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The Cutting Edge

Trout Lilly

Trout Lilly on Black by Jim Dollar Photography


I’m going to be put to sleep again.  Another surgical procedure – though this time it’s only a biopsy and a couple of lights and cameras.  At times past, the repercussions to my body were much greater.  Every time that I face being put under, I ask myself the questions that are probably normal questions for everyone to ask.  What if I don’t wake up? What if this night is my last night on Earth?

After all, there are people who don’t wake up.  One has to sign that “Waiver” that basically states, “If I don’t wake up, nobody has the right to sue you because I know that those are the risks I am taking.”  Still, I don’t think anyone ever PLANS to not wake up.  Maybe some people have, and it would be interesting to know whether or not those people woke up.  The one time that I planned to not wake up, life thwarted my plans — but that time had nothing to do with a surgery.  After that rude awakening, I walked around feeling like a ghost for months.  Looking at my life from the parallel place that would have been my non-existence, trying to imagine how the world that I was reluctantly seeing before me would have performed without my physical presence in it.

Surviving operations, having health problems thwarted via modern medicine, these experiences have left me with the same sort of perspective.  If I had been born in a time or a place without modern medicine, I’d have died as a teenager, while giving birth to my first daughter.  Most likely, she’d have died as well.  As it was, it took a valiant effort and an extreme amount of suffering to bring her forth into this world.  When it came time for her to birth her own first daughter, it again took a team of people to help my granddaughter arrive here safely, and alive.  I think about how this is against the evolutionary progress of the species, realizing that my genes would have been culled out from those of the fittest, the most survivable of our race.  I ponder what it means that we are a people who take care of the weak, the injured, the deformed, the imperfect.  It’s unclear to me if this is evidence of our becoming stronger as a species because we are showing compassion, thus an elevated plane of “living”, or if it only serves to weaken us so that any beings we encounter who do not share our reverence for human life will slaughter us quickly, mercilessly.

This morning, my worry isn’t about this survival of our species, but about my personal survival.  Surviving has presented a conundrum for me all along since I seem to have been born without that basic appreciation for life that I’m told I should have.  Mostly, it’s about the suffering, these feelings in me that my living is a thing too difficult to be borne by the mere mortal that I am.  It seems that I need more than this one lifetime in order to work out why the living is worth it in the balance, or that I’ve lived enough lifetimes to know that it is not.  That is not to say that there are not times when I am exuberant about living!  Excited about living!  The mere present made to me of a full-of-color fall leaf, or a multicolored stone, the breathtaking landscapes of Earth, the overpowering brilliance of a sunset, I suspect that I drink these things in more fully than most humans do.  Perhaps it is this lingering at death’s door that makes me even more appreciative of the miraculous beauty in every part of living that I make it through.  I would not trade any of those sorts of time in my living for dying.  It’s the remembering them when I am so overwhelmed that is the crux of my problem.

I also suffer from survivor’s guilt.  Isn’t every woman some mother’s daughter?  Every son, some father’s son?  It seems unfair to me that I have access to modern medicine, that when my gallbladder and ovaries and uterus all went haywire, I was able to have the offending parts removed and continue living the life that is deprived of others who are not so lucky.  Not just the people who lived in our past before our surgeons got this good, but the people who die in the here and now, today, in the jungles, or on a cot lining the halls of a non-sterile building in a non-air-conditioned medical center, their faces, their presences, the ghosts of them flit through my mind.  Who decides who lives and who dies?  Who decides who gets to live when, and who gets to live where?  I’m not the only one who ponders these questions.  These are questions for the ages.  Even if these questions are answered in my next incarnation, I am certain that other mysteries will come to replace the present ones, and I will still be left wondering.  This seems to be a terminal condition of my now evolving life-form.

Another thing that some might consider an oddity is that I have wondered why we allow ourselves this act of sleeping through the violence done to our physical form.  I firmly believe that our higher self is awake and aware of every thing that ever happens to us, and that these realities are ingrained within our soul whether we are conscious of them or not.  That has certainly proven to be the case with my Dissociative Disorder.  As a child, I asked myself why people wanted to be put to sleep when it was obvious that their bodies would still KNOW what happened.  It seemed better to go through it consciously, so at least one would understand WHY there was damage to their psyches.  I was determined that if I ever needed surgery, I’d want to be aware of what people were doing to me.

A friend of mine has been unfortunate enough to have woken up during surgical procedures, and hearing her tell the tale makes me know that I would not want to be awake!  I’ve read enough true and invented tales of people who are aware and alert while losing limbs, being disemboweled, having layers of injured skin peeled away, that I know my childish idea was one better left dismissed.  I’m not even saying that it isn’t true, the thing that I believed about our knowing all that has happened to us physically being better in the long run, but I’ve experienced enough of my own suffering to know that my naive notions of wanting to KNOW what has happened to my body at all times is a flight of fancy better left fanciful!  There must be a mark left upon our overall being, though.  There must be some residual, “What the fuck was that dissociation through medicine that you just did, and then you let a stranger poke knifes in me and carve me up while you were gone?” feeling left over in our bodies somewhere.

Being alive in the time that I’m in is a thing for which I’m grateful.  Having doctors who can repair bodies is a thing for which I am grateful.  My son would not be alive today if surgery had not been performed on his tiny form, barely a year old, and as he makes his own way down the path of a medical career, I realize that he is a part of the perpetuated cycle.  Modern medical techniques save a life that would have been lost, and that life continues to study more in the annals of medicine so that future people can be saved and contribute more to this world.  So, what does this mean for us, this fact that we now sometimes get to decide who lives and who dies?  Because, that’s really what it is.  When my gallbladder attacks got so bad that I could barely eat and was in a constant state of pain, because I was born in America, because I was smart enough to work the system and obtain a physician, because I acquired the resources to pay someone to cut me, and because someone agreed to cut me for a fee, I got to live.  At that same moment, I’m sure that elsewhere in the world, another girl, in the same physical circumstance, lay dying.

The point is that with all of our “evolved” thinking, with all of our progress, I’m not sure that we are making progress in the way that I would consider true goodness.  We live with blinders on.  Some of us on this planet live with so much to eat that our health is affected in very negative ways.  As a person who is overweight and who has type two Diabetes, I’m only too aware of my own participation in this system.  Others of us on this planet live with so little to eat that our health is affected in very negative ways.  Intelligent, worthwhile people, people like my son, those people starve to death or die of untreated diseases and afflictions every day.  Tick, tick, tock, tock……  Lives wasted.  Opportunities wasting away.  It’s not just the people who are dying who are losing out.  We are all letting the geniuses of our species go undiscovered, wasting away, suffering into little evaporating pools of nothingness due to the mere circumstances of their births.  Who knows but what we might have already discovered immortality for us all if we truly knew how to harvest those richest of intelligence treasures amongst us?  It is true that the people who are dying in Africa have the most diverse genes, the most potential for helping the whole of us.

It leaves me to wonder if our species here will ever get it right.  When a problem as simple as one side of the planet getting too much to eat, or too much of the wrong things, and another side getting not enough to eat, so much so that they are never really viable humans, (which leaves me to wonder why the pro-lifers aren’t worried about THIS type of death), when seeing something this glaring not being fixed, I have little hope that our quest for enlightenment will ever come to fruition.  We are like worried mothers who complicate things well past any plausible solution.  We make excuses for ourselves and we blame others.  I know this technique well, for it’s one that I’m currently attempting to face head-on and outgrow in this microcosm that is my selves.

So, what do I want my legacy to be?  I ask myself this question as I go to the table, as I go to sleep and go under the knife, yet again.  As my unconscious body cringes inside at the things that I’m allowing to be done to it, I wonder what would be said about me if I didn’t come back.  After all, one day, I won’t.  One day, I will sleep my last sleep, sing my last song, write my last word, draw my last breath.  Death is coming to us all.  This is the one appointment that we all must keep, regardless of which side of the planet we find ourselves being born, regardless of what type of medicine we have access to, because, currently, we have not found that way to physical immortality.  Recently, someone said to me, “I think that you are an interesting person.”  I guess that’s as good a legacy as any.  Perhaps I can at least mirror for others what it is like to connect to life’s spark – even though I often do it reluctantly.  Maybe this act of being fully engaged, fully “awake”, makes me stand out from the crowd.  Maybe I can inspire someone else to have the courage to be considered “interesting”.

This life is all that we know will ever matter to ourselves.  It’s the only thing of which we can be sure:  The present moment.  It may be that whatever we plan to do with that doesn’t mean anything in the long run.  As a friend of mine said, “If life means nothing to you, if you don’t want to be alive anyway and none of it means anything, then why would you care what other people think of what you do?”  It’s a good question.  A fair question.  Something inside of me must not fully believe that this moment is all that exists.  But, I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what else does.  I do know that being asleep later today, on that table, some part of me will be looking out, wondering, “What the fuck?”, and waiting to awaken, yet, again….

This post is dedicated to:  Those needlessly dying, in acknowledgment of their suffering, and as witness to their having lived at all.

With Appreciation to:  Jim Dollar Photographywhose images always stir my soul to appreciative living.

Posted in My Life Today, Where Am I Now?.

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2 Responses

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  1. Julie Carriker says

    Good job, Deneen! This is a very thoughtful and eloquent blog. My thoughts will be with you tomorrow as you undergo the procedure.

  2. Yvonne says

    Deep stuff, Deneen. Although I believe we all go about fulfilling our purpose in life differently, I also believe we basically have the same purpose…to help in whatever way and to whatever degree we can. Life simply cannot be all about us individually but rather us collectively. None of us can save every life. Even God does not do that. However, we can save one person at a time.

    I believe who lives, who dies, who is born in what part of the world is the luck of the draw. Having taken care of people professionally for thirty year has given me an inside glimpse into the world of the living and the dying. Sometimes the ones that are the sickest or most injured, recover while the less sick or less injured end up dying. No rhyme or reason to it, just the luck of the draw.

    We like to tell ourselves if we live a good, unselfish life we will be one of the lucky ones who live. Taint so. Even the most giving, loving, godly people die sometimes while the evil amongst us live. No rhyme or reason.

    I say let us treat every moment as if it were our last. Laugh without embarrassment, love with abandonment, seek with genuine interest, give with no expectation of reward, compliment with purity, give thanks for what you have not what you want and live with a passion.

    Keep up the good work, my friend. Love ya.

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