Swirling

I’ll have to say, the last few years have been a bit wild. I started out 2017 with retina surgery, a bizarre procedure, that led to cataract surgery. My mom, who was living with us, got sick. Real sick, and we had the unfortunate opportunity to ride along with her as she declined and finally left this world. Just after I did Mom’s funeral, I discovered that my aortic valve had headed south, and needed immediate replacement. A scary adventure that ended well and then things calmed down just a little. But just, as last summer I contracted the virus from Hell that nearly killed me and did end my working life. And now here we are in Coronavirus land, a near-dystopian adventure of weirdness.

If anybody needs therapy, it would be me.

Fortunately I have the good sense to seek help when I know I need it, and, bucking a lifetime of scoffing the subject (I was always of the suck-it-up-and-get-over-it school of thought) I have found that help with a good therapist who is also a good man, and a good neurologist who is also a good woman. It is worth differentiating the two.

The neurologist deals with the physiology of the problem, what happened to the brain, what is happening, what can be done about it. Mostly, that is, but my neurologist also has the good sense to know that all kinds of stuff is going on up there that cannot be quantified, which makes her a good neurologist. And she has empathy, which makes her a good woman. She has been guiding me through the recovery process as my brain finds a way to make everything work again.

The therapist, in my case a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (who also happens to have a doctorate in Theology) deals with the psychology of the problem, the more ethereal aspects that are much harder to measure. And, like my neurologist, he knows what can be measured and what cannot, which makes him a good therapist. And he has humanity, which makes him a good man.

I find myself, late in life, in the need and care of these two specialists. Because my brain is messed up physically, from the virus, and my mind is messed up too, from life.

Here in the Age of Corona most appointments are done by video chat – there is finally some real and practical use for the internet! My last appointment with my neurologist was excellent, because all the time belongs to me, not staff and nurses and assistants. Just us, talking. And I gained a better understanding of why I feel the way I do, why I tire so easily, why I get frustrated, why I have anxiety, as my brain tries to make my life and thoughts and actions work using fewer resources than were available before August 19th, 2019. It was a thoroughly useful and therapeutic appointment and I was able to immediately apply the knowledge gained.

Right after that I had a video appointment with my therapist. It’s always a good conversation, nothing clinical or medical about it, and usually ends up in a profound place. He is a friendly guy, lots of fun, but I know there is method to his madness, and he knows I don’t buy into much mystical gobbledygook. Different things work for different people. But in the midst of our conversation, without provocation, he said “Let’s take a minute, close our eyes, and let your mind listen to your body, to see what it needs.” That is close to mystical gobbledygook, but I’m game, at least once. So that is what we did, a pause, eyes closed in silent meditation, breathing slowly, and him too (I peeked).

And out of that came this, my point in this whole essay.

I saw a swirl, actually felt it, at first likening it to looking at a hurricane from space. But hurricanes are not good things, full of fury and destruction, wreaking havoc and misery upon anyone or anything in their paths. No, this was not that kind of swirl, this was peaceful, serene, fascinating and wondrous. Before it gets too weird, a story will help.

My lovely wife Diana has always managed to pull off surprise birthday gifts that are as astute as they are grand. A few years back she arranged for the delivery of a telescope to our house on my birthday, mostly because she heard me talking wistfully about space and how cool it would be to search it out. This was no little ‘scope – she had decided to go big or go home. The 16” Dobsonian reflector is not a toy, but a light bucket, able to soak up light from deep space. A grand introduction to space indeed, standing as tall as me and needing wheels to move it. To make a long story of adventure and wonder and delight much shorter, one night I found a spiral galaxy. We have all seen them in books, but here I was in my back yard, alone in the universe, seeing the majesty of ancient creation, a cosmic display of swirling planets and rocks and dust and vapor. I was mesmerized, and, strangely, at peace. Seeing God’s wonders firsthand will do that to you. There is much that is bigger than us out there, and it is wondrous. And brings peace to the soul.

That is the swirl I saw as I sat, in front of the computer screen, breathing and letting my body tell my mind what it needed. It did not need a hurricane of activity and frenzy, it needed peace. I needed to find that place of peace. I needed to calm down and let time do its work. From the eyepiece of my portal to space, and now in my mind’s eye, I had discovered the secret to healing and happiness. Enjoy the gentle and cosmic swirl, be still, be at peace.

If you learn something and do not put it into practice you will lose it. So, having discovered that this particular bit of mystical gobbledygook worked for me, I have applied it daily. I close my eyes, let the swirl in my brain be a good thing, enjoy the peace.

I have had the best week mentally since leaving the hospital on October 2nd. I know there are challenges still ahead, obstacles to overcome, healing to take place. But I know that in the vastness of the universe is a place I can swirl, a place to find peace. And rather than think that my therapist and I invented a new therapy, I am reminded of this, which I will leave with you:

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

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