Any minute now (August 20th actually) will be my second tube-aversary. Two whole years since joining the cyborg tubefeeding clan. Cliched I know, but it seems like even longer, and just yesterday, all at once. The anniversary of when I last actually ate or drank something wouldn't be far behind, but I never recorded it as a 'moment' at the time. Just like when I quit cigarettes, finally (in fact every time) I chose instead to sort of disempower the day, to disavow some of the whole mind-involvement of counting. For some reason though, I always seem to remember the dates of my surgeries. And my wedding.
Getting my tube is one of those things that happened in the past that I bring right up to the future - it's still in place, and I expect it to be there tomorrow, like any other body part. It is me now. It has often been said that we are the sum of all the things we have ever experienced and in some sense that must be true. It's just that those experiences aren't always things that we want to hold on to. They become wounds we carry; the memory gives us pain, whether we remember it consciously or via a subconscious trigger or association. And maybe they're sufficiently painful or disruptive to have in our life, as part of who we are, that we want to change them.
Except, of course, we cannot change the past.
Through the course of my illness, and getting my tube, quite a few events have wounded me in particular ways. The tube site itself is at its basic level a stab wound kept permanently open by a length of hollow silicon, that I must not allow to heal. So to heal the emotional hurts of having it placed and all that went with it required me to be very clear. I had to heal those memories, because almost everything I do in life; the way I dress, move, bathe.....let alone the facts of feeding relate to my tube. I can never forget it, even for a minute. My physical abnormality is constantly there.
Of course, for a while there I had bigger emotional and spiritual fish to fry, like my prognosis. As y'all know, my likelihood of imminent demise has been one of those great journeys from "don't know maybe/maybe not/who can say?" through "this is undoubtedly just getting worse all the time" to "well, in all honesty there is an end in sight most likely soon" which is where we are today. So I've had to do a lot of stuff around that, and my recent big hospitalisation event really kicked me into a new space with it all. It was a new thing I found myself facing.
I realised how far I'd gone in accepting and you'd have to say overcoming the fear of death, but that I'd pushed away consciously dealing with something far trickier: The problem of continuing to live in a really really bad physical state, but to still want to live.
In that momentary surge of bliss and sublimity when I realised that I had indeed jumped the crocodile last time and survived, I tapped into a whole new level of spirit and energy with life. No small thing. Just as I realised how ready I was becoming to let go and die, life became all the more vibrant and wondrous.
You can have these moments and have them wear off a bit, you know. But the important thing was that I now have a whole different memory response to take forward when I have my downturn moments. It is, as I said, a little tricky, and I'm still on the cusp of getting this all clean and nice. What's tricky is that I wouldn't change a thing, because I'm in a better place now than ever before, yet it's undeniable that experiences like getting a tube placed, accepting a terminal diagnosis, having episodes of massive pain and trauma that take you close to death for that while, are all things that happened. I still have a slight visceral tingle when I really recall some of those moments, so clearly my work is not entirely done.
But one thing that life has recently confirmed to me, that's really important, is that I've grown out of a certain set of wounds from very old; a way of being that kept me trapped, that I used to think was the only thing that would set me free.
The notion of letting go of the past.
Words are deceptive, and can be misleading, so I'll explain a little. Stop me if you've heard this story before, because for sure I've spoken it, if not written it somewhere. Two samurai are walking from one town to another. As they reach the edge of their town of departure, they come across an immaculately dressed woman stuck at the side of the road. It had recently rained and there were huge muddy puddles everywhere and the lady could not cross for fear of muddying her feet and kimono. Without a word, one of the samurai simply picked her up, carried her across, and put her down. The two samurai walked on. They walked all day, in silence, to the next town. Eventually, near the very end of their journey, the second samurai turned to the other and exasperatedly burst out "why did you do that? You should not have carried that lady like that, you know we are completely forbidden to touch women!!" The duo stopped, and the first samurai simply said "I put her down back there on the side of the road; why have you carried her all this way?"
So letting go of the past is a good thing. But something I've learned is that life is very, very persistent with its lessons for us. Themes recur. Patterns emerge. Everyone notices, although we each have our own ways of noticing and interpreting. I pay a lot of attention to what patterns emerge in my life from the 'outside' these days, as they always show me a way to see myself in a new and useful way. They give me an opportunity to heal. The theme of this last little moment is of falsifying history. Sure, everyone sees the past differently and if you ask 20 witnesses to a car crash what they saw you'll hear about 20 different car crashes - that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about wilful rewriting of history. Deliberately saying stuff you know to be false about the past, and wanting to believe it, to heal.
Now there's a whole school of New Age, self-help......no, wait, there are multiple schools of thought and practice these days which all hark back in some way to essential ancient shamanic practice. The practice of healing the past, knowing that our past makes us who we are, thus do what we do, thus influence our future. Many of these practices involve some core of 'letting go'. This is all great, and can work wonders for people's wellbeing, but there's a snag - it's so terribly easy to bullshit yourself. To become deluded. To allow that habitual, marvellous, truly reliable learning machine we call the mind to do what it's supposed to do and protect its own programming, to hang on to those behaviours that we lived out in crisis - because after all, we survived the crisis, so what we did must have worked, right? Hm. Not always.
What we need to let go of is the feelings we have that make us behave certain ways in the presence of certain memories or triggers, not the memories themselves. To attempt to deny the past, to just "move on", to "focus on the positives" when we know there are still hurts we have not resolved....is to practice self-deception, and I guess what I'm saying is that I've finally gotten a glimpse of the depth of my abilities in the past to do just that. To avoid reliving the pain of old things by focusing instead on others, to pretend I've 'let go' really, just by never letting myself consciously acknowledge how much a certain old scar is running me.
And that's the thing. Unhealed, unacknowledged wounds are like all lies, and secrets. They require constant management. We develop these background programs to keep ourselves from "going to the unhappy places" or "repeating the old behaviours", to deny their power over us. A good friend once used to grow pot in a little indoor setup in his house. Back before the days of hydro and good efficient lighting. He grew it for himself because he liked his weed. But one day, after years, he simply packed it all in. When I asked him why he gave me a phrase I have never forgotten, because it rang with such truth: "Because the more you have to control something (meaning the environment, both botanical and legalistically) the more it controls you right back".
And that's what we do whether we're trying to create a false history for whatever emotional reason, or just telling ourselves via whatever technique that we are healed. When we choose to believe that by saying it hard or forcefully enough, it will happen. Bollocks. Because the harder we push it away, the harder it pushes right back. The New Agers are right in many cute quips, like "what resists persists". Newton's law, but all spiritual/emotional/psychological, like.
We cannot ever change what happened. Our subconscious catches everything that ever happens, ever. We only get access to a fraction, consciously. The one powerful thing we can change is how what happened makes us feel. That's what we can let go of, but we can only let go of something we truly own and acknowledge as being US. As being OURS. Our response. The past and what happened, it turns out, is not the problem at all!
So now, I know just how much I've been telling myself that I'm accepting of living like a total derelict cripple. I focussed all the attention on the dying part. I avoided the living on in pain and suffering part. But why?
Think about it. It's a meta-thing. To truly accept that I might find myself still wanting to live on through increasing suffering, that the worsening will happen as it has done for the most part so far, tortuously slowly, means accepting I will be creating a whole lot of memories of pain to go forward with. It means I am inviting the suffering. I realise, thinking about it, that finally I am becoming unafraid to do just that - to suffer. Death is a mere doddle compared to suffering. And, as the imperfect being that I am, suffering is inevitable. But what a blessed release! To actually say "yes!" to suffering! To let it be, to actually say OK, to know that I can suffer and do it with grace, to see that I can leave it behind, to let it happen and not have it mean that my fears are reinforced over and over - in short, to not let it mean a necessary cycle. To relinquish control.
It's hard at times, and my too, too solid flesh reminds my too, too busy mind all the times of my failings. But I've come to know this one deep thing about life now. I thank my friends and those others who have displayed their sufferings and pains in my life, consciously or otherwise, I especially thank those through whose actions I have found myself hurt. I'm thankful for my illness, and my feeding tube too. It's been a great ride.
Happy tube-aversary everyone. Thanks for listening to my rant. As I do so often these days, I just wrote it in one shot; no edits, no re-reads. So please excuse the typos. Gee, I also hope it makes some sense.
Now, I wonder what happens next?