Acknowledging Pain. And Pleasure.

Sometimes I wonder at what point telling one’s truth becomes self-indulgence, but I don’t suppose it matters. Writing helps me process my various traumas, and if anyone gets tired of my tales of woe (I am a Wednesday’s child after all) he or she can move on to sunnier blogs. I do know that in the scope of world events, such as wars and other horrors, a disabled and deformed arm is of little consequence, but in my world, the injury continues to loom large.

Still, I don’t suppose anyone really needs to know that yesterday I shed tears of pain, frustration, and fatigue. It’s amazing how much energy it takes to deal with chronic pain and even more amazing that the ensuing exhaustion does not lead to easy sleep. If I sit quietly and don’t move my left elbow, arm, wrist, or fingers, the ache is minor and can be easily ignored, but remaining immobile is a good way of ensuring that my left limb will remain permanently immobile.

Normally massaging an atrophied limb makes it feel better, but I have so much scar tissue to be massaged, that kneading makes the pain worse. Unfortunately, I need to knead, so this pain, too, I have to endure. Ignoring scar tissue is dangerous. (Recently two friends have undergone major surgeries because of old scar tissue) and I have enough problems without worrying about scar tissue eventually impeding the flow of blood.

There’s no therapist cracking a metaphoric whip to make me do the necessary work, just my own undisciplined self trying to put myself back together again. Some of the pain is inadvertent, such as when I absently reached out to grab something with my left hand, but that is all to the good. After all, the whole point of gaining as much mobility and flexibility in the limb as possible is to be able to use the arm without thinking about it.

The very idea of having to live with such pain and effort for a year or two (and possibly the rest of my life) is daunting, so I try not to think — just do. I could take pain pills, and I did take one last night, but although they sometimes take the edge off the pain, they cause additional problems such as vertigo, so I only take them as a last resort. During the months when I absolutely had to take the pills, I couldn’t bend over without feeling as if I were falling, couldn’t walk without feeling as if I were off balance. (I still use a trekking pole as a cane, though now it is more of a precaution than a necessity. But come to think of it, it is a necessity. Any fall could cause more damage to that poor pulverized wrist.)

At the moment, I feel more hopeful than I did yesterday, maybe because I have not yet been reduced to tears. I do know I have to take each day as it comes without trying to negate — or exacerbate — my pain, frustration, and fatigue.

Although I have not yet learned to ignore the wails of the passing trains at night (during the day, the wind blows the sound away, so it’s not as much of a problem) and have not completely eradicated the smell of stale cigarette smoke from my room. I do feel that this new place is more conducive to healing than the old one. I have more privacy inside and a nicer area to walk outside. Being a creature of habit, I often take the same route — winding through the neighborhood, looping across the desert, and returning by way of the longest sidewalk I have seen since I left a city grid. That anachronistic sidewalk pleases me as much is the open space of the desert does.

So, see? I am not all doom and gloom, though sometimes it does feel that way.

Here’s to healthier and happier days for all of us.

 

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Everything Passes

I had a moment of discouragement today. It didn’t last long — moments by definition don’t last long —but in that moment, I totally lost heart.

This should have been a good day. I had my post-op doctor’s appointment to get the final bandages off my arm, and I was actually feeling pretty good until I saw my arm unadorned — no fixator, no bandages, just me. I knew the arm was deformed but had never actually seen what it was going to look like, and the misshapenness shocked me. My wrist and arm were unfamiliar as the back of my hand, or even the front of my hand. (All the bones of my hand were squished together in the fall, and they were never able to be put back where they should’ve been.) I don’t suppose other people would notice the deformity, especially at a casual glance, but it is quite pronounced.

People keep telling me to look on the bright side. That at least I still have an arm. That other people have it worse. That up until now I have been lucky. I understand what they’re saying, but it doesn’t really help. Once you start comparing yourself to other people (some do have it worse, but others have it better) or to what was or might have been, self-pity is not far behind. And self-pity is a deformity of its own.

Besides, today is about me. What happened to me. And it seems as if being disheartened for a moment, or even two, is a perfectly sensible reaction.

Still, when people aren’t trying to be encouraging (and succeeding only in making me feel bad), I’m okay because the truth is it could have been worse, a lot worse. And up until now I have been lucky. I’ve never been particularly beautiful, and I carry some extra weight, but in its own way, my body has been perfect. And now it’s not.

As the surgeon said, however, it’s not how the arm looks but how it works. He was quite impressed with the mobility I have managed to regain in my fingers. (I can almost make a fist.) I only did what he told me to do, which was work my fingers whenever I got a moment, and I will apply that same diligence to my wrist. This is the long haul now. He says even the most simple hairline fracture of the wrist takes a year to gain the maximum possible mobility, and my injury (injuries, actually) was 1000 times worse than that. So I’ll try not to be discouraged for two years, at which point I will know what I have to live with, and will probably even be used to it.

Although several people have told me to make sure I demand physical therapy, the surgeon said there’s no point in going to physical therapy yet, that it’s better to wait until I get some mobility, otherwise the therapist would just sit me in a corner and have me work the wrist. And that I can do now. He will reassess in three months. Until then I am on my own. He did offer suggestions, such as massaging the scar tissue because the extensive scar tissue is impeding some of the motion. And he suggested water therapy: A large sponge in a bucket of warm water. Reach the hand in the bucket of water and squeeze the sponge letting the water run down the arm. Sounds therapeutic, doesn’t it? Almost pleasant.

When I stand outside myself and don’t let myself get involved in the emotion of the injury, I find the whole thing both interesting and challenging. But you can’t live outside yourself. And in myself I feel . . . so many aches and pains and emotions.

But one way or another, everything passes, and so will all of this.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

My April Time

Last week brought big changes. First, although I was not supposed to have the surgery to get my fixator off until this Tuesday, April 4, when I went for my pre-op on Monday, March 26th, the surgeon decided to take the hardware off the next day due to irritation around the pin sites. So, I had the surgery on Tuesday, March 27, the seventh anniversary of my life mate/soul mate’s death. I spent Wednesday in bed trying to recuperate, finished packing on Thursday, and moved on Friday and Saturday with the help of some friends.

I hadn’t really planned to move, but the place where I was staying had become un-conducive to healing. (Is that proper terminology? If not, the words describe how I felt, which makes it proper.) And this new place fell into my hands. It’s across the street from open desert, and while the house itself is much quieter than the one I came from, the area is vastly noisier. Dogs barking, power tools screeching, and trains howling. (This is a major transit area for trains, not passenger trains but freight trains, and they come within a mile of where I am staying, sometimes every few minutes, blaring horns all the way. Yikes.)

Still, I think the trains create sounds I can get used to, I have earplugs for other intrusive noises, and — did I mention? — I am across the street from the desert! I can’t really go hiking yet— because of my destroyed arm I am considered a fall risk (and I feel like I am at risk for a fall) — but I can pick my way carefully through the lower trails and washes. The neighborhood is also much nicer than the one where I’d been staying, and I have a private bath, which, along with the proximity to the desert, helps offset the noise pollution. (It’s amazing to me how much noise pollution we allow. Why should one man with a chainsaw be allowed to destroy the quiet of an entire neighborhood? It doesn’t seem right.)

I still have a long recovery ahead of me, at least a year, perhaps two, until I get to my maximum mobility. Although the surgeon continues to claim I will only end up with fifty percent mobility and guarantees that I will suffer from posttraumatic arthritis, I intend to do everything I can to heal. If I were with someone, I’m sure I would have the same resolve, but being alone and facing a future alone, I need to give myself the greatest chance of being able to take care of myself completely for as long as possible.

Oddly, despite a few surges of grief over the fate of my arm, I’ve handled the situation with equanimity. Perhaps the lessons of grief and other adversities have finally sunk in. The arm might be deformed, might be lacking in strength and mobility, but I am not deformed. I am not lacking in strength and mobility. Whatever happens with the arm, it in no way changes me — who I am at the core. (Of course, it still hasn’t been determined who I am at the core, but I don’t know if it’s necessary to make that determination. It should be enough simply to be. To adapt. To become.)

One change I’m curious to see how will affect me is that for the first time in a long time, I have a place to read and relax other than on the bed. Will I be able to sleep better using the bed only for sleep? I guess I’ll find out.

It seems sort of a new beginning, this April. I passed the seventh anniversary of my life mate/soul mate’s death. I got the external fixator removed, which will allow me to enter a more active role in my healing. And I have a new place to stay.

In her book The Stillwater Meadow, Gladys Tabor wrote: “People have seasons . . . There is something steadfast about people who withstand the chilling winds of trouble, the storms that assail the heart, and have the endurance and character to wait quietly for an April time.” During the first years of my grief — while I worked through the pain of my life mate/soul mate’s death and our separation, adjusted to life without him, learned to think of him with gladness instead of sadness, searched for new ways of being and new reasons for living, realized that he is he and I am I and we have separate paths in life — I held fast to the idea of an April time.

Now, finally, an April time — perhaps even my April time — is here.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Yay! Great News!

I went to the doctor today for my pre-op appointment in preparation for surgery next Tuesday. Because there is a bit of irritation around one of the insertion points of the external fixator, he decided to reschedule the surgery for tomorrow. I planned to do a countdown this coming week, counting, down the days until the fixator is removed, so here is the countdown to surgery:

One.

I thought this would be an unsad day because of the doctor’s and lab appointments, and that busyness would have kept me from feeling the grief of this day — the seventh anniversary of Jeff’s death — but at the moment I am too excited to feel sad. I refuse to think about the coming weeks (and months!) and the pain that will be involved in trying to get my hand back into its proper position and getting some mobility in my wrist, but I won’t have to think about any of that for at least another week. After the fixator is removed, they will bandage the puncture wounds and put a soft cast around the wrist to give it a bit of support for the next week. And after that. . . well, I’ll go from there, dealing with whatever it is I need to deal with.

Although this should be a relatively uncomplicated surgery, any surgery under anesthesia is a risk, so please, spare a thought for me tomorrow, and wish me well.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

If You Have a Queasy Stomach, Don’t Look

I haven’t wanted to make people sick by the sight of hardware screwed into my arm, but people have asked to see my fixator. As one fellow said, “we need some gruesome stuff to make us feel how fortunate we are.”

So, here is my arm with the fixator attached. Don’t you wish you had such a handy dandy ebook rest?

As you can see, a person really can get used to anything.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Pain, Cosmic and Otherwise

When I was going through the first horrendous days, weeks, months of grief after the death of my life mate/soulmate, and even later as the grief extended into years, I felt comfortable (mostly) talking about my pain because it seemed noble, perhaps, or maybe even cosmic. The experience was so much bigger than I am that the only way I could deal with it was to cry out my pain to the whole world.

Now that I am dealing with a different kind of pain, physical pain, I don’t feel as comfortable writing about what I am feeling. The pain is localized — it affects only me. To talk about the harshness of losing mobility in my elbow, wrists, and fingers, possibly permanently, seems self pitying because as bad as this injury is (shattered elbow, pulverized wrist, radius broken in 12 places, displaced ulna, deformity) others have it worse.

I know I still have the right to feel bad. That others have it worse doesn’t erase my pain. It just makes it feel less — cosmic.

People seem think I should have resumed my normal life by now, whatever it might be, but it’s all I can do to get through the days. I have to be careful not just because of the external fixator that is still attached my arm, but because of the effects of the strong painkillers I am taking and the need to be careful not to risk a fall. I’m not really prone to falling. The fall that destroyed my arm was a fluke — I tripped over a parking curb I couldn’t see in the dark. But I have to be very careful not to reinjure the arm, at least until it’s healed. I take walks on nice days, so I do get some exercise, but I use a trekking pole as a cane to ensure my balance.

I’ve been trying to cut back on the pain pills because I need to get myself back, but when the cloudy and rainy times come, such as last night, I am grateful for the meager relief the drugs bring. I hope that as I heal, my reaction to inclement weather won’t be as strong because . . . oh, my. The weather -induced ache can be terrible, particularly since I have so many injuries in a single limb.

I no longer have to wear the splint, not even at night, so I am able to work my elbow and regain some mobility at least in that one joint.

Although I have not been writing, I have been keeping busy. Endless games of computer solitaire. Reading. Netflix. Watercolor painting. And doing jigsaw puzzles that came in a care package from a dear friend. (This woman has been especially concerned about me, knowing that I am having to deal with this alone, and she included several delicious treats in the package as well as soups and a throw to keep me warm.)

I’m trying not to worry, trying to take things as they come, trying to focus all my energies on healing, but I have to admit I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what is to become of me. An injury like this is like a new chapter in the story of one’s life with a plot twist that sends you ricocheting off into an unknown direction, but so far I have not had a glimpse of that direction. Even if life doesn’t make the change for me, I can use this injury as an impetus to create something new in my life, but so far I have not had a glimpse of that something new. Maybe it’s too soon. After all it could be a year or even two before I am healed, which gives me a broad scope for growth. For now, though, my life feels like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing.

I hope you are all doing well and finding all the pieces of your life in this new year.

Below is my most recent painting.

watching-b

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Rear Window

Time for another fireside chat, euphemistically speaking. The heat I’m feeling is not the breath from my Dragon, the speech recognition software I am currently using, but from the sun burning through my window. After several days of cold, rain, and wind, the sky is temporarily clear and the sun is scorchingly hot. For the first time in my life, I feel inclement weather in my bones and muscles, in increased pain. But ah, with the sun comes a better outlook and acceptable levels of pain, if there is such a thing. (This reminds me of an incident that happened in the hospital after my first wrist surgery. The nurse asked me what my goal was for the day. I said, “You mean like running a marathon?” She said, “No. Regarding your pain.” I responded, of course, that I wanted zero pain. The nurse laughed. I still don’t understand why the laugh. Isn’t that what we all want, zero pain?)

I’ve always tried to take care of myself, augmenting fairly good genetics with supplements, healthy foods, and exercise, so I have not had to deal with a lot of excruciating pain except for occasional ailments. The thought of having to live with chronic pain is daunting, especially because the pain came in an instant. One moment I was fine — happy, healthy, and relatively carefree — and the next moment I was on the ground screaming in pain. And now nothing will ever be the same. I’m planning on doing whatever I can to gain a painless existence, but that will always laughably be a forlorn hope. I have already reached the age where small aches are a daily occurrence and healing a painstaking matter. However, after yesterday’s weather-induced agony, today’s sunny prognosis is a real blessing, and it assures me that there is hope no matter how forlorn.

One of the many benefits of modern medicine, or so I always thought, was the ability to remove physical pain from our lives, but I am learning that many of the miracle drugs merely take the edge off the pain. In itself, that’s a good thing, but it still leaves behind one heckuva lot of unpleasantness. Perhaps, in the end, I won’t have to deal with as much unpleasantness as the orthopedic surgeon claims I will. Perhaps I will find a way to turn off my reaction to the pain so that it’s just another sensation. Perhaps I will learn to heal myself. Perhaps a lot of things. All I know is that today, sitting here in the sun, staring out the rear window, I feel pretty damn good.

In the early days of my incarceration in this room, I’d look out the window and muse that this must be the absolute worst performance ever of the movie Rear Window because, unlike Jimmy Stewart, I couldn’t see much of anything. Cars in the mid-distance. Cactus close in. But no murderous folk. No folk at all for that matter. But today it makes no difference that I can’t see anything happening outside that window. All that matters is that inside, by the window, my life is happening.

It’s been nice chatting with you. I hope you are also having a relatively pain-free day.

The watercolor below is my most recent offering, an almost obscenely cheerful and optimistic image, and way out of character!

20170112_153837-1_resized

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Thinking of Many Things

I went to the doctor today to have him look at my arm. It wasn’t exactly good news but wasn’t really that bad either. He keeps saying it’ll take up to two years for me to become normal again, even though his “normal” includes some immobility. But then, who knows? No one, if the truth be known. His statements are merely guesses based on experiences with other folks, some of whom would be more dedicated than I and others who would be less dedicated.

I still have the fixator attached to my arm, which is one of those could be good could be bad things. It’s uncomfortable, but apparently the longer the fixator is on the better off I will be. The device is separating the hand bones from the wrist bones. Apparently the fall pushed the hand bones way down into the wrist, and they need to be held in their proper place as long as possible.

There is some good news, or at least news of progress. New bone is being formed where once were only sharp edges. And I have healed enough so I no longer need to wear a splint at night, and I only need to use a sling during the day if I’m around people. I can also start exercising my elbow a little bit more.

I don’t suppose it really matters whether the news is a little bit good or a little bit bad — it is still going to take a very long time before I am healed.

On a more positive note, I have enough toys to keep me busy for now so that I’m not falling back into grief mode. The Dragon speech recognition software, of course, is wonderful, and I have been enjoying splashing watercolors onto paper. Oddly, if two paintings could be considered a representative sample, I paint hope, which gives me hope for the future. (Is that redundant? Isn’t hope always for the future? As far as I know, there can be no hope for the past or even the present because the present is a done deal.) The picture that accompanies this post is my latest creative play endeavor.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you to know that I think of many things while I sit here in my solitary room staring out the window.

One thing that mystifies me is how few people checked up on me off-line. Maybe they didn’t realize how needy I’ve been, or maybe we weren’t as good friends as I thought we were. I suppose I could’ve called them, but since I had nothing good to say, I didn’t want to run anybody’s holiday. But it is night now, and such thoughts are better left for the bright of day.

One thing that amuses me about this experience is how blasé I have been about letting a stranger help bathe me. I stand in the shower naked while she washes my hair, and we chat of normal things as if we’re sitting down to tea. It is kind of surprising, since she is a healthcare worker, but she said she could not be as comfortable if our positions were reversed.

And one thing that frustrates the heck out of me is how difficult it is to get drugs from a drugstore even with a prescription. The pharmacists don’t seem to understand how hard it is for some people to get to the store, and yet they will not release painkillers a day before the prescription was supposed to have been used up. Nor do they want to release the painkillers even after the prescription has been used up. My last prescription was for 15 days. I eked almost 30 days out of it, and they still did not want to fill the new prescription. I will be glad when I can get off pain medications, but to stay off I will have to find new ways of dealing with pain. Apparently the chronic pain is going to come from the side of the arm that was not broken — the ulna was displaced and that is what will be causing most of the problem. But I will figure out something because I cannot deal with pharmacists the rest of my life.

Once again it’s been great talking to you. I hope the things you think about are more thrilling than those I think about.

?????????????

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Creative Play

I haven’t used my Dragon speech recognition software for a couple of days, and I need the practice. So here I am, talking to you.

Oh, who am I trying to kid — I really just wanted to play with my new toy!

It’s funny, I got this software so I could work on my books since I am not doing anything right now except healing, but I haven’t been working on my books at all. My current book is one about a grieving woman during the first couple of months after her husband died, and it’s rather a painful story. The problem is that to continue writing the tale, I have to reread it to see where I am, and I haven’t felt like going back through all that agony. I did do one thing to forward the progress on the book — I sent it to the woman who encouraged me to write it so she could read it and tell me what she thinks, and she loved it. So that’s good to know. Actually I lied — I did do one other thing to further the story. I decided to leave the ending ambiguous, just hinting at where she might go and what she might do, because after all, at two months after the death of her husband she would have no clue who she will become. I’m still not sure who or what I’m going to become, so how is that newly bereft woman supposed to know anything about what her life is going to be?

In the end, I guess you can say I’ve been writing. If typing is considered writing, and now if speaking can be considered writing, then why can’t thinking be writing also? (This is what we writers do: find ways to convince ourselves we are working when we are not.)

As for my life. That’s going about as well as my writing, which is to say not much of anywhere. Dance classes started for the year yesterday, and I didn’t go. I’m not supposed to do anything that strenuous until I get the external fixator off my arm. Instead, I stayed in my room and played with watercolors. I am no artist. Not even any inclination to be an artist. But somebody gave me the watercolors and I figured I should at least attempt to use them. Luckily, the paper she sent with the paints is postcard size, just large enough to balance the frustration of not knowing what I am doing with the fun of doing something. A large sheet would be way too frustrating for me, though if I had copious paints rather than the small watercolor set, it might be fun splashing paint on a larger page.

The weather was also nice enough for me to take a walk today, which always makes me feel at least somewhat alive.

And now I am playing with my incredible Dragon.

I have noticed a special effect with using the Dragon and talking out loud to write—the headphones, microphone, and the sound of my voice creates a special and private space. I don’t know if the headset will block out a lot of noise, because I can still hear the traffic outside the window, but it helps me block out the noise and concentrate on the words inside my head. Obviously, since I have not added any words to my book in progress, I don’t exactly know how beneficial the Dragon is going to be, but I have a hunch it’s going to be just fine. I have never been an inspired writer, a writer who sets her fingers on the keys and the story forms without  her actually thinking it out. I have to dredge the words one at a time out of my mind, so I might as well go one step further and say them aloud. Oddly, during my last few writing sessions I’d found myself mouthing the words before I typed. Perhaps I was practicing the Dragon long before I even got it? (An aside: as intuitive as the Dragon is, it does not recognize when I am asking a question. I still have to tell it to put a question mark at the end of the sentence.)

I don’t know if you can tell that I am smiling as I am speaking, but I really do get a kick out of this program. It’s magic. I speak and words appear on the page. Awesome.

Well once again it’s been nice talking to you. Literally, talking. I hope you managed to do some creative work today, or creative play. Talk to you again soon.

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The painting below is my first attempt at watercolors. I call it Cloudy Day. Why orange clouds? Why not?

cloudy-day

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Having a Human Experience

I did a Bollywood dance performance eight nights ago, and a few minutes later, I was lying in the parking lot outside the theater screaming in agony. Apparently, as I crossed the parking lot to my car, I tripped over a free-standing cement parking curb. Shattered my left wrist. I drove myself to the hospital (I didn’t want to leave my car in the lot, and somehow, fueled by adrenaline and unreasoning pain, it seemed the most expedient solution for getting to the emergency room.)

After a night in the ER, I was admitted to the hospital until they could do the surgery a couple of days later. When they got me on the cart to wheel me to the operating room, they told me the only panties I could wear were the mesh hospital panties, and since I was already wearing those, I didn’t think anything of it. Then, before they wheeled me away, the nurse came and pulled off the panties under the mistaken assumption they were not allowed. And I started crying. Up until then, I’d accepted the pain, the emergency room, the drugs, the hospital stay and everything else that happened to me with equanamity (or the numbness of shock?) but the removal of the panties did me in. I felt unutterably vulnerable and alone.

I still do.

I’m out of the hospital, dealing as best as I can with drug-fuddled mind and only one usable hand/arm. I’m trying not to feel sorry for myself, and mostly succeeding, but this is the culmination of a very traumatic ten years. It started with the death of the brother closest to me in age nine years and eleven months ago. Since then, I have had to deal with my mother’s illness and death, my life mate/soul mate’s long dying and subsequent death, my elderly father’s care and his death. Also, I broke an ankle, scalped myself, lost a tooth, and now have multiple fractures in my wrist/arm.

Lots of life — and death — going on.

But for now, what’s important is the current injury.

People ask me how I am interpreting this particular experience and what the message is. I am trying not to find messages. Trying to see the fall as simply an accident because anything else, such as the possibility that internal conflicts could manifest themselves physically, is simply too frightening.

Although I don’t believe in rites, such as funerals, I went to my mother’s funeral to see everyone in my family one more time. But shortly after I got there, I broke my ankle. Spend the viewing at the ER and the funeral at the bone specialist’s office.

And now, once again, I’d been faced with doing something I didn’t want to do — that dance performance. I really, really didn’t want to be part of a multi-day show and even told my class if they badgered me into it, something bad would happen. Somewhere along the line, I stopped saying no and ended up being understudy for that one particular show because they truly did need me. I enjoyed the performance, did it perfectly. And then, a few minutes afterward, I lay screaming in the parking lot.

If there is a message, it’s for me to stop doing things I don’t want to do. Or more accurately, to stay away from internal conflict. (There are actually two internal conflicts at play here — the dance recital and the book I am writing. I don’t want to write it, but I want to finish it, and now I am forced to take a hiatus.) But the truth is, I don’t want to believe that there is any correlation between internal conflict and broken bones. Way too frightening!

It’s better if I think of this latest trauma, as with all my traumas, as my being a human person having a human experience.

If I say it enough, I might actually come to believe it.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)