when She wants to, and uses it as She will.
Now and then, She'll glance down and notice me, often when I am staggering to my feet from my last crisis. Sometimes She lazily kicks out one of her many legs, loosing her shoe at me. It make a beautiful loop-de-loop and land softly, causing some very minor problem. Other times She kicks more vigorously, and that shoe comes right down through the air with the surprising wallop of a boxing kangaroo, and I end up back on my a$$ again. It's happened quite a lot lately
Now I do not think this is something I did, or punishment for past wrongs, or because I am a Pagan. I think it is just life or fate or all random, and so many have it so very much worse than I do it is almost unbearable to think about. But I can still see Her, The Dragon of Misfortune, keeping her eye on me, one of her many legs swinging the next shoe to fall.
Sunday, October 2, 2005
The good news is, I am managing to get down 30 grams of protein-mostly in the form of protein drink with a little yogurt on the side. The bad news is that I am not close to 48 oz of liquid required to go off TPN ( IV feeding) I am hoping my surgeon will bend a bit. There is another problem, too.
I really only like cold beverages, mostly water. Ice cold. Before surgery, in mid-winter, I could chug 20 oz of ice water in one sitting with no problem and never feel cold. The last two mornings, I awoke thirsty, and tried to take advantage of it by sipping 10-15 oz of ice water in an hour or so, and was rewarded by my core temperature dropping like a stone.
I couldn't stop shaking, ending up on the recliner wrapped in 2 quilts, with a scarf around my head, sipping decaf tea(which I do not like) while my body shook and rattled and rolled, my heart pounded-I had to take nitrostat-and I struggled to breath. It lasted 3 hours yesterday, but only 40 minutes today. I can learn, you know. I will call my doc tomorrow, but my friend who's a nurse said I gave classic symptoms of core temperature drop. She suggests tea or bullion first thing in the morning. Ugh. But I will do it.
I am still hoping to go to PA to see my parents with out the TPN- it is such a hassle to travel with the whole breathing apparatus stuff, that to add pump, pole, TPN liquid, and all the paraphernalia that goes along with it makes it almost not worth going. Alas, My Mom is not well, and I can no longer hop on a plane and fly out to Denver to see her if she takes really ill, so I am determined to go this week!