Brain surgery and other scary things.

A reminder to live fully.

A reminder to live fully.

A few years ago I had brain surgery. The right branch of my carotid artery had an aneurysm, big enough to need surgery. I am alive because I have a clip (I call it a paper clip) on my artery.  The MRI also found a second aneurysm on the left branch of my carotid artery. Since then it has been checked regularly with an angiogram. I can’t have another MRI as the magnetism could  pull the clip out, or at least dislodge it. Doesn’t bear thinking about does it?

These were found by accident. I had no symptoms, but had complained to my doctor about my ear- feeling blocked,  giddiness, pain when I flew… it was probably sinus, but just to be sure…The ear was fine, but…I had an aneurysm. MRI, visit to a brain surgeon…too big to ignore, must be operated on.

Found by accident? Or one of the many blessings and miracles of my life?

Tantrum from me. Definitely did not want brain surgery. Handouts from the hospital- skull with piece cut out pictured on front. Threw it away, without reading. No one was going to do that to me.

great scar, shame about the hair.

Date set. The ninth of July. Uh oh. My most auspicious date, my day of celebrating my re-birth. How could this be anything but positive? Coloured my hair plum. After all, it was going to be shaved so I could experiment. A nasty colour, for me.

Brain surgery. It was too big to get my mind around. An aneurysm. It was too scary to contemplate, so I didn’t. The reaction of other people surprised me. They seemed to think this was significant, urgent, frightening… It wasn’t until afterwards I began to hear the stories: the young woman who had died on my local beach- an aneurysm had burst; the man who was now paralysed down one side, an aneurysm had bled…I had protected myself by closing my eyes to the reality.

Brain surgery. Yes, but they weren’t really operating on my brain were they, only an artery. Afterwards, checks every hour. What’s your name? What’s the date? (Who knows? I’ve had an operation, been in Intensive Care.) Where are you? Count to ten. Most questions I could answer, although I did ask them to come up with something different, I was getting bored with the same ones.

Yes. yet another cat picture! But, oh how he sleeps.

Yes. yet another cat picture! But, oh how he sleeps.

There were effects. My sleeping was destroyed, until it reached crisis point and I had to demand extreme help. My short term memory is affected. But…I am alive. My brain still works, quite well really. I like it…a lot. And I truly value it… greatly. In fact, I love and cherish it.

And I still have an aneurysm. A small one, but an aneurysm. I’m always aware of it, ticking away up there in my head. And now I know how serious that is. I have been told by the psychiatrist who treated me during the sleep crisis, that the brain suffers some damage as soon as it is exposed to oxygen. So mine has suffered some damage already. I do not want to run the risk a second time. I do not want to experience another sleep crisis. I know why sleep deprivation is a torture, I’ve lived it.

But, nor do I want to run the risk of the aneurysm bleeding or bursting. Neither have good outcomes- death or incapacity. So I have regular angiograms and trust the results, trust that while it’s small it’s harmless.

On Friday I had an angiogram, hence this post. I am left confused by the results. It showed no aneurysm. I ask “Do arteries heal themselves?”  “Has it disappeared?”  “Is this the result of a simple life with little stress?” “Can I celebrate or has there been a mistake?” I wait to hear from my brain surgeon.

The gift of life.

The gift of life.

Meanwhile I shall live this day- fully, richly, moment by moment, because I have experienced how fragile life is. I have no excuse but to treasure each moment I have.

 

 

 

 

Garden Diary

Yet again, I’m forced to acknowledge that I can’t do everything. Does this mean that yet again I need to let go some things I want to do?

One of my highest priorities is to live simply and sustainably. This includes having a beautiful and productive garden. Gardening is always one of my highest priorities. It grounds and renews me and brings me quiet joy.

a sad plant

a sad plant

A move to a new home and environment? Start the garden! But here I am, more than a year later and the garden is almost untouched . The weeds are still there, old plants cry out for pruning, there’s lots of potting to do, plants I bought last week are languishing, unplanted. And there’s a whole new garden to develop.

Whenever I’m outside I end up feeling disheartened, overwhelmed and frustrated.

What can I do?  I can judge myself, become highly critical and end up with no gardening done feeling thoroughly miserable. Or, I can choose to practise self-acceptance and self-compassion with no judgement.  To do this I must first accept that I cannot do the impossible; to start this garden from where it is now, is just too big a task for me. So I stop thinking I will.

So here’s what I shall do: I have settled on a plan, after much deliberation; we shall create no-dig gardens, or lasagne gardening; growing on top of the ground by building up layers. This soil is too hard and too degraded to attempt to dig. And to begin with, we shall have beds where there is now lawn, leaving some lawn around each bed.

the beginnings at Tarbuck

the beginnings at Tarbuck

 

I can’t do this. I don’t even make an attempt. It’s too big for me, even if I practise doing it “a bucket at a time. ”

So this week I shall find a gardener who will plant fruit trees and set up the garden beds. I have two sources to go to for information. I’ll ask my same sources if they know where I can buy old railway sleepers for my garden edges. If I can’t get any, then I shall order  treated pine. I will talk to the garden suppliers to decide if I will order garden soil and compost at the same time. That will depend on whether I can begin to move it myself, slowly, “a bucket at a time”,  to build up the beds. I need the beds started to get me over the first hurdle. Once the beds are in place and some initial layering is done, I’m going to try hay bale gardening. That way, I can start growing some vegetables before the beds are set up fully- I do know that it will take me time to set

a new bed

a new bed

them up. And as the bales break down they will become part of the process.

You see, this will be my second spring here and still I won’t have sweet peas, poppies, cornflowers, delphiniums, forget-me-nots, lupins, irises, daffodils, jonquils, anemones and all the other joys of a spring garden.  For a second year we may not have the pleasure and sheer delight of extravagantly beautiful, fragrant roses; fruit trees take several years to bear fruit. I want to go out to my garden and pick that night’s dinner. For too many years I have not had the things I consider to be essential  I don’t have  years to wait. Housman talked of having only fifty years left to see the cherry hung with snow. I sure don’t have fifty years.

bluebells in Spring at Tarbuck

bluebells in Spring at Tarbuck

What have I learnt? To accept, yet again, that I am not superwoman and I can’t do everything. That I am prone to self-judgement and am still learning to be kind to myself. That I remain a work in progress. That, surprise, surprise, I’m still not perfect.

More prosaically, I realize that I have needed to live here for a time before I could clarify what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it.  And that plans take time to develop. Patience! There will be enough time! If I live each moment fully, that moment will be enough. When the flowers are blooming, Kathryn, remember to appreciate them. Drink in their beauty, share them, fill your house with them. And always, keep your hands in the earth. It’s the Amish who say that we are closest to God when we have our hands in the soil.

a Spring bouquet

a Spring bouquet