The Gift of Vulnerability (an excerpt)

fearIt is Wednesday, it is 1am, it is a time a generally sleep through.  It is a time that instills no fear.  Except tonight.  I pick at my skin, I scratch pre-blood sting.  I fall into night visions of half memories, of being subjected to harsh treatment, held down, screaming out under bright lights and cannot identify – is this me or the ancestral fear of surgery…of death.  Are the bright lights approaching angels, me approaching them…or they me?  Are the stories of my life real or perceptions someone else has told me about how they thought, I was?  Is this what anxiety feels like?

Generalized anxiety, panic.  The quiet family disorder everyone has been afraid everyone else will get and then somehow if someone else doesn’t have….everyone feels anxious about.  That cycle.  I pick my skin.  I remember this.

It is Thursday.  I pick my skin.  I read about how healthy levels of anxiety prepare a system for upcoming danger.  Like battle…or surgery (next Tuesday at noon).  I leave my house with the agenda of vacuuming anything.

It is Thursday, it is 1 am.  I organize my words around last wishes.  When and if I die here are all the good poems-the almost finished memoir-the instructions for cremating my body and throwing the ashes into the high desert.

“No one in this family handles anesthesia well,” mom says.

This is not the story I can afford to believe.

I know my fears:

1.Guns and the sound of gunfire 2. Fast and hasty driving 3.  Free falling from high places 4. Public speaking 5. Needles

But as I compose this list I realize that I’ve another to list.  6.  Being afraid.

Maybe it’s’ the part of the family story, the part colored with family members who took place in some of the awful, ‘innovative’ psychiatric treatments of the old days.  Institutionalization, electric shock, clockwork orangish torment: ‘face all of your fears directly and overwhelmingly at once so that you won’t be afraid of them anymore’ cure.   In fact yes – my nervous system has been programmed directly to mute out and avoid at all cost anything like this to ever happen to me.  Result: never be afraid, never show weakness, never take medication, never….

The trouble with trying to delete fear is that it is a natural, spontaneous and often helpful upwelling of sensation.  And it’s impossible.

It is Friday.  I call my doctor, I call my therapist, I call my friends.  I take a leap (which I am afraid of) and admit that this time the fear is overwhelming.  I hear the internal voices of boo-hissing which sounds something like:

shouldn’t you be able to meditate out of this…what about all your yoga practice….essential oils…spiritual texts….positive affirmations….you’re a health practitioner for gods sake…

All summing up into one belief: You are a failure, especially spiritually, for allowing fear to take hold.

Spiritual materialism has a funny way into unconscious scripting.  My doctor prescribes a low dosage of Xanax, my therapist helps me to allow myself to consider that every once in a while we may need to take some medication to help us through a difficult moment.    I resist.  He replies:

 “You will not lose spiritual points for taking medication prior to surgery.”

It is Tuesday noon.  I arrive to the hospital with meditation music, a bag full of essential oils, a typed wish and resource list (just in case).  I’ve prepared my speech to have the lights low and to admit that I am afraid of needles so please, take it slow.  And, I’ve taken a Xanax

Allison for the PGM



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