Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Operation and the Quest for Truth: the Beginning

The universe is like a safe to which there is a combination. But the combination is locked up in the safe.

~Peter De Vries, Let Me Count the Ways, 1965

I have been a seeker all my life; seeking God, the truth, understanding of myself, others, and answers to almost anything else. Once I had heard the 1970's adage : “Question Everything” it settled into my soul and remained there.

That was a little later though; it hardly seemed like I had any thoughts of my own until late adolescence -- aside from fears, fantasies, and daydreams. For the most part I did what I was told and what was expected of me. I think, now, that I was somewhat depressed even then. As a teenager I always had a sense, in the back of my mind, that I was going to die young. Thus, when it was finally determined that I needed major surgery, my shadowy thoughts were more or less validated. I had scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine. Left untreated the deformity would eventually become worse, to the point where the rib cage would be compressed and breathing difficult, perhaps one day impossible.

For several years I knew something was wrong with me, but when I tried to tell my mother she dismissed the notion. One day she finally noticed I was crooked and I began going to doctors. My mother: this was the same woman who would get angry with me for losing so many pairs of glasses - which I had to wear from second grade onward (once I saved up lunch money for months to get a new pair, so she wouldn’t know I had my lost my glasses yet again). I had been reluctant to cause my parents any more problems but once the operation was scheduled Mom was there, every day.

I was in the hospital for almost a month, and in a body cast for nine months - the cast was changed every three months – so that the fusion of my spine could heal. I took this all in stride; I suppose I was glad for the attention, because my mother was always around and my father was the one who drove me to the doctor’s visits. My grandmother called me a “little trooper”. I don’t recall feeling much in the way of physical pain or discomfort, with the exception of an allergy to the bandages.

It may seem odd but I look back on what could have been one of the most difficult times of my life with fondness. Because of my situation I was noticed at home and received some sympathy, although once the next school year started (my junior year) I walked a lot and did almost everything I used to do.

Back to ‘normal’ life after the cast was removed: I had a curvy figure, a new haircut and new clothes and I began to have some experiences with boys. I continued my involvement as a member of the crew for theatre: helping build the sets, running the spotlight and anything I could get involved in (except being on stage).

When did I begin to question everything? I think a few things did enter my mind after the operation but it wasn't until after high school and the beginning of a love/hate relationship with alcohol and drugs that my search for truth really began. I have written elsewhere about this and how I became involved with juvenile delinquents the first time around. My rebellion against authority began in earnest when I tried to think for myself. It was adventurous but not very pretty.

Everyone's life is a fairy tale written by the fingers of God

- Hans Christian Andersen

When I was a child, I had light blonde hair, and my mother called me her “blond princess”. I never felt like a princess though, I had freckles and prominent front teeth for which there was always the threat of braces, and I was the middle sister of three girls –Still, as young girls do, especially those like me who loved to disappear into books, I dreamt of being Rapunzel or Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty one day. I believed in happy endings with no clue of the beginning or the journey ahead.

So when I graduated high school with no real direction in my life I began to drink, use, drugs, and to think about why I always followed the rules or did whatever people told me to do. I began my wild drunken exploring, acid, discovery, questioning years. I also began years of going to dentists, having teeth pulled, root canals, crowns and bridges installed - this has continued until this day. You could build a city with all the effort and money spent on my smile.

The freckles have faded, blond hair has long darkened – now with silver strands, the eyesight has worsened, and the back problems have also. As I wrote about myself not long ago: “There was no prince charming, and she was no longer the blond princess. Her hair had turned to brown, and princesses don’t have crooked spines, root canals, or wear glasses.”

And yet God, or whatever greater power that exists in the universe, is not, I believe, entirely random. This power has indeed created some tales for me to tell. I have to supply the words, and some interpretation.

Will there be a happy ending? Each episode, so far, has had something resembling happy, or at least "OK". I have survived, even thrived. Really, to me it’s been more like a soap opera than a fairy tale. And as such I continue to question the answers I have found – and they always lead to more questions.

No comments: