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.  

Clutter, clots, clogs and chaos.

The other day I read about a
workshop that explores sleep disorders and I toyed with going, not because I
have a sleep disorder but because I am curious about what it is that causes
some people to suffer sleeplessness hour after hour.
I decided against going.  For one thing I do not have the time to
spare, nor do I know the orientation of those who would be taking such a
workshop.  I fear too much emphasis
on behaviour and the superficial. 
Such an approach would drive me potty.  
Worst of although I fear attendance at such a workshop might
put the mozz on me and suddenly if I allowed myself to think too long about it I, too, might begin to suffer from insomnia. 
Sleep is such a fragile thing.  It comes in waves.
We looked after our grandsons last
night while their parents went out to dinner and drinks for one of our other
daughters’ birthdays, the first outing my daughter and her husband have been
alone together since the youngest was born eleven months ago.  It comes into my mind now thinking
about sleep.
Around 9.30 pm I pushed my nearly
one year old grandson’s pram up and down the corridor willing him off to sleep.  Up and down the corridor I pushed his
pram but he was determined to stay awake. 
Eventually he could not keep his eyes open and dropped off.   The pram’s movement was
My mind does not want to work this
morning.  I tell it to think about
sleep but it is too cluttered with thoughts of the day ahead.  All the jobs I have to deal with,
including a visit to my mother early, because we are having a dinner for the
same daughter’s birthday – multiple celebrations for a birthday that fell last
week while she was away.
 See how cryptic I can be, avoiding the use of personal names
so as to avoid identifying those who might not want to be identified. 
My heads a clutter with ideas, and
prohibitions.  The other day I
heard about the three Cs of anxiety, ‘clutter, clots and clogs’.  You can read about it here.  They relate  to hoarding, but my interest is in its less pathological manifestations,
as something I can get into not only literally – if you could see the junk room in
my house you’d know what I mean – but metaphorically, in my head.
The idea is that a degree of
clutter is part of the stuff of life. We need stuff to live and in a family of
several folks, young and old, you will find lots of things, in use, put aside, open
and available at the same time.  
The kitchen table is covered in condiments, open school books,
unfinished sewing, shopping lists and more besides.  A lived-in house. 
On the other hand, there are areas where the stuff gets piled and is not used
regularly nor removed, though it could be if someone put their mind to it. 
An example of clutter that borders on chaos.  I’m the one in white.  
stuff that stays for months on end becomes a clot.   And finally, there are the areas in the house that can
spread one clot after another into a serious clog, serious to the point that
activities must be curtailed because there is no room to move. 
You can’t even open your doors for
the stuff.  You can’t use your
table or bench top for the stuff.  In other words you can’t live. 
I once visited the house of the
artist Mirka Mora and her place was like that, only her stuff was mostly art
works, great gorgeous canvases and stuff she used as still life, dolls and taxidermic
animals and post cards.  An amazing
place and some how it did not offend me in the same way a really cluttered,
clotted, clogged place might. 
When I was young and worked as a
social worker I went from time to time to visit an elderly man who lived alone
in Carnegie. The local doctor had referred him because he was concerned about
this man’s life style.  The man
refused to throw anything out.  The
hall way was lined with newspapers in piles and empty tin cans.  There was not an open space in the entire
house.  I could only interview him
in his bedroom and I was reluctant to sit on the one chair available beside his
bed because it too was piled with newspapers. 
He must be dead by now, and I
wonder what happened to his stuff. 
Did it wind up somewhere on a tip, the useful and the junk all blended
together into one unusable mass?