Sunday, October 1, 2017

Considering Compassion






Compassion is a learn-ned commodity. The taste is off. Honey comes in varieties. A memory makes of something better than it was, or worse. We love to be spoiled. But having walked, it is hard to have to crawl. Having flown, it is hard to be caged. Having had a clear head, it can be awful to suffer a hangover. Life is full of comparisons. And being always fully present is too much to expect; much of life is an escape from the difficult. Yet true compassion arises when we ourselves have "been there", when we can empathize, (which is more than just to sympathize).

The new drug, after the first night, might take "getting used" to. Clogged, cluttered, and chaotic, I tried with equanimity to continue. But the next five days of cold sweats and sleeplessness, fuzzy thinking and my subsequent inability to practice minimizing the chronic pain very much disadvantaged me. Habit made of my moments but brief success. Be polite. Be respectful. Get up. Get ready. Eat. Walk, steadily. Stay the course. Write. Edit. Think carefully. (Dammit.)

So very dependent on our chemistry, even the smallest of tasks can be daunting when we're under the influence of the unusual. Was it so for the wasp that recently sank its mandibles into my marmalade? Keeping still, I watched, fascinated. Oblivious to me, me the provider, the treasure giver, the person who easily might swat it, the creature gorged. And when at last it'd had its fill, like an over-drunk patron at a bar, it bashed into my forefinger as it took flight. "Bzzt!" it reacted, angrily, but did not sting. (Yet surely no flower, ever after, will yield such sweetness.)

Sometimes we can make conscious choices. Sometimes things sink into us without our knowledge, insidiously. So many chemicals. So many poly-this-or-that’s. And since we have to eat and drink and survive, we are continually affected by the molecules entering our blood streams. Just so for the pills I recently substituted: gabbapenton, instead of pregabalin. They represent a $300 saving over my three-monthly regular supply. For three years now my body has responded well, after more than ten years in the power-chair. Back in 2104, only able to walk a few steps, followed by an emergency episode of multiple embolisms in both lungs, it became necessary to move more, to walk again, and to do drugs. A superb Doctor manages me. And between heart, blood, eyes, and nerve pain pills, my daily cocktail has kept me improving. And then I tried (with the doctor's permission) the cheaper drug. And, boy, did I pay!

But five weeks later, my older drug regimen re-established, I walked with my cane more than a kilometer through the nearby forested Devonian Gardens. Soft underfoot, tall treed, shadowed, with shallow streams, some wood bridges, and occasional stairs. Taxiing. Challenging. Once, my cane aloft, my hyperactive mind making it my South African army rifle, I pointed it in fear at the sound of an unseen something rushing at me. Heightened pain sensitivity and age-old memories pricked my sensibilities. But the noise became a big dog who galloped past, followed eventually by its owner. Reality dominates. Yet each step jarred its course through my spine. 

The lonely regimen of self-discipline is a heroic thing, for anybody. One has to break through the synaptic barrier of addiction to the body's expectations. One has to train to run a marathon. A new guitar chord can take weeks of practice to make natural. And self-discipline, that measure of attaining yet more and more over pain, is very much a matter of mind over matter. So too for the addiction to drugs, to booze, to extraneous 'needs', to food, or things. (That wasp might've come back for more, but with the marmalade disappeared it'd have no choice but to visit the regular.) Humans too can have a pot of gold in mind. (Even self-discipline can prove detrimental). But for some, the innate chemical composition of their being needs help. I cannot yet dispense with my drugs, even though I've slowly cut back from nine pills a day to just two. I depend on chemistry. You?


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