One Day I’ll Read What I’ve Written

I have a doctor’s appointment this afternoon. I could have waited until my annual physical, scheduled for later this month with the same doctor, but the persistent cough that seems to have worsened over the past three months argued otherwise. So on Tuesday, I called for an appointment. His scheduler slipped me in this afternoon. Besides, I suspect I wont’ be in town later this month when the physical is on the calendar, so I thought it best to deal with the cough now.

The reasons the cough is on my mind this morning are two-fold: first, I’m coughing at least two or three times a minute and, second, I dreamed last night that my doctor’s prescribed treatment for the cough involved launching me into space, where floating “treatment capsules” could be found. The dream was even more bizarre than my often-bizarre dreams. I remember only that I was floating, weightless, in space. Earth was a tiny sphere I could barely recognize among many other celestial objects. I think I must have been able to breathe in space; I occasionally coughed, but it was not for want of oxygen. I was in the midst of a cloud of thousands of fingernail-sized oblong disks, fluorescent brown in the middle, encircled with a lime green band.  The disks were thin, perhaps an eighth of an inch thick. They were, I somehow knew, the “treatment capsules” I was supposed to swallow. But despite being in the middle of a cloud of the objects, I could not seem to reach even one. Just as I thought I could grasp one,  my cough caused it to float out of reach.

I have no idea how long the dream lasted, but it seemed to go on and on and on. The last aspect of the dream I remember was that the cloud of “treatment capsules” had thinned considerably so that only a handful were visible to me and they were far away from me. I sensed that I would never be able to reach them. I somehow knew that the result of failing to grasp one would be that I would remain floating in space for all time. That bothered me. Of course it bothered me. But it wasn’t panic I felt. It was more like disappointment, like I had failed to perform a simple task that had grave consequences. And there, in its superficiality, is my dream.

As for the cough, it bothers me because my fertile imagination tells me it could be symptomatic of all sorts of underlying ailments like heart disease, lung cancer, COPD, etc., etc. The likelihood that my doctor can quickly determine the cause of the cough is slim. Such symptoms probably require a host of assessments to begin narrowing the potential diagnoses to manageable numbers. I suspect he’ll want me to have blood tests, X-rays, CT scans, etc., etc. that require more time than I can devote at the moment. So, I’ll probably have to be satisfied with starting the diagnosis process that will play out over the course of months, rather than days or weeks. In the meantime, I’ll just have to deal with coughing more and more frequently and feeling an odd sense of tightness—fullness may be a better descriptor—in my chest. It’s not a painful cough, just annoying in its persistence. It seems unrelated to my chronically stuffy nose. At least that’s my professional assessment as a doctor-of-all-things-physical.

Lately, since I returned from Houston, I’ve had the extremely uncommon (for me) habit of napping for a while every afternoon (except yesterday, when I remained vertical all day). Even on days when I have absolutely no plans to be productive in any way, shape, manner, or form and have no interest in expanding my knowledge or skills, I loathe the concept of napping. Let me explain. I feel that naps rob me of conscious experience (that may or may not have any measurable value) that counts toward my lifetime of awareness.  That may seem odd to some people or most people or all people besides myself. I understand I may be unique in thinking naps take away valuable “awake and aware” time on the planet. But that’s just how I see them. That perspective notwithstanding, my recent habit of afternoon naps has brought glorious comfort to me the moment I lay my head down on the pillow (whether on the bed or on the couch).

That word, “couch,” is so close to that other word on my mind of late, “cough.” Do you see it? Just one letter differentiates the two words. My silly side might have prefaced that sentence with “Gee,” and then continued with “Do you cee it?” Had I done that, I would have beat myself senseless with a thick strip of leather soaked overnight in an alcohol wash. But that would be cruel, so I won’t engage in the behavior that might have given rise to such cruelty, so I’ll just pretend none of that happened. Disregard this entire paragraph so your life, and mine, will be just a little brighter and the world will be a better place.

I’ve noticed that, lately, whenever my mind wanders into personally dark territory, I steer my writing toward silliness. My thoughts don’t follow my writing, unfortunately, but at least I might lighten up the screen and, ultimately, the page by refusing to allow the darkness to escape through my fingers. That’s a rather new practice and one I find a little strange. It’s not like me. It’s like someone else is writing my words and censoring me in the process. It’s as if I can’t write what’s really on my mind for fear of revealing either vulnerabilities or pathologies. I’ve never worried about that before. Why now, I wonder?

The sun has long since brightened the sky, so it’s time for me to stop this drivel and make another cup of coffee and face the world outside my window.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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