Finding Beauty in Fraying Threads

The healing process continues. My energy level is mostly back to normal. I still have up days and down days, but I seem to be reaching an equilibrium where every day looks pretty much like the day before. My leg is still swollen from the clot that is stubbornly sitting there, taking its sweet time to dissolve. I still get short of breath sometimes, but nothing remotely close to the symptoms on the day of The Event.

Now that I am pretty much stable, I have been able to do some more exploration into why this whole thing happened and what I can do to prevent it.

One of the most likely causes was the fact that I was taking birth control pills. I say “most likely” because we’re still not entirely sure that was the primary reason. I also tested positive for a genetic mutation that makes me more likely to form blood clots. (It’s apparently extremely rare. I’m very special.) I am hoping beyond hope that it was the birth control, because that means that I can stop taking the blood thinners after 6 months and be done with them for good.

I wasn’t taking birth control to prevent pregnancy, although that’s a really handy side effect. I was taking it to control my period. My apologies to those of you who aren’t in to reading about menstrual issues — skip to the next paragraph if that describes you. At the end of 2011, I bled for 35 days straight. No let-up. The only thing that stopped it and brought me back into balance again was the birth control. And now, I can’t take it. I have bled since The Event, and the blood thinners aren’t making that a pleasant experience, but at least my periods have stopped when they’re supposed to. I don’t trust that luck to continue, however, and my options for resolution are limited.

I’ve been talking to my gynecologist, and the option that I am going to go with is called ablation. It’s a fairly simple procedure that destroys my uterine lining so I won’t bleed. It also essentially makes me infertile, since there’s nothing for a kid to hang onto or get nutrients from. Pregnancy is still possible, though — which would be dangerous for both me and the baby — so once I have healed from the ablation procedure, I’m getting another procedure done that’s similar to getting my tubes tied, just much less invasive. The nice thing about all of this … I get to keep all my parts and my quality of life has the potential to improve tremendously.

The doctor asked me over and over about my plans for children. I assured her that I don’t want to have biological children, and if I did change my mind, which is unlikely, I wouldn’t be averse to adoption or surrogacy. My token line is, “I am an awesome aunt. That’s good enough for me.”

And yet… I am still struggling with this. It’s not that I want children. I really don’t. I love kids – but I value my freedom and independence more. I am single mostly by choice, partially by circumstance. When I was much younger I thought I might want to raise a family, but that shifted around my late 20s. For most of my adult life, I have been childless by choice. So why should this change be such a big deal? I don’t want a kid, now I can’t have one. No harm, no foul, right? … Right? 

So why does this feel like such a big deal?

Maybe it’s the stigma attached to a woman who doesn’t want to fulfill her what society might call her “biological imperative.” Maybe it’s the continuing sense that I am being left out of a club. Maybe it’s residual guilt that I feel like I should want kids. I come from a big extended family that’s pretty tight-knit, and I am the only unattached, unmarried, childless cousin over the age of 20. There are 14 of us – so I feel like an oddball at family gatherings, even if I get to be the cool aunt who lives in the mysterious land of Chicago miles and miles away.

I really don’t know. It’s probably a combination of all of the above and some things I haven’t even considered. I don’t even think it’s worth trying to find the true reason. It’s just enough to know that I am sitting with a loss, even if that loss is something intangible that never existed and will never come to pass.

But honestly? Deep down, the loss that I am mourning is the loss of choice rather than the loss of a potential child. When I was young, I felt threads of possibility reaching out in every direction. And I still do, to some extent. But I am finding growing older to be a little like fraying cloth. Some threads just aren’t available to me anymore. That doesn’t mean the tapestry or rug or whatever-metaphor-you-want-to-use isn’t or can’t be beautiful. It just means I have more limited options on how to create or sustain that beauty.

The key word here is “create” — because even though I won’t ever give birth to a human being, I will continue to give birth to projects, music, art, friendships, harebrained schemes, and rituals. I will breathe life into experiences and ideas and stories and songs. Creation is a pretty multifaceted gig, and I feel like I have been given a second chance at life in order to make a number of possibilities come alive.

Breathing, healing, and dreaming.

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“I love you, leg,” and other weird things I am saying lately

Ah, the trials and tribulations of being on blood thinners. I hit the therapeutic INR level last Friday, which is fantastic, but then on Tuesday it had dropped back below 2. Coumadin is a tricky, tricky drug. I am a little nervous about it fluctuating this much, but the doctor seems to think that it will be okay eventually. I am going to trust her. My prayers these days are for equilibrium more than anything else.

I participated in an online distance healing event at a friend’s suggestion. I am no expert on Reiki or really any form of nontraditional healing, but I am not the type of person to turn down help or support, no matter what form it takes. One of the things that the facilitator suggested after the session was to create a talisman that would remind me of my intention and goal for the healing process and outcome. I make jewelry, so I have a ton of spare beads just waiting to be used. I rummaged through my collection and found a few with words on them. I reached in the bag and picked three at random and got: “Feel”, “Self” and “Love”

Well, then.

I now am carrying a leather cord in my pocket with those three beads strung onto it. I reach into my pocket now and again, and remind myself that healing takes time. That I am supported. That I am loved. The trick is to provide the same level of support and love to myself that I have been feeling from my networks of friends and family.

This is a particularly difficult challenge right now. I am trying to follow doctor’s orders and do everything I am supposed to do in order to prevent a recurrence. But it is clear to me that the root of my motivation is fear rather than love. Here are some irrational thoughts that keep spinning through my head:

My body tried to kill me. I don’t trust my insides right now. What was that twinge? Why is my heart beating too fast? When am I going to collapse again? I’m feeling light-headed, so therefore I am about to die. I am never going to get better. How can I be more active when there’s a blood clot waiting to move to my heart? My body tried to kill me.

This kind of talk isn’t helping anyone, especially me, and it’s just serving to increase my anxiety levels at a time where I really need to relax.

I am scheduled to teach a path/class next February which will have a major focus on self-love and being conscious of being in the present moment. When I agreed to teach this work, I was thinking more along the lines of perception and emotions rather than physicality. This health scare experience is opening up an entirely new way of viewing my relationship to my body and self-love. It’s not about loving myself so I can be more confident and move through the world with a greater sense of ease and openness to sharing love with others (while an absolutely worthy goal) — it’s about loving my body despite the fact that I am currently afraid of it.

My new doctor (who is wonderful) joked that now that I’ve been through something like this, I will be calling her every time I have a runny nose. And it’s true that every twitch or twinge or discomfort has me worried that I am suddenly going to collapse and be taken back to the hospital or something worse. I am attempting to reframe those twitches and twinges as signs that my body is just trying to communicate with my brain to let me know how to adjust so I can be more physically in balance. So the current focus of my personal work is to attempt to consciously love parts of my body that I am afraid of.

Admittedly, it’s a little strange to say, “I love you, right leg.” But I am doing it. Saying it enough might even make it true. It’s even stranger to say, “I even love the blood clot you’re currently holding, because it reminds me that life is sacred and therefore needs to be lived fully.”

It’s a work in progress. What a gift to be alive to work on it.