Friday, January 31, 2014

Out of Synch

Did you ever feel like you weren't in synch with the rest of the world? Perhaps Obama did this week in his State of the Union speech, even though he seemed to be enjoying himself. Here it is the brink of February and the amaryllis I ordered for myself and as Christmas gifts are just coming into bloom, whereas many of the outdoor plants due to bloom in March are already past their prime.
Shopping at Safeway Tuesday night I said to the usually articulate clerk that I had to hurry home to hear the president speak. "Oh, is the president speaking?...How come?" After I swallowed and explained to him why this speech might be important I inquired "Do you usually keep up with the news?" "Oh, yes" he replied.
Said I, with a twinkle, "How do you get your news, on the tv? " "Oh, no, he responded, " I hardly look at tv."
Well, then, inquired I, "On the radio?" Again, a negative reply. "On the computer then?"
"I guess so," he answered, "I mostly read Facebook."
As amusing as this sounds, its also scary, isn't it.

For about three weeks I've been trying to get back to
painting and all of my attempts have landed in the trash.
Tomorrow maybe Ill try Sandy Delehanty's lesson on
painting white flowers. There must be some inspiration
still beating in me somewhere.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Attitude Adjustment Needed

Did you know that last Friday was national Thesaurus Day? I don't have one anymore but I should as I  have run out of synonyms for cranky, bitchy, pissy, ornery, grumbly, etc. When I spoke with Catherine last night her comment was "I'm proud of you Bonnie for being assertive!"  What a lovely reframe! She was referring to my treatment of the second and third nurse who came out to instruct me on the new machine that checks my vitals at 5 am every morning (I picked the time, that is not the problem). "Look" I wailed, after the second lesson, "I have two masters and a doctorate, and I don't need three lessons on how to operate the stupid machine". The nurse seemed non-plussed and simply scheduled the third lesson for the next day.
So every morning now I press a YES button on a new grey and white contraption on my dresser which beeps out "Good Morning. Bonnie" in a singsong, saccharine voice. Pause, followed by little recorded tips on how to run my life, none of which interest me in the slightest. Then it instructs me step by step to take my blood pressure and pulse and later on to weigh on the big black scale provided, and it transmits it all electronically to some listening device in the sky.  What's stupid about this is my blood pressure has always been in the low to low normal range and my pulse is now set mechanically at 90 so the only thing that can vary is my weight, and good God, I can read a scale myself! Why doesn't it ask me if I woke with any transformative dreams? Or if I remember my last orgasm? Or tell me they have invented something new for toenail fungus? Or suggest how to get along with my constipated next door neighbor who won't let me cut the hedge? Or ask me what I think of the new revolations each day in the New Jersey government scandal.  It could even alert me that it is a high pollen day and I should wear a mask outdoors, but no, it wants to remind me I have the mind of a pre-schooler and need coaching on how to push yes and no buttons.
Ah, and please refrain from telling me I should have gratitude.  I DO have gratitude, especially to my friends and loved ones and Rachael Maddow who nightly demonstrates to me to how to confront injustice with humor and good hope, although even she sometimes gets too long-winded.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Be Still My Chaotic Heart

Yours truly survived the heart ablation last Monday with nary a hitch. The hardest part was facing the fear of the unknown, and then afterwards spread prone for six hours in the surgical center, but I was home by eventide and getting stronger daily. The electro physiologist says it will be July before he can bring my heart rate down to 70; its used to looping from 50 to 200 and doing cartwheels when it should have been doing yoga. The ablation procedure involves threading a probe through the groin to the heart and then killing off those parts of the malfunctioning electrical system. This can be done in various ways. I think in my case it was done with radio frequency waves which cause scarring. Gratitude abounds, to both old friends in the Bay area and new friends in Oakmont and to my precious niece, Cheari, who flew down from Seattle for six days to hold my hand on this journey. It was with sad heart I said good bye this morning at the quaint Santa Rosa Charles M Schultz airport. a place where Lucy, Charlie Brown and Peanuts hold friendly court.

Since Lucy was out, Cheari and I offered our two cents worth, but got no takers. But while we were waiting a volunteer came by with a cute little therapy dog. Hurrah for volunteers everywhere, including handlers of therapy dogs.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


When I awoke on Friday morning at 5 to write my blog it was with that extreme urgency to make it to the bathroom (which I didn't) accompanied by the burning so typical of a urinary tract infection. By 8 am when my doctor's office opened I was in agony and on my third load of laundry (underpants, sweatpants and bathrobes). Damn. But a test confirmed my Bonnie diagnosis and soon a powerful antibiotic began doing its magic. My doc said I'd be fine for my ablation surgery Monday. My precious niece Cheari arrives tonight from Arlington Washington to see me through this lap of the heart surgery. Whew. With luck and the skill of the electrophysiologist those parts of my electrical system that are firing off too fast will hit the dust. I'm not quite sure how this is accomplished, or even if I ever want to know.  I just know I'll sure be glad when it is over.
Going into heart surgery is not the best time to be reading a book where the narrator is death, as it is in the Book Thief, but it so happens thats what my eyes are tracking right now. It occurs in pre WW2, when Hitler is rising in Germany.  The mother of the child who is the book thief is a suspected communist and her children, starving, are taken from her. Its beautiful writing, though often morbid. In the case of both Philomena (where the Catholic church took away her child) and The Book Thief, I saw the film before reading the book, (which I also did with Grapes of Wrath in the fall), not my usual style. Maybe I am turning over a different leaf in my 80's?  I've felt all three books so deeply.
Perhaps seeing the film first helps me to appreciate the beautiful writing.
At this morning's Sunday symposium I learned about how musical scores are made for films and we saw clips of King Kong, where they music really carried the script.  I was so mesmerized by the music in Book Thief. Alas, I learned that today's film music composers often lock themselves in a condo in Malibu for two weeks where they sit with a computer and keyboard, composing the musical score. They keyboard creates the orchestra, voilla!
Yesterday, curiously, I got a letter from my cousin Vi in Vancouver who knew me as a child and who also grew up in Moosejaw, Sask., like my mother. She asks lots of family questions, like were my parents ever married (I don't know, but I doubt it) and when and why did my mother abandon me (about age 12, though she was frequently absent before that, and who knows why except that she was miserable).
So this theme of child abandonment swarms around me, as it did for many of my psychotherapy clients when I was in practice. It has been my special privilege to try to be the good mother for many of them and maybe, after tomorrow, I'll also have a steady heart. Cross your fingers.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

On Getting A Pacemaker

The wide arc of yellow-white cast by the street light out my study window holds no interest. I contemplate the new year. 
I savor this dark time, before dawn, for sleep has never been my quest. In the quiet I focus on my old body.  I am aware of a tinkling in my chest. Funny, it makes no sound but it feels like a sound. It’s such a little quiver.  It almost tickles, like the whiskers of a kitten. 
For a while I think it is my heart beating softly, in and out, and then the awareness comes that it is not me but my new pacemaker, the Cadillac of pacemakers the techie said when he tested it after my out patient surgery three and a half weeks ago. I wonder what color it is? In my imagination it is a yucky brown, but that is just me assigning feelings to it. It could in fact be shining silver and turquoise. 
I learn that almost three million people in the world have pacemakers; about 600,000 are added annually. Why do I think I’m unique? 
It’s disconcerting to realize I am not the one in charge of my own heart. I have always liked being the boss, my own boss, especially. As much as I try to surrender control in my head, I loose the battle.  “Give me back ME, I implore.” My personal warriors are not as strong as the mechanical ones. Alas. My right hand cups gently around the bulge under my left collar bone, a bulge that feels foreign and comes with no passport or visa. The incision is not quite healed and shreds of the dissolving dressing cling to it looking soiled and unclean even though I shower daily.  I have been cautioned not to pull them off, an activity hard to resist.  In the mirror they are an insult. Will I ever be able to scrub this awkward place?  A pacemaker is supposed to be the size of a man’s wrist watch. Mine must have been intended for the offspring of Paul Bunyon.  When I can swim again will the water slide past it smoothly or will it pucker up like a rock in a stream which impedes the steady flow? Will I ever come to embrace this foreigner in me?  
Most pacemakers are implanted for too slow hearts. To be contrary mine is the opposite. My beat can’t wait to get there, wherever there is, and sometimes it skips or trips on the way. In a couple of weeks I will have a second procedure called an ablation which will attempt to short circuit those parts of my heart that make it fire too fast, and then, with good fortune, the pace maker will take over from inefficient me. I speculate: will my personality change? Will I become more or less patient, judgmental, caring, short tempered, insightful? I’m curious, but as yet far from accepting. 
Happy New Year, dear ones. I hope 2014 brings us all closer, healthier, kinder, wiser, and in synch with the natural wonder of the world, battery assist or not.