Saturday, July 2, 2011

will the real me please stand up

Last night as Jack and I were doing the after dinner dog walk, a neighbor stopped me. She was so happy to see me, she said. She'd be thinking about me and what I did. She wanted to tell me that she thought I was courageous and brave, generous and selfless. And that she'd be planning to write me a note but it meant so much more that she got to tell  me in person. 

She had tears in her eyes. By the end of her tribute so did I. She then turned to Jack and asked him if he knew how amazing I was. He muttered a half-hearted yes. There are few things that irritate him more than when I stop and chat, which happens fairly often. 

For 5 minutes or so I basked in her admiration. But that glow soon floated away like a bubble. 

I don't feel like that person. 

Right now I feel like my thighs have never been fatter. I can feel the skin sagging under my chin. I know there are muscles in my upper arms but they're engulfed in jiggles. 

Even my feet are starting to look old. 

I can't wear pants. I can't seem to wear any of my vintage anymore. I'm living in shapeless black sundresses which, for those of you who know me in the real world, goes against my entire fashion sense. 

My entire family is in Vermont right now for a bar mitzvah and I'm not. I didn't think I was up to the 7 plus hour car ride. I wasn't sure I could handle all that goes along with flying - the trek through airports, dealing with luggage, various cars. And right now I am so disappointed in myself. I can usually push through anything. I have fierce willpower and drive. I've done what many would think impossible, or at least crazy. 

And now I'm flat on my fat butt wallowing in timid.

It is stunningly beautiful out and I'm afraid to do too much. Everyone's looking to me to make plans and I can't. I'm the loser with a holiday weekend and nothing to do. 

Everyone I know is doing something different. Weekend houses. Beach. Travel. Classes. 

My days are nothing but feeling guilty about not entertaining the kids better, at needing to sleep, at getting increasing disappointed in myself for the limitations I still have. 

I can't control my body at the moment and it's making me crazy. I feel like a failure. I can't hold onto the reason I'm here and all the good that I did. I feel like that woman was talking about someone else. 

It's not even 8am and I'm dreading this day. This long weekend. The week ahead with 2 kids and no plans. 

I wish I could think of myself as the admirable, inspiring person other people see me as. 

But right now I can only see the opposite. And it's not pretty. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

coming back home

Yesterday I saw my super cool surgeon for my second post-surgery check up. Armed with questions, he cleared me for tattoos, bike riding (as long as it's not uphill), colonics (he also said colonoscopies are fine, not that that's on my to-do list), vitamins, driving, and yoga.

Yup. Yoga.

And so, I went to my first class.

My practice pants were slightly tight. The 2 weeks of carbo loading is starting to catch up. I slowly walked to the studio in sweltering heat, conscious of conserving energy I'd need. I even took the elevator that regularly breaks down as the stairs would have been too much.

My teacher did a double take when she saw me and then just beamed. Part of me that had been frozen for the past 3 weeks started to melt a bit as I unfurled my carnation pink mat in the back row.

I sat. And it was not comfortable. My back ached before chanting even started. I was acutely aware at how much trauma my body had suffered and the toll it had taken as discomfort bordering on pain radiated down from my shoulder blades.

But as I took a deep breath and a collective OM filled the studio, tears slid down my checks.

I couldn't stop smiling. And silently crying. Since surgery this part of my life that's grown to mean so much went missing. I couldn't find it myself. The calm and peace I'd found through the practice had disappeared.

Only it hadn't. It was more that I'd forgotten how to find it.

We started to move. My body was home. I know these poses so well I slid easily into the practice. Up to a certain point. Turns out there's much I can't do. Basic basics are beyond me at the moment. Holding a plank pose caused abdominal aches deep inside. Being flat on my belly was far too uncomfortable. Anything arching my back felt wrong. Side plank? I was acutely aware of how my strength had been compromised. And so, I compromised. I did what I could and let myself be fine with that.

There were moments I forgot my body wasn't fine. My hands still easily reached the floor. Warrior poses and triangle (my favorite) felt right. My balance was spot on.

At a certain point, as deep twisting began and my middle blatantly refused to go there, I quietly rolled up my mat and left the class. Turns out I'd made it 3/4 of the way through, lasting far longer than I'd ever imagined I would.

As I slowly, slowly walked home I let amazement and gratitude take over.

Three weeks and one day post-op I was back in the flow. Modified, but delicious nonetheless.

Yet again, my body blows me away.

Monday, June 27, 2011

21 days post op

This morning I was out of the house at 7:30 to help run a middle school orientation for new families. I spent the next 3.5 plus hours organizing, chatting, schmoozing, answering, intervening, re-directing, reassuring, and placating.

I was on. Seriously on.

Twice I had to sit on the floor in the corner of the stifling cafeteria the meeting was held in. Once I slowly made my way to the principal's office and sat quietly on a bench for 10 minutes, not able to hold my head up anymore. But, I rallied and headed back into the fray.

Three weeks post surgery.

Many at Iz's school knew about the transplant but it turned out not everyone realized it had happened. The incredulous looks on faces as I reassured them that yes, it was over and I was already healing were priceless. The amazement and enthusiasm and support of all those in the know blew me away.

At one point I walked, slowly, to the supermarket around the corner to pick up last minutes things we needed. And it hit me.

I only have one kidney.


I. Have. One. Kidney.

And that is fine. Perfectly fine. Totally fine.

Every day I feel more and more like myself. And myself is an energetic, capable, driven. Enthusiastic. Motivated. Healthy.


Three weeks post surgery.

This too is a miracle. To be down an organ and feel glimmers of my strengths washing back over me. These 4 incisions on my body that will always remind me that I was opened up and rearranged and that my missing kidney radically changed someone's life. And that I was brave enough to make the decision to donate and never waver or look back.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

not worth fighting for

Last night, as I was out walking the dogs, a woman approached me on the street. She looked vaguely familiar, I think she lives in my building. I smiled hello and she said: I heard about what you did. What a wonderful thing. Your brother is very lucky. And then she walked away. 

Over the past 6 months, I've been fascinated at how people have reacted to this kidney journey. People I barely know how come out of the shadows, treating me almost reverently for doing this. People I know well have been acting differently, as if I've morphed into a deeper, more thoughtful person than I was before. 

These reactions aren't about me, they're about what I've done. Donating a kidney is just about the most selfless thing someone can do. As my brother said when as I was dropping him off at the hospital, most people stare down surgery for their own reasons but how many choose to do it entirely for someone else?

Kidney donors do. 

I'm touched and grateful for this outpouring of support. As I (slowly) recover and find my center again, the karma that's bouncing back at me is easing the way. 

On the other hand there are many in my life who have yet to say a word, glancing away as I walk by, choosing not to acknowledge that I'm even there. Some are people I don't know well. Others I consider among  my close friends. Perhaps such an altruistic act makes them uncomfortable. Maybe they don't know what to say, how to act. Who knows. 

Its hard not to let myself fall into a dark place when confronting the obvious disinterest of those I thought I could count on. 

And then, there's family. 

I had a falling out with my father soon after my brother asked me to be tested. There was a day of escalating emails, of accusations and anger, fingers pointed and insults hurled that ended with his wife calling me a self-involved loser, a crazy fucking bitch and my father asking that I never be in touch with them again. 

We haven't spoken since. 

We went through this entire process without him. 

Knowing how deeply his wife has always resented me, it's not a surprise. But still. 

I was  lying in bed at 4am and it hit me, that to him I'm not worth fighting for.  Having a relationship with me causes a huge rift in his marriage and it's turned out, after all these years, to be easier to cut me off rather than fight for me. Even when two of your children are grappling with illness, uncertainty, endless testing and frustration and fear, she wins. 

But, as I'm writing this I'm realizing it's not about me. Not me personally. 

It's him. It's her. Their stuff, not mine. All I can do is be myself and that isn't going to work for everyone. 

Years ago someone once told me (and she meant it as an insult) I should be a cruise director, as that would address my obsessive need to be liked. Perhaps one of my lessons in all this is to let go of that too. 

Living by how others judge me only leads to self-doubt and insecurity. What I need to work on is owning who I am. 

And who I am just did a remarkable, brave, life-changing  thing.