Monday, July 25, 2016

That Perfect Ennui

I remember my sophomore year of high school being assigned the task of drafting an essay on a word. I was to write a paper detailing the etymology of a single word. What I don't recall is how I decided upon the term on which I would write, but I do recall being given the freedom to choose any word I liked. The word I chose was this:


Webster's defines it as lack of spirit, enthusiasm, or interest; a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction. The Online Etymology Dictionary explains that it was derived in the 1660's as a French word in English and was nativized in1758 from French ennui, from Old French enui, or "annoyance" (13c.). And Google concurs that it arrived mid-18th century to French, from Latin mihi in odio est "it is hateful to me." 

I can tell you this. High-School-Sophomore-Me had no inkling of how apropos that word choice would be as it floats to and bobs on the surface of my mind, arising from my depths, in recent days and very much so today.

Those of you who know me -- I mean really know me -- would never question that I possess as strong of a spirit as there is.  I persist beyond comprehension at tasks and goals, frequently confounding even the hardest workers I know.  I dream every night -- vividly.  I create all the time.  I write, I read, I draw.  I love learning and discovering and reaching deep down more than anything.  I love achieving new things; learning and mastering new skills; reaching new heights; connecting with kindred spirits; finding new things to smile about; discovering what stirs my soul and opens my eyes afresh.  I love digging in and conquering whatever it is to which I set my mind. And I am so grateful for the love and gifts I have had throughout my entire life.

But I feel the deepest dissatisfaction, the most dreaded lack of spirit -- a perfect sort of ennui -- stemming from these cracks in my body, my vessel, that undermine my plans, that inject chaos into my dreams, and that lead people to leave me in insufferable silence entirely too frequently for simply a lack of knowing what to say to me as my body fails the me they (and I) expect me to be.

I have so far endured six surgeries. I like to think that number should have been three rather than six but for an incompetent surgeon masquerading as an esteemed professional who first operated on my left shoulder. Not knowing better, I let him re-repair it when I should have moved on to a different surgeon (which I ultimately did).  But that is neither here nor there.  To date, the number is six.  Four surgeries on my left shoulder. One on my left hip. One on my right hip.  All "minimally invasive" arthroscopic surgeries. And years and years of physical therapy.

I should be on my way now. I should be on the up and up now. I should be highly successful by now. I should be able to walk down the street by now. I should be able to sit in a regular chair by now. But I'm not.  And I can't.  I have worked so damn hard to get where I am, and my body is spoiling it. People have been so patient, hoping for the best, but I can feel the weight of the disappointment that I'm not better yet from everyone as the years pass and I am not at my peak, as expected. Worse yet, I can feel that disappointment coming from within. 

Tomorrow I have an appointment with my hip doctor along with a new hip doctor - a hip trauma specialist. My team is supposed to set in motion the plan for me, which I'm told will be what's called a femoral derotational osteotomy on my left hip.  Try saying that three times fast.  The surgery I'm advised is on the horizon, the femoral derotational osteotomy, will consist of intentionally breaking my femur and reattaching the top of it to realign the femoral head so that it actually, for once in my life, fits into my hip socket.  I'm told this will resolve my back pain, will allow me to walk normally again, and afford me the pleasure of sitting again.  (Don't ever take for granted the pure fucking joy of sitting.)  The surgery I had on it a year ago stopped my left hip from dislocating, which it was apparently doing every time I sat, and probably many other times, too.  The surgery stabilized the joint in many ways.  I can balance on my left leg now, even with my eyes closed, whereas before the surgery I felt like my torso would literally slide off of my pelvis if I even shifted weight to my left hip while standing if it weren't for the skin and other tissues fighting to keep me in one piece.  Before that surgery, I'd been told the minimally invasive procedure on that hip would bring my hip's grade up from a low F to a B or a C.  For someone who is still pissed about the three Bs she earned in undergrad that kept her from having all As, and who is still a little disappointed at graduating fourth in my law school class instead of first, a B or C grade for my hip sounded pretty great, all things considered.  It wouldn't be perfect, but we hoped it would be livable. 

But it isn't. 

Now my femur, being about twenty degrees rotated from where it should be (and it's likely always been this way, slowly wreaking havoc as I continue to move through my life) is yanking my pelvis out of alignment when I sit, and all the dysfunction is taxing my abdominal and back core muscles so much, I have trouble standing on top of the trouble I have sitting.  This new impending surgery is not minimally invasive like the others.  I am guessing (and will learn more tomorrow) that, rather than the puncture type scars that litter my left shoulder (thirteen, in all) and both thighs (three on each leg), I will have a long incision along my outer left hip somewhere so the surgeon can get to the femur he has to break and reattach.  I don't care so much about the scars anymore, I just want normal life back. Granted, normal used to be exceptional, so I may be asking too much. I probably am. But I have always asked for too much so that I could be at least satisfied with the returns I get, even if they aren't as high as I had hoped.

Only one month before my left hip surgery, when I could hardly stand, in June of 2015, I was awarded the Romina L. Mulloy-Bossio Achievement Award - Outstanding Young Bankruptcy Lawyer, awarded by the State Bar of Texas.  And it wasn't a pity award - hardly anyone knew I could barely stand (I hid it that well until I couldn't stand, or even drive myself home one day).  The past two years in a row I have been named a Super Lawyers Rising Star. I have taken my show on the road and have spoken at many conferences in Texas and Louisiana and have now published three law review articles. And all this after earning four degrees - two undergraduate degrees, a graduate degree, and a doctorate.  And while raising two amazing children.  And making artwork.  And being active with leadership roles in the arts community in Dallas.  I am so proud of what I have accomplished.  

But I did not get this far to only get this far.

That last line sounded like my usual optimism and gumption peeking through the ennui that has settled in today. I think I am just incredibly trepidatious about the surgical fate that tomorrow will officially set into motion. I cannot yet know precisely what the doctors will advise me tomorrow or what recovery from this surgery will be like.  However, I anticipate it will be rougher than the minimally invasive ones I've endured to date. Which were no walk in the park, of course.  It will test and strain everything.  Again.

I just hope that those in the legal and arts communities with whom I have close relationships will not give up on me. And I hope that my kids will get to have a Mom back who can run (or even walk) with them at the park again (it's a good thing I like drawing, reading, and board games so we can at least do those things together right now).  And I hope I can finally fucking stop disappointing those I love with all my frailty and struggles to get my vessel back in some semi-functional condition.

I want so deeply to have high hopes about the femoral derotational osteotomy.  It sounds like it should solve the mechanical dysfunction that keeps causing my body to feel like a wrap dress tangled up in itself, trying desperately to stay on its hanger. But I've been hopeful before and have been disappointed too many times to be naive now.  But I am not angry.  I was angry.  I was very angry some time ago. I wondered why I was so afflicted. I even wondered who had a voodoo doll of me somewhere and how I could possibly apologize for whatever it was I did so I could make all the pain stop and just get back to business. Maybe I secretly believed in karma. But I've grown past all that. I am calm. I acknowledge where and who I am. But just because I acknowledge my limitations, that doesn't make me accept less than I want from my self: this self that I have worked on so diligently for thirty-nine years.

It's hard to come so far and fear not getting as far as I dreamed.  It's hard to disappoint people who have come to rely on my skills and prowess.  It's hard to disappoint those I love. Again and again, despite every fiber of my being wishing wishing wishing to be better.  The confluence of all those disappointments, with a new surgery circling like a treacherous cyclone on my path ahead, creates a fog of ennui that sits heavy over most everything in this moment. Just like with fog on a highway, there are breaks in it, thankfully. But sometimes it's so thick you just have to pull over. I don't always feel like this. But today, I can't help but pull over for a while as I wait, and hope, for it to dissipate.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

That Perfect Wisdom

When I was a mere seventeen years old, I resided in the land of soul searching. I was as passionate and inspired as a young woman could possibly be. I wanted to try and learn everything I could. I was a seeker of wonder, a seeker of experience, a seeker of love.  I didn't want to miss a thing that would fill my mind with new perspectives and thoughts and envelop my body with new sensations and feelings. And, indeed, I found so much wonder, experience, and love on my journey. That woman amazes me to this day, and I am deeply pleased she is a part of the woman I have become.

But I could not have been so free and open to experience and learning, could not have been so passionate about finding myself and my place in the world, without my father.  He is, to this day, the wisest person I know.  It's perfectly fitting that it is he who gets to wear the black robe in the federal courthouse in my hometown these days.

That seventeen-year-old me wrote my Dad a letter.  Let that sink in.  That seventeen-year-old angst-filled, driven, passionate, artistic, independent, rebellious me wrote my Dad--who was then a well-respected lawyer like I am today--a letter.  Trust me when I say there was some serious angst or disagreement that drove the letter.  When I need to say the most important things, I frequently find I can't say them out loud.  I turn to writing to articulate with precision the things that matter most.  And I did then.  My memory of the letter I wrote isn't as clear as I wish it was, so I am not sure if it was about religion or my then-boyfriend or something else, but I do know we must have been in conflict about something that burned in my soul, and I felt I needed to communicate something momentous to him, or it would not have been in writing.  What I do remember is that in the letter, I made reference to a song by Tori Amos called Winter.  Here are the lyrics:

Snow can wait
I forgot my mittens
Wipe my nose
Get my new boots on
I get a little warm in my heart
When I think of winter
I put my hand in my father's glove
I run off
Where the drifts get deeper
Sleeping beauty trips me with a frown
I hear a voice
"You must learn to stand up for yourself
Cause I can't always be around"
He says
When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses are still in bed
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change my dear

Boys get discovered as winter melts
Flowers competing for the sun
Years go by and I'm here still waiting
Withering where some snowman was
Mirror mirror where's the crystal palace
But I only can see myself
Skating around the truth who I am
But I know dad the ice is getting thin

When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses are still in bed
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change my dear

Hair is grey
And the fires are burning
So many dreams
On the shelf
You say I wanted you to be proud of me
I always wanted that myself

He says
When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses have gone ahead
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change
My dear

I am now a parent.  I cannot imagine the head-to-head heartfelt disagreements I will surely one day have with my own children when they are seventeen and doing things of which I disapprove or which scare me.  But I know this.  I want to be like my father when that happens.  My father could have gotten angry, could have stood his ground, could have said I was wrong for whatever it was I was feeling or doing.  Though I had been a debater in high school, my father was a lawyer.  He could have bested me with his experience and inherent authority.  But the wisdom he embodies won out over all those possibilities.  Instead of anything hurtful or authoritarian in response to my letter, what he did was this.  He bought me a copy of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet.  He wrote the following inscription inside:

And here's what page 54-55 says:

Instead of imposing any other view on mine, my Dad tenderly acknowledged my searching and encouraged me to find my truth.  My soul.  That's a hard message to gift to your child who is growing into adulthood and may be varying from a path you might choose for her if only you could. That, my friends, is love.  That, my friends, is wisdom.