It’s a warning

‘A stroke is the worst of all,’ my
GP said to me once many years ago. 
Her words have stuck. 
‘Imagine it,’ she said.  ‘You’re
alive, but paralysed.  At best you
might get back your ability to walk, to use a knife and fork, to speak again, but at
worst you’ll sit like a vegetable, brain damaged and unable to care for
yourself for the rest of your life.’
My older sister takes good care of herself these days.  She meditates first thing in the
morning.  She eats a balanced diet,
does not drink too much, or smoke, and is physically active.  Recently she started to feel dizzy to
the point she dared not even drive her car.  
Next a visit to her GP who told my sister it was lucky she
had arrived at the doctor’s surgery when she had.  She could have suffered a stroke.
 Besides the dizziness, my sister’s blood pressure was up.  The doctor then urged my sister to take blood pressure reducing drugs. 
This then is story one: my sister’s
blood pressure, and given she is my sister I go out in sympathy with her.  I
watch as my head starts to feel dizzy and my blood pressure rises.
Story two:  my sister in law who last week took herself off
for her regular two yearly visit to the optometrist.
‘There are signs of a stroke, here’
the optometrist said to my sister in law after he had examined her eyes.  Best you take yourself off to your
doctor to get it checked out.’
My sister-in-law’s doctor then sent
her off to a specialist for tests. 
She’s yet to get the results but her GP had tried to reassure her that
these are signs only, not facts.  Besides people can sometimes have tiny strokes
and not even notice.  Still it’s a
A warning of what? I have this
tendency to identify with people and their ailments. In any case, I’m off to
see the doctor tomorrow to check out my own rising blood pressure.
I bought a blood pressure monitor
from the chemist so I could take my blood pressure myself away from the anxiety
producing doctor.  ‘White coat hypertension’
they call it.  You see the doctor
and the minute she applies the cuff around your arm and pumps up the monitor
your blood pressure increases. 
Now it’s happening to me.  I can feel my heart race as soon as I
consider the possibility of trotting off to the kitchen to check my blood pressure.  And it has not registered at 138 or less systolic since I started
checking a week ago.  So now I’m
Story three: my mother’s heart
began to fail over eighteen months ago now.  Medication has kept her going but there’s only so much more
her heart can take before it gives out altogether. 
The blood pressure monitor sits on
the kitchen table calling to me. 
It calls to me, ‘come now and try again’.  You never know it might be normal once more and then you can
sigh a sigh of relief and when you go to the doctor tomorrow you can tell the
doctor it has been high at times but it has also been normal.  And the doctor will say, these things
happen, not to worry. 
Or the doctor, my doctor, will be
like my sister’s doctor and whack me onto blood pressure reducing
I’m happy to self medicate from
time to time with alcohol.  I’m
happy to buy over the counter herbal remedies, but I do not enjoy the thought
of taking the medication that western medicine produces unless it is for short
term purposes.  Nothing of the long
term variety for me and yet I know there are times when it is essential.
Until ten years ago my mother
boasted that she needed no medication whatsoever to keep her going.  Even in her early eighties apart from a
calcium supplement and the occasional use of painkillers to help her with her
arthritis she took nothing.  Now
she takes lolly bags full of the stuff, pink and blue, yellow and green, large
pills and small, morning, noon and night.  
There are worse things could
happen, says my optimistic self. 
So what if you need medication to reduce your heart pressure?  But the me that prefers to have a body
that goes on regardless, that needs almost no attention whatsoever beyond
eating, drinking and sleeping, and the occasional walk or exercise, hopes to be
My mind split off from my body however, is a different matter.  It needs all the attention it can get.  

Half awake

The sleep mask slips from my face and the clock digits blink
at me – five am.  I have another
hour before dawn, mid dream and I want to get back into it, but his snoring
like a bandsaw cuts the silence.  I
nudge him once, twice. 
‘Could you please roll over?’
‘Sorry,’ he says.
It’s no use. 
All the sorries and the rolling over in the world cannot unblock his
blocked nose and throat, so I take myself into the spare room, to the couch I
hate to lie on when I wear black because the cats sleep there by day. 
I wipe the couch before I lie down with my special blanket,
the furry one, fake animal fur.  It
was once my daughter’s but she’s allergic to it, so I have taken it over as my
night time blanket.  I drape it
over my cold body whenever I must play musical beds on account of the
I am in a bad mood. 
The dream has disappeared by now. 
It was a good dream, the sort that begs for continuation, rather like a
story you don’t want to end. 
My eyes are heavy, my mouth is dry.  A slurp of water from the tap before I
try to squeeze my overly long body onto this short couch.
I tell myself yet again, I should prepare better.  It’s not every night that I find myself
here but there are enough nights in the week.  I should organise a better pillow.  I should make sure the spare room blind is drawn.  I should switch off the computer and
printer whose lights blink on and off in that strange hypnotic way that reaches
under my closed eye lids and will not let me get back to sleep.
I should prepare for these times.  It’s worse than living with a baby whose cries interrupt my
sleep at random intervals.
The cat slinks in and sits on top of my feet.  She claws at the imitation blanket,
which smells of dog.  She tries to
ruffle the blanket to size for comfort and my feet which were once freezing
begin to heat up.
I shove her off with one heave on my right foot, but she’s
back in an instant trying to slide in between my legs and the end of the
couch.  I must get back to
sleep.  I have only thirty minutes
before the alarm, before the day begins.
Why does the world seem so bad when I am only half