Saturday, 28 February 2015

"Once More Into the Breach, Dear Friends......."

          Now it might seem that having written about my experience of surgery on my right eye that there would be nothing of consequence to say about surgery on my left eye. Essentially this is true, but what was very different was the feel of the day.
          It began much as on the previous occasion some six weeks ago. The usual palaver of disinfectant showers and eye drops was gone through, including the tremendously satisfying breakfast of one glass of water. Then off we drove to 'la polyclinique', arriving a little before 10am. The building is a rather low, spread out rather than sprawling affair, sitting in the middle of the French countryside. As its name suggests, it consists of a number of theatres used for various aspects of surgery, and their supporting administrative networks. Anyway, the usual paperwork was quickly dealt with, and having found the correct waiting room without any trouble, we were ushered into a private preparation room. Strictly speaking this was not a private room at all, but one designed for three patients at a time. However, on this occasion, we had the room to ourselves, other patients being shunted into their own communal room.
          Once again I changed into theatre garb, was a little disconcerted by the apparent fragility of the knickers stitching, then helped up onto a waiting trolley as I prepared to meet my fate. Well one has

to have a little drama! Having been through the process once already, I had no concerns whatever about the imminent surgery. Yet as the orderly wheeled me away, I whispered to a smiling Lucy, "I feel nervous." (This experience of nerves, for which I had no conscious reason, was later confirmed when I discovered that my blood pressure was higher than it was when the whole business was finished.) As I travelled deep into the interior of the establishment, I noticed that everything was much lighter than before, as well as being far less crowded. Even the operating theatre itself was lit by natural light from a wall-length set of windows. It was this heightened sense of reality that was so different from before. But I am getting ahead of myself.
          I was determined to check my time-wise progress through the day's events and noted that I had left the preparation area at about 10.30am, the same time as on my previous visit. I arrived at the pre-op waiting area where I waited for five minutes before being wheeled into the theatre. Now this is where things began to go a little weird. The process of being swabbed, disinfected, and hooked up to the Borg Collective (see previous post) took about fifteen minutes. During this period, I and the theatre nurse indulged in a little faltering French and pidgin English discourse. Nothing too profound, you understand, just odd remarks about being, "nice and clean; nice and clean." "Oui!" said I. Well what else could I say? I couldn't actually see the results of her ministrations.
          When all was ready, the masked surgeon approached, peered down into my right eye (the one which had already been 'fixed'). I looked up at him in what I suppose might be called a rather alarmed fashion. In response, his eyes crinkled into a grin as he tapped the cheek under my left eye. I guess that is what passes for surgical humour! Get the patient worried, and it's a fun experience all round for the staff. I didn't find it laughingly funny at the time I can assure you, my sympathising readers. You are sympathising aren't you?
          Once again, the surgeon (he is actually a lovely guy) placed the blue cover over my face, as the machine automatically took my blood pressure - I think. Well one just cannot be certain of anything really. Okay, back to the blue cover. Was the correct window going to open? Was he going to forget and open the right-hand window? This and so many thoughts flooded through my brain. Then I heard a little scratching sound, and the shadow of two curved prongs above the covered left eye. "Steady on sunshine," I thought, "you can poke someone's eye out with those." Well, fortunately, that didn't happen, and the operation began in earnest.
          It seemed to take an inordinately long time to do the business, with copious amounts of cool liquid sloshed in at intervals. One had visions, not literally of course, of boiling humours of the vitreous and aqueous variety, caused by heated lasers being frantically calmed down. Finally came the welcome 'patching and strapping' that heralded the imminent departure from the theatre.
          "  'Alf an 'our you stay 'ere," said the post-op nurse, also solicitously enquiring whether I was in pain. That was a question repeated by other staff from time to time. What was wrong? Was something evident that I was not sharing in? Was I missing out somewhere? But then, sure enough, after 'alf an 'our, I was returned to my private changing room. So what had happened to the passage of time? Had I passed through a time warp? Adding up all my estimates of time passing (based largely on data collected from clocks which I could now see), there was time unaccounted for. Not only had I spent longer in the theatre than before, but also left the clinic an hour earlier than expected. But yet again I am getting ahead of myself.

I arrived back in my private room where, after some delay, my blood pressure was taken again, and I was allowed to get dressed. Somewhere on the way back from surgery I lost my theatre cap. No, you wouldn't have liked it. After another half an hour I was allowed some much needed refreshment. Lord, was I hungry?

          When all was nearly completed, along came another nurse to remove that pointed thing stuck in my wrist. Now I am sorry if the next bit of the proceedings doesn't elicit the mirth that followed the removal of metres of strapping the first time round, but as you can see this time the attaching tape had been applied with a delicacy not experienced heretofore. It was removed with only a sharply indrawn hiss of breath, and I was free. Free!

Update:          I saw the surgeon two days later, and he seemed satisfied with his work. Lucy, on my behalf, did point out that my right still seemed to be 'foggy' from time to time. In the surgeon's opinion, this was because I am English and it's always foggy in England. It just goes to show that you can't keep a good comic down.
          My left eye is recovering more quickly than had my right eye, probably because I am not taking anti-inflammatory eye drops to which I have an allergy. I have dug out an old pair of 'distance' glasses which allows me to read for reasonable periods. Unfortunately, that boon does not extend so readily to the laptop screen. But I have no complaints. All is going well, or was going well until I slipped on our wooden staircase and broke my fourth toe, earlier today. It looked 'orrible until we strapped it to its neighbour, and decently covered it up. So once again I have the chance to say,

"Oh the pain! Oh the agony! But without any loss of fur....only my dignity and mobility.

Oh yes! I forgot! I took the car out for a drive yesterday. That was great!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

A Visit to the Theatre

  The time is fast approaching (Feb. 23rd.) when I must submit myself to the tender mercies of my eye surgeon, who will go to work on my left eye. This will mean that although a very large measure of distance sight will be restored to me, both eyes will require spectacles for reading and writing, and of a very different strength from those I currently use. Thus it may be that I will be unable to communicate with you through Gwynt until my eyes settle down, and I obtain new glasses. This forthcoming experience brings to mind, quite vividly, my previous journey to the eye clinic. It happened like this.

  Having showered, both the evening previously as well as on the morning of the operation, with some cleansing liquid designed to kill off everything except the human recipient of this non-lathering fluid, I received a series of drops of various function from my resident nurse, Lucy. Now apparently, this showering medium was necessary because this part of France is big in pig production, and there was a subsequent risk of taking something rather offensive into the operating theatre. No, not a dirty, squealing pig tucked under one arm, but a bug that said porcine entity might carry. The final set of eye drops was designed to dilate the pupil of my right eye, thus rendering the world with an even further blurred view than has become usual.
  On arrival at 'la polyclinique' at around 10.00 am, and my having had no breakfast except a glass of water, we quickly went through the paper formalities which included, of course, the identification of the next of kin.....just in case! How that brief ceremony does fill one with confidence. We were then conducted to a room where I was asked to remove all my clothing and dress up in a rather fancy set of theatre gear. Now on my only previous visit to a French hospital, I had been gowned in one of those back-to-front items which leaves everything rearwards on view to everyone except the wearer. A mite breezy perhaps, but nothing too draughty. On this occasion the dress was slightly different.
There was again the back-to-front item, but made in a semi-transparent material, in a delicate shade of pale blue, rather than shroud-like, white cotton. I have to say it was most becoming. In addition, I had to don a normal front-to-back version of the same material, thus giving me all-round protection from any passing 'courant d'air' (embarrassing updraft). But that wasn't all. To my eternal satisfaction, if not joy, I was required to wear a rather saucy pair of knickers, made from the same semi-transparent (see through), blue material which kept all my vitals from going a-wandering, peeping out, and embarrassing me, if not the other patients and nurses. Well, I'm a sensitive soul. Finally, I donned some transparent footwear which I can only describe as having a palindromic form. Thus I felt equally ridiculous whichever way round the "shoes" (I can hardly bring myself to grace the objects with such a word) were placed on my feet. Having thus geared myself up for the coming fray, I was sort of placed/shovelled onto a freshly-cleaned and disinfected trolley, and wheeled off into the goodness-knows-where to await my fate.
          At various times, in the dim waiting area, a nurse would come by and either give me a quick scrub with disinfectant or plop a load of drops in my eye, the final one being a local anaesthetic. At one stage, the surgeon came out of the theatre and peered into my eye, grunted in that satisfied way, as when one sits down to the prospect of enjoying a delicious meal.  Moments later I was transferred to a theatre trolley and wheeled into 'the place', the theatre of operations, where I underwent various indignities. First of all, a theatre nurse stripped away my clothing from my left shoulder, stuck little patches all over my chest, presumably because plain old me needed to have my decor spruced up a bit. Well they seemed to serve no other purpose, except to provide amusement when they were pulled off again. She then stuck something needle-like in my left wrist, strapped it up with metres of sticky tape, and connected me to a nearby machine. It was like being assimilated by the Borg.
  Then I had a hood of some description thrust over my face. Thankfully, I am a trusting sort of person, and did not take this treatment as an attack on my being. Just when I thought that, for all my trust, suffocation might be on the cards, I heard a slight tearing sound and a squarish orifice opened in the hood over my eye. Yet more anaesthetic, presumably, to supplement the relaxing fluid passing inwards via the wrist needle, and the periodic, automatic blood pressure measurements.
  From that moment onwards I was entertained by a wondrous experience of psychodelia, interspersed with darkened images of potential, sharpened implements of evil. But what the hell? All I had to do was try to look straight ahead, so that the surgeon didn't need to chase my eye around its orbit. Finally, there was a quick padding up and plaster job, the offering of my thanks to the surgeon - the next of kin form then being redundant - and it was all over. I was wheeled away, transferred from the theatre trolley to another trolley by the simple expedient of having the sheet under me grabbed and deftly tugged, and parked in a waiting hall.
  Now I thought that the best way to conduct myself was to give all the appearance that I was 'compos mentis', and ready to be released immediately. Some hopes! From time to time I was pushed flat and told to wait. Clearly, release was not imminent. Not only that, it was clear that there were other post-surgery individuals there who had been subjected to other, and indescribable procedures. I did notice a strange and nasty smell emanating from a trolley not too distant from me, and a nurse lifting the bottom end of the aluminium-style covering on one patient. Had someone managed to smuggle in a pig after all? No. Even pigs don't smell that badly. It was time to go, fortunately.
  I was wheeled back to a waiting room, where I was assisted from my trolley onto a chair, whilst attempting to keep my legs together. Well there were females in the room. Well you never know, and I was feeling vulnerable. After a few moments, after everyone else had been taken away, Lucy appeared. Oh joy, and the possibility of food and drink! Well it was approaching 3 of-the-clock in the afternoon! But no! After being relieved of my saucy theatre gear, I dressed and indulged in the free refreshment being provided! There was coffee, wonderful, and fruit juice; there was cake (Madeleine) and muffin; finally there was apple compote. The last-mentioned item wasn't too bad, but I can never help slipping a letter 's' into the word thus reducing it to a garden product, useful but inedible.
  Then came the part I had dreaded. The final visit by a nurse awaited me, to remove the endless amount of very sticky tape from my wrist.

"....'Ow do you Ingleesh say eet? Oooh!  Ouch! Oui?...." Too b-----y right, ouch! Oh the pain! Oh the agony! Oh the loss of fur!

It was all over, at last. In a state of pleasant dozy joyousness, I was driven home, knowing that not far into the future, six weeks in fact, more of the same awaited me.

  Well the six weeks is now almost over, and I cannot say I am looking forward to the next phase. The surgery's no problem (I hope) now that I know what to expect. It will be the post-surgery period of being unable to read or write, a period of almost unbearable penance, that will be such a trial. But maybe it won't be too long to wait; I'll just have to wait and see!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

What Is the Question?

..........I remember that whilst doing a pathworking some years ago, I found myself walking along a gravel path - in my imagination. To my left was a high, red brick wall with trees growing on the other side, with their branches overhanging the wall and the path. Along the base of the wall all sorts of grasses and weeds were growing freely yet without any apparent need to overwhelm their companion species. The trees made a welcome shade from the hot sunshine. As I walked, it happened that I came across an old door set somewhat skewed by age in the wall, and so well set after many years of existence that I almost missed it. The wood from which the door was constructed was old but sturdy and darkened by some process I could not determine. I reached out to touch the rusty-looking handle, noticing as I did so that the great hinges were also covered with a layer of rust. I gripped the handle, which miraculously turned easily, and pushed gently on the door. The door swung open gently without a trace of resistance, or the expected squeak of protesting metal. I slipped through the open doorway, into an exquisite garden. I closed the door behind me, knowing I would never need to leave that way again..........

          It was suggested very recently by Natalie that rather than 'going to my room' I should perhaps go out into the garden. Her comment did not immediately rouse the memory from its slumbers, but a gently nudge towards awakening had been felt below the surface of my consciousness. Today, during my meditation, the memory of a secret, inner garden visited so long ago, and sadly forgotten for too long, emerged into the light of consciousness. I will not describe that garden in detail, for it is a very personal place for me, except to say that the garden is kept by an old Gardener whom I have had the joy of communicating once in a while. We do not talk, we simply communicate.
          The garden is more than a place in which to relax and let go of the thoughts, sometimes troubling, that seem to be my ever present companions. And already I seem to have reclaimed the garden, complete with its many usages. It is a secret place where I search for questions. Now it may appear strange to be seeking questions rather than taking time out to seek answers that, in the end, are not of any great moment. There are so many questions that one asks, and can ask, yet the really important questions always seem to hide just beyond the corner of one's eyes.
          Of late, my journey has obliged me to come close to glimpses of christianity. And that has served its purpose. Yet it seems to me that all religions and spiritual philosophies are, by their specialist natures, too narrow and restrictive. Neither can it be said that I have been completely comfortable with the recent approach which I have felt necessary to adopt. However, there have been gains for which I am grateful. But now there are changes in the air, and I have little idea what those changes are about. I feel that the realm of psycho-spirituality is one which is too large for anyone to fully grasp or even imagine. As for me, I will continue to try to work out the tiny part that is my privilege to experience.
          I need to let go, not merely to play at letting go in the hope of salving my ego. There is a whole new area of experience waiting to be explored, using those gifts of imagination that have served me well in the past, and are chafing to be set free again. To make use of the words of Shakespeare's, "Richard II", 'pray God I may make haste but (not) come too late.' Oh what I wouldn't give for a measure of patience. What wouldn't I give to know the right questions.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Things, They Are A-Changing

          It still surprises me how childhood experiences still have the power to affect the way I think and feel in my more mature years. Perhaps I should begin at the beginning and briefly recall those early years, but without any trace of judgementalism, for I am not seeking to regenerate old feelings now dealt with. There were a number of times when I was sent to my bedroom to, "stay there until I (i.e. my father) say otherwise." Such periods on my own would last, typically, two to three hours. As a punishment, those periods of enforced physical inactivity fell far short of their intended goal, because I quickly discovered that such times on my own could be fruitfully spent on internal pursuits. I would spend the time daydreaming, thinking and eventually engaging in that dearest of inner activities that I later realised was called meditation.
          The recent couple of weeks have been increasingly difficult for me. My exercise in personal stock-taking has taken more out of me than I thought it would. The result has been a need to step back awhile and regenerate something inside me. Also, I have found myself in need of some stimulation, which now appears to be on its way. What has this to do with my childhood, you might ask? Simply this.
          It feels, after the committed thought and writing of these past few weeks, as if once more I have been sent to my room as a form of deprivation rather than punishment. As I have said before, neither one's Higher Self nor God rewards or punishes; there are only consequences to our actions. Yet, nevertheless, there has still been the same sense of being cut off from the world. But gradually I have perceived that there has always been a solution at hand. That solution has been to begin meditating on subjects which I had not, until now, considered. And those meditations are already beginning to bear fruit.
          In addition to this spiritual lassitude has been an increasing worry about my right eye, the one on which surgery was performed a month since. I have to say that Lucy has been imagining things that even my fertile imagination had not considered. The problem has been a gradual but persistent decrease in focussing power, as well as swelling in the fleshy parts around the eye and pain around the orbit. I find that more and more I am needing to wear sunglasses to afford me some relief.
          Yesterday, I had an appointment at the clinic, with my eye surgeon. He had barely taken a look at my eye when he said, "Ah! Allergie!" For two weeks following the operation I had regularly taken, three times-a-day, my antibiotic eye drops without any problems. At the same time, and continuing for a further two weeks until yesterday (that's for four weeks for those having trouble with the arithmetic) I have been taking, three times-a-day, a set of drops to relieve me of any eye irritation. I guess you know what's coming next. I am allergic to those drops. The effect of taking the anti-irritant drops has not only been to induce the symptoms described above, but also to increase an inner sense of disorienting alienation.
          But not to worry! The treatment has been halted, and an optometry test has shown my eye to be functionally much improved. And if I may borrow a line from Shakespeare's "Richard II", "Thomas is himself again," or nearly so. My period of inner quiet will continue awhile yet, but 'things, they are a-changing.'

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Towards Atonement and Resolution

          The deeper I move into this stock-taking exercise the more difficult it becomes and, I have to say, the more self-conscious I am becoming. Yet as I continue to probe the possibility that my experiences of life may fit into the psycho-spiritual format of the life of the Christ as lived through the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the more I see significant points of agreement. What this means, or so it seems to me, is that the Christ path, rather than the historical Jesus path, is one which is open to everyone under some guise or other. An adherence to any particular religion or spiritual philosophy is not a requirement.
          Now it seems to me that in every beginning there are the remnants of a previous ending, even if those remnants have slipped below the consciousness threshold. Similarly, in every ending there are the, as yet, unrealised seeds of a new beginning. The various steps I have taken have thus become perhaps inevitable once the first step was taken. To an observer on the outside, it might seem that I have taken discrete steps which can be related to the various initiatory experiences of the Christological format. In reality it has seemed that one experience has flowed smoothly into the next, with the ever-present possibility of a revisiting of earlier steps in something resembling a cyclical mode of being.
          Of course my inner journey has had parallels with my outer journey through my physical life. That must necessarily be so because this whole life experience is one which reflects the ongoing relationship between my lower self or ego, and my Higher Self. From the time of my first, genuine spiritual awakening through the experience of inner baptism and on to the aloneness (or should that really be loneliness?) of the battle not to return to a life lived under the dominion of my ego, a change has taken place in that inner relationship. The recognition of an inner initiation has been always to see that a process has been under way, that a level of achievement has been reached, before that recognition was possible. My journey has direction, which tallies significantly with that of "Jesus the Christ", but also has depth and duration which probably fall far short of my chosen exemplar.
          The next stage of this process is that called, "The Transfiguration." And here lies the source of my difficulty. With all the previous stages of experience I have been looking back and have seen relative completions. Now, I cannot see any sense of completion, or even a sense of a beginning. Perhaps there are the remnants of my ongoing battle with my persistent ego, and that being the case, I can now see where I am on my journey, somewhere between the "Temptations" and the "Transfiguration" stages. That knowledge is valuable because it shows me which psycho-spiritual wheels I no longer need re-invent. Until now a lack of that knowledge has caused me more than a little indecision and confusion.
          So how has this relationship between my ego and my Higher Self developed? In the beginning came a realisation that I had an ego, something I could not see because I was always too closely identified with it. That identification was often betrayed by the use of language which said, "I am.....angry, happy, miserable...." or whatever, rather than "I am feeling.....anger, happiness, misery...." The usage may be subtly different, but the differences are telling. The simple truth is, in my experience, that I am most certainly not my feelings, my thoughts or my body senses, but something beyond my ego. Willingly would I give up any associations with my ego, if that were possible. Following that recognition, and washing away the denial that had accompanied the earlier identification with my ego and its control, came the inevitable questions about what I should do with this arrogant tempter. As I could not be rid of it, perhaps it could achieve atonement (or at-one-ment) with my Higher Self.
          How poor is the symbolism of the written and spoken language when attempting to express these inner experiences. I cannot describe the lostness that I feel, which nevertheless seems to have a sense of direction. Or is that merely anticlimax? I cannot describe this sense of in-between-ness that is push-pulling me to I-am-not-sure-where-ness. Perhaps this means that my stock-taking exercise is complete....for now.
          Is there anything else that I can now do to further the process of becoming, a process that is the way of being of my life? Frankly, I do not know. I do know that I must continue with these writings, for whatever reasons that I cannot clearly understand. Yet every now and then, there comes a small intimation, a brief glimpse of something beyond, a light upon the mountain. And therein lies the hope of a final resolution to a life of seeking.