MED SURGERY / OBS

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In the ER lobby.  Stooped over, two people ahead of me at the metal detector. It’s like the airport.

“Are you a visitor?” the elderly African-American lady in a blue smock asks.

“No. Patient,” I say.

At the reception desk. “My chest hurts. I can’t breathe.” I start to cry.

“What’s your name, honey?”

After I tell her, she reads out my social and date of birth.

“Yes,” I say. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. You don’t know what’s going on. Of course you’re afraid.”

“Yes,” I say. “Please help me.”

In Triage. My blood pressure is 190/__. The usual questions.

“Do you have a history of high blood pressure? Heart disease?”

“No.”

I am glad to be here. They will take care of me. That’s what I always wished for when I was anorexic. That I would get sick enough that I would be hospitalized and someone would finally take care of me.

An EKG, blood draw, an IV port, a plastic wristband.

“Are you admitting me?”

“Yes, ma’am,” says the beautiful blond nurse.

“Okay.”

“We’re giving you a magnesium drip. Your magnesium is low.”

“Okay.” It burns.

I am wheeled into a large room called “MED SURGERY/OBS.” It’s a barracks-like ward with two rows of beds, each with its own personal sky blue curtain.

I am safe.

They will take care of me.

Maybe I need surgery and I will die on the table. Then I will be with Lorin. Maybe that is what is meant to be. I am calm and unafraid.

They will take care of me.

It is loud and bright in MED SURGERY/OBS.

I have the bed nearest the bathroom. Lucky me.

Each bed has a number dangling above it. I am Number 8.

Every two hours: blood taken, blood pressure, temperature. I am grateful for their diligence. The nurses, doctors and aides are kind, respectful.

They will take care of me.

11 o’clock. The night nurse says, “I’m going to give you something to prevent blood clots. It’s subcutaneous, goes in the belly. It’s gonna burn.”

“Okay.”

The magnesium burns too. I am a sicko on fire, in a ward of sickos.

It’s impossible to sleep. I read a kindle book on my iPhone.

Snoring, bright lights, cell phones going off, the bathroom being cleaned, floors mopped at midnight. At 3:08, two new patients are rolled in. Questions, lights, odors, fear. I hear  ambulance sirens, reminds me of the car accident, the day I lost everything.

A sound like a 747 going off every 45 minutes. Is it the air vent or my ancient hospital bed? I don’t know. My neck hurts but I don’t want to ask for anything else. I try to sleep.

10:30 a.m.

No food for me. I am classified “NBM” or “nothing by mouth.”

In the morning they send me for a stress test. Dye in the IV, wait 30 minutes, images of my heart. The machine comes so close to my chest I feel it will crush me. Waiting. Power walking on the treadmill. Waiting. Another heart image. Waiting for someone to transport me back to the ward.

I’m back in Bed Number 8 at 1:30 p.m.

I am hungry. No food since lunch Tuesday. I do not complain. The nurse gives me ice chips.

5:00 p.m.

“Your cardiac enzymes are negative. Your heart looks good,” Dr. C says. “Have you ever had anxiety attacks?”

“Yes,” I say. “But nothing like yesterday.

“I want you to start on some anti-anxiety medication.”

And so it goes. I am grateful for the diagnosis. I stopped taking anxiety meds a long time ago.

I felt somewhat ashamed that I asked my boyfriend G (yes, the widow has a boyfriend—you might judge me. Widows are not supposed to seek love after death, some believe.) to bring me to the ER, that I was not dying. I start to worry about how high my hospital bill will be. I realize how mental disorders/illness are a cause of shame for so many of us, how we feel we have to explain to people why we are sick, why we have panic attacks or why we are depressed. Do cancer patients get judged this way? Perhaps growing up with a mentally ill mother has made me even more ashamed and susceptible to shame. I remember how many times I brought her to the ER and had her admitted into the psych ward. Shame, shame. I never thought I could get this way.

Four Days on the New Meds

I feel like a person. I do not wake up with a sense of terror or dread. My chest does not hurt. I do not have shortness of breath. A bit of dizziness from time to time, but I can deal with it. I feel in charge, alive and hopeful. I feel better than I have in a very long time. I am grateful I have health insurance. I am still working on not being ashamed.

Something About Nothing

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I haven’t posted in almost three months because I feel I have nothing to say. Well, at least nothing I think people want to hear. Maybe it’s the result of living in a social media-based world, wanting to be more positive and feeling that writing about unsettling or unpleasing topics and feelings is ever so uncool.

In that vein, I thought I’d go ahead and post Something About Nothing. Like Seinfeld, the self-described TV show “about nothing.” But there is always something to be found in nothing. A silver lining to every dark cloud.

Sometimes I long to feel nothing, and sometimes my prayers are answered. My old friend Anhedonia creeps in, putting my feelings on ice, wrapping me up in a delicious blanket of numbness and don’t-give-a-damn. Merriam Webster defines anhedonia as “a psychological condition characterized by inability to experience pleasure in normally pleasurable acts.” This condition also makes you impervious to emotional pain, at least that’s how it works for me.

Nothing. The absence of something. The absence of stuff, baggage, fears, sadness, happiness, inhibitions, guilt. I’m riffing here.

On another note, grief is settling into my bones, becoming more a part of who I am,
not a negative, fearful thing. Merely a thing that exists, like the scar on my palm after I cut it on a cat food can. I’m a slow healer, so it will always be there.

I am making plans for this year, not resolutions, but plans. Resolutions is too strident a word for me.

Nothing is part of my plan. To let nothing stand in my way. To let nothing tear me apart. To let nothing and no one tell me who I am or what I can and cannot do. To enjoy the entirety of life and accept the love I receive without question, without trying to control it or judge it. To embrace life in all its nothingness and something-ness. To take NOTHING for granted.

Nothing can be a good thing.

 

 

Shadow Self


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It’s all the bright I cannot see

when it’s right in front of me

Shadow Self

Bursts of light make it through

in spite of themselves

like a fragile shoot birthing through

the crack of a New York City sidewalk

The will to live

Remains

only altered, and strange

beautiful in a different way

Shadow Self

The Leftovers


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Running does not help

They will still be gone

We will still remain

the lost

as much as they

My hope is that

they watch over us,

guide and protect us

let us know, gently

when we are

going further astray

Keep us from hurting

ourselves more

And rather, feel

their love

every day

September

So this widow thing has not been easy. The almost two year mark is fast approaching: September 29, 2016. Permanently etched in my heart, mind, body and soul. Sometimes I feel insane, like I might break into a primal scream at my workplace, but I try my best to keep the rage and insanity at bay.

August 30th is our wedding anniversary. I try not to think about it, but I do. It would have been ten years.

September 26th is my birthday, which feels like a permanent wash. I do not know if I will ever enjoy having a birthday again. Lorin said he wanted to celebrate my birthday after we arrived in Savannah, September 29, 2016. The new chapter of our lives that never was.

He told me he had purchased special jewelry for the occasion. It was never found at the scene of the car accident.

Not that it meant much at the time. More salt in the already-tired wounds.

I am full of rage at the injustice of Lorin’s death. He was not ill; he is not “in a better place.” I am a lapsed Catholic. I was a very pious child—wanted to be a nun for all of third grade. I believed in a “better place.” But I don’t believe in heaven anymore, so there’s that.

There is no way to “spin” the rage or the sadness when it comes. I don’t make apologies for it.

I am ordering some Jahrzeit candles from amazon to mark the second anniversary of Lorin’s death. They don’t sell them at Kroger or Publix. In New York City, they are easy to find.

From Wikapedia: A yahrzeit candle, also spelled yahrtzeit candle or called a memorial candle, (Hebrew: ‫נר נשמה‎, ner neshama,[1][2] meaning “soul candle”; Yiddish: ‫יאָרצײַט ליכט‎ yortsayt likht, meaning “anniversary candle”) is a type of candle that is lit in memory of the dead in Judaism.[3] A yahrzeit candle, also spelled yahrtzeit candle or called a memorial candle, (Hebrew: ‫נר נשמה‎, ner neshama,[1][2] meaning “soul candle”; Yiddish: ‫יאָרצײַט ליכט‎ yortsayt likht, meaning “anniversary candle”) is a type of candle that is lit in memory of the dead in Judaism.[3]

I am terrified. I don’t know if I can make it through these next seven weeks, without . . . but I will try.

 

Inglorious Rage


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Nobody likes an angry woman

she’s unbecoming in the worst way

a primal scream can’t cure

an uncontrollable rage

it frightens me

how deep it is

rooted in me

like an ancient tree

I want it to go away

but somehow, I don’t

It lets me know I am still

alive

and that you matter so much,

and that you will never go away

April Showers

It’s April.

Time of spring, Easter, resurrection, rejoicing or . . . not.

I’m not finding it very cheery thus far.
Perhaps it’s due to the gloomy weather we’ve been having in the low country.

At the risk of waxing too melancholy, I will invoke the spirit of writers past who conveyed it in ways quite sublime, albeit tragic/sad.

A Well-Worn Story (Dorothy Parker)

In April, in April,
My one love came along,
And I ran the slope of my high hill
To follow a thread of song.

His eyes were hard as porphyry
With looking on cruel lands;
His voice went slipping over me
Like terrible silver hands.

Together we trod the secret lane
And walked the muttering town.
I wore my heart like a wet, red stain
On the breast of a velvet gown.

In April, in April,
My love went whistling by,
And I stumbled here to my high hill
Along the way of a lie.

Now what should I do in this place
But sit and count the chimes,
And splash cold water on my face
And spoil a page with rhymes? 

The Waste Land  (T.S. Eliot) (an excerpt)

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

I Carry His Heart

Halloween was Lorin’s favorite holiday. He loved getting dressed up and greeting the neighborhood kids.

If Halloween fell on a weekend, we would get more inventive with our costumes since we weren’t getting home late from work.

On one such Halloween, Lorin dressed up as a hillbilly zombie or was it a “redneck” zombie? He was excellent with makeup from his years studying and working in the theater. He wore a torn flannel shirt, suspenders, old pants, hiking boots and carried a mixing bowl with blood (red food dye colored water) and eyeballs (fake, of course). He stirred the bowl with a wooden spoon while sitting on the stoop. He scared some kids, but one actually asked for an eyeball, much to his mother’s chagrin.

I dressed up as the “joker’s wife” (Heath Ledger’s Joker) in a housedress, torn knee-high stockings, big slippers, matted hair in a hairnet with rubber spiders in it, and white face paint with a jagged red smile.

We were quite the pair.

A neighbor took a photo of us, but I can’t find it.

I will miss Lorin at Halloween, as I do every holiday, and every day.

This poem is dedicated to him. I almost had my best friend read it at his memorial service, but I changed my mind. I would have preferred to have read it myself, but I wasn’t fit to do so.

i carry your heart with me
(by e.e. cummings)
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Day of Atonement

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, fast approaches. It begins sundown September 29 and ends the evening of September 30.

More importantly, September 29 is the anniversary of Lorin’s death.

If you are a believer, this is the day that God will forgive you, purify you and cleanse you of all your sins.

I am hoping that God or whatever Life Force there is will help me get through this day.

I fear the day. It will mark the end of all “firsts”: the first Thanksgiving without Lorin, the first Christmas without Lorin, the first Valentine’s Day, the first wedding anniversary, the first birthday, and so on.

This Day may bring a measure of closure, but of this, like everything else, I cannot be certain. I have learned there is no certainty and no security in life. I am accepting this without self-pity or a sense of hopelessness. It is my truth. I am living it.

My life is forever changed, having lost my “Lost One.” That’s what Lorin used to call me, referring to the short story “The Lost Ones” by Samuel Beckett. On September 29, I lost the love of my life, my favorite person in the world, my writing partner, and the one who understood me better than anyone ever has, and possibly ever will.  I will try to be happy and continue to write and pursue the dreams we had forged as “Team Sweetie,” but I am forever changed.

Do not pity me.

Love more.

 

 

Anniversaries

Today is the eleven month anniversary of Lorin’s death. Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary. We would have been married nine years.

I do not plan to celebrate our anniversary. I will light a candle for Lorin as I do every night and try to think about the happy times we shared.

Lorin died three days after my birthday, so that will be another day I think I’d rather forget.  We were planning to celebrate my birthday in Savannah when we arrived, intact. He bought me some jewelry and was very excited about giving it to me. The jewelry did not survive the car accident. It went missing or was destroyed, don’t know which.

Some pearls of wisdom from the world of trauma and grief:

(1)  Things that used to be bother me a great deal don’t bother me anymore.

(2)  Things that didn’t bother me before may really upset me.

(3) Don’t waste time.

(4) I do not suffer whiners gladly.

I am still trying to figure out why I survived, what my purpose is. It’s lonely being the survivor. Samson survived too. I couldn’t touch him for the first couple weeks after the accident. He seemed afraid of me and was obviously traumatized. When he finally let me pick him up, he seemed uncomfortable or in pain. His little bones must have been bruised.

Here he is with his new best friend Bo, who I adopted in November:

This song is dedicated to my dear Lorin, who was a wonderful dancer. He liked to grab me while I was in the kitchen or in the living room fussing, and start dancing with me. I miss that, among other things.  I wish I could dance with him one more time.