The truth is that even if you’re double-vaccinated and have the booster, it’s likely that you will get a version of Covid.
Having all your shots will almost certainly keep you out of the hospital or worse. Of course, I’ve had every available shot.
My other truth is that my biggest risk and exposure has been where I work – and that’s been true during the course of the pandemic. It doesn’t scare me, precisely because I’ve seen people do everything right and still get Covid. I did everything right physically for a year and yet my body still slapped me confusingly and I found myself in surgery.
I tested again yesterday. As far as I know, I’ve tested more than anyone else in my personal circle. It’s important to me to know that if I have it, that I hide in a closet for a few days. I’m around unvaccinated people and the burden of giving them something that is essentially a mortality lottery ticket is a higher price than I’m willing to pay. I wish everyone would get all the shots, but that is no longer a reasonable expectation.
Be safe and be loved. Squeeze in some laughter in there, too, if you can.
I’m going to go out in a bit and reconnect with old friends.
While I’m doing it, the awesome t-shirt a fascinating new neighbor gave to me this week says everything that needs to be said: play.
As part of my after-care, a Blue Cross case manager called me yesterday. We talked for an hour. You’re going to think I’m kidding, but it was like talking to a Grandmother and friend I never knew I had. She was engaging, personal, and we talked about a lot of things other than my health. I hope she’s rewarded for this kind of outreach. I would not have imagined that someone from such a large bureaucracy could be so personal. Because she’s a nurse, was on a ventilator in the hospital due to covid, and knows the medical system as well as anyone could, she also allowed me to openly discuss the mess we face when our health falters. She should be the face and soul of Blue Cross. As much fun as I have poking at organizations, she deserves recognition.
I was in Springdale today, chasing the unicorn of outdoor security lights I wanted. You can’t wait on a landlord to provide the minimum of safety, after all. It was my second visit to 64 in fifty-three days. My eyes devoured the familiar yet mercurial sights as I drove.
I can’t explain how, but I knew my old friend Mike would be in his yard if I drove by unannounced. (I’ll call him Mike for this anecdote to protect his anonymity and association with me.) On a whim, I navigated the byzantine streets and headed to the cul-de-sac he wisely chose to buy a house in. I saw Mike standing along the fence, holding a mug. Two of his dogs were with him.
I parked and said hello and let the dogs lick my fingers through the wire fence along the perimeter of the curved curbside. There was a break in the beautiful line of vegetation and flowers they’d carefully planted.
He’s not one to be idle. Along with the rest of his family, he did everything right regarding C19. Even though he’s a lifelong community servant, he took the time to be careful. Despite being vaccinated, he got covid.
It was such a pleasure to see him and hear his brand of rapid-fire yet laconic wit.
He told me he’d retire in a couple of years. I laughed. He might retire from his chosen career – but he’ll never relax. Mike is not wired for it. For years, I’ve asked him to transition from one form of public service to politics. He’s uniquely qualified. The fact that he doesn’t think so proves that he’s the right candidate, no matter what office he might seek or hold. Anyone who knows him would immediately agree.
I showed him my scar. “What’s a worldwide pandemic, divorce, and surgery to complain about?” I jokingly asked him.
Seeing an old friend, fatigued but safe from severe harm from this scourge of a virus, I left, happier than when I’d arrived. That “light you up” thing? Yeah, Mike’s one of the good people.
And a reminder that even when you do everything right, things can and will go wrong.
That gives hope to a poor soul like me.
I came back to the apartment and spent a couple of hours installing the lights, my heart filled with fondness on two accounts.
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.
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.
This post is personal. Please forgive me if my tone is harsh; it’s not my intention. Like I always do, I write vaguely at times, use a word or adopt a tone carelessly. Read this with the idea that you’re getting to know me better. If you read it looking for errors or a fight, you’ll of course find motive.
I woke up this morning to find myself weighing 146.9 lbs. I was shocked. I knew my day yesterday had been intense. I walked over 40,000 steps and managed to do 2,500 pushups. Not to mention an insane amount of physical work during the day, too. I’ve always imagined 165-168 as the control setpoint, with 170ish as the upper limit.
I am a little amused that anyone would lecture me by saying, “You’ve lost too much weight.” From my perspective, it is a great compliment. Losing 35% of who you were makes for interesting stories.
I’m sorry you don’t see my weight as normal. That’s a problem.
Not for me. You. 🙂
My cousin is concerned, and rightly so, because she recognizes how easy it is to let a goal turn to obsessive madness. I’m not anorexic or suffering from an eating disorder. There are days when I burn as many calories as an athlete. Work alone is so intensely physical that I look back over the last 16 years and wonder how I managed to be obese so many times. My cousin has earned the right to be the chiding voice in my ear. Her voice is in my head, reminding me to eat a wider variety and more calorie-rich foods in the process.
It was in part due to my cousin that I started doing pushups on June 1st. If you’d told me that I’d do 2,500 in a day 13 weeks later, I would have said, “You’re crazy!” But I did learn an invaluable lesson: there is no upper limit to how many I can do. At the outset, I had to be careful of my right shoulder. Work is intense and taxing. The pushups have largely eliminated the pain. I’m going to do my best to limit myself to 500 a day for a while. Yesterday will be in my head for years, though, because I surprised myself. That can’t be taken away from me when my body finally gets old and surrenders.
In October of last year, I had an epiphany. I saw myself as thin. Explaining the certainty of it doesn’t translate well when I talk about it. While my goal shifted increasingly downward as my vision became a reality, I didn’t plan on going past 170 in my wildest fantasy. While other parts of my life exploded, whatever happened to my head in October didn’t fade. As the months passed, I was amused that people attributed my success to willpower. It wasn’t that. It was clarity and stubbornness. Looking down at the scale and seeing “155” is a fantastic feeling. 146.9 is a bit disconcerting. I’m working on that without succumbing to many bad eating choices: Doritos, thick pizza, cheese, 54 pieces of chocolate, that sort of thing. I eat “unhealthy” food at times. (I hate labeling food as healthy or unhealthy; it’s volume and frequency that are the culprits.)
There are a couple of precursors to my “moment.” In February of last year, I started the process of losing weight, in part due to Covid. Stress took its toll, and I regained most of the weight I lost. Not all of it, thank god. At some point, I replaced the relatively new stove in the house with a bigger, better one to be able to more easily cook batches of healthy food. That drive to finally kick the fat bucket was brewing inside me. I know that reeks of an excuse. In October, my brother Mike died. Thereafter, I thought I had Covid and felt like I was dying. That morning is when the light bulb went off with an explosion in my head.
I often think about what would have happened to me had I not lost the weight. Would I have experienced a health issue? Or died? I know that losing weight during the long stretch of the Covid run saved my bacon on countless days. It let me stop feeling my knees hurt and my back. The converse of that is whether or not the rest of my life would have blown up had I stayed obese. It’s a real question for me. How much did my massive weight loss and attitude change have to do with my marriage imploding? There’s no question that staying so fat was going to cost me a part of my mobility – and perhaps forever. Being so overweight takes away a bit of so many corners of a person’s life. It’s because we gain incrementally and in ways we don’t notice. From there, we realize, “I’m fat. Oh my god.” We choose the hard that we’ve learned rather than embracing the hard of making positive choices.
For anyone who hasn’t experienced it, the feeling of eating healthy and making endless good choices is sublime. It’s a self-reinforcing mandate. This is true for any personal goal.
Today was the lowest weight I’ve hit. I got close Monday night after foolishly running five miles. Upon returning, I had to drink a gallon of water and then attempt to sleep. I think I dreamed about a running river, and that made me nervous for reasons that should be obvious.
For weeks, I’ve been in the low 150s. This week has been a barrage of work, running, walking, and pushups.
I get a lot of compliments. Questions. And some criticism. Some people are waiting for me to balloon back up. When I started, I repeatedly objected with, “Let’s see in a year.” The year is coming fast upon me in October.
One morning, the wife of a friend passed me in the hallway. “You look amazing, X!” We both laughed. Yesterday, someone said, “If you lose any more, you’ll dry up and blow away. You look great.” She lost a lot of weight herself for health reasons not too long ago. There’s rarely a day that passes where someone doesn’t notice that I’m thin. Today, a security guard who resembles me was standing by the elevator and saw that it was ME standing there. He thought I was someone he didn’t know. “You need to tell me your secret and how to do it.” He patted his stomach. “I’ll call you,” he said. He’s going to be disappointed when I tell him the big secret is to choose healthier food and to listen to what his body actually needs. “Keep your mouth closed” is a terrible name for a diet book.
On a recent morning, someone asked me in all seriousness, “How did you do it? You’re not sick, are you? Or did you have the surgery for weight?” I told her that it was simply eating well and that I didn’t have a secret. I told her about my friend Tammy, who managed to do what I did and that she was also about my age- and that if she could, I had nothing except excuses. I indeed started doing pushups on June 1st. But I had already hit 150 by the time I started.
“Just don’t lose any more weight, X.” My coworker meant it in kindness.
I have a couple of people in my life who resent that I lost the weight. It’s a bit bizarre to me, even now. I made it clear when I started that I was a bystander to my transformation. While I did adopt a diet that I experimented with, a big part of what happened was as if it happened to someone else while I observed it. All I can is that obsessively following a system yields results.
I’ve tried to avoid being too evangelical about weight loss. Some people do have medical issues that make it impossible or difficult. For those who’ve been less than enthusiastic about what I’ve done, I attribute it to that odd human proclivity toward pettiness. Watching someone do it renders many objections that it is difficult or impossible to be completely moot. With enough motivation to move from ‘wanting to’ toward ‘making it a reality,’ most people can do it. Anyone who decides that it is a ‘must’ will find a way. Or try. I remember a cartoon from years ago. A man was sitting on the pavement, having stopped halfway through the race. He said, “It’s too much. I can’t run 26 miles.” The next panel showed a man with prosthetic legs racing past. The people with the “sitting on the pavement” mentality often don’t appreciate it when people go racing by, ignoring objections. I used to find myself being that type of person, too.
It’s tough to be around someone who steps into a new motivation. Though I never intended my weight loss to be an insult to anyone else, it did happen. This sort of journey inevitably changes a person. A success in one arena drives them into others. Of course, the person is going to change. Sometimes fundamentally, especially as behaviors become habits and a new way of life. A common complaint in relationships is “You’ve changed.” A trite but true rebuttal to that is, “And you haven’t.” We’re not meant to be static. If you’re in a relationship and one of you will transform themselves, my word of advice is to have frank conversations about it – and go to a counselor if you see that it’s becoming a wedge.
One critic insisted that people were constantly saying how ill I looked. That I am too skinny. Relentlessly adamant. They quoted the anonymous “they” to me. When I’m ready to hire a consultant about my choices, I’ll let them know immediately. IF such people care for me, they will find a way to communicate it to me. Since they didn’t, I have to attribute what ‘they’ allegedly said to a polite conversation with my critics. There’s no crime in honestly talking to someone about their weight if you care about them. The bigger sin is not to do so.
So, of course, despite having the tools to show otherwise, I visited a nutritionist. She said, “Oh baloney!” She agreed that some of it is attributable to the fact that I was obese for so many years and that the change was abrupt and substantial. She looked at my pictures at 252 and 232 and then as I am now. “You’re great, X. If you do add muscle, your BMI will seem off. But it won’t mean you’ve become unhealthy. You have to balance your body against more than a simple BMI. If someone still incorrectly tells you that you are underweight, send them to me. I’d be shocked if they don’t realize how overweight most people tend to be now.”
If I continue to be as active as I am now, muscle mass will increase, resulting in a higher weight without the associated fat content. I chose 168 as my set point. My job is very physical, and I’ve kept my leisure time activity rate higher than average, too, without going to a gym. I’ve channeled my anxiety into exercise. As the counselor I saw told me, short-term measures are warranted; if they become long-term measures, you’ll have to figure out that, too.
Most of us don’t have a realistic idea of how much we should weigh, nor how many calories we should eat on an average day. I look back at my pictures and shake my head. I missed out on a lot by being so overweight. I can’t get that time back, so it’s on to the next goal of ensuring my habits remain permanent – without risking developing a food issue. They are rare in men who are 54 years old. Food is too damn good and calls me by name like everyone else.
The majority of people around me don’t think, “Ugh, he’s TOO thin and looks terrible.” They think, “X looks normal.” So, if you’re in the minority who feel like I’m too thin, get online or talk to your doctor.
Or get a hobby.
The consensus is overwhelming: I’m at a normal weight, with a buffer of loss and gain comfortably on both sides.
This is how I’m supposed to look, so get over it and be enthusiastic for anyone who can do it. If you love me, of course, you should step in and tell me I’ve got my head up my ass if I continue to lose weight.
To be clear, I’m not talking about my face; whether that’s normal is up for the monkeys to decide.
My weight, though? I’m good. It’s not just my body saying so. It’s science.
In time, people will see this as the new normal. It looks normal, but it feels fantastic to be able to move with agility, walk for miles, do pushups, and run even if I stupidly decide to do so.
There’s always the danger of forgetting the lessons I learned.
One of those lessons is to stop letting critical people get inside my head. They can make fun of my brooches all they want. Just not my weight.
And if I get off track or fail, I proved to myself that my objections and excuses about why I couldn’t do it were all dumb. And that I could do it again. We all fail until we don’t.
No matter who you are, you can do something today. That’s enough, no matter how small. Tomorrow, a little more. The law of increments seldom disappoints.
If you see someone finally get past their excuses? Take the time to applaud. We need it. We’ll return the favor when you succeed.
PS For my cousin: I don’t plan to stay quite this thin. I love you. Please keep an eye on me, though.
I have a couple of quotes/rules of mine I made quite a bit back. They are the result of a lot of agony. No disrespect is intended for anyone who has struggled with these issues – or struggled because they love someone with them. Over the weekend, one of the coolest actors to grace the screen, Michael K. Williams, aka Omar from The Wire, died as a result of his struggle with addiction. Don’t make the mistake of confusing addiction with intelligence, willpower, or environment. Once it gets its claws in, there are often no lengths those suffering won’t go to in order to feel something – or to feel nothing. That escalation scrapes everyone around them. If you’re in the periphery trying to get closer, you get entrapped in the ever-tightening spiral.
Here they are:
The M.T. Rule:The surest way to cause yourself heartache and anxiety is to interfere with someone who is racing to rock bottom.
The M.T. Rule Addendum: NOT doing so results in identical heartache and anxiety.
Covid has worsened people’s ability to cope. It’s largely hidden until the spiral does enough damage to draw attention.
I spent another afternoon painting everything. Well, not everything. The neighbor’s dog escaped. My quest to fill my life with color is proceeding like the General Lee across an unexpected levee. If that reference is too old for you, try this one: …like an NFL linebacker making his way to the pizza… or a housewife driving into a Target parking lot.
The Covid debate raged around me everywhere. I wish everyone could visit a full ICU-Covid unit and see how incredibly difficult this virus has made everyone’s lives. It’s easy for me to forget that not everyone shares my vantage point. For many people, it’s like imagining a war fought overseas; distant, disconnected. The truth is I find myself doing my part while simultaneously glancing away. Each day that passes, I hope that no one I know or love will need emergency care. The waits are incredible, and the misery is real for everyone, patients and family members. I have my opinion about BB&BBQ, Arkansas football games, and other social gatherings. But no one cares about my earned opinion. Instead of throwing my two cents in, I hope everyone can avoid Covid if possible. And if not, that it does not cut you or your family too profoundly as it lays its fickle finger across your life.
So that you know, I still go out in public. I wear a mask and try to avoid licking my fingers at random times. For me, my most significant exposure to Covid has been inside my allegedly safe bubble at work. Repeatedly. Even if I do everything right, I must work. It doesn’t stress me. It’s not because I fail to understand the risks. It’s because I’m at the mercy of everyone around me. The truth? I always have been. We all are. The sooner we realize it and act like our actions affect everyone around us will be a good day. While we’re at it, let’s make fundamental changes to our social policy and healthcare system so that no one will worry about medical care.
Until then, I’m going to get back to painting.
But I’ll be thinking about y’all and hoping we’ll all be safe. We won’t be. But I’m hoping.
A quick note about our friend Covid, the one who keeps coming home late and drunk.
No matter what anyone tells you, at any given time, someone in your extended circle ‘has’ the virus, even if they are asymptomatic. There is no doubt about this, even if you think you’ve become a hermit. It’s comforting to know that most don’t develop worsening symptoms if they are vaccinated. But you need to know that up to 10% of those vaccinated will get the Delta variant – and a lot more of those unvaccinated will find themselves with it.
You can get inexpensive at-home test kits at your local pharmacy. They are a little less accurate – but that’s why most come in two-packs, so that you can re-test the next day.
I don’t talk about work directly. There’s a reason for that.
Among them: even in the medical field, we’re experiencing a high rate of infection. Not just with the unvaccinated, either. Two people in my inner circle tested positive very recently. I won’t characterize the impact on them personally or on our work circle. Vaccinated people appear to be infectious for a much shorter period than the unvaccinated. Regardless, this virus is akin to a strange version of Russian Roulette. The gun is going off all around me, among vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. Since we’re not testing random samples, we only test those whose symptoms draw attention to the possibility they have it; we’re using a threshold that is too high, in my opinion.
So much of this pandemic hinges on other people’s behavior. Much of it cannot be mitigated without destroying how we live.
IF you have a bout of allergies, or a cold, fatigue, or a prolonged headache, I’m going to say something most won’t: it’s likely as not you have the virus. I personally know a LOT of people who’ve initially shrugged it off as “the sniffles,” or a cold, etc.
Likewise, a lot of us won’t have any symptoms at all.
Welcome to our new reality.
Be safe, be kind, and remember that no matter what people say or write on social media, all of us are full of sh!t about being consistent in our beliefs and behavior. At our core, we want our loved ones to be healthy. We’ll avoid trans-fat or bacon and then smoke, or say no to caffeine and then drink moonshine like it’s lemonade. That’s what we do: we excel at contradiction, hypocrisy, and stupidity.
I of course wish everyone would be vaccinated. I do not envy the government or businesses these hard choices as they look toward the overall public health. One of my favorite people in the world is juggling whether to give up a job she’s had for 22 years. I’m not commenting logically – I’m commenting emotionally.
With this virus, though?
Even if you do everything perfectly, it will likely still affect you in the long run. Vaccinated or not, we are all at each other’s mercy.
I ask each of you to dial back and try to see others as human – and yes, even if we’re looking at each other and mentally calling one another “dumbass.” I can live with that. I want you to live – and live with that, too.