Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On the Home Route Once Again

As I sit there and the music washes over me in waves I realize how long it has been since I felt this way. It is astonishing in some ways how we can become so entangled in the net of our own lives that we lose the very anchors of who we are – and yet that has been true for me in the latter part of this year.

Since early this summer I have been battling a series of health issues all centred around my eye. It began in early June with a flare of the eye disease I have come to know well in the last 15 years, but this time around there were new twists and turns to navigate, including a bout of cellulitis this summer that required a stint on IV antibiotics and then, in September, a spontaneous corneal perforation that led to a week spent in Edmonton, an hour in an operating room to place medical-grade crazy glue in my eye to seal the hole, a loss of vision and a new relationship with a corneal specialist.
To say it has been a long journey would be an understatement.

I have dealt with pain that ranged from a dull ache to a stabbing sensation that stretched from my cornea to deep within my head. I have dealt with fear when I spent days unable to write as the pain from staring at a screen was simply too powerful – and writing is not only the source of my income but of much of my happiness and self-worth. I have dealt with anxiety over missing days from work, over worry about whether my vision in my left eye will ever return (still uncertain) and over a future that changed, quite literally, in the blink of an eye.
When you are dealing with a illness – physical or mental – your world can become very small and it does so out of necessity, not choice. My focus for these months has been my tenuous recovery, my daughter, my zoo and my job. I ran into someone who commented they had not seen me in months and of course it was true because my former lifestyle of “be everywhere, do everything” dwindled down to “lie on sofa, do nothing but the essential” – but as I began to recover and reclaim some of my former energy (if not quite yet my vision) I did not realize how small my world had become – until last night.

I have been incredibly fortunate to find some new friends along this blogging journey. Matt and Aileen happen to be two of them, hosts of a home concert series called “Home Routes” where musicians play right in their living room to a small and enthusiastic audience of attendees. I missed the first two concerts this season but last night I dragged myself off the sofa and was there to see and hear the magic of two musicians, Ken Hamm and Linda McRae.
Ken was up first, his bluesy style, powerful voice and storytelling ability the perfect beginning to an evening of personal renewal. As he shared the stories of his life journey, from playing in bars across the country to stints as a deck hand on a fishing boat, I thought about my own journey, both before and after this blog began. When Linda took the stage it became even more clear to me that being there last night was somehow a fated event for me, written in the stars, as she sang and spoke of a life journey that had taken her from Canada to Nashville and into a prison to work with inmates on creative writing and song creation. Her songs and stories spoke of a life lived not with expectations of a certain destination but a sense of wonder and discovery, never knowing where it may lead but being open to the possibilities. She sang of rough edges and ragged hearts and of being your own light, sentiments I know well after my own life journey of the last few years.

I don’t know where anyone else went in their minds as they listened last night but as the music washed over me I found myself back in Ireland in a tiny cemetery, centuries old and where the most recent leg of this life journey of mine truly began. I realized how much I need to go back there because I know my journey there is not over, and I know I have a great deal to write about that part of the path I have travelled.
But what I realized most was that over the past few months I had spent a great deal of time lamenting what I had lost: days spent in pain and fear, time I could not regain; special events I was unable to attend; and, most of all, the vision in my left eye. What I had failed to do, though, was to see the things I had gained from this experience: an even stronger relationship with my daughter as she had to occasionally take on a more adult role; knowing I had a support group of family. friends and colleagues who would see me through not only the best but the worst times of my life; a new understanding of the depths of my own stubbornness and a growing suspicion that the universe, and perhaps the creator if there is one, was working to teach me one virtue I sorely lack, being patience; and a realization that however imperfect I may be my one truly redeeming quality may be my resilience and refusal to give up no matter what the fight or the size of my foe. I had spent far too much time in the dark, as if I was blind in both eyes and not just one. It was time to once again be my own light, just as Linda sang in front of an enthralled audience, gathered together in the intimate setting of the home of dear friends.

I could continue to “wax poetic” about Ken and Linda, but suffice to say their music, their stories and their simple gentle presence was the balm this weary heart and soul needed this year. It may have been a simple house concert to some, but to me these house concerts always touch a part of me that is often hidden. Songwriters and musicians are quite simply writers with the additional gift of knowing how to set their words to music, observers who share their thoughts with their world through their songs as opposed to on paper and a screen as I do. Last night I felt connected, energized and, for the first time in a very long time, peaceful.
Today I see the world through refreshed eyes, although only one eye can truly “see” anything at all. In my mind’s eye, though, it is all much clearer now. The haze that covered my mind, if not my eye, has finally lifted and I can see the world, and all the possibilities, again. There had been some detours and twists in the road, but I was headed on the right route once again - going home.

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