Reflections after Surgery
So I’ve been out since Thursday in the hospital. After three days of fever and pain in my lower right abdomen, I decided enough was enough. My father came to pick me up and take me in, and stayed with me all the way through the procedures up to the surgery itself (barring, of course, when he was asked to wait in the waiting room). I got in around 7:00pm. I was poked, prodded, checked and re-checked. Eventually the staff came to the conclusion that I was told by my Ancestors (who pushed me to ask my Dad about my condition in the first place). I had acute appendicitis. They scheduled me for a laproscopy and the surgery was done at 1:00am. The anesthesiologist did her job so well I never even registered I had moved when they took me to the OR.
My time in the hospital has been amazing. The staff has always been ready, willing, and able to help, answering questions and calming concerns as they’ve come up. They actually care for their patients rather than treat them as objects, as I have heard some hospitals can do. Not to mention the food was awesome. Yes, hospital food was awesome.
The time I had gave me time to really appreciate what I have in this life. My loved ones, my friends, and my communities, including the ones online. My Gods, my Ancestors, my Disir, my spirit allies, myself even. My Dad and Nicole, my fiancée, stayed with me throughout the first day; Dad left after the surgery and Nicole stayed with me, sleeping in my room to be with me. It was a great comfort, especially since I don’t like to be in hospitals alone when I am being treated. I’m lucky to have such a dedicated, incredible partner in her.
I had a lot of time to reflect these last few days. To think about the priorities of my life, where I felt things fit, that kind of thing. I asked myself what the most important things there were to me, and my spirituality is at the top of the list. It impacts, is reflected in, and is part of everything I do. Even raising my son is part of it, and likewise, it is becoming part of him. However, my spirituality isn’t this all-consuming obsession that ruins my life, but engenders it with every moment being sacred. It is far different from a bad thing, and I think I am finally at peace with that. I am a Northern Tradition Shaman, and a Priest of Odin. This is what my life is geared around now, and I’m at peace with it. I’ve embraced it. Even if the people I help never understand this, even if, in the future when I do professional counseling, people never understand that my spirituality is what brought me to the work, or informs my work in some way, shape or form, I am happy with it. I’ve been called by the spirits to help people in my capacity as Shaman and Priest, and if I have to do so secularly, taking my religion out of the equation for other people, I will still have the satisfaction and feeling of doing my work in these roles. I hope that, as time goes on, I will be able to integrate my professional counseling work with my work as a shaman and priest, much as Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Ph.D. has done with his own practice.
Next on my list of important things was family, both by blood and by choice. Family truly has been the underpinning for me a lot of my life. They’ve helped me through some of the hardest times in my life, and they’ve celebrated some of the best with me. I know need to reach back out to my blood family, and forgive them for what I feel was a slight against me in praying for me to abandon my Gods and come back to Christianity. They have their faith, and I do not have to put up with abuse, and I recognize this. However, I think I have shown many of them that I am serious enough in my faith and path that much of the fervor, if not the entire effort, is done with. Not everyone in the family prayed against me, and I know that my family would not pray against me in intentional malice; from their perspective, wrong though I believe it is, they have been trying to save me. With my chosen families, this time of trial has pushed me to reach out even further to them, and ask them for prayers, magic, and healing where they can give it. It has pushed me, both with my blood and chosen families, to ask for help and support, and to simply accept it rather than try to ‘do it myself’.
My time in the hospital also gave me the perspective I needed to reflect on my relationships with my Gods. The more I thought about how ‘out of the box’ my relationships with my Gods are, the more I understood my personal interactions were just that: mine. My experiences with the Gods may be completely different from others’ in Paganism, regardless of branch (I include Heathenry despite many Heathens’ distaste in being associated), but I approach my Gods in respect and to some of Them, in service. The fact that there is no authoritative texts like there are in monotheistic faiths is a freedom to me. It allows for a dynamic, organic relationship with one’s Gods, spirits, Ancestor, and so on, because there are no dogmatic dictates that say you have to worship this God, or ‘here are “The Rules” for worshiping this Goddess”. Anything we have in lore, especially in terms of the Norse/Germanic Gods, I tend to take as suggestion. I don’t have the ability to reenact the rites of Upsalla at my dorm room, nor do I feel the inclination for doing so. Most of the lore was written down about 100-200 years after the conversion of the Norse/Germanic peoples, and so much is lost because it simply didn’t survive. I am essentially reconstructing my shamanic path with my Gods and spirits. That used to intimidate me; it on occasion still might, but I feel much stronger and resolved in this. I have seen how others walking the Northern Tradition path have integrated the calling to be a shaman into their spirits lives, and though sometimes the path the spirits call you to can be hard, it is well worth answering that call.
In answering that call I have helped others, and myself. In answering that call, I’ve found my life I’ve wanted to lead since I was a child. Sure, all the ducks may not be in all the rows I want to, but I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my adult life, and I feel more fulfilled now than I have in a long, long time. Even as I heal I learn. I learn to have some humility (even if it grates my nerves) and let others do things for me. Sometimes, given the pain from the laproscopy and the soreness of my body, it is hard to get up. I have to ask for help to even sit up straight at times. I am used to being the person that does this kind of stuff for other people; it is a challenge for me to be the person being helped.
Something that has been on my mind since the surgery results came back, has been something that the doctor said to me, and that I relate to one of the two books I am currently reading, Narrative Medicine by Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Ph.D. The doctor told me that my appendix was relatively normal, perhaps just in the beginning stages of appendicitis. I asked her why I was in such pain, and she answered that sometimes the body knows that the appendicitis is setting in before their instruments would catch it, and lets the body know through pain. She also suggested that sometimes the appendix was irritated and starting to become inflamed, or that sometimes people come in with pain in their lower right abdomen, and after the surgery, leave without the pain they experienced earlier, a psychosomatic response in other words. While I think all three are quite likely in my case, I find the first one the most interesting, and also more likely, given the surgeon did find that there were the beginnings of appendicitis in my appendix. This dovetails nicely with the book I’m reading; my Ancestors pushed me to call my Dad when I entered my third day with the symptoms, who had me call my primary care’s triage center, who urged me to go into the hospital. The spiritual introduces healing (or at least a clear enough message to get through my stubborn head) that the Western medicine helps complete. Yes, I recognize now that I should have gone in the first day I had symptoms, however, I thought it was simply the flu and accompanying stomach problems. So for those of you out there reading this: please, if you think you even might have symptoms for a health issue, get it checked out. If I had a bad case of appendicitis, as much as I waited my appendix could have been completely inflamed, or even ruptured.
Thank the Gods for caring Gods, Ancestors, spirits, family, and friends. I have felt the healing powers of prayer from my family and friends, the blessings of healing from my Gods, Ancestors and spirits. I am happy and blessed that I have such incredible support in my life. I hope that anyone who reads this knows that if you need spiritual or emotional support, all you need to do is reach out and ask.