The Beautiful Mile

I’m adjusting to taking several shorter walks instead of long, meandering ones. Instead of pushups, I opt to find a new place to put my feet if I go out. It’s led me to see so many beautiful houses. Fayetteville is packed with artfully done architecture and stunning homes. Even in areas where the houses have been neglected, I find surprises to admire.

This morning, a woman was out on her wide, covered porch. She was smoking, and a large decorative mug was on the wood railing. “Your house is incredible, ma’am,” I said as I walked past. “Is it?” she answered. “I forget. You probably have a better view of it than I ever do.” Because I’m all about the metaphor, I replied, “I think that’s true about everyone and everything. We get proximity-blind to the things around us.” She laughed, nodding. I waved as I walked away.

A block further along, a dog of some sort, a mix of indeterminate origin, sat on its haunches next to the sidewalk, not too far from a fragrant magnolia. It watched me approach. No owner was in sight, and only one light was on inside the nearest house. The dog wore a nice collar. Without caring if the dog decided to bite me, I kneeled and held my hands palms up. The dog wagged its tail and lunged at me, its tongue licking my arms and then my face. I let it show me affection as I petted its head and flanks. I laughed. I carefully sat on the edge of the sidewalk and the lawn. The dog laid across my legs as I petted him. I sat there for several minutes until I feared I might cramp; I hated to break the reverie of the unexpected interaction. As I stood up, the dog licked my fingers. I scratched its ears. It did not follow me as I walked away. I’ll come back by on a random morning, hoping to see him.

Though I probably walked only a mile on that short excursion, it was exactly what I needed. The moon shone brightly above, and the chill of the air was calming without wind to make my bones chatter.

I am “taking it easy.” I’d rather be at work, surrounded by turmoil and activity.

I took this awkward selfie this morning. I’m wearing a nifty phoenix brooch that I modified myself, as well as my favorite rip-shirt. You can see that my custom Dumb & Dumber wood print to the right gives me inspiration, now more than ever. My nice incision reminds me to be careful, especially if I see a surgeon sneaking up on me with a scalpel. It’s okay to look at the weird, jagged scar. It’s a part of me forever. Everything is, in part because I’m dedicated to remembering that no matter how well things are going, life is both beautiful and capricious.

Let the day begin.

Crepuscular X

One of the dualities I struggle with is how beautiful the afternoons are here, despite the fact that I live in an aging apartment simplex. Amidst the traffic and people winding down from their days of obligatory toil and commerce, light and birdsong fill this place. It’s a time for introspection and casual hellos. I smell beans, pasta, undefined meat, and like most evenings, cannabis and cigarette smoke. I listen to the insects; even they know fall is carpeting itself around them. I saw only one hummingbird this evening. It flew down to the railing near me and then darted two feet above, perching on one of the two craft hooks I left hanging on the upper canopy. It remained for at least two minutes. When it left, it flew down a foot away from my face, humming and hovering before it made its departure.

I watch. I listen. I think.

If I go back inside, I’ll hear the backward clock ticking. I love backward clocks, but even the fact that they run in reverse is some sort of metaphor.

Evenings are the time for togetherness. It’s been that way for millennia. The sun’s slow surrender signals a retreat into homes and shared spaces.

I misjudged the quiet tonight. It is a blessing and it is a vexation.

My usual tactics of a long midnight walk or of untold pushups are out of reach, at least for the near future. I got great news from my doctor today. As contradictory as it sounds, the good news in some way amplified my need to be surrounded by sound, voices, and touch.

I am grateful to be here. So many others are facing ridiculous obstacles and certainties. I got a temporary pass.

The train arrives, claxons, stopping traffic for ninety-four seconds, the red alternating warning lights shining and reflecting on each car as it passes, the two opposing left-turn lanes backing up in frustration. Its siren recedes until I can hear it no longer. It’s replaced by the echoing barks of dogs, in homes I can’t quite picture.

I count sirens and ambulances. With so many people around me, both are inexorable.

I’m already futurizing, thinking of tomorrow. I’ll get to see the sunrise and feel the chill that’s predicted. My shoes are already laid out, socks on top, inviting me to go find a new adventure.

I can’t be me without all of y’all. And if you think of it for a moment, ask that the sunrise greet me in relative minutes.

Love, X
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Tuesday, Life, And Me

I visited my primary care doctor this morning. Inexplicably, my appointment started 45 minutes later than it was supposed to. Due to C19 (thanks, Lynette, for the cool abbreviation), I had to wait in the parking lot, observing the spectrum of patients waiting to be called from their vehicles. That’s what gave me time to write my Stolen Beauty post. Since I arrived 1/2 an hour early, I called 30 minutes after my appointment. Drinking two nutrition drinks, two bottles of water, and two cups of coffee before leaving the apartment (one from Kum & Go) left me with a conundrum: public urination in said parking lot or going inside the covid perimeter to the bathroom. Luckily, the woman on the phone could hear that I was almost gargling with the need to go. The nurse and I had a long and fascinating conversation about hospital conditions, my journey toward losing all the weight, and a dozen other topics. She told me she’d been put in the position of being the only nurse on an entire wing before she left her last job at a hospital. She also encouraged me to hide behind the door in an attempt to scare the doctor. Again. I’m guessing we laughed thirty times while we talked. Laughter is the best medicine – and they’ll likely bill me for that too. 🙂

The notecard is one I left on the doctor’s table prior to his arrival. He laughed about that, too. No one found the other couple of witty messages I placed in the exam room. At least, not yet.

I did hide behind the exam room door to scare and/or startle him. I think he might have charted himself a reminder to check behind the door on the way in, though, because he cautiously opened the door and peeked around just as I surprised him. The doctor was in shock that I’d lost so much weight. During my last visit, I told him he’d never see me fat again. I asked him to chart it when I last saw him, because I knew then what no one else believed: I was done being overweight. Though unplanned, The Stay at the hospital left me about 90 lbs. lighter than the last time he’d seen me. I told him the story. He said, “Yours is the single biggest self-done transformation I’ve witnessed as a doctor.” Please forgive me if this comes across as humblebragging. I stopped taking my blood pressure medication shortly after I saw him last year. Yes, my blood pressure has been fantastic since I went below 190 lbs. He told me details about my procedure that I hadn’t known. A herniation happened around my appendix, an improbable combination. He couldn’t tell me if they removed my appendix, though. Because of the CT Scan in the ER, the surgeons expected a tumor or something horrendous. I never knew that. The area affected was minimal compared to what they expected. They gutted me and fixed it in record time. Biopsies and lab tests confirmed nothing suspicious. He said I might be able to return to work once the staples are removed from my abdomen. (Note: they don’t want you to keep them and make a commemorative necklace out of them. That’s disappointing!) The doctor and I talked for several minutes. We laughed several times, too. I’ll never forget last year when I told him that I was over wasting time gaining and losing weight.

I didn’t sleep well last night. But I did stand on the landing outside my apartment as the lightning, wind, and rain made their approach. I could feel its chilly proximity. When the sheets of rain reached me, I felt like I was the only person outside witnessing it. It was sometime after 1 a.m. It was beautiful. The clotted overhead gutters gushed water in torrents unidirectionally. I was glad to have witnessed it. Later, around 4:30, as I started my morning, I watched the lower water-laden branches of a tree cast witch shadows across the pavement, the movement resembling awkward stop-motion photography. After my doctor’s visit, I noted that the parking lot is increasingly awash in thousands of newly-fallen leaves. I said “Hello” to the hummingbirds, who’ll soon leave for the season.

Because of the cause and a friend always recommended it, I went to Peace At Home Thrift Store. I found a shirt that called my name. I had to cut the shoulder pads out of it, which indicates which section I found it in. And for a pittance, I bought several things that seemed like they needed to come home with me. One of them is a nice fleur-de-lis brooch inset with sparkling stones. The woman who helped me pick them out had on a cacophony of jewelry herself. She laughed when I said, “I don’t really wear jewelry.”

Because it’s so close, I had to celebrate the great doctor’s visit by going to Renzo’s and getting a Caprese salad. I liked Caprese before but discovered that Renzo’s connected the dots regarding what it is SUPPOSED to taste like. When I arrived at the apartment, I ate half of it with pleasure. You might have heard me yum-yumming with delight?

“Old keys don’t open new doors.” That’s true. But they unlock parts of our lives that need to be examined. Closed rooms are secrets, ones that occupy parts of our minds and hearts that need to be aired out. A house is meant to be lived in – and our minds are meant to be free and open.

This beautiful key was a gift. It hangs on the wall next to my stove.

P.S. IF all goes well, I might be able to return to work shortly after my staples are removed.

Michael K. Williams aka Omar

Michael K. Williams was more than just his character Omar Little. That’s how legacy works, though. We become filtered by perception. People are often reduced to singular acts or traits. Michael didn’t suffer the fate of being reduced, though; Omar was larger than life.

If we’re lucky enough, we find a role like Omar Little, something which defines us and gives us a platform to flourish.

“The Wire” was a slow-burning show, one which I loved when it aired. Omar fascinated me, in part because he didn’t adapt to please, and his code put his feet in motion. I loved the show more when I discovered that his killer, a young boy, and sociopath, had previously been in an episode mimicking Omar and saying he wanted to be “the next Omar.” Knowing that many of the characters on the show were based on real people gave the plot a little more kick.

Michael Williams was initially a dancer, of all things.

His scar, one earned in a horrific birthday fight when he was 25, gave him an unintended sinister look that allowed him to blossom as an actor, a career he’d never imagined. An unexpected horror surprised him with his shot in life. Michael Williams had other significant roles; it’s Omar that I picture in my head.

The above picture is one I made a couple of years ago. It’s a 16X20 custom canvas that I have in my weird sink window. I attempted to pack in meaningful references to movies, books, and icons that inspired me. I chose a few “musts,” and the rest I picked at random from a list of about 50.

Omar is in the bottom right-hand corner.

Michael died when he was 54, the same age as me. He’d struggled with drug use for years.

There are a lot of Omars walking the streets. This fact made “The Wire” such an incredible show.

There was only one Michael Williams, and his fly feet will no longer grace the Earth.

“A man gotta have a code,” Omar taught us.

I hope yours serves you well.

Love, X

Life Is One Big Notecard

I had another writer’s block moment. NOT because I ever have writer’s block. It’s just one of those themes people ask about: “Can you write about any moment?” Yes. “Do you ever run out of ideas?” No. “Could you maybe slow down?” No. 🙂 All the ways I share can be muted, scrolled past, or avoided. And if I’m standing there talking to you, arrange to have another friend sneak up behind me and put a black bag over my head – and then run and duck into a closet.

Also, I’ve discovered that I could DIE at any random moment. While I watched for C19, my own bowels plotted an invisible revolt. I take that personally! How are y’all going to react to the absence of these millions of words that I spew?

I’m surprised everyone isn’t infected with the urge to cement small moments into history.

Life is one big notecard.

You are not a perfectionist; it’s most likely you’re afraid of how your truth will be received. That is out of your control. Let go.

There’s not enough time to experience all the things that happen to us. In part, because we live them much more in our heads than we do out in the physical world. It’s the bureaucracy of living, the hum and buzz of devices, the impossibility of doing something we love because we have only a certain number of awake minutes in a day. No matter what conversations you have, the activities you do, or the people you interact with, choosing or not choosing by definition robs you of other conversations, people, and fulfilling yourself with the things you love. I hesitate to call it a zero-sum scenario; it’s close.

We run behind on everything – including our ability to ruminate on what we’ve done, said, and felt in a given day.

That lack of rumination lets us slip into not focusing on what lights us up: the people who reciprocate with kindness, love, and their time. The places that renew us. We’ve got to get back to the “lights us up” people and circumstances.

My notecard is always full.

I’m just too stupid to fully get to the next gear, where life really happens.

That bastard with the scythe gave me a reminder last week. I’m scribbling faster than ever. And pondering more.

Love, X
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“God is the boat. You’re the Oar.”

On a long detour, I met the coolest cat working as a cashier at a Convenient-But-Costly store. It was the first time I saw him there. Funny, charismatic, and engaging.

“You could make a fortune in sales,” I told him.

“Too many tattoos. But thanks, you think so?” He smiled.

“Without a doubt. Tattoos don’t mean anything. You can’t teach your kind of engagement.” I meant it when I said it and I watched my words hit him a little bit.

He said something I didn’t quite catch, although I thought I did.

I said, “God is the boat. You’re the oar.”

He stopped as he was about to reply.

“That’s a great quote. Is it yours?”

“I don’t know, honestly. It popped out because I misheard your last comment.”

“I’m going to lay that one on my preacher when I see him.” He repeated the phrase back to me. He laughed. “And thanks for the compliment.”

“You’ve got the attitude, now find a way to launch your life. If this is what you love, keep on doing it.”

It was a weirdly deep conversation to have over a counter that usually held cigarettes, energy drinks, and fat-laden goodies.

Misadventure At Jason’s

Misadventure At Jason’s

Having a horrible experience at a restaurant is a first-world problem; that, I acknowledge. Covid doesn’t factor into my latest mess. Few people working or visiting the eatery in question wore masks yesterday. That’s okay by me. Having survived attempted strangulation by my bowels makes it hard for me to throw stones at external threats beyond my control.

Yes, Tammy, I should have opted for Sam’s rotisserie chicken. : ) Now that I’m out of the hospital, I wanted to enjoy a calorie and flavor-rich simple meal prepared by a restaurant that c-a-n make delicious food. It was to be my first post-surgery restaurant experience. It was late enough past the post-lunch crowd that the most significant impediment would be circumvented. Or so I thought. After realizing that Renzo’s was closed on Sunday, my friend and I immediately agreed on Jason’s Deli. We used the app to simplify the process and paid online. I took a large cash tip with me to reward the employees involved. Curbside pickup would make it easy for me to avoid unnecessary strain and bypass any covid issues. (Not that I’m worried, as so many vaccinated people are getting breath-through cases.) I wasn’t in a hurry, and I left to go pick up the order.

Calling the number on the Curbside pickup sign, I immediately knew that I might have a bad experience. The employee answering the phone lashed out. My response was both surprise and a little laughter. I tried to picture what Hell she’d already experienced by 1 p.m. to motivate her to practice that degree of insult. Avoiding any humorous snark, I answered her as best as I could. The details don’t matter. I called my friend, laughing, telling her what the Jason’s employee had said. Since I work in an environment where customer service often morphs into malicious compliance when an employee gets angry, I easily recognized that the employee in question would have gladly jumped off a building to get out of there. I lowered my expectations and waited.

After 30+ minutes past the initial “order-ready” time, I went inside to the to-go area. I wasn’t upset, just confused. At this point, I was still laughing a little at the unlikely outcome I’d got myself into by choosing Jason’s. I called my friend who was going to share the meal with me. I apologized for laughing. It was so ridiculous I didn’t know how else to respond. I sent a picture of the lop-sided layout; 99% of employees on the dine-in side and one lone guy attempting to keep up with the to-go/curbside/driver end that comprised at least 50% of the business.

People were waiting, frustrated. A lone male employee was manning the entire ‘out’ portion of the long prep bar. He was hustling against piles of half-prepared sandwiches, missing items, and dozens of order tickets thrown and stuck everywhere. A dozen employees were helping dine-in customers get their food quickly.

A couple of food delivery drivers expressed their frustration and walked out. One announced, “Okay. I don’t want any of these orders. I don’t care about the money or the food.” And he left.

Twenty minutes later, I finally got to the to-go register. “Can I speak to a manager?” She looked at me, angry. “No. She’s working the line for dine-in.” And she answered the phone, ignoring me. I stayed in my spot. The woman looked back up to see me and walked off, leaving her spot. Another employee came up a minute later, and I said, “I’d like a refund, no harm and no foul, and thank you.” She rolled her eyes. “We don’t have time to issue refunds. You get what you get.” I’m paraphrasing. “Wait, ma’am, I’m sorry it’s so busy, but I’m tired and stressed. I need a refund.” She walked off.

Customers and delivery drivers watched and listened. For the second time, I thought maybe I was on an episode of “What Would You Do.”

When the first woman came back to the register, she didn’t make eye contact. “Move. I can’t help you. The manager is working the line and can’t come up here.” Stunned, I stepped slightly to the side as the employee helped someone else. I’m omitting things that would make this encounter worse. You can imagine the other words said to me and around me. Each time the phone rang, the workers recoiled and had an epithet to utter.

I waited a few more minutes. Order tickets, half-prepared food, and boxes continued to pile up as the single male to-go person fought against a tide of orders. Another driver said, “Hey, you’re supposed to treat this like a drive-through and process us out. I’ve been here an hour and have orders sitting in my car getting cold/hot/old.” No one listened.

I was sorry for everyone, workers and customers alike.

All the energy and enthusiasm I’d had evaporated. My body just wanted to sit down, even if I had to eat slices of bread for a meal.

I cut through and walked around to the dine-in register, now empty. The lunch rush was well over by then. No one wanted to come to the register. An employee walked up, exasperated. “Can I take your order?” I said, “No, I’m sorry. Look, I need a refund. I’m sorry.” I’m editing this portion, too. The employee, a young female, didn’t quite know how to do it.The long to-go order person walked up, answered the phone, and said, “#$#@ I’m working on it!” before I said anything. He threw a piece of paper at me. It said “$0” on it. It wasn’t a canceled receipt. “Sir, I’m sorry, I need a receipt cancellation, something indicating my order was voided.” Angry stare, followed by angry words. He waved me off, telling me to leave and shut up. Incredulous, I repeated, “Sir, I apologize it’s so hard here, but I need just a second…” He said something bizarre to the caller, held the phone against his chest, and screamed down at the manager working on the prep line, “Come take care of this asshole! He won’t shut up.” He shook his fist in the air in front of me. It was not a polite gesture. I took a breath. I remained standing there, waiting to give it one more try.

The to-go order employee screamed at the manager again. I won’t cite words here, either. Whether you believe me or not, I felt sorry for him. Work shouldn’t push anyone to that point. I’m pretty sure a few people in my position would have thrown a punch.

The manager walked up and said, “It’s always this way.” I said, “The details don’t matter. I just want a refund. I know it’s busy, but your employees have been rude, cursed at me, and treated me and others like we’re not human. I wasn’t in a hurry. I feel bad for everyone. Is this a receipt?” She looked at it. She gave me another explanation.

And I tried to make a human connection: “You know how you never know what someone else is going through? I’ve been respectful, calm, and patient. I waited 30 minutes outside and well over an hour here inside. I apologize that everything is impossible in here, I truly do. Let me show you that we have our own issues.” I lifted my red t-shirt and showed her my long, jagged metal staple wound. “I don’t think I’ll follow-up about this visit, but if I do, please remember that I was polite, didn’t raise my voice, and my only crime was trying to get food and celebrate. I’m so sorry for all of us.” I meant it.

She apologized. I felt terrible for her, the workers, and everyone else who found themselves in an unexpected retail Hell.

I left, feeling like I’d been at Jason’s for the equivalent of an entire afternoon, even though it had been at most two hours. Another Uber driver spoke to me outside. I told him a ten-second recap and wished him well, knowing his afternoon had already crashed. “I’ve got orders in the car, ones I’ve had over an hour.” I smiled. “I’m so sorry. There’s no fix for this.” And there’s not. The corporation won’t staff adequately, and the employees don’t know how to go from incredible anger to communicate the mess effectively.

I drove back to the apartment.

Within a little over 30 minutes later, a local Chinese restaurant delivered a mountain of dishes. I ate like a king. But the mess and melee of Jason’s stayed in my head all afternoon. More than anything, the most significant realization is how a retail encounter put so many people in the position of being lesser than any of us should ever be with one another.

I treated everyone I came into contact with kindness and regard. It was supposed to be a simple meal, one to celebrate being out of the hospital.

Instead, it was a reminder that staffing is too low everywhere – and that it’s easy to use stress as a lever to be hateful.

I’m not sure I can indict Jason’s Deli too harshly. But it now holds the title of worst retail restaurant experience of my life – and that’s quite the feat at my age.

Did I go too far showing the manager my surgery incision? Maybe. But we always hear that we don’t know what’s going on in another person’s life. I put myself into the shoes of every Jason’s Deli employee during and after the mess of yesterday. Except for the manager, none of them imagined why the soft-spoken guy in the red shirt looked so forlorn about humans being unable to stop the madness and reset.

I haven’t processed some of these same lessons from being in the hospital last week. People are stressed, understaffed, and unmanaged. Many of us don’t have adequate coping mechanisms to respond to situations that force us to forget that we’re just momentary flashes of life and need to do better.

Love, X
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Once In A Lifewhile

Yes, I know I look tired in the picture. But I did sleep last night and woke up grateful again.

I sat with a borrowed cat this morning, its purr against me, slitted eyes sleepily pondering me, and my fingers languorously scruffing its neck. An empty coffee cup was in front of me, its contents too hastily enjoyed. It’s going to take a while for me to fail to appreciate making a cup when I want one, perhaps even a lifewhile, a word that appeared in my head as I stood outside feeling the chill of the morning.

I’d taken out the trash and threw it on top of the unimaginably overfull dumpster. I couldn’t convince myself that it had only been a week since I used my extermination kit to spray the dumpster; it’s a duty I took on to control the ridiculous fly problem. It seemed like a metaphor was at play. I wandered around the outlet of the apartment simplex, observing the distant roll of clouds against the early morning horizon.

My surgeon and hospital team forgot to include work notes or restriction information in my packet; I suppose my five follow-up reminders weren’t a sufficient hint. By sheer accident, my supervisor Joe was standing in the room when I noticed the oversight. He’s accustomed to the complexities and holes in medical care. “I guess I’ll be back at work Monday,” I said. We laughed. I wish I were returning to work tomorrow.

I’m supposed to maintain a routine and stay active. While in the hospital, though I might not have said so before, I did the breathing exercises 100 times a day and walked a thousand loops in the hallway without assistance. The worst thing physically I had to do was to shower myself without help. Not only because I had a massive hole in my abdomen, but because they’d left the IV in the inside of my left elbow, making safe flexibility on that side of my body impossible. I can’t stress enough how HARD that was, but I knew I would go without a shower for a week if I didn’t.

For all of y’all who are concerned, I am “taking it easy.” But I am not laying down or sitting needlessly. I’m working on a plan to reset my diet. Even before The Stay (as I refer to it now), I was formulating an effective way to gain weight. It made me nervous about getting on the scale once I was back at the apartment. My weight had dropped to 142 by Friday afternoon. For those with inside knowledge of my stay, they’ll tell you that I fought tooth and nail to get substantive nutrition and a plan of action; the bureaucracy of care cost me two days of what amounts to starvation without dehydration. Unbeknownst to me, someone who shares a weight loss journey with me was just about to reach out and lovingly tell me to pull up a bit before I had posted my intention to gain some weight back. It’s amazingly easy to take advice from someone who has walked the path themselves – without feeling attacked or defensive.

Even the hydration cost me constant vigilance, though. I still hear the alarms and claxons of the empty bags when I sit in silence. One of the secrets of a hospital stay is that staff will ignore alarms with steadfast consistency. If the person coming in to silence your alarms isn’t assigned to you, they will turn it off without much concern about whether it’ll be refilled or restarted. This includes scenarios whether you’re getting normal saline, anti-seizure medication, antibiotics, or any other drug. Call lights are hallway illumination until someone is ready to acknowledge them. You can’t take it personally. You have to learn to play the game of attention and leverage. It’s unfortunate, but one that no one in the system will possibly deny. This is another reason you need to have someone with you if you’re in the hospital. I have suggestions on how to make a game out of it, too, if you’re interested. This will keep the men occupied, assuming you can get them up and into the hospital room with you.

While in the hospital, I got a teddy bear, a t-shirt, a bag of suckers, flowers, activity books, a few visitors, 357 calls, messages, and well-wishes, all of which I appreciated immensely for one reason or another. AND one request to have something done with my face while I was already in the hospital.

PS A lifewhile is an indefinite length of time characterized by the unease of knowing something significant has shifted yet beyond our perception. In this case, my attacker was unseen in its approach. As I speed away from Tuesday at 1 a.m. when my surgery started, I’m accumulating lessons. The biggest ones are trite and already well-known: people are essential, and life is limited. A lesser-known one is that life is always casting its net out in the world, regardless of who you are or what you’ve accomplished. Your checklist can be full or empty when it snares you.

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I took the above picture to capture that strange shoulder bone protuberance. I could feel that another layer off my body had melted during my hospitalization.

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Creepy!

Note: I don’t wear sunglasses. Ever.

Yet, I saw these visor reflective ones and felt compelled to get one. I ordered them before my bowels tried to strangle me to death.

Whether it is by design or not, wearing them gives me the urge to carry a baton and/or skulk around in the periphery bushes of a random property.

Laughing, X

Another Life

I woke up this morning grateful to hear the birds chirping. Even at 2 a.m., when some miscreant biker needlessly revved his motorcycle with a cacophony to awaken the dead, I was happy. To be alive – and to not be confined to the hospital another night. Twice I awoke, worried that I had imagined my discharge or that I was trapped in a Groundhog Day cycle of never-ending hospitalization.

Washington Regional is about to loosen its visitor restrictions again. It was good practice before – and it’s a better practice now: do as much as you can to have someone with your friend or family member as much as possible to be an advocate for their care. With staffing issues and the seemingly impossible task of coordinating complex care and so many moving parts, one of the single best things you can do for your family member is to simply be an eye and advocate. It is possible to be kind to staff while aggressively pursuing good care for your friend or family member. Never apologize for being an advocate for your loved ones; good healthcare workers are humans too and will not resent your participation. And if they do? Trust your instincts.

I learned a lot of lessons while I was in the hospital. Some of them I’ll probably never write about. Though my eyes were open before being a patient, I’ll never be able to relapse back to ignorance about the challenges our healthcare system faces. For those great people who work hard to be both compassionate and medically competent, I can’t say enough to thank them. For the others, my words won’t have a positive impact on the problems. I’ll have to think about how best to translate much of my experience into a helpful narrative; criticism, even well-earned criticism, seldom lands how we want it to. This is true one-on-one, and more so with complex organizations.

I imagine that many of my experiences will find themselves buried inside jokes, mirthful anecdotes, and disguised narratives. Comedy is one of the best means to hide the truth in plain sight. Most great jokes are wrapped around a nugget of truth, no matter how brazen or outlandish. Here’s an inside joke, based on one of my experiences: “She didn’t fall out of bed. She climbed over and sat on the floor from a surprising height.”

For now, it’s Saturday. The breeze is cool and the birds are dive-bombing their food. I’m waiting on laundry to finish because, well, let’s face it: the laundry doesn’t care where you’ve been. It places its demands like every other mundane chore required of us. In a minute, I’ll carefully go down the flight of stairs into the dungeon to retrieve clothes. And I’ll be happy to do it.

Even the Zen masters have a saying: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

Each of us has to find a way to not only put one foot in front of the other without fail but also discover a way to find meaning and joy in the distractions.

I’m good.

I hope y’all are good too. I was reminded how much all of us need other people. Even those with tough exteriors need kind words and soft voices sometimes. Life wouldn’t be worth living without other people. I’ve had enough of Blake, though.

Love, X

P.S. I put a picture of my incision in the comments, so you can skip it if you wish. I’m currently working on a series of false and/or creative explanations for the scar I’ll have. I love scars; they remind us that we survived.
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Here’s a post from my social media from Friday morning….

It’s a good thing I’ve always had a wild imagination. Though I was allegedly a fall risk, I was left to get up and take care of myself these last few days. It is odd that the room they put me in overlooks my favorite place at the hospital. Below me is the gazebo, facing out toward the rustic farmhouse. It’s always been an escape and meditative spot. I have stood at the window three dozen times in the last two days, remembering how many times I stood at the gazebo. Sometimes watching the sunrise, sometimes waiting. Off to the right, I can observe the building I normally work in and the relentless comings and goings of daily commerce. The hospital is undeniably a business. But it’s powered by people and people need it to be made whole and healed. I am running toward the idea that I will be able to leave today. It’s possible that the ongoing and inefficient bureaucracy of the place might needlessly prevent that. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, I’ll be back here to work. The first thing I’m going to do, though, is to walk to the gazebo and look up, to perhaps find the window of the room I laid in. We all need people more than we like to admit. I’m already futurizing because that is optimism in action.

P.S. the surgeon’s nurse ripped off the bandage. The wound is really cool, bordered by an insane number of small staples. It avoided my belly button, something that was on my mind for some reason. I contacted my agent. He was so happy, because an unblemished belly button means that I’ll soon be gracing the underwear pages again.

Love, X.

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Here’s a post from my social media from Thursday…

I don’t have a catheter or an ngt tube anymore. (Old friends I never hope to see again…) The IV will be pulled sometime soon too, since I’ve been drinking a river of ice regardless. I haven’t eaten in 68 hours. The irony is that last Friday I started deliberately incorporating other foods into my diet to get my weight up to at least 155 or 160. Did I mention how good the Impossible Whopper was on Saturday? For the last few days I guess it has literally been impossible.

It is such a crazy coincidence that after 11 months of die-hard level commitment to health and healthy eating that something like this unexpectedly slaps me so hard.

I’m starting a clear liquid diet this morning, something that should have happened yesterday. I’ll be polite and skip all of that story for now. PS just because vodka is clear doesn’t mean it’s included in the diet.

I feel terrible for my coworkers, who are already strained from covid and absences. Some of us openly joke about how these kind of surprises and tragedies happen simultaneously. We rarely have enough help to do the job the way it needs to be done. I suspect this may be a universal symptom of our modern times- and the medical field in particular.

I have 2,342 stories already to tell about my incarceration, I mean my hospitalization. I’m glad to be alive to ponder them. But I am leaving here with a first-hand and profound education regarding healthcare. As much as I thought I knew before, this has been a true education.

I hope everything continues to go well and I get out of here. Because this is a bureaucracy, there’s no clear answer or straight path to getting that done.

Meanwhile I’ll continue to engage in a battle of amusement and wit with anybody who comes by. If they get snarky or out of control I usually have a mostly full urinal by the bedside. I’m guessing that it is very aerodynamic.

Thanks to everyone who reached out.

Life can still surprise me.

I hope I can still surprise myself.

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Seeing the Grand canyon and running a marathon might be great, but having my catheter yanked out will certainly be more memorable.

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Here’s a post from my social media from Tuesday…

An obstructed bowel jumped up at 3:30 yesterday and put me in the ER. I had emergency surgery early this morning around 1a.m. Worst pain of my life! I didn’t have time to be anxious or scared. PS no, this is not a Photoshop.

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