We’re going through a bit of a rough patch right now. Don has been off antibiotics for a while now, which we thought would improve his digestion, but instead he’s lost even more weight. It’s very depressing, and he’s getting frustrated and short-tempered about it. Here’s the story we are now telling ourselves: He had so much edema when he came out of the hospital that he is just now getting rid of all that extra water and returning to his actual weight. There may actually be something to this since yesterday was the first time he has been able to wear his shoes in a month. His feet have been so swollen that he’s been wearing sandals. As for the weight problem, he’ll take all the meds they want to give him, but he doesn’t want to go back in the hospital, that’s for sure. But he can’t get any skinnier, either! I mean, his skeleton must weigh something.
This failure to gain depresses Don, which of course depresses me. Until he bulks up, he won’t be able to get the ileostomy reversed. He’s tried everything in the book to slow down his output, but thus far nothing has done a whole lot of good. We’ve both spent a lot of time on the internet researching the problem, and have found a forum for people with ileostomies. Apparently this is not an unheard-of problem, which in a perverse way is good to hear.
Don doesn’t really need to have someone with him at all times, but whenever I do go to the store or run errands I cajole him into going with me because I think outings are good for him. Sometimes we just drive around. He can’t stay out for too long, an hour or so, but he admits it helps. His routine is time-consuming, what with all the meals, etc., which makes it hard for me to find time to finish this damn book, which doesn’t help my psychology much, either.
Otherwise, it really isn’t as bad as I’m sure I make it sound. He feels good, much more energetic. He exercises and gets around much better. The wound is healing. The wound nurses come three times a week to change the sponges. His appetite is prodigious. And I have managed to make some progress on the book. I had a good idea for the climax, which cheers me considerably. As with any illness and recovery, you go through your ups and downs, and as my mother always said (and I do mean always), this too shall pass.
For many years now, I have been a student of Zen, which I love, because it’s very helpful at times like these. It’s also pretty funny, and anything that’s pretty funny is okay with me. Years ago, I went to my first meditation retreat with some trepidation, since I had heard that during sitting meditation, the sensei prowls around the room with a long stick and occasionally whacks the hell out of you when you least expect it. The point of this is to make you be totally in the present, and believe me, when you think you’re about to get smacked at any minute, you actually quiver with awareness. As it turned out, our sensei told us that he quit doing that because his students seemed to enjoy it too much. So I’ve never actually been assaulted while meditating.
I’m sure most of you Dear Readers have heard of koans, such as “what is the sound of one hand clapping,” those apparently senseless little sayings and stories that you can ponder on all day. Here is one of my favorites:
A Zen master was teaching his students when a cat wandered into the room. The master picked up a cleaver and said, “If any of you can tell me the true meaning of existence, I won’t kill this cat.” Not one student said anything, so the master whacked the cat, and his students ran out of the room, horrified. The next day, the master was relating the incident to another sensei. “I said, if any of you can tell me the true meaning of existence, I won’t kill this cat.” The second master sat there for a moment, then hung his shoes on his ears and danced out of the room. As he disappeared, the first master yelled after him, “If you’d been here yesterday, that cat would have lived!” (Please don’t get all het up, cat lovers. It didn’t really happen.)
Or how about this one : Two masters were debating which of their teaching methods was best when a disheveled drunk burst into the room, kicked the crap out of the first master, and ran out. “Who was that!” he cried. “That was one of my students,” said the second master. “You win,” said the first master.
Ah, I’m feeling better already.