Saturday, January 8, 2011

“Operation Self-Esteem-- Day F- - -ing One” - Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)

I'm convinced this is a good depiction
of the photo of me on file at the
Doctor's office.

I had a busy, fun holiday this year.  My focus was on enjoying it, moment by moment. I really concentrated on eliminating any of the negative thoughts that pervaded last year’s season.  No more of that kind of energy from me this year!  I appreciated and savored every bit of it; the shopping, baking, cooking, eating, partying, seasonal events, out of town guests, and family.  Did I feel any stress?  I didn’t think so.  Seriously, I savored it all and put on my floating fairy godmother robes, waving my serenity wand over everything that landed in my path. I was patting myself on the back for my spiritual growth in my ability to remain grateful and mindful this year.  Was I a little tired?  Somewhat, but not profoundly.  Post New Year’s Eve, I felt “flu-ish”, nothing that a good dose of Tylenol Cold couldn’t handle.  Then, I woke up Monday morning, and found this tiny, little blistery thingy under my nose, right in that adorable little crease that separates one nostril from another.  A little zit... somewhat sore.  I went happily on about my day. By Wednesday morning, I looked like Rocky Balboa after his first fight with Apollo. My upper lip was grossly swollen.  Under my nose, the blisters had multiplied and had a sort of brownish cast to them and they patch worked themselves onto the left side of my face, prominently on my left cheek inching up towards my eye. A self-proclaimed research scientist, ( a deserved laurel due to my patience and abilities to dig through mounds of Internet information others would never find) I knew the diagnosis was looking bleak, and little frightening.  Certainly more serious than the over the counter remedies I was nickling and diming towards my cure, could handle. Beginning to really panic, I knew I had to haul my monster face in to see a professional. I needed a magic potion that could only be obtained from the heavenly script pad. 
I'm generally pretty healthy and  haven’t even taken the time to obtain a new family physician since my former “hottie” doctor moved two years ago. I thought he was irreplaceable, with his beach boy blonde looks and professionally whitened teeth.  It was irrelevant to me how skilled he was in the practice of medicine: I felt better just sitting in his office as his stethoscope connected with my chest.   I have to give credit where it’s due. He was a phenomenal doctor as well; thorough, compassionate and skilled.  So, I didn’t try to replace him. I hadn’t counted on my health betraying me in such an “in your face” (har...har....) manner.  I  now didn’t care if my caregiver had no hair, and flashed old yellow teeth.  A witch doctor would do. 
I wasn’t comfortable driving myself... my face hurt.  The physical pain emoting from my skin was closely matched by the sickness in my stomach every time I glanced in a mirror.  I enlisted my daughter to transport me to a medical facility.  
Because I hadn’t been a patient in a long, long, time and never with this new doctor, I had to sit through a registration process AND get my picture taken... You heard me. What kind of sick mind thought this one up?  Let’s photograph the ill!  If they live, we can send them a before picture along with the bill!  They’ll be so grateful they won’t even argue about the cost. Through swollen lips I pleaded with the sadistic, little clerk who asked me to look into the light of the camera and I mumbled some threat about karmic paybacks. She looked at me with very frightened eyes as she snapped away.  Egads, my face was so monstrous they would have to do fingerprinting next time I came in just to verify my identity!   I would have been a cheap candidate for the witness protection program.  No one would know me and I wouldn’t even have to move! It was all very humbling.... 
Equally mortifying, was to leave the house sans make-up. I don’t even go to the gym without SOME make-up - lip gloss at the very least.  Although no amount of Mary Kay could have covered whatever party was taking place on my skin. It was like an entity had crawled inside it and was fighting to get out, leaving marks and blisters in its path. It comforted me some to hide behind my biggest Jackie O sunglasses as I slunk in to the see the doctor.  Heads turned...... I don’t think it was because they were awed by the resemblance between the 35th  President of the United States’ wife and me. 
The verdict... Shingles. The Varicella Zoster Virus.  The same one that causes chicken pox.  It lies dormant in the bodies of those of us who have had chicken pox.  When our immune system is depressed, the potential is there for it to attack the nerves, in my case the cranial nerve ganglia, and cause eruptions and a world of pain.  It can also damage the eye, or the hearing, if it spreads. The healing can take quite some time; kind of like a difficult pregnancy with the relief of birth.  The reward of having shingles, at term,  you get to gaze lovingly into a face you once knew.  As I left the doctor’s office his final words to me, "You need to work harder at eliminating stress, take better care of yourself.... keep meditating." 
As I came home, prescription bottle in hand, popping the first 800 mg. pill in my mouth, I was really, really pissed.  And, confused.  I think, to the best of my ability, I have eliminated the stress in my life.  What was the lesson here that I need to learn to help me to just get through this and move into acceptance? I have been tooting my own horn about falling in love with myself in the past year.  And, I have, in many respects.  My spiritual life has expanded so much I am filled with peace and awe most of the time.  My emotional world is nicely balanced now: realistic and centered in what is best for me, knowing that leads to a better me for those around me. Yes... me, me, me with the best outcome for everyone else!  I have fallen in like with the person I discovered in my inner world explorations. In fact, she’s a helluva nice gal.  So what was this about stress?  
Well.... well... well...A body can have stress too.  I have spent a great deal of my time this past year or so seeking, exploring, examining and fine tuning my spiritual body.  But, I have sorely neglected the physical one.  In my attempts to focus on my soul’s purpose, I had forgotten about the vessel which is the worker bee in putting that purpose into production. This was the lesson.  Love the vessel.  Treat it as you would your own child. It is your child.  It’s not enough to grow through learning and practice.  Human form has to be nurtured and maintained in order to stay healthy.  Good nutrition, restful sleep, calm surroundings, exercise, vitamins, regular check-ups on an on going basis are an expression of self-love too. 


Let’s be honest, our self-esteem is certainly impacted by the physical condition and appearance of our vessels. Mine plummeted this week.  

With that revelation, I headed for the bathroom, stared at the creature in the mirror for a very, very long time.  I planted a big blistery kiss on lips that looked like a bad Botox job, and said, “Hey beautiful, how about if we take a nice, long soaking, oatmeal bath. It’s time I started to take care of YOU kid!”  
Operation self-esteem, Phase II has begun.
The universe does not require you to stress for good things. - Alan Cohen