Saturday, September 11, 2010

You can say goodbye to your dignity here.

I long for this fracture to heal. I long to have my leg back again. Last night as I lay in bed and flexed my good leg up and down, I wondered that I could have ever taken my legs for granted before. How much I need them.

The house is a mess. The carpet needs vacuuming, the sink needs a wipe, the bench is cluttered with things that should long ago have been put away. I wish I were able to rise from this couch and like Mary Poppins snap my fingers and every out of order item would return to its rightful place in cupboards, behind doors, under benches and the room might shine again.

But I cannot. The best I can do at the moment is turn a blind eye. My children, my husband help as much as they are able. Mostly they are gracious in their helpfulness, but from time to time the strain tells on them, too. They get grumpy at all the extras they must do in order to keep this ship afloat.

It is a small thing in the scheme of things, a broken leg, and yet it has derailed my life. Then I am reminded of all those worse ailments and I want to scream for the banality of these thoughts.

My scalp itches for want of a wash. My hair feels drack, the curls on each side cling together and the back of my hair is flattened from lying too much on a pillow. Not that I spend my days in bed now. For the past two days I have taken up residence on the kitchen couch, the one that sits under the bay window and looks out into the garden. It is the place I moved to, almost by instinct, when I first came home and it is where I now choose to sit.

The red bricks in the garden are slick with rain. The pin oak is yet to come into bud. Last year the catkins were already dropping at this time but we have seen a better winter this year; a winter that can be called winter, cold, wet and rainy. A winter that takes away all the delights of summer and replaces them with the cruel necessities of life – the rain water to turn the drought around and relieve us – at least temporarily, of the fear that we here in Australia will eventually run out of water.

This morning I read an article in the New York Times – thank you, Mim – about delirium in the elderly, delirium induced through the experience, not simply of surgery with all its intrusiveness, but in some instances simply on the basis of the hospital experience itself.

My cup of tea this morning is a disappointment, not enough milk in it and I do not want to ask my husband for more. Not used to multi-tasking in the way my daughters are, he tackles one job at a time, and they pile up to the point where he feels persecuted and I become even more so. I become reluctant to ask for all the tiny things that make my incarceration on this couch less unpleasant.

It strikes me from the New York Times article that it is this, this restraint and constraint, the unfamiliarity, the sense of helplessness that must fuel dementia.

I fear I have become an old stick-in-the-mud preferring the quiet of home to the hurley burley of life outside. What it is to be trapped inside a body that refuses to function as it once did?

Apart from the occasional purple iris that stands tall above the otherwise bare shrubs there is not much colour outside. The white arum lilies have popped up in abundance along with a few white magnolias. Arum lilies are funeral flowers. The whiteness adds a touch of austerity. My daughter has thrown out piles of withered flowers, which she took home a week ago from the formal. These are mostly in oranges and yellows, still colourful against the black soil, but they lie inert on the ground and reinforce the sense I have of winter time and of death and decay.

I tell myself every day that this time will pass. This enforced immobilisation and that I should make myself enjoy it. At least I can write. At least I have access to the Internet and to my blog and fellow bloggers. At least I am not alone. I have my family. But I hate the transformation I detect in my own usually confident and competent self. I hate the way I can no longer take charge of a situation and get things rolling. I resent the way I cannot tidy my own house, not that I do so much of that these days, but at least before I broke my leg, if the fancy caught me, I could in fact get up the momentum to wipe the benches and put away dishes and clothes.


My older sister visited yesterday and reminded me of what it was like when we were children. In those days she did all the housework, ostensibly because our mother worked away from home for money, but more so, I think now, because our mother did not like house work herself and her oldest daughter was driven to try to create some sort of order in an otherwise chaotic household.

So my older sister took it upon herself – or was she asked, or required – to do all the washing, the cooking and cleaning, a veritable Cinderella. She took on all my mother’s tasks including my mother’s relationship with my father, but that is another story and one to be glanced over, as it might offend.

I ask myself why it should offend. Why is it possible to write in a blog about all manner of disturbing events in life, and not feel the inhibition that I feel should I mention my older sister’s role in my family as my father’s wife?

It is a secret. Role reversals such as these are kept secret because they are outside of the natural order. My sister told me, as much as she did these things, she did them under duress.

One day my father was home sick in bed. He called for my older sister. He needed her help to get to the toilet.
‘Do not be frightened of my penis,’ he said to her. My sister did not want to look at his penis. She could scarcely bear to touch the body of this six foot three man who leaned on her heavily as she steered him to the toilet.

This memory came to her after I had asked her a series of questions about what it had been like for her when we were children.
‘All the times when our father walked around the house naked’. I remember this too, the sight of his aging, naked body.

Why is it that children find it hard to see their aging parents naked?

In the hospital, as the nurses wheeled Elsie back to bed after a shower on the shower chair, her nightgown hung loosely down across her knees but bunched up around her waist at the back. I watched her stout and naked torso glide past me, stuck like a pink pudding on the base of the wheelchair, mottled with cellulite.

Why should it disturb me so much? Is it because we hide our bodies from one another as we age, such that the sight of the creased and wrinkly skin is reduced to the face, the wrists, the ankles only? When we see the full figure of aged nakedness, is it a reminder of the garden in winter, the bare trees, the sense of death on the horizon.

I do not know. I only know that the sight of Elsie, part naked in her wheel chair, caused me to want to cast my eyes away, just as I wanted to look away as she vomited into the green kidney dish hour after hour. A line of black stuff belched from her mouth and I thought of a film I had seen as a young woman, a film by Federico Fellini, The Satyricon. To me this film is all these human indignities.

‘You can say goodbye to your dignity here,’ Lois said to me when I protested at the possibility of having a young male nurse help me with my shower. No, I was not yet ready for that. As it was, I needed help only to drag the green plastic rubbish bag up the length of my leg and seal it with tape to keep out the water. Once ensconced on the shower chair I could manage the rest by myself. I did not need this bright young man to see me naked, to wash me down, to cause me to feel like an object under his averted gaze.

It is the objectification of one’s self and one’s body that disturbs me. The dehumanisation in medical treatment, as in childhood sexual abuse. The one is designed to help, however much it might fail, the other to exploit.

108 comments:

Elizabeth said...

There is so much here to ponder -- as in all of your amazing posts.

What comes to me, immediately (and many things came to me) is that when old and withered bodies, aged flesh, etc. is tended to with love, I don't think it is sickening. I think there is beauty in the sight of aging, dying flesh --

Perhaps it's because I am a caretaker of someone seriously disabled, many of these inhibitions are really not present in me, anymore. Dignity -- lack of dignity -- do these originate in the beholder or the one beholden?

I am sorry for your depression as you convalesce. I so understand it -- although I've never broken a limb or been "down" for as long as you, I know that when I get the flu or am otherwise bedridden, there is a strong central nervous system component. I feel as if I will never be myself again.

I wish you continued healing and cheer, a bit of humor and laughter to break up the monotony -- some peace and relief from your memories.

Kath Lockett said...

Elisabeth, the Elizabeth-with-a-Z's comment is one that I envy and agree with.

Corny though it may sound, there's nothing like a good comedy series on DVD to give you a laugh. Nothing on earth is better than a good chuckle. And get a dog or a cat to sit next to you, so you have warm fur to stroke absentmindedly.....

Laoch of Chicago said...

I have read theories regarding the sudden onset of dementia as being triggered by trauma, scary to contemplate.

A couple of years ago I had a stress fracture in my foot and because I live on the third floor I did not leave my apartment for three months. It was a remarkably lame experience.

Good healing wishes to you.

Elisabeth said...

I hope my post didn't sound as though I feel that miserable, Elizabeth. Clearly it does.

I still have a sense of humour, I think, though it's not as robust as usual. I find I'm not as tolerant of other people's efforts to cheer me up or jolly me along.

But it's early days. It's a big adjustment. I'll get there.

Thanks Elizabeth. I feel a tad ashamed complaining to the likes of you, given all you have to bear. But it's a state of mind thing and states of mind shift. I'll cheer up soon.

Elisabeth said...

It's not as if I'm not surrounded by the family animal, Kath. The three cats vie for position in the middle of my leg, so I'm forever shooing them off.

I say to Chan Cho who is in resdience between my legs at the moment, 'you can sit there as long as you leave the bulk of the pillow to me'.

But Chan Cho is fairly determined to get the lion's share. Ralph, the dog has to be confined behind a makeshift fence in the living area because he's worse than the cats and heavier. He'd sit on my head given a chance and lick me to death.

Because the cast is so big and heavy, I'm less able to deal with the animals than usual.

They are a comfort, but it's not comfort I need, so much as understanding. What's the difference? I wonder.

Elisabelle said...

Oh... I have so many to share about this.
Kind of intimate stuff. My husband is 38 and his MS is surprisingly aggressive even for doctors... He is doing very bad especially since July.
Though his skin is aging like a 38 year old men, his body is so much older...
In 2 months time, he lost all his autonomy and we need someone home when I am at work. He depends on me for so many things. He is so angry about that The situation will not improve only get worse. He is 38....

I understand your frustration, but I know you will get better.

It is a messy comment, but I had so many thoughts and feelings reading your post.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks, Laoch, for your good wishes. Three months locked up with a bung ankle on the third floor sounds ghastly.

Somehow my confinement pales by comparison. A 'lame' experience indeed. And do you walk more carefully now?

Already I feel more cautious than ever before. This fall has challenged my 'omnipotence' cruelly.

Elisabeth said...

Elisabelle, thank you for telling me about how hard it is for you. Again, I feel humbled.

One of my cousins is married to a man in his late forties who has suffered MS for the past twenty years and more. They have three sons, the oldest now an adult.

He is unlikely to live much longer. He has lost most of his physical capacities but he is a gentle man and one who appears to accept his condition in a way that few others could.

His wife, my cousin, also is a gentle generous soul and together they have carved out a life for their three sons that is extraordinary. But you can see daily how hard it has been for them all. It seems such a cruel disease.

I understand your husband's anger and yet I also understand that his anger must make it even harder for you to help him.

Anger is part of mourning but when someone gets stuck in it it can become very stressful for all those concerned.

Your blog is a tribute not only to your talent as a photographer but also to your amazing perseverance in the face of such hardship.

My heart goes out to you. Thank you for your comment here. It must have been hard for you to write. English as your second language and these thoughts so personal and so private. I am very grateful to you.

TaraDharma said...

it is maddening to be laid up and relatively helpless. I broke leg in a motor accident, and was helpless for 3 whole months! I hear ya, I do. It is another state of being altogether, one that you will get through, though hearing this now probably does little good.

I have taken care of several elderly people, and found that the shock of seeing older naked bodies did subside.

And speak of loss of dignity - that time I broke my face running to the bathroom in the middle of the night and smacked into the door. I was running because I was about to be sick. And then I was. Helpless on the hallway floor. Paramedics cutting off my soiled PJs and loading me into the ambulance.

Sorry, I know this is not a contest. I just had to share -- life really does through some curve balls at us.

I, also, highly recommend funny movies!

Harry Kent said...

It's scary when a sudden loss of function announces unequivocally how vulnerable the human body and psyche can be. Yes, they are tough and resilient and self-healing too - but that does not in itself negate the heartaches and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.

It's scary because we suddenly have revealed to us, in an incontestable way, how fragile our sense of normality is. We skate on thin ice and never realise till one day we unexpectedly break through. Our physical and mental powers that seem as natural, enduring and stable as the laws of gravity turn out to be as robust as dandelions caught by a sudden puff. Our rights, reputations, and authority are rented clothes and as soon as we are displaced out of the routine social milieu that stitched them together we find ourselves threadbare and exposed.

Consumer society conspires against the gaining of such knowledge. It insists that life consists of ever expanding horizons of choice and customer satisfaction. It isolates those who have fallen through just in case thin ice is catching. And so whole nations in the West have become infantile, ignorant of what every Stoic citizen in the ancient world drilled for in preparation, every unschooled peasant in the Middle Ages once understood, every Buddhist recognises as a Noble Truth.

So it’s been a privilege to read your account of ‘how it is’, Elizabeth. You’re not spinning a philosophy of nihilism nor embracing pessimism and defeatism. Neither am i. Far from it. But you are saying how it is, for you, right now. i recognize the universality of your personal account, salute your courage and endurance, and i embrace all who have added their stories of pain, hardship and endurance here in response to your own. And of course, along with everyone else here, wish you a speedy and full recovery.

Cats! They sure take advantage.

Elisabeth said...

How to dodge those curve balls, TaraDharma seems to an issue for those like me who have managed thus far to avoid all such mishaps. Accidents like this happen to other people, not me.

This of course is not true. In fact this is the third time I have done battle with a motor car as a pedestrian.

The first time I was tiny, about four years old, out and about with my sisters and brothers on the equivalent of a country road. The car stopped in time, brushed against me but did no damage.

The second time when I was seven years old on a pedestrian crossing. Again the lights were green and the traffic was stopped but one driver stopped too late and careered into me, at slow speed but fast enough to knock me unconscious .

I went to hospital overnight for observation. They feared concussion or a fractured skull, but as far as I know now no damage was done.

I used to think I had nine lives like a cat. I have no such illusions now.

Thanks TaraDharma for both your comments. It is heartening to hear that other people have overcome similar or worse adversity and you are right, it is not a competition but a sharing of woes and of triumphs over hardship.

Elisabeth said...

You are so right about those 'thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to', Harry. I have felt so challenged by this whole ordeal, as is evident in my blog, from what I feel, and from what others say here.

I keep thinking how it would be if I did not have my blog to complain into, my blog almost like a compassionate therapist or counsellor who gives me a space to be heard.

A friend said today when I apologised yet again for complaining - given how much worse things could be, and how much worse things are for others - 'Complain away'.

I feel a need to talk about this and I recognise that need as built on a certain level of grief. I have lost a view of myself that, as you suggest Harry is illusory, i have also lost the usual function of one of my legs, hopefully only temporarily, but it has knocked me for six.

Thank you for our wise words here. I soak them up, every one and I'm particularly grateful for your understanding of my need and that of others here to share our tales of hardship.

It seems to me it is one powerful way we all have of developing the strength to move on.

If I had to keep it all to myself, I fear I would go under, or become frozen in some awful way, like a traumatised child.

Thank you.

Lorenzo said...

Very powerfully written, Elisabeth. You have taken a premature (and temporary!) stroll through the waiting room of dementia, listening to the echoes of your own reflections on our aging bodies. My wife works in a hospital and one of the most painful aspects of her work is that 'loss of dignity'. It is the most recurrent theme in her discussions of the grimmer aspects of her job.

I have to think, though, that the act of pondering these questions and writing about them publicly in such an engaging and gripping manner speaks to a deeper dignity in you, and all of us, that neither disease nor age can completely ravage.

I'd like to reach out a long arm of friendship from here in Spain, sign your cast, give you a hug and, yes, vacuum, the living room rug if you want me to.

Elisabeth said...

Lorenzo, it's heartening to read about your long arm of friendship all the way from Spain. I can imagine it now around my shoulders and I am comforted by its warmth.

And to have you in my kitchen vacuuming the rug is enough to bring tears to my eyes. For it is the helplessness I feel most of all that takes me into such dark places for minutes at a time.

I come out of it again. And my family help me a great deal, despite my grizzles.

My husband just now is cooking us dinner, poussin with roast potatoes, broccoli and asparagus. I shall raise a toast you, Lorenzo.

Thank you.

Niamh B said...

It's a horrible feeling being helpless. Hope your husband reads this and gets you plenty of milk next time!!

:-)

Thought provoking as always

Alberto Oliver said...

Since the very moment i read the title it came to my mind that quotation at the entrance of the Hell in Dante´s comedy ""Abandon all hope you who enter here. . ."" What a terrible feeling that of feeling trapped with no hope to escape. There are many kinds of jails and prisons, but definetively those of the body and the mind must be the worst...how it must be to lose the reason, or the capability of moving your body freely?? or to lose the sight or any other sense?? and fall prisoner in a world of shadows and darkness?? Sometimes it frightens me to think that as we become older and older, we have to start quiting to a lot of thinks we were used to,,beginning with the senses and then, the health. Maybe to lie on the bed when sick or convalescent is a sort of a rehearsal for what is to happen in the years to come. There is no doubt that the world, the life, can take all of your dignity away if it dispose to do so,,we can´t do anything but to hope, it may doesn´t happen soon.
Thanks for sharing Elisabeth, you know you can count with your blogger friends, in these moments of forced rest and isolation.

Elisabeth said...

We're over flowing with milk, thanks Niamh. And we've just enjoyed a delicious dinner.

I just have to come to terms with the sight of my husband doing everything, emptying the dishwasher, cooking, tidying up after dinner and more.

We two are alone for dinner tonight. Usually I do the lion's share. He's fine about it. But me...
Old habits die hard.

Lorenzo said...

I'm touched by the toast, Elisabeth. By the way, over at Ruth's 'Rumi Days' with today's Matisse dancers, I saw your comment that you will not be able to dance until your leg can bear the weight. I took the liberty of asking you for the very first dance upon your return to the weight-bearing world ;)

Elisabeth said...

Hopefully it's not as bad as Dante's inferno, Alberto, not entirely without hope.

In fact hope keeps me going. Hope for a slow improvement for healing and for getting through this difficult time.

You are right, Alberto, it is like a rehearsal of things to come, but maybe by the time we get there we will be better prepared.

Thank you for your kind words here. It is good to know I have the support of my blogger friends.

I have read so many blogs over the time I have been blogging, from people struck down by illness and hardship. I never quite thought that it would one day be me. At least not so soon.

I look forward to making progress. It won't always be like this.

Ruth said...

I met you earlier this morning in the Rumi ball room where Lorenzo asked you to dance when your leg heals. But I encouraged the two of you to take a turn on the floor now, in your spirit and imagination. I love his idea of signing your cast. What a great idea if we could do it through cyberspace somehow.

I am so moved by your writing that I was sorry you stopped when you did. I could read your thoughts till the cows come home. Your mind-heart are glorious to witness, in a simple and straightforward way, which makes it-them all the better. I felt the tension and sadness of aging and losing the vibrancy and allurements of youth. I felt the strangeness of another person's nakedness, and wonder too why that is. I had a long conversation with the poet Robert Kelly about nakedness when I attended his weekend workshop at Cranbrook here way back in the mid-90s. He's pretty hip and liberal and open, and somehow we got to talking about religion after class, he knew my dad was a minister. Robert grew up Catholic, and he talked about his sense of nakedness, that it is essentially very private, no matter how open we'd like to think ourselves. Also, of course, with the artificialities of the "beauty" culture we have been trained to be bothered by the slightest lines or dimples, and we have become ashamed of them. How very sad that makes me.

I feel for you, and yet I appreciate the beauty of how you share it. I just can't get enough.

Word verification: vicaree . . . which to me means that I am living your life vicariously here.

It's nice how your style promotes such long comments. :)

Ruth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reader Wil said...

Elisabeth! I am sorry to hear about the accident. I hope your leg will heal soon. And take care!
Today is indeed a sad day! Thanks for your comment.

Meggie said...

As I limped, almost naked, to the shower after an operation to remove a Parotid tumour, I felt so ashamed of my aging and naked body. Years later when I was to undergo a bad hernia repair, I was mortified to have a male nurse shave my pubic area.
I do find medical intrusion/invasions to be quite awful, and I am not quite sure why.
Why should I fee ashamed of my aging body? It is, after all, a very natural thing.

Jim Murdoch said...

As my wife has gradually become less and less able I’ve been compelled to take on more of the household chores that I used to. We’ve also modified our lifestyle to accommodate our reduced means and capabilities. My wife was never house-proud and has a high tolerance for clutter; she believes things should be to hand. I have learned to bear her clutter and she my need for order and so a balance has been struck in areas like the living room which we share. I’m a tidier and not a cleaner however. Our flat is not dirty but we’re not short of dust let’s put it that way. I heard a woman talking on TV a week or two ago saying she only spends three hours a day on housework. My wife is, as you know, in America just now (oh, as an aside, apart from communication with the bird and a neighbour I’ve spoken aloud twice: the first time was when I woke up late – I said, “Oh, ten o’clock” – the second was as I was running between three computers trying to find a photo – I caught myself saying, “Where the hell is that damn file?”) anyway, when Carrie goes abroad I do something of a spring clean and I can tell you that I’ll be lucky to spend three hours on all of it and most of the things I’ll be tackling, like the fronts of the kitchen cupboards, haven’t been touched since the last time she went to the States. The most her room will get is a quick Hoover however. I only go into that bomb-site when I need something.

Jim Murdoch said...

I’ve never been particularly troubled by being nude or exposed. I had to go to the hospital a few months to have a ultrasound – I’d discovered a lump on one of my testes – and there was a female nurse present while I was being examined and I can’t say it bothered me. I can’t pretend thought that I wasn’t grateful that I didn’t get an involuntary erection. I did the same as I always do at times like that, step outside myself, put on my poet’s hat and take notes. So the best I could say about the experience is that it fascinated me. I was neither excited nor embarrassed to be lying there. In case you’re interested by the time the scan took place the lump which had been the size of a large pea had vanished and has not returned.

I saw my dad naked a few times. I took note of what he looked like and wondered if I would look like him when I grew old but I haven’t developed like him at all really apart from my general frame. He didn’t go around naked although he had no problems sitting around in his Y-fronts after his bath. Mum was far more modest.

Both my parents had problems that deformed their midriffs: my dad has a gasterectomy and the stitches burst and so his tummy was distended and he was very conscious of it (my father was quite vain); I’m not sure what was wrong with my mum but it looked like a hernia although why it was never fixed I have no idea.

I’ve only seen my mother naked in bit and only towards the very end of her life. After dad died I used to go round and do her gardening (a job I detested and I’ve sworn I’ll never live anywhere where I’m responsible for a garden) anyway this day mum came out and was picking weeds from the lawn to show a bit of solidarity. Now, what I should mention about my mother is that she had enormous breasts and, in old age, did not always tolerate the strictures of undergarments. I looked up and these two massive torpedoes were hanging out from under her top. I pointed this out and without the slightest embarrassment tugged her top back over them. The second time was probably on the day she died. Carrie took care of her for those last three days, helped her to do the toilet etc. But there came a point when she had to have her nightie changed and my help was needed which is when I got to see the rest of her. Now that did bother her, not being naked but the lump on her body which wasn’t pretty but not the worst thing I’ve seen. What can I say, it was a lump.

Carrie’s not young – she’s sixty-three – and so her body’s starting to show wear but I never knew here when she was in her twenties and everything was smooth and firm. I got to know the person on the inside and the packaging has never been a big issue. She doesn’t grab for a towel if I catch her changing but then neither does she prance around the place in the scud. I won’t say I don’t see her but I don’t see how she looks as important. I’ve come a long way from the eighteen-year-old who preferred to company of pretty girls to a nice person.

I think I might be troubled more by the sight of an old person who looked bad not simply because they had aged but because they had mistreated their bodies. My last wife was fond of photos of old American Indians like this chap, faces with character. I like to think my face has character. Just look at photos of Clint Eastwood as a young man and compare them to how he looks now. Sure he was a handsome young man but now what is he? It is inevitable that I will age. I am aging. I’m shrinking. I have to think to straighten my back. And if I wind up in a hospital being treated like a piece of meat then that really doesn’t worry me. I don’t like being the centre of attention. Do what you have to do and let me get back to what’s important.

Ms. Moon said...

First of all- you are an amazing writer, Elisabeth. Amazing.
And isn't it something to suddenly realize how you keep your world spinning with the hundreds of small things you do and don't even realize until the spinning stops because you cannot do them? Or at least the spinning is clumsy and tilted and gravity is not what it should be.
When I write about my own childhood sexual abuse, my brother gets so upset that he spits venom at me. He denies, denies, denies. He says I lie. I feel sorrier for him than for myself- I at least can see clearly why things have evolved as they have while he is forced to eternally react rather than being able to act.
And the indignity you speak of- it takes so much strength to keep ourselves in the middle of it.
I wish you that strength. I send you my love and respect and hopes for quick healing.

Anthony Duce said...

I enjoyed your observations today very much. I felt like I was in your place on the couch observing along with you. Although my experience with immobility and loss of dignity due to health at least, has not been tested very much so far. Not something I’m looking forward to. Your writing does express these issues very well.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Elisabeth, thank you for your message, but my troubles are not exactly those I write about in the blog...my wife has got a rare and aggressive form of tumor, now it has struck her peritonuem and has started chemiotherapy which is the only, I hope effective cure, but its immediate side-effects are simply scary...she is losing weight... so we are fighting simply against gloom, which is a beastly subtle matter.

Robert the Skeptic said...

I'm fairly active, but right after I retired I was working on the roof of my bath house, fell off and broke three ribs. Had I fallen differently it would have been my skull!!

It was a hard lesson; doing things more thoughtfully and slowly is a good strategy. Even yet today, when I think I need to rush through something, I try to be aware of becoming frantic and step back.

You are using the time to reflect; embrace your forced abeyance, something good may yet come from it.

angryparsnip said...

Elisabeth...
The family can pitch in this will not last long and by now the family must realize how much you do in a single day...
Stay well, sorry when you wrote this it was dreary outside, but all will be better in a few weeks !

cheers, parsnip

Elisabeth said...

Oh Lorenzo, if you knew what a terrible dancer I was, Lorenzo, even with my good legs, you might regret the invitation, but I am honoured and since our correspondence is largely speculative I can see myself as the best dancer in the room sweeping across the floor with you Lorenzo, that is if the dance is to be a waltz.

I can even imagine myself as a Flameco dancer in a tango. Ah, the joy of our imaginations. Thanks Lorenzo, you cheer me up immensely.

Elisabeth said...

Somehow I managed to publish your comment twice, Ruth and well it deserves to be. I'm again honoured by your response to my writing and my musings.

We cover our nakedness for many reasons I imagine, Ruth - as a means of protecting ourselves from the physical elements, of presenting an image to the world, of keeping ourselves warm or cool and comfortable, and of somehow masking our vulnerabilities.

The number of people, myself included who dream of themselves in situations where they are naked or partially naked is testimony to this.

We are born naked and as little children it seems to scarcely bother us but only as we get older we begin to be troubled by the experience of nakedness though in some instances we thrill at it. I think of the exhibitionists among us. Nakedness has a sexual charge as well.

It's complex. Thanks Ruth. I love your Rumi quotes. I'm sure the great poet would have wondered about these matters, too, even all those years ago.

Though much of our experience in this regard is socially constructed and social constructs change over time and cultures.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks Reader Will. A broken leg pales into insignificance alongside such horrors as 9/11, and I'm grateful to you for reminding us.

Thanks , too for your good wishes.

Ruth said...

Hope you don't mind, E., I removed the second posting of my comment.

Elisabeth said...

Jim, your comments deserve to be treated as posts in their own right, they are always so full of wonderful detail.

I think you and your wife as a couple share much with me and my husband. In an ideal world my husband would keep a far more orderly house than I.

He is meticulous even it comes to the ordering of things like his desk, his computer and his work spaces. If they get too messy he cannot function. I, on the other hand, create mess to the point where it overwhelms me and then I tidy up only to start the mess all over again.

I have a suspicion you would consider my writing room to be a bomb site similar to Carrie's, fortunately for me, it is my space and I'm entitled to it, just as my husband is entitled to his. It is the only way to live together, to agree to disagree.

If there is one thing that frustrates me immensely it is when my husband goes to help me with something on my computer and he notices my cluttered desk top. It drives him spare.

'I'll tidy it up in good time,' I say. My husband never leaves his files open on his desk top. Everything is put away neat and in order. He is a lawyer after all and lawyers must operate like this I suspect or they would not be able to keep track of everything. Their work is largely digitalised 'paper work'.

And to give my husband his due there are many times I wish that I could be more orderly especially when I have to spend ages trying to locate that quote or that article or even that book that I have misplaced or buried somewhere deep in the piles of papers that surround my desk.

I live by the motto near enough is good enough, but sometimes even I get frustrated by my own laxness.

I'm sorry to hear about your isolation, though I gather it does not trouble you. If I found myself speaking out loud only twice in a day and then to myself, I'd be on the telephone for real human contact.

I love this virtual contact much of the time but I also thrive on real human interaction. So I recommend you use your telephone, if it ever gets too much.

Woman in a Window said...

The complexities of this post! I am shaking my head. I'm not sure where to begin, or where I am in my mind.

"When we see the full figure of aged nakedness, is it a reminder of the garden in winter, the bare trees, the sense of death on the horizon."

I just met a man I had never met before. He is perhaps 80. He is a farmer. Never did he not work a day in his life until he became hospitalized a month or so ago. Why would I meet him there? That is what I thought? Why, WHY would I have any right?

He sat in his bed very white, I was unsure where he began and his white nightgown ended. The white cirulation stockings on his legs cut into the whiteness somewhere. And he wore a powder blue diaper. I was introduced to him. Nodded to him. Did I touch his hand? (I didn't feel worthy to witness him in this state, you understand.) And he stroked his face as he, apparently, always did. He asked me what I derived value from in my life. I.did.not.ask.him.back.

I wonder on the nature of everything now.

I am glad I met him. He did not for a second seem to consider his physical shape. But I wanted to rip out the walls and give him some trees, some dust, some cows. And then he might have seemed stronger.

I like this post very much. It opens worlds of thought for me.

xo
erin

Elisabeth said...

I had an internal ultrasound a few year back sourced vaginally and the nurse who administered it told me as we chatted that women always prefer a female to undertake this procure.

When I asked her about whether men might prefer a male attendant when it came to tests on their genitalia she said, they too, by and large, prefer a woman.

A combination of fears she suggested, the belief that women are gentler and more able as nurses and also a sort of homophobia particularly when it comes to handling the penis.

So your experience here is interesting. I'm glad the lump disappeared, so many lumps do, than goodness but then there are those that hang about.

Have you seen Lynn Behrendt's latest post? 'What is Beautiful Video, see: http://lynnbehrendt.blogspot.com/

It is challenging in the extreme and makes my concerns about nakedness of the ageing body trivial compared with our views on what is beautiful and ugly when it comes to deformity, disease and the like. Powerful stuff if you have a stomach for it.

I suspect when the damaged body is your own or that of someone you love, your parents, your spouse, your child, the perception is different from when the body belongs to a stranger.

Thanks, Jim.

Elisabeth said...

Different members of the same family respond so differently when it comes to memories of child sexual abuse, Ms Moon.

In my own family I have noticed my brothers, though not all of them, seem to have more trouble than the girls in reflecting on what happened.

I wonder whether this might have something to do with the fact that as boys they are more likely to identify with their father and therefore feel guilty by association.

Through the identification they too become perpetrators, not necessarily at a conscious level, I suspect, but emotionally.

Thanks for all the good wishes, Ms Moon. I am so grateful for all the support I've received from my blogger friends and associates. It helps enormously, more than I had ever before imagined.

Elisabeth said...

i share your wonderment about the shame we might feel about our ageing naked bodies, Meggie.

Is it the wound to our narcissism, no longer young and supple or is it partly out of contemporary pressures?

You know the way it is - old equals ugly. Or is it our fear of decay and eventual death. The fact of our ageing represents this. Whereas so many people want to be forever young.

In any case, if we let ourselves think about and challenge these notions of ageing as a disability and source f disgust, we may not feel so ashamed next time. Because as you write ageing is a natural thing to do, besides which it is inevitable.

Thanks, Meggie.

Elisabeth said...

I hope you don't get tested too soon, Anthony, and that when and if you do, it's not too traumatic for you.

I put in the 'if' with some hesitation because if you are never tested in your life time I suspect the only reason would be from soon and sudden death. A ghastly thought for any of us.

No, I'm glad to be alive, however much I might complain about my current state of incapacity.

Everyday gets just a little bit better.

Thanks, Anthony.

Elisabeth said...

Dear Davide, I'm so sorry to read about your wife's dreadful illness. My worries evaporate in the face of such knowledge.

I hope the chemo helps and as you say, that it is effective.

Whenever I read your beautiful poetry I never for a minute imagine that in the background you are nursing such an ill wife. It sounds terrible.

Such a heavy burden. My heart goes out to you, Davide.

Please, if you and your wife can bear it and it would help you, write about it more. Not to meet other people's curiosity but because from my experience it is one of the best ways to help in states of helplessness, which serious illness induces.

You might of course prefer to keep your thoughts private. You might already write about them. These things are so delicate, Davide, our feelings about our health and that of our loved ones. In some ways it is the essence of who we are.

Thank you, Davide.

Elisabeth said...

I like to think that something good might come out of my enforced quietude, Robert. I think it already is.

I am beginning to feel more at peace and people have responded in such heartfelt ways to my recent blog posts about this whole drama that it begins to feel less onerous. As well, I think I am getting stronger and certainly I am adjusting more.

A fall from the roof sounds ghastly. What a relief it was not worse.

The best we can do out of these events as you suggest, Robert is to learn from them.

Thanks.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for your good wishes, Parsnip.

As you suggest it's not the end of the world. Although today began as a cold and gloomy day, the sun is out now and my spirits have lifted.

The family 'pitch in' as you say, and we are generally surviving.

Elisabeth said...

Erin, thanks for your thoughts here and this poignant image of the farmer felled, though it sounds as though he takes his inability to work now with good grace.

When I was young and worked in a hospital as a social work I often encountered people such as the man you describe, but I was young them too young to allow myself to contemplate the thought that one day I too might be here.

The thought is with me more clearly now. Would that I were as gracious as this old man in my declining years. Clearly they have begun.

Thanks, Erin.

R.H. said...

Golly, no wonder your relatives are kicking up about this.

Jim Murdoch said...

You misunderstand me. I wasn’t bemoaning the fact I was alone. I had commented before that I never talked to myself and part of me was determined to provide evidence of that fact over the past fortnight (a bit petty of me I suppose) but, since I failed, I also thought it the right thing to own up. Being on my own doesn’t worry me. Never has. In fact in all seriousness I checked the calendar a few days ago convinced that Carrie still had another week to go and here she’s back on Tuesday. It’s not been an unproductive fortnight – no blogs, no reading, just e-mails, comments and my novel – but another week would have been nice. I’m not actually sure what the difference has been because my routine hasn’t altered. And it’s not as if Carrie sits and jabbers away while I’m working because she doesn’t. I think it’s just been the small things, making a cuppa when i feel like it and having dinner when I’m hungry. Small stuff.

Jim Murdoch said...

Yes, I saw Lynn Behrendt's latest post. I couldn't watch the whole thing. The kid with one eye was the one that got me. But I did leave a comment and a couple of links for you there.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks Robert. My relatives are doing okay now, I think, as am I, but it has taken a bit of adjusting.

Things like this are challenging and although they are small fry in the scheme of things and compared to other people's trials and tribulations they can be unsettling.

I have a whole new appreciation of what it's like for people in hospital.

River said...

I only have a torn shoulder tendon which is restricting me, I don't think I could handle not being able to walk around. Hopefully, you get a lighter weight cast soon, a walking cast.

Elisabeth said...

Sorry for misunderstanding, Jim. You were harking back to my 'private soliloquy' post. Now I understand.

I also recognise there is a certain pleasure and freedom in being alone and not having to dance to someone else's tune.

The presence of another, even if they are like Carrie and do not chatter away, can still interfere with the freedom to write.

Thanks Jim and thanks to for the reference back to Lynn Behrendt's post. I shall check out the new links now.

I was taken by the child with one eye too. This child reminded me of Cyclops, only here it seems a tragedy.

Cyclops had a strength that intrigued me as a child when I first heard of him. This sight of this child is devastating.

R.H. said...

It's illness, ageing, that's dehumanising. Hospital is where it lands you (if you're lucky). But I wasn't referring to this in regard to your relatives, I was referring to you hanging out their dirty washing. And good heavens, incest isn't how you broke your leg! What's it doing here?

lakeviewer said...

I'm so glad to meet you and follow you here-or did we meet once and lost each other? Anyway, your description of the condition of invalid for a while longer, watching things pile up, watching the family trying to cope, remembering your sister's role, these descriptions are singularly beautiful, evocative, full of a keen sensibility. I love how you dissect a scene-the tea without enough milk-and these details enrich our understanding.

Thank you for the visit.
Hope you get better soon. Though, if I remember what it was like when my leg broke, it took a good while.

What a learned was to be blind to things and warm to kindness.

christopher said...

It's obviously all been said. I can only add how amazing it is to see the right juxtaposition of the hospital experience and the childhood sexual abuse experience.

I believe the dehumanization in hospital has little to do with the patient and much to do with the way it would burn out most health professionals if they had to let us be persons while they treat us. I do not believe that most have the conscious depth of developed soul to avoid the contagion of human suffering. They would sicken and fail.

It is certain that sexual abusers dehumanize their victims or else they could never abuse.

KleinsteMotte said...

Dignity. I wonder if it is a sort of disguise? In an emergency, when our life is hanging on a limb and nakedness can save us we would embrace it. I've been in that situation, postpartum hemorrhages. Naked, with IV's attached to each limb I lay on the OR table as the medics watched my skin colour and texture and discussed options to save my life.My family was waiting not far away praying for a positive outcome. Nakedness was the least of anyone's worry! I suppose we shift our priorities as the need for survival increases. I have watched daughters bath their ailing fathers and sons aid their mothers the same way a parent cares for an infant. While stress may occur, I think the bond of love for another can be so powerful that nakedness appears invisible and a non issue.Dignity is redefined. Trust, faith and compassion become more powerful. Exploitation would be a dreadful infringement. Punishable. Right?

Elisabeth said...

I hope I get a lighter cast soon, River. This one is such a weight to lug around. Last night in the small hours of the morning on one of my trips to the toilet with the aid of my trusty four pronged frame I still managed to slip somehow and in the effort to right myself I leaned on my bung leg.

It nearly killed me. It took some time and a couple of Panadol to settle the pain.

It's okay for now, but I'm terrified of the bone moving. A moving bone equals surgery, to be avoided at all costs.

Thanks, River. And I'm sorry to hear about your shoulder. At least you can lug a shoulder around, but shoulders can also be dreadfully painful.

Let's both heal soon.

Elisabeth said...

I hope I get a lighter cast soon, River. This one is such a weight to lug around. Last night in the small hours of the morning on one of my trips to the toilet with the aid of my trusty four pronged frame I still managed to slip somehow and in the effort to right myself I leaned on my bung leg.

It nearly killed me. It took some time and a couple of Panadol to settle the pain.

It's okay for now, but I'm terrified of the bone moving. A moving bone equals surgery, to be avoided at all costs.

Thanks, River. And I'm sorry to hear about your shoulder. At least you can lug a shoulder around, but shoulders can also be dreadfully painful.

Let's both heal soon.

Elisabeth said...

I thought of how I might respond to your question as I crawled into bed last night, Robert.

Incest didn't break my leg, what's it doing in this post? you ask.

It's a good question, and one I thought to answer by way of a brief reference to the nature of incest, which does not, as far as I can tell, belong anywhere.

It pops up when you least expect it. It's in the nature of incest to invade your space, the space of an abused child.

No one asks for it. It's imposed upon you. In this sense, that's what incest is doing in this post. It might actually have a similar effect on the reader.

My sister's relationship with my father came into my mind, and not or the first time, as I wrote this post particularly as I thought about the juxtaposition of house work and the roles most often allocated to women, to mothers and daughters, at least in the past, and at least in a patriarchal society.

These roles of course are changing, at least in some cultures, at least we hope so.

In thinking about this particular sister who tells me repeatedly that she wants no more secrets, and knows about the nature of my writing, I put two and two together, and instead of deleting the thoughts as decency might demand, I left them in.

It's all to do with the layering of experience and requires a deeper reading than on the surface.

Many might not agree with this style of writing, but that's okay. It's my style and it's what I'm interested to explore.

This probably doesn't answer your question as well as you might like, Robert, but I've done my best.

Thanks.

Elisabeth said...

We must have lost sight of one another, Lakeviewer, but I remember you well. It's lovely to meet you here again.

You broke your leg, too, you say. How long ago? How long to recover?

I made the mistake of Googling a fractured tibia plateau and read all about the increased likelihood of arthritis in the knee joint etc etc. The worst it described is three months non-weight bearing, but it qualifies the whole thing with a comment about the need to consider the individual circumstances of individual breaks. I should take that as a warning to not panic too much.

My break will take its own course and all the predictions in the world will make little difference I imagine to the outcome.

Thanks, Lakeviewer.

Elisabeth said...

I think you are right about the medical fraternity's need to distance itself from the patient's experience, Christopher, as the only way to survive.

Funnily enough though, some manage to distance themselves in ways that make it more tolerable for the sick one, while others seem to rub it all in.

I'm glad you see the link between medicalisation and child abuse, Christopher. I know it may not be so clear to some.

Thanks.

Elisabeth said...

You present another and valid perspective, Kleinstemotte - dignity as a disguise. It well might be.

You are right I think when your life is hanging in the balance, your dignity matters not one jot, as is so clear from your poignant description here.

Survival then is all that counts.

So maybe dignity fits in along hierarchy of needs depending on the severity of the illness.

Thanks, Kleinstemotte.

persiflage said...

Dealing with infirmity is never easy, and is so frustrating. Perhaps you could get a hairdresser to call and wash your hair and get a cleaning service occasionally. It might be less stress for everyone.
I am having to deal with my husband's increasing infirmity, and memory loss. It is difficult to strike the balance between allowing and enabling autonomy and dignity. I feel so sad for him, and for all those others whose health is bad, whose aging is difficult and whose faculties are diminishing day by day. Sometimes it seems that the sick and the well occupy parallel universes.

R.H. said...

Your style is Hearts and Flowers. Women's Mag. Worthless for spitting out what's bothering you.
Incest jumps the tracks. Dumping it in, or juxtaposing it (impressive word) with humdrum happenings is an absurdity. There's no relationship.
Rather than all these little hints and asides about your father just spill it out in a single posting. Or maybe seek therapy?

PS: Medical students cut up corpses during their first year. They've seen it all. Whether you feel dehumanised is up to you. At least you're alive.

Elisabeth said...

I suspect you're right, Persiflage - the sick and the well occupy seemingly separate universes.

I want to qualify here, I'm not so much sick as disabled, but a disability can make you feel sick. Most of all I hate my lack of physical confidence. I'm just not yet adept with the crutches. I imagine it will take some time. and I'm fearful every time I walk of falling again.

It must be worse for your husband. At least I have the prospect of getting stronger, at least at this stage. Broken legs heal. But I know my ageing will continue and one day, things won't get better, only worse. Ahh the dreaded human condition.

Thanks, Persiflage.

Elisabeth said...

What to say, Robert. I've never been labelled as a Woman's Day-hearts and flowers -writer before, but theres always a first.

I may one day write a fuller post on that aspect of my history, but I don't want to centralise it. There are so many aspects to one's life. It intrigues me then that certain elements get covered up or alternatively exaggerated. If in treading a line in the middle, my writing seems too sentimental, Robert, so be it.

Thanks again.

R.H. said...

It's central to you alright. And too late for revenge. But go on -kick the corpse!
You only nudge it, make it laugh.

Marja said...

Lots of food for thought again and sorry to hear about your frustration I would be the same I think. Although I wouldn't have much difficulty with some mess in the home
Now I work all week I don't manage to keep it up to scratch but living in NZ this isn't a problem here.
About nude I was always very shy and I stil am and would certainly have big problems with being exposed to male nurses. It might have something to do how we were brought up as we never saw somebody in the nude but eventhough we were much more free in my current family my kids as teenagers have the same shyness now, although that might have something to do with being teenagers as well as well as personality.
Hope things get a bit better for you dear Take care and don't forget to spoil yourself when possible. That works for me.

Elisabeth said...

I'm wary of corpses, Robert. I'd rather let the dead lie still.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for your kind words, Marja.

I'm reading Janet Frame's Towards Another Summer and in it she describes her mother's relief after she hurt herself and had her 'arm up' for six weeks, during which time her husband, Frame's father we presume though the novel is in the third person, 'did the washing and milked the cow'.

Frame's mother talked of her arm 'so wistfully, as if it had been a time of great freedom that she would never again experience - yet how was it freedom if her arm had been in a sling?'

It's not freedom, its imprisonment however much I am spared the usual domestic drudgery.

I'll be happy to have it all back again. To make my own cup of tea, to clear the dishes, to cook the dinner and not have all the time to ask ask ask.

But not having to do it whatever other treats might there be?

Mim said...

Hello from Boston, dear Elisabeth.

Come Back Brighter said...

"You can say goodbye to your dignity here"

It strikes me that this isn't the way it should be, that surely dignity should at least be attempted to be preserved -- perhaps that would be less dementia among elderly patients if there was less dehumanising and destroying of dignity?

Soon you'll be back on your feet, but I have a feeling that this experience is going to be one that stays with you -- hopefully as much as it gives the rest of us something to think about.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Thank you so much for your words on my latest comment Elisabeth.
Your words are precise and true.

Thank you.
Davide

melissashook said...

you have so many long comments, that I hesitate to leave one, but...
I still love Mary Poppins...
My daughter used to prop her small self on the sink, pour out lots of cleanser and sing commercials to herself in the mirror...
I was like your mother, unwilling to do housework...I still am...
I appreciate the way you so nicely moved toward the abuse in this blog...organically.... if I remember correctly, you were much more uncomfortable with serious revelation before. I'm glad you're so forthright..
and the pink pudding...I was reminded of photographs I've seen of Russian (or some such) public baths with lots of old people...so much better...than our hesitancy to look at old bodies..
thank you!

Maggie May said...

My cup of tea this morning is a disappointment, not enough milk in it and I do not want to ask my husband for more. Not used to multi-tasking in the way my daughters are, he tackles one job at a time, and they pile up to the point where he feels persecuted and I become even more so. I become reluctant to ask for all the tiny things that make my incarceration on this couch less unpleasant""

- wonderful details to explain a situation most marrieds find themselves in.

Hang in there.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for the good wishes from Boston, Mim.

Elisabeth said...

You'd think there'd be more ways to preserve people's dignity, Come Back Brighter.

I saw the surgeon again today and he was 'jolly' enough and not too patronising, but I wondered whether he's ever had an experience of broken limbs or hospitalisation such that he might know more first hand of what it's like.

I think you're right about the extent to which this event will stay with me - forever no doubt. Hopefully, I will learn from it.

Thanks.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks again, Davide.

And thanks for all your thoughts Melissa. I love Mary Poppins, too. I first saw the movie as a sixteen year old and have never forgotten the pleasure of it all.

I too hate housework but unlike my mother I make myself do it. In fact I err on the side of doing too much, or I used to before I broke my leg, largely because I wanted to spare my children the sort of childhood my sister and I had - too much responsibility. But I may have pushed too far in the opposite direction.

As for the Russian bathers, it sounds like a good thing. We can be too inhibited at times.

Thanks again, Melissa.

Elisabeth said...

I'm hanging in there, Maggie May. Thanks for your good wishes.

You of all people know about fortitude in the face of domestic upheaval and how to turn it into wonderful writing.

I'm pleased to hear you resonate with my lot. Thanks.

Elisabeth said...

Art Durkee has left a new comment on your post "You can say goodbye to your dignity here.":

It's not about the nudity, it's about the dignity. Having been to more than one nudist and naturist camp, setting, venue, house, whatever, I can honestly say that when people walk around naked, no matter what they look like, they're beautiful. It's all about self-esteem and dignity. There's an innate dignity that most people have, whether clothed or naked. (I speak as both a photographer and a practicing naturist.)

It's the dignity that's taken away in the hospital setting, you're absolutely right about that. But the dignity is taken away because we're vulnerable and in need of help, so we can't be independent or self-sustaining. We're there *because* we need help. It's sometimes unavoidable that dignity goes out the window.

One of the aspects of the Hospice movement that I love is that they talk about maintaining the person's integrity, choice, and dignity. Those Hospice people are angels, they were so wonderful around both of my parents as they were dying. It made passing over far less traumatic, and far more dignified. You can bet I intend the same for myself, if it comes to that.

Elisabeth said...

For some reason my computer refused to let me publish your comment in the usual way but I wanted to include it here and it's come out under my heading, but I hope it's clear that it's from you Art and thank you for these astute observations.

I think you're right, it's not nakedness per se, it's how the nakedness gets attached to the vulnerability of hospitalisation.

I like the sound of these 'angels' from the hospice movement. We need more of them. It is a universal experience, at least within the western world, most of us will be hospitalised at one time or another. It behoves us to consider ways of improving on the experience.

It's bad enough being ill or infirm. It needn't be made worse by indifferent treatment.

Thanks again, Art.

R.H. said...

All this talk about loss of dignity in hospital seems rather shallow. What you should lose is hubris, vanity. For me being in hospital was a humanising experience. I'd never felt such companionship with people: other patients, all strangers and all on our arses. That's why.
An "accident" had landed me there, I'd never needed help until then, but got a clear look at what poor things we are really, basically. The wide world is full of crap, pretence. Companionship is down the bottom. It's the best value. But you have to dig deep.

Elisabeth said...

I'm glad you had a good experience in hospital, Robert. And it would be good for me if I were more able to give up some of my pride. I wish these things did not matter to me but they do.

Today I had a brace fitted to my leg in place of the original plaster cast. It's an ugly thing, all pink plastic, black velcro straps and white tubing, but it does the task better than the plaster because it has a hinged apparatus at the knee joint which is fixed at the moment.

In time when the bone has healed sufficiently the surgeon will have the hinge gradually loosened to enable me to bend my knee again but very slowly, in order not to displace that bone.

I find none of this undignified, even though its ugly and awkward. Perhaps because i am now out of hospital and the people who fitted the appliance were helpful, gracious and kind.

My husband's brother who did not get enough oxygen and birth and suffered a mild cerebral palsy with left sided weakness wore a cast that was all metal and springs.

My husband tells the story of how he and his brother in those days shared a bed. He hated the feel of his brother's cold caliper against his own legs, but even then decided that he, my husband that is, without calipers was the more fortunate of the two, at least in that regard.

It's all relative, this business of pain and suffering, humiliation and dignity. We do the best we can.

Thanks, Robert.

R.H. said...

The dignity loss is feeling sorry for yourself, or there's no loss. I left hospital feeling humble, knowing some wouldn't come out at all.

A Cuban In London said...

This is one of your most introspective posts by far. This sentence caught my eye immediately:

'Why is it that children find it hard to see their aging parents naked?'

To which you can add, why is it hard for children to think of their parents as sexual beings, too?

Because psychologically we are not ready as a society, in the west or elsewhere to accept old age yet. And I'm not even referring to people in their 60s and 70s, but people in their 40s and 50s.

Thanks a lot for such a deep post.

Wish you a speedy recovery.

Greetings from London.

Elisabeth said...

It's true as you say, Robert, some don't come out. I'm glad we did. Thanks.

Elisabeth said...

Freud has much to say about why children can't bear to see their parents as sexual beings and much of it makes sense to me - Oedipus and all that.

There is also the child's painful sense of being excluded from the parental sexual couple knowing at some level as a child that you're not up to it, not ready yet etc. wanting but not wanting.

That's one of the reasons, I believe ,why incest is so difficult for a child who cannot handle the sexual demands imposed on her him too soon before they're ready.

Thanks for your good wishes, Cuban.

Snowbrush said...

Women mostly tolerate male doctors well enough but then balk at male nurses. Men, of course, are accustomed to female nurses.

You account left me sad. I feel for you. I really do. I've been there, done that, so to speak, and I realize full well how much easier it is to help someone else than it is to have to rely on them to help me. Few things are half so important in life as independence, especially in matters regarding our own bodies.

Annandale Dream Gazette said...

I've never broken a leg or not been fully ambulatory, but it sounds very frustrating, difficult and painful. Sorry to see you struggling.

It's hard to ask for help, especially for people who are used to being the one helping others. Maybe you can think of asking for help (more milk in your tea, cleaning, etc.) as allowing your family and friends the chance to help you, which in turn helps them feel like they are doing something to aid your healing, rather than helplessly sitting by.

You're right --- it will pass -- your leg will heal; but scolding yourself for not enjoying your immobility is being way too hard on yourself. Be nice to Elisabeth! Ask for more milk! And take very good care.

Elisabeth said...

I used to tolerate male doctors, Snow but in more recent years I've also sought out the help of female doctors. Not just the modesty issue. It's more that women, at least the women I encounter within the medical profession, seem to have a better 'bedside manner', though of course there are exceptions.

I'm not suggesting here that men lack compassion, but I suspect that an older generation of medicos have less enlightened attitudes than today's lot. And again there are exceptions.

Thanks for your compassion and good wishes here, Snow. I'm grateful.

Elisabeth said...

I don't mean to scold myself, Lynn, but sometimes I get caught up with a touch of self rebuke when frustration hits it's highest point.

I'm surviving though and I'm getting better at asking for help.

Thanks, Lynn, for all your good wishes. It's good to see you here.

Kittie Howard said...

What an amazing post! My heart goes out to you. Wish I could put more milk in your tea...feel helpless that there's no way to help...but big applause for writing so beautifully about how you feel and are coping. I could imagine the blue iris outside the window...solitary, sorta like you are, stuck as you are. I want to say Think Positive and Take It One Day At A Time, but it sounds/seems so trite when you already are, when there's so much swirling about you at such a distance from this keyboard. So, I send you hugs, tight hugs!!

Snowbrush said...

Elisabeth, as you might know, my wife's a nurse. As a general rule, she hates doctors, and she especially hates women doctors because, according to her, women doctors are more disrespectful toward nurses than are men doctors. My experience has been largely with surgeons, and I've had both genders. My two favorites have been men, but then I liked some of the women very well. Gender is not present on my list of qualifications.

I do recall that the coming of more women into medicine was supposed to bring a human element that many found lacking, but I would daresay that modern medicine is more dehumanized than ever, which makes me think that the problem is the system rather than the gender.

R.H. said...

Adversity is a good thing, that's all I'm saying, gets you talking. It's disinhibiting, better than alcohol. Makes you think too. And good heavens, even Nuns will swear.
Well I'd like to have been cutting with my objections but it's very hard work and on top of that you're inoffensive. Plus you live in a neighbourhood I'm most familiar with.
Golly, there's an alarming thought for you!
All the same, worry aids healing, that's my theory; the thought that RH is nearby should have you up and running in no time.

Art Durkee said...

I don't really care if adversity is a good thing. When you get past all the clich├ęs and Think Positive sort of balderdash, you're left with one very fundamental fact that sweeps away all the rest:

Pain hurts.

Period.

Speaking as the son of a doctor, and as someone with a bit of training and knowledge myself, I say without reservation that the way doctors are taught—the system, as it were—is very much the root of the problem of dehumanization. At the same time, this is now changing, and gradually getting better. The vast majority of doctors who I personally know are very caring, human people. The other contributing factor is the way that medicine is managed by the for-profit medical institutions—again, the system—in which doctors' choices and desire to help people can be severely constrained. It's hard to do much with a required short appointment of only a few minutes, when you don't really get a chance to talk things over.

So I don't blame the people.

And I don't have much sympathy for the "buck up" or "suck it up" mentality, or the advice that arises from that. Frankly, when you're in pain, it's not whining, it's venting. And venting is healthy.

Elisabeth said...

Things are getting easier, Kittie.

Just now this morning, home alone, I managed to make myself a cup of coffee and get it back to my seat at the window.

It wasn't easy. The coffee making part was okay. i'm getting better with my crutches and could lean against them and against the bench top as I boiled the jug and poured the water.

I could carry the milk from the fridge because it's a two litre bottle and comes with a sort of handle at the side. It makes it possible to carry it in one finger while the rest of my hand is taken up manipulating the crutches.

The hardest part was to get the coffee to my seat. I did not want to drink it standing a the bench top. I don't think I'd have enjoyed the experience.

So by a slow process of hoppity hop I managed to pass the cup, filled with coffee, from the stove top to the side bench top across the way to the other bench top that stands like an island in the middle of the room. Then I was able to drag the cup across that bench top to the other side.

It seemed a marathon leap of cup from bench to table top with me straddled between, perched on one crutch while my free hand passed the cup across and then another leap from table to chair and finally from chair to the coffee table beside my resting place, but I got it there.

Hooray for me. My first own self made cup of coffee in over two weeks. What an achievement.

Thanks for your generous wishes, Kittie. All the good wishes help. They give me hope and make me stronger.

Elisabeth said...

I've heard it said, Snow, that sometimes women in positions of power - and let's face it, in the western world at least, doctors hold positions of power - women can be more macho than men, particularly in relation to other women. So I can well understand what your wife means.

I also agree with you that many of these dehumanising elements are systemic, more about politics perhaps than about gender.

Thanks again Snow. This has developed into a fascinating discussion along several lines - the stuff of dehumanisation, the stuff of dignity and humiliation, power, gender, compassion and its absence etc etc.

Elisabeth said...

I laughed at loud at your comment here, Robert. The thought of you living nearby as a spur to my getting better is amusing.

I must add that I prefer it when you resist the cutting comments. As much as I might try to take them with a grain of salt they still manage to sting, which is your intention I suppose.

I'm more inclined to try to make people feel good, most of the time at least. Of course there are times when I too want to sting, when I get angry or feel wounded. We all want to hurt others from time time but for me not as a habit.

Thanks, Robert.

Elisabeth said...

I agree, Art. We need to get past this notion that pain and suffering are good for you. Clearly they're not. They may be part of the human condition and at times an inevitable by product of being alive, but they are not inherently good in themselves.

The doctor in emergency, a down to earth straightforward and pleasant sort of guy suggested to me as they wheeled me off to the ward that I should resist the impulse to endure my pain stoically and in silence.
'The body does not like pain he said. It does not help the healing'.

His words were helpful to me as I tend to avoid painkillers if I can. He gave me permission as it were to know that if in pain I should take the painkillers offered.

I also agree that the medical system is probably improving. It's probably as with all things. We imagine we 'hate' a particular group of people like doctors and lawyers for instance, but the ones we know as individuals and real people are as lovely to us as any.

It's the stereotype we go by built on our own and other people's negative experiences, while the reality of most of our connections denies the stereotype.

Thanks again, Art.

R.H. said...

Pain is inconvenient, so is having a conscience, if it's too much you can always shoot yourself.
In Brave New World there's no pain, no conscience, everyone pleasantly numb. Good. You'll never suffer and never learn anything. I've had enormous pain and I'm glad of it. I got through. I'm now a professor, of self-reliance.

I don't live near you -read more carefully- I'm across that little creek called the Yarra River. But I do know your area, I ran a stall at Camberwell market for ten years. Very exciting. Morris Dancers and all.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks again, Robert. Sorry for my light reading.

I remember you mentioned the Camberwell market stall some time ago. I held a stall there once myself with one of daughters. It was quite an experience.

I'm going to try for a new post tomorrow. Let's see if we can get onto a new theme.

I'm going to try but I never know what's likely to pop up until it does.

R.H. said...

My grand pronouncements change from day to day, if you took them seriously you'd be as silly as me.

R.H. said...

You're dehumanised when you're dead, that's my view today.

I'm not totally sincere about it but it seems vaguely clever.

R.H. said...

Golly, ten oclock and I'm waiting for my comments to be published. And the market has been open four hours. Did you ever see the bloke with his saxaphone and poodle dog there, and the bloke reciting Shakespeare? Buskers. I dodge paying the dollar to get in nowadays, I use the pimp's entrance, a lane off Prospect Hill Road. Mind you, there's an "honesty box" there and I've enormous respect for people who drop money into it. I envy them. I'd like to be like that but can't, I said goodbye to my dignity years ago.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks again, Robert. It's encouraging to read that I need not always take your words too seriously, still I don't want to treat it as a joke. I'll have to find a middle way.

I can hardly keep up with you, Robert. Yes, I remember the man and his dog.

For some reason he drove my husband a little potty. I'm not sure that I warmed to him either, which seems somewhat sacriligious to say.

He was something of an icon in Camberwell for years. There's a plaque of the old saxophonist busker and his dog, in bronze I'd say, on one of the brick colonades between the shops and Safeway. The local council put it there in his honour.

I have put up a new post Robert, one that is less of a complaint, I hope. See what you think.

Phoenix said...

I know too well what your sister went through. Except my father never even asked. He just took.

Years ago, while I was still in high school, my family went on a cruise. My mother got incredibly sick after spending the day in Mexico - we still don't know from what. But I was in charge of helping her go to the bathroom and bathe and so I saw her naked body for the first time in my life - and was surprised at myself for how much I hated her for it. I hated how weak she was at the moment. I hated myself for hating her. I hated that I had to see her aging, sick body underneath clothes that were no longer her size.

Luckily, she got better. But I still feel guilty that I reacted in such a way. Perhaps it was not her I resented at all but how afraid I was when I saw her fragility for the first time in my life.

I like to pretend that I will never say goodbye to my dignity, and I don't know why nurses encourage that sentiment. Isn't dignity and pride what hold us together when accidents happen?

Marylinn Kelly said...

Elisabeth, I trust you will understand my not reading all the comments first. These days I am impatient about certain thing and feel the need to dodge around them.

There is so much to your post, the synaptical leaps from topic to topic, all falling perfectly into a progression that makes sense to me. The hospital experience is unlike any other that most ordinary people will have (I think of being imprisoned under whatever conditions) and how it demands that we abdicate our notions of dignity, privacy and certainly independence. As in the article that Mim directed you to, my mother developed what they called "ICU psychosis" - dementia, hallucinations (all preceded by a TIA which seemed to me like setting off a bomb in a fireworks factory). But being taken from one's everyday life and forced to be someone or somewhere else leaves us adrift and, if not actually depressed, it is a very short step to becoming greatly subdued.

I can see and agree with the parallel between the medical experience and childhood sexual abuse, for in both we become mere objects...we are either our affliction, rather than a person who is experiencing it, or we are just a thing. Once that pattern of thought is established, it is very difficult to be free of it and claim our authentic, multi-faceted humanness.

Snowbrush said...

In response to Marylinn, mostly, I'll say that some of the indignity is necessary and some of it is due to indifference, disrespect, or callousness on the part of staff. Like every other trade and profession, half of all healthcare workers are below average. To this end, it is helpful to have an advocate. My wife and I do this for one another, but I know that there are paid advocates.

Also, in America, at least, the power of religion in the political arena results in the denial of anyone's right to die. When the future promises nothing but deterioration, misery, and indignity, and the patient doesn't want to go on living, compassion would demand that we end his or her life. We do as much for out pets, but too many of us believe that suffering ennobles or that a voluntary death would be against the will of god.

Elisabeth said...

Of course I understand your decision to avoid ploughing through all these comments, Marylinn. There is only so much we can get through in this broad and varied blogosphere, but I'm very grateful for your thoughts here.

I had never heard about 'ICU psychosis' before but now it makes so much sense.

This terrible disorientation, all the noise the lights, the sleeplessness, the unfamiliarity, the tubes sticking into your body.

It's both an invasion and an imprisonment. It's like torture and even the pain killers designed to relieve the pain and the anaesthetics designed to help us sleep through traumatic, though perhaps necessary surgical assaults on our bodies, add to the problem.

I see it all more clearly now.

I have always known that hospitalisation can be destabilising but I can see how much worse it can get when insufficient attention is paid to these things and even with the best will in the world, I suspect some of these deleterious effects are inevitable. We are human after all.

Thanks, Marylinn.

Elisabeth said...

I'm with you here on the need for some sort of assistance with death when necessary, Snow.

I know it will be hard to implement such a policy to protect certain vulnerable people from abuse but by and large I think people need more freedom of choice in this matter.

Technology can prolong life but it can also prolong suffering. We need a way to find a balance here.

And while having an advocate - whether in the form of a loved one, or in the form of a paid professional - is a great help, until the system recognises other basic rights it refuses to allow people certain dignities when their bodily functions are all but stripped away.

To me this is not just about loss of dignity, to me it's just plain cruel.

Thanks, Snow.