Upside Down

I almost asked my technical assistant to print this entire blog post upside down, since that is what happened to our lives during April. It was April 1st  (not fooling), when the world started to tip. Returning home sore after a  challenging yoga workshop, I found Chris wracked with pain. Saturday night’s not the most auspicious time to visit the ER, and we eventually made it home at 1.00am, Chris clutching major pain-killers and his abdomen that protested the presence of a kidney stone. We’d, of course, heard of these vicious little devils but none had tormented either one of us before. And there was no end to it, pain radiated from Chris like lightning bolts. We were in freefall, and so it did not immediately occur that something else might be amiss.

The kidney stone was dismissed as a minor distraction once the doctor confirmed Chris had a perforated bowel and needed emergency surgery. We lived in the hospital twilight zone for a week, when days and nights merge into one and time stagnates or lurches forward without giving an account of itself. The great day dawned when Chris gingerly mounted the few steps to our front door and lowered himself to the sofa in our family room. Cats purred, the TV murmured a soothing tale, we sipped a little soup and  gratefully slipped into the delusion that all would be well and, to quote Julian of Norwich, “all manner of things would be well.” 

Jean Goulden - Upside Down

Take my advice, don’t trust Julian of Norwich!  Within four days, ambulance lights flashed, sirens blared, and Chris was transported back to the hospital with a bowel blockage. No choice but to re-enter the twilight zone. There were some gross details, that I’ll spare you, as the doctors tried to resolve this medically. Chris’ twisted guts were having none of it, and it became distressingly obvious, a second surgery was necessary!  Avoiding even grosser details and episodes of intense pain, it’s wonderful to share that now Chris is doing well, digesting bland food, cracking bad puns, and talking up a storm.  Cats are purring, the TV’s murmuring a soothing tale, we’ll warm some soup, and we won’t look for Julian’s sweet sentimentality, instead we’ll rely on the doctors’ reassurances that this will never happen again.

Jean Goulden - Upside Down
Jean Goulden - Upside Down
Jean Goulden - Upside Down

It’s a little premature to be philosophical about all this, but we both have had a few thoughts. Mine are somewhat shocking; in the days when Chris was apparently in inexplicable pain, I felt scared and helpless and that I’d lost control. I didn’t know what to do.  Anger surged and I had to repress it. Nobody caused Chris’ agony, least of all Chris himself. At the same time, I felt guilty. Instead of letting anger absorb all my energy, couldn’t I channel it into compassion? Seems that’s a sobering lesson and a work-in-progress for me. It’s easier to embrace Chris’ reflections. When so much was stolen from him, his thankfulness for simple things blossomed. He waxed lyrically and rapturously about the glories of ice!  All he could consume for several days! We both were humbled by the attentions of medical staff, volunteers, and the tsunami of support from our friends and family. As a non-driver, I didn’t miss a day visiting Chris over the nineteen or twenty days he was in hospital, meals arrived, groceries picked up, social life maintained, flowers delivered. We are overflowing in gratitude.

And another compelling reason to be grateful, Chris has excellent health insurance through his retired teachers’ account. British friends, treasure your National Health Service even with all of its inconsistencies. Although  many of my American readers share with us the privilege of health insurance, millions do not, both in the US and across the world. It’s  well past time to advocate healthcare as a human right for all, not just a blessing for the wealthy few.

News Flash!

After receiving 3 publishing offers, Jean just signed a contract with Vanguard Press for A Glass Darkly.

End Notes


Alone Together by Sherry Turkle

Alone Together
Sherry Turkle


Harry Belafonte

Just Like a Star
Corinne Bailey Rae




A Negro Speaks of Rivers
Langston Hughes

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