Saturday, June 25, 2011

3 weeks ago

This morning, after popping in to the Old Navy Tankathon that's been heavily advertised on facebook for days (if you're reading this in real time, don't bother - only XL steel grey tanks were left), I headed to my yoga studio.

Not to practice, more to see how I felt there.

3 weeks ago today I was bathed in sweat, smack in the middle of an hour 45 minute yoga class of nothing but Led Zeppelin. The playlist was a gift to me from one of my favorite teachers. I'd taken a class the night before and that was after a 10 mile bike ride. I'm not normally that exercised crazed, but while staring down surgery and recovery, I guess I wanted to fit in as much as I could.

Today I took the elevator to the studio instead of climbing the stairs.

I lasted less than 10 minutes sitting on the floor.

I slowly, slowly, slowly walked home, slightly light-headed as I navigated the heavy Saturday traffic on 6th Avenue.

But, I had made it through the door.

Hey, just the fact that I thought of stopping by was a huge leap from where I've been.

Up until now I hadn't even thought of yoga, of moving, of being back to where I was. I've been so consumed with the here and now, not in a particularly good way, that I lost track about what was. And what will be.

My life was uprooted, my center shifted, my equilibrium thrown off course. Things I took for granted are impossible at the moment.

There's still much healing to be done. Both by my body and my mind.

There's also much to let go of. The anticipation. The roller coaster. The fears and doubts. So much was stored up inside, whether I was aware of it or not. This experience shook me. Hard.

Today though, my center made a surprise appearance. As I sat in the pink and orange room, leaning against the sun-drenched wall, staring up at the painting of Ganesh I love so much, my heart filled. My soul eased.

And I knew I'd be back.

Friday, June 24, 2011

changing expectations

For 6 or so months, my life was filled with expectation. No matter how hard I fought them, no matter how much I tried to stay in the moment, no matter how grounded I tried to be, it was impossible not to feel what loomed in the future.

Through it all, in spite of the anxiety and panic and frustration bordering on anger at times, I was fine. Very often emotional toast but, for the most part, physically fine.

On the other side of this, I'm not so fine. At least not yet. I'm getting more fine by the day, but I'm in an entirely different place. My body has gone through just about its biggest smack down ever. Even though I gave birth twice, drugs weren't such an issue. And what left me was supposed to. This time I gave up an integral part of my basic biology. There's healing to be done. Incisions to mend. Shock to overcome. Gas to pass. New pathways to be created at fundamental levels.

Partnered with these physical challenges is the death of expectation. It's over. We're done. One of my kidneys has a new home. There's no more waiting and planning and hoping and praying for all to work out.

It worked out.

But all that energy still needs to disperse, to dissolve, to get re-directed, re-absorbed, re-focused. Only I'm not up to the task.

Again, yet.

I'm beginning to think though, that the past 6 months is going to be my new project. To have lived through this truly life-changing experience is something most people never get to do. And this story has so many more sides than just mine that deserve to be told. A transplant takes two just to start with. And from there, there are so many who played integral parts.

Once the title comes, I think I'll be ready to start.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

no, I'm not a machine

Years (and years and years) ago, I broke my finger in a step class at my upper east side gym. The room was jam-packed with frenetic, cardio-obsessed women. The teacher was more a drill sergeant than an aerobics instructor. 20 minutes into class I kicked my middle finger doing a repeater step and knew that something cracked. Pain washed over me. My finger swelled, throbbed, turned purple. But, I finished the class. The next day, my middle finger wrapped tightly in a splint, I was back at the gym. I modified by riding an exercise bike, but I wasn't backing down from my usual schedule. There was no way a fracture was interfering with my work out.

I can be really hard core.

It comes from my anorexic past. My body became something to be mastered, controlled. It bent to my will, no matter how insane or unhealthy or ridiculous my will was.

I'm realizing, this frustration at not being Wonder Woman stems from that very self-destructive place.

I'd thought I'd left that part of me firmly in my past. And for the most part I have. But, in extreme situations, it comes flooding back. Not the need to exercise until I can't walk. Not the starvation (I'm eating a vegan cookies and cream cupcake as I write this), not even the feeling fat part. But the profound disappointment in myself at not being able to control everything I want to is back front and center.

What's such a shame, what's pathetic really, is that it's keeping me from truly celebrating this amazing thing I've done. And I've done an amazing thing. Yesterday, as I felt more like myself than I have since before the surgery, I thought about writing out a total gold star post. Because, deep down, I'm so proud of myself. Or at least I must be. I haven't gotten to appreciation yet. I'm trapped in this darker place.

I've lost my center. I've lost the peace and calm and ease I had finally found after these last few tumultuous months. Today, at accupuncture, the first positive thing I've done for myself (besides nap), in a long time, Patsy looked me squared in the eye and said: you're not a machine. She stressed I can't expect to have gone through the major, big deal surgery I had and expect all to quickly go back to normal. Not only does my body have to heal from being cut open and hard core drugs, it has to create new pathways, learning to live one organ down.

That takes time.


Empathy and understanding.

None of those are easy for me when it comes to me. In fact, all the above go against who I've been for most of my adult life. But, before surgery there were glimmers of acceptance and letting go.


I can't see that from here. But I'm hoping I'll find there again.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

chocolate cake

Sunday night, as my brother was leaving, after we did our not-so-secret handshake (inspired by a photo of Grandma Rose from the early 60s), he said: thanks for the kidney. I said: thanks for the chocolate cake. 

And that was that. 

(a quick tangent - the chocolate cake was from vegan treats and was outrageously delicious)

It was the first time we'd seen each other since I left the hospital. It was also my birthday and father's day.  To celebrate we had dinner up on my building's roof as the sun set. 

My brother and I are exceedingly low key. There's almost no gushing or emotional monologues or mush. We've always been like that. It comes from him. I, if you haven't noticed, can be over the top in many ways. He's far more pragmatic. 

As he first walked out of the elevator though, it was hard not to burst into tears. 

He looked so good. The dark smudges that had permanently moved in under his eyes were gone. His eyes themselves were brighter. His skin had a healthy glow. He even seemed to be standing up taller. 

As we sat upstairs, chatting away, every once in awhile the reality of what we'd just gone through sank in. 

A miracle.

Less than 2 weeks after surgery, there we were, hanging out, my former kidney hard at work - not to mention doing an amazing job - beneath the gauze bandages traversing his abdomen. 

When you sit back for a moment and think about it, it's amazing. Beyond amazing. Ridiculous. Impossible. Far-fetched to the point of fiction. Only it's real. 

He handed me a snapshot of a sonogram. He'd asked for a copy for me the last time he'd been to the doctor. And there was Sidney in his new home. 


The enormity of it all hasn't sunk in yet. I'm tired, more tired than I've ever been. There's much healing still to be done and my patience has left the building. It's not easy for me to take it easy. I get down on myself for not feeling better, being farther along the road to well. 

But, I'll get there. And as I continue to feel better, the reality is starting to seep in that I did an amazing thing. That I'm stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. And that what I did changed my brother's life. In a truly profound way.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


When I turned 40 I stumbled into a dark depression that lasted for 3 solid months. I was sure I was on a downhill slope, that the best of life was behind me, that I'd peaked without realizing I'd been there, and that'd I'd never do anything great or important or meaningful again.

I was wrong.

Growing up, 40s to me was old. Staid. A blip in the journey from adulthood to decrepit. From the vantage point of a teenager, 47 meant conformity, monotony, polyester pants and fondue dinner parties. Once you settled into the routine of your life, nothing changed. Ever.

I was wrong about that too.

Today is my 47th birthday. 13 days ago I did just about about the greatest thing I've done so far. I could only have donated a kidney if I was in the best of health, at the top of my game. I know I will heal from this stronger than ever. And, knowing my track record, I'll be doing something new and different on the other side of this.

No coordinated slacks sets in site.

This year I also got my nose pierced, was a PTA president for the first time, rescued not one, but two amazing puppies, and was able to do a headstand in the middle of a yoga studio.

Yes, there are furrows carved deep into my forehead that will be with me forever. Yes, the skin on my inner elbows is turning crepe-ier by the day. And yes, I will never, ever, wear shorts above my knees again (one withering look from Iz shut that door). But this aging body of mine just changed someone's life in a positive, profound way.

As I heal from this surgery, I know there will be ups and downs. Knowing me, how could it be any other way. But, from the other side, I am nothing but grateful that, at this point in my life, I'm not stooped and wizened, but powerful and on the verge of more.

47 is a place I'm thrilled to be.