ordinary epiphany

POSTCARD#353: Bangkok: The arrival was in a cramped poky little ambulance – even here, the ignominy of it, everything is always too small for me. This could be my final hours and I’m preoccupied with the claustrophobic environment. Despite these difficulties, I’m aware the nurse is trying to comfort me in my condition; a wild compulsive shuddering, quivering and twitching of an out-of-control body. In fact there was no pain, breathing was unrestricted and it looked worse than it was.

Anyway it was all lights flashing, and the multi-sound-signal siren going full blast when we arrived at the hospital. I got unloaded on a gurney, and next thing I’m in a pool of bright light and they’re searching for a vein, difficult as it is with my tiny little veins but prolonged due to this out-of-control body twitching and shaking. I tell the doc sometimes I can control it in my mind. She asks me to hold it in place for a moment. I can do it… then the full choreography of twitching takes over. Sometime around here, they must have gotten the vein and thus I was zonked out of the picture.

I wake up, and the twitching has gone. I’m in bed wearing green hospital backwards facing night-wear and the world seems very far away – except for the presence of the catheter in the urinary tract and two large bags of fluid dripping into my veins every few seconds. It tells me I’m trapped in this hospital room for the time-being, and I have to come to terms with that.

There’s somebody in the room talking to me but I can’t understand what she’s saying, or see her face clearly – it’s all mumbles in a kind of darkness. I attempt to get out of bed but this elicits mild admonishments, and restraints .

For the next four days I discover a new resolve, unknown to me in any other context. From time to time I’m overwhelmed in a kind of holy light – my born-again Christian cousin in Scotland would be delighted – but for me the Holy Father of the West is not relevant after more than thirty years in the East. It can’t be spoken, ‘it’ is not an ‘it’. Saying ‘it’ is an ineffable presence overstates it even.

It was following this way of thinking that enabled my recovery, bit by bit. The problem had been my low sodium level and the pain-meds for my headache got thrown in the mix. That was Lyrica and now, no longer part of my menu – I’m searching for the way out of my pain, always. Maybe I can manage with a few extra 300s of Neurontin. It’s a case of try it and see and that concept of existential monitoring applies in my case in all kinds of ways.

“Thirty spokes share the hub of a wheel;
yet it is its center that makes it useful.

You can mould clay into a vessel;
yet, it is its emptiness that makes it useful.

Cut doors and windows from the walls of a house;
but the ultimate use of the house
will depend on that part where nothing exists.

Therefore, something is shaped into what is;
but its usefulness comes from what is not.”

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – chapter 11


23 thoughts on “ordinary epiphany

    • Dear Miriam, so good so good to be reminded you are there (or here) and everything we discussed – one way or another – about that Holy Light comes back to me now. Thanks for returning to my memory files, I feel cradled and blessed

  1. This journey of “adventures” with pain has certainly been a great teacher for you, but not one I’d wish for anyone. Like Miriam, I admire your courage and honesty, and also your practice.

    Much Metta to you,

    • Thanks Khemiyā, there is a kind of madness about it all, thus the “adventures”. But there are people with much larger bouts of pain than me to have to cope with. So I don’t know how that is. One thing common to us all is, against a backdrop of constant pain, we are all equipped with pain killers for absolutely everything and it’s often the case of having the wisdom not to abuse the drug we are ingesting into the body. They are different chemicals that have side effects maybe you think you can tolerate. It all sorts itself out as the years go by, and if you are otherwise healthy then you must be on the right track.

    • Here’s a version of the Four Noble Truths I put together.
      1. Dukkha, facing up to a basic truth in the world; it isn’t all happiness and joy, there is suffering. Dukkha is incapable of satisfying, painful. Dukkha is an innate characteristic of existence with each rebirth;
      2. Samyudaya (origin, cause) of this dukkha is the craving, desire or attachment; suffering is caused by the desire to have things be different than what they are.
      3. Nirodha is the cessation. There is a way out, the ending of this dukkha can be attained by eliminating all craving, desire, and attachment
      4. Magga, the path leading to the absolute ending of Dukkha, can be found by studying the Noble Eightfold Path.
      The turning point for me 3. Nirodha. Is completely inspirational, wonderful to know there is that way out and suddenly, knowing this, brings it into a reality. I could write so much about this experience but I haven’t found the time yet.

  2. Dear Tiramit: I’ve noticed so many times how much your path parallels mine, especially the inner turmoil and battle caused by excruciating headaches. My own battle went for about three years, worsening to the point of thinking at times about self-destruction. None of the meds worked, and meditation is the only reason I survived. But the ninth physician (I repeat, the 9th doctor that I saw) discovered something I’d never heard of: a carotid cavernous fistula, which is a knot of swollen blood vessels behind my right eye–pressing back upon the front of my brain. I was lucky to find that doctor and even luckier to be referred to the University of Virginia Hospital where a team of neurosurgeons went in and fixed the problem. Voila! I’m a new man. I wish you could find that certain doctor who will unravel the puzzle.

    • Eduardo, I’m amazed you have the endurance to see 9 physicians – getting a second opinion is nothing compared with getting a ninth opinion. What I recognize is that we have to be prepared for the fact that conditions are likely to change, nothing is permanent. Fortunately for you (and you could use other words) conditions did not change during that period… and the source of the problem was revealed.
      My own research means asking everybody questions and studying the subject so that I can see for myself. Thanks for your inspiration and the endurance to find “that certain doctor who will unravel the puzzle”.

  3. Oh, dear Tiramit, I am so very sorry. Hate hospitals so much, I feel for you stuck in one. Dr. told me to go to the ER the other day. I refused and got scolded but good. Things seem ok. We’ll see. I really feel for you. Sometimes a medication can make sodium levels low. I do hope all is sorted out and you can go home soon. Wish there were an easier way. Wish you home and safe and sound in your own bed. XXOOellen

    • Good to hear from you Ellen, I have to say the Thai approach to care is so heart-felt it’s almost like a national characteristic. This quality is seen all through institutions, doctors, nurses. So we’re talking about something different here. I reach out and empathize with your thoughts when you say you “hate hospitals so much.” I stayed 4 days and got out and back into our normal reality a changed person. Mostly the motivation to be alive and healthy enough at 72 to be clear in mind and body.
      Difficult for you not to feel negative where you are and having to switch off because of the unbearable monologue of CNN and others.
      Sorry I stopped our communications, I’d like it if we could return to how it was at the beginning.

      • Definitely! I don’t look at or write blogs anymore but just happened to see yours. I would love to go back to our emails. Can’t write now. Have a Hindi lesson in an hour which I haven’t studied for and need to unkink back. Will write later. Interested to hear how you are a changed man.

    • Good to hear from you again and be quietly aware of your presence, feel your joy and know you are listening. One thing I notice of course, is the closing salutation in every message. So let me return it to you:
      Seek peace Paz.

  4. Sorry to read of your trial in Hosper tiramit, glad they could sort you out and now to discover a new way to reduce the pain.

    Maybe it’s an idea to be grateful for this opportunity so you can change how you respond to the challenge! AND focus on a pain free future enjoying being the wise elder you are in the midst of nature❤️ much love and peace… in all ways, Barbara x

    • Thanks Barbara and apologies for this late reply. I think it was the fourth visit to hospital in the recent past and now having had some time to see everything with fresh eyes, probably the most significant for me.
      The headaches are unpredictable, at the time of writing I’m on an island of no pain, gratitude.

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