Until a couple of months ago I had never taken a sedative stronger than a couple of Valium & that a very long time ago. Without intending to minimize the severity of the current epidemic of opioid abuse, I do not understand the attraction. About an hour after taking two 5 mg tablets of Percocet, I experience a fifteen minute period of mild euphoria followed by drowsiness, but if I don’t catch that wave I move through the sleepiness to a state of comfortable alertness. After that, all bets are off. Sometimes the alertness will continue for an hour or so, sometimes I will simply fall into a deep sleep for three hours or so. But over the course of days, the cumulative effect is dull drowsiness that makes it difficult to write except in short bursts. The drug also slows down the digestive tract through which it passes, lending another cluster of unpleasant symptoms. The radiation treatments I begin tomorrow are supposed to relieve much of the pain in my back, which in turn will allow me to reduce the amount of Percocet I’m taking. I hope so. I have poems to finish.
The pain medication I’m using tends to make me nod off in the afternoons. It’s not sleep, which I would prefer, but a kind of suspension of wakefulness. The radiation treatments I start next week are advertised to reduce pain very effectively–a good thing in itself–but what I really welcome is the secondary consequence of allowing me to reduce the opioid load I’m carrying.
- Despite spending big chunks of my day nodding off & fighting the drowsiness caused by pain medication, I always seem to be wide awake at midnight.
- I usually have two audiobooks on my iPhone, one fiction, the other non-fiction. Right now, I’ve got Sean Carroll’s The Big Picture & Neal Stephenson’s The Confusion (fourth volume of The Baroque Cycle).
- Wide awake but too tired to do any coherent writing, I can sometimes revise a poem, or a few lines of a poem & sometimes my mind drifts far enough sideways that something interesting happens in the language.
- Or sometimes I just surf YouTube for old favorites or oddities. Stealer’s Wheel, “Stuck in the Middle with You.”
- I have been making a series of drawings done after all the lights are out. I lie on my back with a small sketchpad on my stomach & draw with a black marker. Sometimes I draw a subject, other times just a rhythm or bodily feeling.
- Occasionally, Oliver, who likes to sleep down by my feet will inexplicably decide to creep up and nestle between my arm & torso, laying his head on my shoulder. Then we both sigh & after that I almost always fall asleep.
One of the core doctrines of Buddhism is impermanence & it is also intellectually one of the most straightforward. Things change. Nobody really disputes that–except that when you look a little closer, most philosophical / spiritual systems try to reserve some tiny space for the permanent–that is, when permanence is not front & center, without disguise. But there is no nanoparticle of spirit or matter that is permanent. Nor are conditions permanent. This truth has been sneaking up on me in different ways since I became ill. [Image source: Cafepress]
It is with pain & the temporary relief of pain where this instability of existence has become most apparent to me. When one experiences pain that is not constant, that comes & goes & can be treated with rest, movement, heat, cold, drugs, electrical stimulation & so on, the variables can multiply in confusing & frustrating ways. And these variables play themselves out in the material reality of one’s body. To make this less Continue reading “Impermanence (Part I)”