Flu / Not-the-flu

Image from ramdass.org.

I’ve got the flu. It was very bad Tuesday night and all of Wednesday. 
When you’ve got flu-like symptoms no one wants to see you. The cancer center didn’t want me to come in at all even though this is the lowest I’ve felt since my fainting / fever spell in December. I considered going to the emergency room. 
I went to urgent care and strange enough, I tested negative for flu. The doctor immediately starting talking about false negatives. The paperwork I left with still says I have the flu. I know what you’re thinking– don’t think that. It’s not. Is it some universal joke that after I survive the big C-word that now’s there’s another c-word that’s scaring everyone? Another c-word. Great.

The good news is that I feeling better. I’m about at 80%. I’ve got this strange ear inflection along with the flu. It’s got my right ear blocked up like I have an ear-plug in or like I have water in my ear from a swimming pool. And there’s a ringing in that ear too. It’s very annoying. I want it to clear up and to be able to fully hear out of that ear again. It’s been tough on the family. Paige has had to take up multiple roles and I know it’s exhausting. My stream of apologies don’t help so I try to express gratitude instead. But gratitude doesn’t buy you sleep.

Seeing new doctors is always a mental hassle. I thrive off of connections, so when I have to go some place new (like urgent care) and they read my records, they walk in and say the same thing, “Whoa, looks like you’ve had quite a year, huh?” This has happened multiple times. Yes, it’s been “quite a year” as you say. Let’s spend 3 hours talking about it in depth or not talk about it all all. I’d like to say that. Instead, it’s just a obligatory, “Yep.” Sometimes I’d like to force a connection but you can’t. I think it’s a form of the depression / anxiety, the urge to reach out and connect. It’s like wifi– you’re not gonna get your streaming video to work with the half-bar connection coming out of this doctor. The flu, the depression, the feeling of being adrift– I need to go behind the generator for while (and not come out until the flu is gone).

I have received a lot of people reaching out with support after my post regarding depression and anxiety. Thank you. My parents reacted as if someone had ransacked our home. In a way it’s comforting to see a sharp reaction to mental health issues. They are not to be taken lightly. I’m going through some books on the topic: Lost Connections (more on that later), Undoing Depression. I have an appointment set with my therapist next week. And, oddly, a lot of stuff is pointing me to gardening. I’m a bit baffled by this new rabbit hole. Right now I’m just in an information-gathering stage. This article has got me watching Big Dreams, Small Spaces in bits and pieces. It’s humorous that, true to the article, there is no big reveal. It’s gardening. There are only good starts. I’ve started watching SCETV’s (our local PBS affiliate) Making It Grow. A show I once ridiculed. But now I’m thinking about nature a little differently. Maybe its the beginning of a new connection.
Also, because of my right-ear issues and sometimes because of children reluctant to sleep, I’ve started watching a lot of TV with close-captioning. It’s great. I recommend it. It’s very effective with shows that feature accents.

I usually open with a book, a lecture, or something illuminating but today I’m going to close with that something that’s hopefully illuminating. Today I watched Ram Dass, Going Home on netflix. It’s short, like a poem. 30 minutes. It’s not a biography as much as a sort of retrospective. Even though the documentary was shot in 2017 and he left his body this past December, the film shows how he really lived his last days. There are glimpses into the past, glimpses into his heydays, and then the present-day shots are after his stroke and adaption to his new life. This really resonance with the survivor part of me. He discusses his stroke and how it forced him to be dependent– in our culture where “dependency is a no-no.” He says the stroke have him grace. 

These themes. They echo in eternity, don’t they?
I thought about writing down some quotes from the movie but I wanted to write down nearly every other line. Aw, heck, here’s one anyway:”We are all just walking each other home.” 

Lastly, this passage is from Ram Dass on self-judgement. I remembered it this week during some of my worst fevers. This paints my survivorship, my depression, my past in a different light. See people as trees.

“I think that part of it is observing oneself more impersonally. I often use this image, which I think I have used already, but let me say it again.  That when you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are. And, there was a period of time where I used to have a picture of myself on my puja table. Later I had Caspar Weinberger, but earlier on I had me. And people would come and say “My God, what an ego this guy has got. He has got his own picture on his puja table.”  But really, what it was, was a chance for me to practice opening my heart to myself.  And to appreciate the predicament I am in. I mean I could see the whole incarnation.  If I am quiet enough, I can see his story line. I mean history is his story. Or herstory. And herstory is just the story line of our predicament. And it’s finding a place from in yourself where you see the unfolding of law.  Dad did this; Mother did this; economics did this; education did this; opportunity did this; drugs did this; Maharajji did this.

All of this cause and effect, previous incarnations. All of this is just an unfolding of a story line. A drama. The Ram Dass story. There he is. How will it come out? How did it come out? And you are just sort of watching this story unfold. It has nothing to do with me. Because I’m not that. That’s just a set of phenomena happening. And when you look at yourself as a set of phenomena, what is to judge? I mean is that flower less than that?  It’s just different than that.  And you begin to appreciate your uniqueness without it being better or worse. It’s just different. And cultivating an appreciation of uniqueness, rather than preference, is a very good one. It’s just when you get inside identification with your personality that you get into the judging mode, because then you are part of that lawful unfolding. You are not stepping outside of it at all. The witness or the spacious awareness is outside of it.  It is another contextual framework.

As you are more quiet inside so that you notice and you can see your own thoughts a little more clearly, you will see your father’s voice and your mother’s voice and all your education principles’ voices inside your head constantly saying things to you. And you will see that — what Freud calls the Superego. You will see that that judge is inside.  And you keep giving it power by identifying with it. And you feel yourself at war with yourself. That there is a part of you that is doing it, and there is a part of you that is judging what you are doing. And as you are quieter, you see the dynamics between the Superego, the Id, the ego. And you see it all as just phenomena. Because they are phenomena. As a psychologist, I can study those phenomena in another person; why not study it in myself? And part of what drugs did for me, and then meditation did for me, and all the spiritual things is it helps me stand back and get outside of it. To see it for what it is. As just stuff — phenomena.” 

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