Dancing without music

Up at dawn, watching the sky turn pink, a great orange sun rising above the East Bay hills. I sleep so fitfully lately, it’s rare to wake up feeling rested, but getting up with the sun is still better than trying to make up for a restless night by sleeping in.  Yesterday, I dozed until nine and by the time I’d had coffee and read the paper, the morning had slipped away.  I am of an age where I don’t like time to pass that fast.

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.–William Shakespeare

I am still grappling with the problem of how to have a life that isn’t dominated either by pain or by depression. If I do very little, the pain is minimal, but depression takes over. If I do a lot, my mood’s better but pain soars.  I’ve tried taking the pain med my doc prescribed before I leave the house, but half the time it makes me so woozy and sick I have to come home. Since all the pain meds I’ve tried have had the same effect, I’ve been feeling pretty hopeless about it all, but recently a friend told me about medical marijuana. In California, medical marijuana is legal.  I’d never explored it because it seemed like a risky strategy for someone with a background of out-of-control drinking.  But my friend, who also suffers from chronic pain, found out that strains of marijuana have been developed with little or no THC, the psychoactive agent, and higher amounts of  CBD (cannabidiol), which reduces pain and inflammation. I think it may be a solution to my problem.

The first step is to be evaluated by a doctor and get an ID card that allows you to purchase medical marijuana from a dispensary. So yesterday, with a certain amount of trepidation, I drove to a small, modest building in the Mission District, took a small, creaky elevator to the third floor, and began the process. You show your driver’s license, fill out an extremely lengthy form about your medical history, initial countless pages of statements relating to liability and receiving of information, swear you are not currently in rehab for alcohol or drug abuse, return the pages to the receptionist, and wait your turn to see the doctor. He turned out to be a pleasant man who had worked at the same hospital I had. He asked me a bunch of questions, made a bunch of notes, signed at the bottom, and sent me on to stage three: getting a photo ID medical marijuana card and forking over the cash ($70 with coupon–I know, a coupon?? What kind of tacky ‘clinic’ is this? But it saved me $100).

I wouldn’t call it a scam. Exactly. But it definitely had the feel of a high-volume, low-cost operation, and I’d be surprised if anyone is ever turned down on the basis of the evaluation.  You could say anything you want on the medical history forms, and they really have no way of checking it.  Depression, anxiety, pain, asthma, chronic fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite are all diagnoses that qualify–as well as cancer, Parkinson’s, MS, AIDS, glaucoma, etc.  On the other hand, my fellow travelers in the waiting room didn’t look like a bunch of party animals. They looked like people who were suffering. And it’s not as though recreational marijuana is that hard to lay your hands on around here.

In the 60s and 70s, when I and practically everyone else in the area of my generation or younger was smoking pot, it was a risky business. People got busted regularly and jail terms were common. If you knew where to get pot, you also knew where to get acid, mescaline, hash, and heroin, so the whole scene had an aura of criminality.  In the early sixties, a pot-smoking young student I knew had a conversation with her dentist about marijuana. He wanted to try it and asked if she could give him a sample. The dental assistant overheard the conversation and called the police, who, by terrorizing the dentist with threats of losing his license, pressured him into setting up my friend. At her following appointment, she gave him a joint (gave, not sold), and the police hiding next door arrested her. It was a huge scandal in the small, university town we were in–front-page headlines in the local paper.  My friend was portrayed as a major drug dealer. The university suspended her, and she served time in jail. Eventually, she was able to negotiate her way back into school, graduated and became a social worker, but it took a long time and a lot of drama.  Needless to say, she found a new dentist.

Perhaps partly because of this atmosphere of suspicion and danger, I eventually became paranoid and delusional smoking pot, and quit in the early seventies. Wine became my drug of choice, and the long road to alcoholism. To be returning to marijuana now, at almost 73 years of age and nearly four years sober, seems both funny and ironic.

I won’t be smoking it, however. I’ve quit that, too. The kind I’ve tried was in the form of a tincture. I had no nausea, no mind-bending, and less pain.  It gives me hope that my life can open up a bit.  Maybe those long walks aren’t over after all. Maybe I’ll want to cook again, garden again, dance again, leap over tall buildings…or at least go out to lunch with a friend without having to suffer for it.

He that lives in hope danceth without music.–English proverb

Photo credit: “Leaping Dancers,” 1979, Gene Einfrank

Hmm. I see that I misread the proverb. I took it to mean that having hope lets you dance whether you have music or not, a kind of freedom. But now, like one of those tests for colorblindness, that meaning recedes and another emerges:  don’t simply go through the motions and hope for something better; live the life you have.  Something for everyone–take your pick.

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12 Responses to Dancing without music

  1. mishedup says:

    Besides the regular beauty of your posts, I love this.
    To find something that will help is great and medical marijuana is such a gift to those who need it.
    Of course my son has a card…he would be one of those people who are never turned down.sigh…but I am glad for you and certainly hope it helps.

    • sswl says:

      Thanks, Michele. Yes, it must be giving a lot of docs quite a good living writing those medical marijuana prescriptions. They probably get writer’s cramp. Wonder what his cut is? But I am grateful it’s available without skullduggery and honestly can’t get all outraged about abuse of the system. Hope it works!

  2. I read your quote in the same initial way you did. I think when one has been without hope, then suddenly finds herself wrapped in it, she suddenly feels like breaking into dance–music or not. But a little Ella and Louis never hurt either.

    So glad you pursued the mj idea and that it is helping. I remember a piece on 60 minutes (or CBS Sunday Morning) about the current market and delivery mechanisms. I think they even make infused cooking oils and baking mixes now? I was quite surprised.

    • sswl says:

      Oh, I’m glad your take on the quote was the same as mine. When I read it again, I wondered what I was thinking.

      The medical marijuana dispensaries have a vast array of choices–edibles, tinctures, topicals, not to mention an infinite variety of the smokeable form. It’s hilarious. Years ago I went into a gourmet grocery store and was blown away by the 35 varieties of olive oil. This is even weirder. It feels decadent.

  3. dawn says:

    You know I am a drug and alcohol counselor. You know that I am a recovering alcoholic. You also know I suffer terribly from chronic back pain (multiple dx), depression and anxiety. Had I come across this post one year ago, I would have gently, lol, told you “NOOOO”

    but, ooohhh, I’m in a different place today – much different. My son, who served in the army, MP, for six years, yes, Baghdad, now lives in CO and carries “the card” – he will yell from the top of those mountains how this has “:saved” him.

    I never liked THC (teenage yrs in the 70’s) – made me all paranoid. But, alas, I have read up on today’s weed,, that manufactured for medicinal use as well as the edibles. I have this to say. Our , my husband and I, plan is to retire to CO as that is where the kids appear to be migrating back to. I can easily see myself in those coming years entertaining this alternative rx. Opiates give me nausea and hives (thank God),, so I have been left to my own recourse at this time.

    I SO get you about the lesser of two evils. If I take my teenager to Mall of America, I’m deemed immobile the following day. If I sit and scrapbook, surf the net, and read books, I’m feeling depressed from lack of activity. I have, however, learned some balance. In other words where I can be active (on a good day) for short periods of time and only suffer minimally.

    Now, I do have a disclaimer. I am NOT fond of my son’s seemingly over-zealous attitude regarding weed. I do wonder some days if he is a bit too involved (hence the plants/lights he has in the basement). And I do believe it IS addictive. Can we OD? Of course not, but it can create problems for us. HOWEVER, at our age , , , , it really does seem a logical alternative. Sorry if that got confusing. LOL, I have thought this one through quite a bit. Great post,, as always
    here’s to Spring Adventures!!!!

    • sswl says:

      Ha! Glad I caught you at the right moment in time with this, Dawn. I actually wouldn’t have considered it with high THC, but without it, it’s not that different from Advil, only without the risk to your gut. I think the THC is addictive, like every other mind-altering substance known to man or woman, and I do find it worrisome when people have to get stoned every day. But someone like your son…do you think he has PTSD? Seems like if that’s what you have, whatever quiets your mind might help, though maybe not in any long-term way…not that I know a single thing about it. (!)

      It’ll be interesting to see what happens in Colorado with the legalization. Here they still have to pretend it’s all about its medicinal qualities–not that they’re negligible–but there, it’s straight out recreational, right?

      So glad there are more options these days.

      • dawn says:

        From where I sit, which is a thousand miles away from my son,,, I’m not in a position to lean one way or another regarding PTSD…. His duties as military police were that of protecting the higher officers; he was not in combat,, though,, naturally he saw his share of tragedy. I can’t wrap my head around any of it – what these young people observe, what that has to be like, what they do with it upon return to the states.. I just don’t know. I have read many many accounts of PTSD and it seems I am unable to read any news accounts today without reading the tragedies of how our soldiers fight battles over there, only to come home and lose the war of addiction and mental illness. If he is asymptomatic regarding his experience in Baghdad as well as his diagnosed depression,, then,, do whatcha gotta do kid.
        In theory, CO card carriers are supposed to be deemed medically in need to use THC for treatment for what ales them. Legally, my son may only have X amount of plants and product – I plead the fifth however . . . My point is that there are reportedly rules and regs in place. No idea what they do with the individuals who are caught not abiding.
        Yes, our nation has eyes on CO I am sure. .
        Can’t wait to hear how this treatment works for you. I’m optimistic though. My husbands nephew makes a living somewhere out there in the hills/mountains of CA harvesting marijuana. At the end of the day,, if this nation made it legal, taxed the hell out of it – I have to wonder where our deficit would be – I’m NO economist. But the practical side of me wonders

      • sswl says:

        I have little direct experience with vets these days, but the stories I hear about what they go through, and the high rate of homeless vets on the streets of San Francisco, appalls me. Their treatment options for PTSD or addiction apparently are extremely limited, and I doubt medical marijuana is officially one of them, so they’d have to pay for it themselves–not an option for many. But, it is there for those who can get it, and for people like your son, I’m glad of that.
        Working my way up on the dosage. Will post something soon about how it’s working.
        Oh, and I paid $10.45 in state sales tax on my order, so doing my best to plug the holes in the budget.

  4. cleo says:

    I just so hope it works for you and lets you dance again! Holding thumbs and toes and everything else. xxx

  5. Imogen says:

    What a joyous photograph! So pleased you’ve found something that might alleviate the pain long term. Crikey, you deserve a break.
    Sorry i haven’t commented for a while, but i have been reading and following where you’re at. You are an amazing and strong woman. Hugs xo

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