There was once a giant tower built up to the heavens and a single population of people all speaking one language. But the reigning god decided to confound people because they should not know all – and this god destroyed the tower and scattered the people and the languages around the Earth.
When I was in high school, I inherited my sister’s blue Ford Taurus which came with a Toad The Wet Sprocket tape stuck in the tape player. What this meant was, either you listened to Toad the Wet Sprocket, or you didn’t listen to anything. I mostly didn’t listen to anything. But sometimes I listened to Toad the Wet Sprocket. And eventually I knew every word to every song on that tape. And one day I couldn’t hear any of those songs anymore without wanting to flay off my own skin or scratch at my eyeballs.
At some point the car was sold or the tape was freed and I was no longer bound to that exhaustive record, but then, occasionally thereafter it felt good to replay those familiar songs. It took me right back to a very specific time and place: To being a teenager in Columbus OH, to looking for ways to dance at campus bars (you had to be 18) or drinking Mad Dog – kiwi flavored – driving in that Taurus (not together…necessarily.)
There was one song – “Pray your Gods” – that took the longest to truly irritate me because it had the best lyrics – which you know…let’s face it, it wasn’t Dylan – it was Toad the Wet Sprocket – they gave themselves that band name. But I really liked that song the most of all the songs on that not-necessarily award-winning record. And even now I sometimes crank it up just to sit with it for a minute.
At the end of the song a woman with a way better voice than the nasal-y lead singer starts repeating “dona nobis pacem.” Until today, I never looked up what that phrase meant. I knew it was in a Christmas song we sang in choir at some point – but in high school there was no google. So I sang it blindly, loudly, probably assuming it wasn’t declaring something about sex with animals or clubbing baby seals.
It means, “Grant us peace.” (Thanks google!)
There are two things about knowing the meaning: 1) What a nice thing. And 2) Not knowing the translation for so long but singing it about a million times in spite of the not knowing is very like me.
I have a “tramp stamp” on my lower back in a foreign language. I thought it meant “The power of the feminine.” It means “Woman,” and it’s on all the bathroom’s in China, my friend Sarah once told me. This is a mistake I would definitely make. I can’t even be mad or embarrassed about it.
So the disconnect that has become very real in my body as our family gene does it’s seemingly-unfathomable work – seems pathetically in-character. The fact is, much of what my body is doing just doesn’t make medical sense. So treatment is sort of abstract – like speaking to someone in a foreign language without accompanying facial expressions or charade-hands.
As I proactively address some of the things that are happening in my body – I am realizing that my body is mumbling. Or maybe a better metaphor is that it’s speaking Pig Latin flecked with Urdu and the clicking language – and no one understands it and vice versa.
This becomes further complicated when my doctor and I stop communicating effectively:
Me: The beta blockers are giving me very bad asthma.
Him: Try this other beta blocker.
Me: Great. So, this beta blocker doesn’t cause asthma?
Him: No, it also causes asthma.
So my concern that walking had become difficult due to decreased oxygen in my muscles meant that I was going to have to go to the man in the mirror for some soul searching – see if me and my body could come to some kind of an understanding despite linguistic differences. Two weeks ago, I took myself off the beta blockers and read up on lowering my blood pressure holistically. This has lead to a two week cucumber, hibiscus tea, meditation and kiwi overload. Three times a day, every day.
Feeling really good off of the pills – well hydrated and spiritually connected – I decided to take myself for a victory lymphatic drainage massage on my right leg which is swollen and gets painful when in the heat of summer I can’t wear my compression stockings due to humidity. (This is a game of lesser evils, I am finding.)
As I lay on the table and the therapist gently manipulated my lymphatic hot spots, I closed my eyes and pictured my blood pressure slowing. I breathed deeply. I meditated on a low abdominal BP.
Then the therapist said calmly, breath into your abdomen and exhale with a “Shhh.” So I complied. We did it five times. Then she fumbled around my belly a little aggressively while I laid there thinking, “Please don’t make me have to tell you I have delicate pop-able blood vessels all up in there…” and just as I was panicking, she stopped and said, “I am trying to get your abdominal blood pressure up.”
So I said, “What?”
And she explained, “We are trying to pull the lymph up from your leg and we want to increase the pressure in your abdomen…” and just like that – my multi-lingual body needed the thing it needed the least. My pig latin speaking/performance art loving body. I was a living dumb modern art rendition of an upside down bathroom that didn’t make any sense. I needed low abdominal blood pressure and high abdominal blood pressure at the same time. A fallen Tower of Babel in one stupid abdomen.
The rest of the massage was standard upward rubbing. But by then I didn’t know whether to mentally lower my abdominal blood pressure, increase it or just start interpretive dancing to Pat Benetar’s Love is a Battlefield – which is one of the best, most satisfying songs to interpretive dance. Seriously. Try it.
So, dona nobis pachem. Right? Because that’s kind of all that’s left to say…