What do you do when you have (maybe) one more year?

****Warning…this is a major downer…a big grief and pain trigger…there is no resolution yet…I am processing what is happening in my life and, since misery loves company, I am sharing 6 pages of bleakness.  What are friends for, right?****

So in September of 1984 I met a wonderful man…this guy, who was perpetually late and had a distinctive walk with keys on his belt so we could hear him coming down the ramp to the snack bar where this strange group of college students gathered (“Look, It’s Fred!” became our call in unison), and who intuited that the best way to get this smart assed introvert out of the shadows was to challenge her, and who helped chase off an awful dorm roommate, is the man who introduced me to Steeley Span, the SCA, Jethro Tull, and the Craft.  Fred was a blacksmith, a stocky and strong man, a member of the SCA and the first Neopagan I ever met.  At the time he had shoulder length red hair and a full beard.  He had the brightest blue eyes and a wicked grin.  I still remember my first country bumpkin good girl thought was (simultaneously) ‘Hmmm…that’s interesting! No it’s NOT’

Well there apparently was something.  We have been friends for 32 years in 2016 and lovers for 25 years and partners in life for 21 years.  Fred loaned me a copy of circle network news, bought me my first Green Egg magazine, introduced me to music and concepts and people and festivals.  Fred insisted that I go to the local Bulletin Board System (cyberspace) coffee (lovingly dubbed the Saturday Night Get a Life Club) where I met several of the people who would become my students and lifelong friends.  He encouraged me to go to Aradia’s Arcane for the discussion groups and classes where I met my first High Priest and other people who would become students, friends, and connections in the craft.  Where I am today is mostly to his credit.  He has been a resource, teacher, encourager, comfort and mostly a very deep love in my life.

In 2003, Fred went in for what we thought would be a relatively minor surgery but turned out to be a cancerous appendix.  He had chemotherapy and other testing and for 10 years all was well.  Then in October 2012, one of my best friends and (now) High Priest asked me what was wrong with Fred.  I actually admitted to myself that I had noticed that something wasn’t right.  He just wasn’t acting right.  My instinct was that the cancer was back.

In February of 2013, Fred finally got around to talking to me about it and explained that the symptoms he had had in 2002-3 were back.  He delayed doing anything about it until December 9th of 2013.  After 4 hrs of surgery, the surgeons came out and talked to me.  Yes, the cancer was back.  After the surgery and time in the hospital, he spent most of 2014 recuperating from the surgery.  In early 2015, we went to see an oncologist, finally…

Now, I am a therapist.  I am trained in, as well as having a natural talent for, reading body language and expressions.  I am good at reading between the lines.  So the following description rang very loudly even though words were relatively quiet.

We were in the exam room.  I could hear the doctor with another patient in the next room.  He was upbeat, laughing and joking.  Things were going well for this person.  He came out into the hall and I heard him pick up the chart.  The next thing I heard was a deep sigh.  He enters the room and assumes what I have been calling “The Undertaker Stance”…head tilted slightly to the side, hands folded in front of him, look of sympathy and concern on his face.  “How are you doing, Fred?” he asked gently.

During this visit, Fred asked in general, how much time he was looking at.  Of course they couldn’t give specifics or guarantees but at that time he was told, on average, 2-3 yrs….of course, my mind was asking 2-3 yrs from when the symptoms returned or from the surgery or from today???

It looks like it was from the return of the symptoms…because it has been steadily down hill from there.  He has been on chemo since March…has had a steadily decreasing appetite, increased nausea, and decreased resources-physically speaking.  In November, he had a blood clot develop in his leg which still has not been resolved.  On December 3rd I took him to the hospital with a 104.9 temperature.  He was septic.  After a week in the hospital, he came home.  Overall he seems fine… low energy and low appetite but relatively healthy otherwise…but I had the opportunity to put lotion on his back and legs recently…it is not encouraging.  What once were powerful shoulders of a blacksmith and strong biceps that I could barely circle with both of my hands are now quite thin.  This is a thing that I have watched before…my father and grandfather…especially my grandfather, who was a big man…wasted away to nothing with cancer.

He isn’t giving up.  He has not found his paperwork and gotten affairs in order or anything like that.  Maybe I am being paranoid or defeatist.  But my instinct tells me that he will probably cross the veil sometime this year.

With this in mind, I went looking for information about how to handle this year.  I mean, someone has to have written something, right?  I found heartwarming and tear jerking stories about a town that gave a dying child one last Christmas in October.  I found several things about dying parents sharing a last holiday with their young children…but I didn’t find anything about what to do when you are relatively certain that you have one more year with someone.

So I guess I will have to write it.  We just passed Yule/Christmas…I am sure I screwed it up…but he was happy to see my daughter happy with her gift.  I gave him what he said he wanted and I love the present he got for me…and after the kids left, we had a quiet evening and a long peaceful night with a lovely cuddle this morning.  I brought him home made ravioli and sauce from the Yule ritual I attended this afternoon and we are watching foreign language tv and mythbusters marathon.  The cat is napping on the back of the couch and I guess all is currently right with the world…or as right as it is going to be.

Here I am, 5 months later, writing again.  January through March were relatively quiet.  Then they started a new Chemo.  We went to the university for a consult.  Turns out there were only 2 more things to try.  So we began what was supposed to be an every other week treatment regimen.  The first 24 hrs were ok…then the pain started…he writhed in pain until I could finally get him to the clinic to get the pump off.  After that he rebounded relatively quickly.  He doesn’t remember the weekend much at all.  I do.

After two weeks they looked at his lab results and his white cell count was too low to do treatment so they put it off a week.  This time the doctor said to take the pain medication he had plus added  more nausea medication.  Again, he was fine until Saturday afternoon this time.  The rest of the weekend I pretty much snowed him and he didn’t feel much pain.  After the pump came off, he was fine until Sunday evening then a little pain and discomfort so another pain pill.  Monday morning, he was pretty confused & foggy…he still insisted on going to work but actually only made it about 5 miles before realizing that wasn’t a good idea.  Thankfully, he turned around and came home.

So another 3 weeks go by…to give him time to get stronger.  (By the way, in February of 2015 he was 170 lbs…at this visit he weighed in at 147)  He does the treatment and is ok…not stellar but ok…until about 2 on Saturday afternoon when the pain & nausea kicked in.  Rotated nausea meds and pain pills til about 1 am then I went to bed…he was fine.  I got up at 7 and did my routine but he was in the bathroom.  A half hour later I checked on him because he was still in there.  He came out of the bathroom completely stripped…which he hasn’t done since December of 2013…and got into bed.  A little while later he scurried back to the bathroom and I realized he had also removed the colostomy bag.  We got that dealt with and he wanted to rest so back to bed for a bit.

Then it was time to get ready to get the pump off.  I get him in sweats and socks and a shirt and try to get him out to the truck.  Nope…ended up fighting with him for 2 hrs about whether or not he was dressed.  A 5’8″, 140 lb (they weighed him that day) toddler.  Finally get through to him that something isn’t right when i tell him he’s acting like he had a stroke.

We made it to the clinic before they closed and his blood pressure was very low.  The nurse said to take him to the ER.  And he was there for 4 days.  In the ER I got to witness the callousness and impatience of the doctors…and recognized how little they actually listen to anything being said.  He was unable to sign his name, or communicate hardly anything.  He was like this until Tuesday afternoon.  Doctors were convinced it was an infection.  We have no idea what’s causing this behavior.  They did CT scans and xrays and an MRI of his brain.  Nothing unusual except his potassium is low and he’s very dehydrated.

He came out of the fog and by Tuesday evening he really wanted to come home.  I got him home Wednesday afternoon and by Friday morning he was back to work.  Another week goes by and the visit to the oncologist says he is down to 132 lbs.  He mentions a sore spot to them again and they look at it and just say ‘We’ll keep an eye on it’.  He and the doctor agree that he should wait another week before trying the chemo again.  So we had a relatively nice weekend, though he was tired and didn’t do too much.

The next Wednesday morning, I am awakened by him calling me from the bathroom.  Apparently the sore spot was something to be concerned about as there is now a hole in his abdomen that appears to be connected to his bladder.  We relatively calmly work on finding a way to manage that.  He calls the on-call oncologist (as it is before 7 AM) and he concurs that this is something odd and that he should go to the hospital, so we get it together and get in the truck to drive the 45 minutes to the hospital.

Once we are in the emergency room (room 13 again) they talk to his urologist and decide he needs a catheter to try to drain this away.  What appears to have happened is a fistula of the cancer has now grown out of his bladder and the bladder is now fully involved with the cancer.  What I have put together is that the particular type of treatment they did was more like pouring sugar water on bind weed…it just took off and grew very quickly.

This time he has to have the nefrostomy tubes inserted in the Kidneys and now two more pieces of hardware to deal with.  He tries to ask nurses, doctors and social workers about living with this…he gets blank looks in return.

After much more confusion and an 11 hr wait we got to go home on Saturday evening…which is when he stops eating again…(want to know how to drive a farm girl crazy?  Stop eating.)  He will eat an applesauce for breakfast, maybe a little serving of leftovers for lunch and a half a serving of whatever I make for dinner.

This is the journey so far…every day I see a little more of him slipping away.  The messages I get from the Gods are that I have to leave this alone and let him go on this journey.  He acknowledged the other day that he doesn’t know how long he can last.  I have to figure out how to get him to tell me what he wants.  Cremation? Burial? If so, where? If he won’t do that, I have figured out who I will have facilitate the memorial and I think it will meet with his beliefs but also not be shocking to the good christian folk who will also be attending.

I also need to twist his arm to write down accounts and passwords and to get all the bills into the auto pay account.  I saw the hell that my oldest and one of my best friends went through with the sudden death of her husband.  She has been dealing daily with both grief and panic.  I don’t want to do that!

I was looking at a local hospice/palliative care group for information.  They facilitate anticipatory grief work with children but seem to ignore that in adults.  There is nothing being offered to help partners, spouses, adult children, or other friends/family cope with the long and winding road across the veil.  How to deal with frustration, anger, exasperation, fear, and all those other things that go into “Grief” seems to be a taboo subject….or is just so foreign to western society that we just expect people to suck it up and do it…whatever it is.

I will pause for now…5 pages of doom and gloom are quite enough for this entry…I am just processing and sharing my experience for now.  It is a record for later…for after…when hopefully I can use this experience to make me better at what I do in some capacity.

I will leave you with this.  Love each other.  Say it loudly, softly, wordlessly, and with a fully orchestrated score.  Today, here, now…that is the only happily ever after we ever really get!  (There’s an idea for someone to write…The Death of Prince Charming….)

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Keeping Connection

It has been talked about and repeated often in my circle that we have lost a connection to the rhythm of the earth and the cycles and seasons.  It is complained about that people are unaware of what is going on around them and with others in our lives.  It is bemoaned that people don’t connect anymore.  Have you yourself noticed this?  Have you wondered why?

Well…I have a thought…on the eve of our national celebration of gratitude and helping each other through difficult times…it has occurred to me that it *may* be because we have lost the courtesy that our ancestors had.  Simple things…like returning a greeting or a blessing sent.  We currently have the ability to send our warm thoughts and blessings more immediately than ever and we likely receive them more often than ever in the past, but how often do we basically just blow off such greetings?  How often to you return a greeting or blessing sent to you…those random Hey I was thinking about you’s from friends…the full moon blessings…the hey, have a great day messages?  We seem to respond when it is a big thing…a Sabbat…a major life event…a loss…a win…but I think it is in the everyday connection that our grounding and rhythm are to be found.

 Love is the magic.  Sharing warm thoughts and even little frustrations without expectation is what draws us together…it lets us know that there are others out there…even if it is just to say, “I feel ya!”

So my thought is that trust and connection are built one little moment at a time.  I just heard tonight that a good friend and elder in the community has passed.  Unfortunately, my last moments with him were strained.  I wish I had followed through on a thought to shoot him a text…but I didn’t want to bother him.  

Others I have interactions with who do not respond…I will keep trying…I will keep sending the blessings, the hey theres, the random ILY’s.  In this way I am taking my own responsibility for being connected to people, to cycles, and to my community.  You…well, follow your heart…but really remember that all we have is this moment…if you feel it, say it.  The connection may not be there tomorrow.

BTW…ILY.

Grounding and Centering

Lady Rhiannon Dragcruin- 4/10/2014

Grounding, centering, and shielding are terms that are thrown about in the Craft like confetti, beads, and candy at Mardi Gras, but what do they mean? Ever had someone tell you. “Well just ground and center and you will be fine!” but you have no freaking clue how to do that? I know I have…it is not always easy, especially in the middle of an excited state of mind or an emergency situation. So let’s talk about it…

What are some symptoms of being ungrounded and uncentered?

Irritability, manic behavior, anger, inability to sit still, Restlessness, tiredness, lack of empathy, lack of awareness, lack of focus, loudness that is uncharacteristic, short tempered, inability to concentrate, desire to isolate, feeling discontent or wanting something but not knowing what, lack of appetite, or extreme desire to eat or drink despite not being hungry or thirsty, substance abuse, depression, violence, rage, extreme sadness, etc… These can all be symptoms of being overloaded and ungrounded. The energy of different people and situations and emotions tends to cling to us if we are not consciously sending it away. And just like any physical load, each of us can only carry so much before we begin to be affected by it.

Grounding: What the Heck is it?

Grounding is the act of taking excess energy or negative energy and sending it to a safe place (the earth, water, a stone, a fire). Just like taking a live electrical wire and grounding it, you will be less excitable, more able to think, act, and receive positive things from others. One doesn’t always need to ground only for negative events or energy. One may also need to ground when one is spinning up because they are happy. (There is nothing wrong with being happy but it certainly can turn into an uncontrolled state and things can be done or said that will have negative impacts on one’s life.)

How the heck do you do it?

For every 10 people out there, there are probably 15 different ways to ground. The following are some ideas:

Taking a deep breath, Getting a hug, Sitting on the ground, taking a bath or shower, swimming, Sauna, Hot tub, running water over your wrists, sitting on a log in the forest, lying in the sunlight, taking a psychic shower, visualizing all the ick being washed off by light or rain or blown away by wind or burned away by fire, crying, walking in the rain, walking in the grass barefoot, digging your toes in the sand, staring at a lit candle, guided meditation, petting a cat, hugging a puppy, watching an aquarium, singing, dancing, drumming, sniffing your favorite flower, baking, making bread, weeding the garden, etc…

I think you get the point…it doesn’t have to be a formal, long, drawn-out event. It can be very simple but it *must* be intentional. Take some time away from stimulation to sort through and release the excess energy. Try some different ways to release this energy and find a couple of different ones that work because you, for example, may not always have a sauna nearby when you need it!

What happens if you have “grounded” but still feel scattered or off?

Then comes the next step- Centering. Centering is the act of bringing your own energy back from all the thousands of places that we send it every day and focusing back on our intentions in life. Every interaction we have with people, every little niggling thing that we do during the day takes energy. We leave pieces of ourselves scattered everywhere. Most of the time this is just a little energy…sometimes it can be bigger events such as trauma and that takes a different approach which we will discuss another time…but every little piece that gets scattered takes away from our focus and our ability to manage energy. Think about all the text messages you send each day, and the emails, and the conversations in the stores etc…. Interactions with family and the driving public are also taxing. Each of these is a little bit of you being scattered to the four winds. Centering is necessary to bring ourselves back to ourselves and to get or stay on task.

OK so you beat that into the ground but how do you *DO* it?

Again, everyone is going to have a different process to Center themselves. Some will hold a crystal that helps them focus, others will psychically reach out and find those pieces of energy and bring them back, some have enfolded this practice into their grounding and the act of sitting in the sun or with the toes in the sand or in a raging storm also brings their energy into focus. As I said…lots of different ways. We spend a lot of time outside of our own bodies and unaware of our feelings, both physical and emotional. That being said, it is not a lost cause and we can all learn to ground and center. It can take a more formalized approach if you have developed a resistance to being centered (often a defense developed due to some form of trauma). This can be through a guided meditation, receiving Reiki, massage or several other possible approaches. Each person has to develop their own method…we can each *learn* how someone else does it, but when it comes down to practical application, we can only reliably and quickly do what is natural for each of us. It is important to practice Grounding and Centering consciously to learn what works best for you. Also practicing this with intention can make it easier to notice what you are feeling and also to notice when you are not in balance or in sync with those around you. Being mindful of the state of your consciousness and your body can save your life!

OK, Frustrated yet? Because there is one more piece…Shielding.

Most of us have developed natural ways to shield…there are very few people out there who have NO shields at all. These are the things that keep us from taking on all of the free-floating crap in the world. They help protect us from everything from negative thoughts and intentional harm to big bad nasty beasties. They are the things that alert us to icky vibes and psychic vampires wanting to have a lick. They make the hair on your neck stand up in an empty room in an old house or make you look over your shoulder when a friend is sneaking up on you. They also keep your stuff from leaking out or a passing frustration from blasting the person who caused the irritation. They keep you hidden and protected.

There are many ways to envision shields…some are more efficient than others and some can be dangerous. A mirror shield (which is often one of the first things people think of) is dangerous. Have you ever seen what happens to a laser aimed at a mirror? Think about energy being sent at you hitting your mirror shield…how many innocent people may be hit by that refracted energy? A solid brick or steel wall also has problems…how do you see what is coming? How do things that you want to get out get out? Also neither of those encircles you. Always remember to shield about 3 feet under your feet too as well as above your head.

My personal favorite is to envision a semi-permeable cell wall. The cell wall is transparent…goes all the way around you…lets in what you want in (mostly) and keeps out what you want out (mostly) as well as lets unhealthy stuff out. It is flexible, responsive, and resilient as well as primarily self-sustaining. Experiment with different materials and designs. Remember to look up. Think about what properties you want your shield to have. How far out from you do you want your primary defenses? How many layers of shields do you want? Why do you want that many and not one more or one less?

Shields also have to be fed. Some people like to consciously tend their shields, others like to set up passive power sources for their shields. To consciously tend the shields, often a person will do maintenance while they do their daily meditation. The shields are created to alert the protected one of damage or trouble and the person will tend to immediate things as needed and will do a full survey of their shields as part of the grounding and centering process.

A person who chooses to have a passive power source may have jewelry that is charged and feeds the shields or have some sort of action that they do regularly that sends energy to their shields. Again the shields are often set to alert the individual of problems with their own integrity or they make a practice of looking at them regularly for maintenance.

How to set up a passive power supply is a completely different lesson and we will talk about it later. The important thing is to practice grounding your energy, bringing your energy back to yourself when it is scattered, and protecting yourself. It is not reasonable to expect to be able to handle and channel large amounts of magickal or spiritual energy or to be able to use your skills and talents reliably if your energy is all over the place! Much of this work can be done on your own, as it is a very personal thing, but it can also be helpful to talk with your teacher or others in the Craft for ideas and feedback on what they are sensing. Remember, no one can find the holes in your shields like someone you love! Practice with friends to check for vulnerability. Your shields and your awareness of them and of your friends’ and partners’ shields could be very important in many different situations.