Nothing to Lose

I learned last night that the procedure to give my brother a pacemaker on an emergency basis has been delayed due to a low platelet count, which could cause uncontrollable bleeding during the procedure. He is in ICU, where he is expected to stay for a few more days to address the platelet count before the procedure is done. At the moment, he is being told he may be in ICU until (or beyond) Tuesday. While you want to be in the ICU when constant, critical care is important to your comfort and health and survival, it’s not an enjoyable place to be.

My wife’s time in ICU last year was hard on her, if for no other reason than the fact she had little interaction with the outside world except for doctors and nurses. I was able to be with her some of the time, but she was either asleep or unable to focus her attention on me for much of the time.  Another brother’s time in ICU about three years ago was trying on him, though it triggered some laughter, as well. His hallucinations combined actual interactions with nurses and doctors with an overactive imagination tinged with a little paranoia and distrust of the anesthesiologists responsible for certain aspects of his care. Despite bits of humor and sleep that minimized periods of patient concerns, though, it was a highly stressful time for everyone. I suspect my brother who’s now in the hospital is feeling the same sort of stress. And I’m the sort of person who tends to feel it by proxy. Unfortunately, I can do nothing to minimize it for any of us so affected. Time and the actual experience are the only ways to deal with it.

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Last night, our trivia team came in second (just one point behind the winning team). That was a semi-happy experience. That success capped off a day that began with breakfast with the church men’s group, followed by a visit to the urgent care clinic at the west gate of the Village. There, I was given a shot (steroid) as a means of reducing the pain in my joints, especially my left elbow. I left with a prescription for another steroid for the same purpose (and as a possible remedy to my constant wheezing) and a prescription that might also work on the wheezing issue. I think the combination of drugs may have worked. The trivia almost-championship might have boosted my mood a touch, but the evidence this morning suggests its boost was very, very modest if, indeed, it helped at all.

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When I woke up a hour or so ago (around 3:30), my thoughts swirled around the idea that I might feel much happier, freer, and better able to enjoy the experience of life if I disposed of virtually everything I own: house, the vast majority of its furnishings, most of my clothes, etc. If I could withdraw from the responsibilities I’ve willingly taken on and escape the obligations of homeownership and organizational memberships and the like, I might feel the burdens of social constraints and commitments lift like fog.

These feelings are nothing new; they have come on me with some regularity for years. I’ve never acted on them by shedding ownerships and duties and contractual bonds or promises, of course. But I have never been able to completely erase them from my psyche. Part of the reason I cannot simply make my obligations simply disappear is that I have emotional ties to so many people. While sometimes those ties can feel like cables binding me to anchors, I am unwilling to sever them. Doing so, I think, would reveal that pure freedom is unbearably, intolerably lonely. The unrestrained opportunities afforded by pure freedom would come with different forms of pain, mitigated only by rushing to regain abandoned ties and commitments. Have I written about Catch-22 lately? I know the concept has been rattling around in my head a LOT.

There is no pure enjoyment. No joy that comes without strings or ties or cables. One must ALWAYS make choices and choices require making decisions about the relative value to oneself of multiple options. The freedom that comes from abandoning commitments or obligations is accompanied by the heartache of isolation or solitude. My IC and I have spoken about making choices that might give us access to some of the things we desire and appreciate, like walkable access to pubs and entertainment and shopping and so forth. Those choices, though, would come with population density (and its potential crime) and noise and concrete. And they would involve fewer trees fewer chances to see wildlife and otherwise experience the beauty of nature. And there’s the matter of whether these places might involve too much ice and snow in winter and too much heat and humidity in summer.

Utopia does not exist. But that’s what we’re after, isn’t it? We want perfect weather, perfect social conditions, perfect political and economic structures, perfect health, perfect friends and families and lovers, and perfect lifetimes. We want everything to be just right. We tell ourselves that perfection would be boring, though, so we justify to ourselves the fact that we tolerate imperfection. But that tolerance may be just a way to accept a reality we do not now, nor never did, want. So we keep trying to correct the imperfections, with the aim of achieving the unachievable. We learn to accept the unacceptable and try not to mourn what’s missing from our lives. We attempt to appreciate the challenges and the defeats we encounter in our experiences, deceiving ourselves into thinking those blunders and aberrations are just stepping stones along the way toward perfection. I suppose the only other choice would be to permit ourselves to accept the truth, thereby plunging into an abyss of depression and inescapable madness.

It’s almost 5:15 and I’m not making much headway toward achieving a positive attitude this morning. The empty coffee cup beside me, only the dregs visible at the bottom of the vessel, has done no good. I don’t know that I’m going to do much more good by drinking another cup, but I will do it, nevertheless. A much earlier attempt at coming out of this grey frame of mind, by scanning the online news, was understandably and abysmal failure. Maybe chewing a gummy and ripping into a perfectly round “personal” watermelon will do the trick. I just may give those options a shot. I have nothing to lose and maybe a tad to gain.

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My ideals change from moment to moment. I do not know what I want or need. And I do not even know whether my wants and needs are relevant; it’s others’ wants and needs that matter in this world. If all of them (they, the others, people outside myself) have their needs met, maybe my needs and wants will fall into place. Maybe meeting my wants and needs relies exclusively on others’ needs and wants being met. Maybe, in fact, I only imagine what I want and need because of my disappointment that others’ requirements are being ignored by the world at large. And maybe I’ve lost my mind; maybe all these jumbled thoughts are evidence of my madness and my inability to cope with the world as it is.

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Didn’t I just say I was going to try a gummy, some more coffee, and some watermelon? What the hell am I continuing, then, banging on the keyboard?! Dimwit! I’m stopping, right now.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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Please talk to me about what I've written. I get lonely when I'm the only one saying anything.

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