Friday, December 24, 2010

Love Cousins, Love Facebook, Love These 2 Guys

My godfather and favorite uncle is on the right.  Sonny Jurgensen is on the left.

I reconnected with far-flung cousins on facebook.  And I got so incredibly lucky - one cousin had kept this photo that I had long ago lost. AND the same cousin was so kind to track it down and send me a copy.

My heroes.  I cried when I opened it up.  And I almost never cry.

Some people occupy very very big spaces in our lives.   Joy

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Damn It - Being an Ass Again

Why is gratitude so difficult to remember in the throes of day-to-day life?  Such an ass I can be.  Yesterday I volunteered at a shelter - food prep and serving.  I wish I could say I do this often, but truth is that I don't.  On a day like that, it is easy to remember gratitude.  Grateful for much of my life, for unspeakable gifts, grateful for people I cherish, grateful that I am one of the 2% who survive Sudden Cardiac Arrest.  I remembered  all that yesterday.

Then forward 24 hours and I have forgotten it.  All of it.  Every last bit.  Today I was frazzled and bitching - I have a joint flare, can't exercise, working hard and intensely to make up for not having worked hard last week,struggling with upcoming trip arrangements.  And then, the proverbial capper.... a friend has done me a great kindness and I realized with a start that I needed to go out to dreaded stores and get a gift.  That REALLY annoyed me - having to shop 3 days before Christmas - I just forgot somehow that it was shopping because of a wonderful, unexpected kindness.

And then the last bit of the day - I grew progressively more annoyed at how much effort, how many phone calls, how many fax attempts it was taking to get a Cayman condo stocked for our arrival in a couple days.  Embarrassing, but true; I was fizzing because I needed to be sure that there was beer and wine on arrival - and not one single moment later.  Embarrassing to say that it seemed an actual urgency, if not bona fide crisis.

People don't have jobs or have jobs they hate or jobs that don't pay enough.  People don't have homes or don't have the right one or are in danger of losing it.  Life smacks people around.  My heart stopped without symptom or warning -  and I didn't die.

My only hope is that I can learn to remember gratitude as quickly as I forget it.  Ridiculous.  That is me in the photo.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Boats as Prism

All through the fall and early winter, I rented boats.  I have not gone out alone yet - my skills are not at that level.  Each of my companions had more experience than I do, but only one is expert in the local waters,  And the local waters here, as in many places, are tricky. Sandbars lurk.

The boat owners provide a briefing on the basics and finer points of the boat and some insight into the local waters.  My companions hear the briefing in remarkably different ways.  And I have learned how I will hear the briefing when my turn comes.

The least experienced of the bunch had the least patience for the briefing.  She thinks you  need to know  only on/off, forward/reverse, anchor and depth finder.  Navigational markers are superfluous.

Then the men.  One responded with visible signs of irritation; no overt brusqueness, but non-verbally communicating that he had a great deal of boating experience and did not need the information on the boat.  Had little interest in the local water information as well. Outwardly polite, but point made clearly and sharply - not a newbie.

Then the next verbalized in a blustery, I-blew-by-the-Jones's sort of way.  You know how this goes: he had owned boats far bigger than this one, grew up on the water,  navigated far trickier seas, caught bigger and better fish -  he knew all he wanted to know.

And then there is the class act who will be my role model when my time finally comes to receive my very own briefing. This friend has been out on the rental boat with me several times; he has heard the entire briefing more than once; he grew up here and has been boating these waters for 40+ years.  But he was silent, smiling, gracious and attentive - even the second or third time through.  The first time, he turned to me after we had gotten underway to explain why he had let the briefing run through even though there was no new information for him --- but an explanation was not necessary.  It was already clear.

This is one of the kindest people I have ever known; he will grant each person time, patience and respect for their expertise; what he already knows is just not the point.

Boat as prism - kindness trumps.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Creepiness at the Gym

Well, I was going to write about boating having given way to Beef Stew.  Yes, it's cold.  I heard we may break a record this week for most consecutive days with below freezing temperatures.  Who the hell keeps such records??
Just a week ago it was 68, sunny , no wind and boated with friends.

Today it will top out at 45 or so - the beef stew will be made in time for the end of second football game.  Hoping a friend comes by to share it.

Back to creepiness at the gym.  This AM, next to me on an elliptical machine was a 60-65 year old fit guy.  Each machine has its own TV screen and he was flipping channels and settled on - -- wait for it --- High School cheer-leading championships.
Come on, now.  The only people who watch cheer-leading championships are blood relatives of participants.  I don't even think you could get the related-by-marriage folks to sit through this.

But this dude was rapt.  Ick.  If it's possible to have a lascivious lean on an elliptical machine, he had it.  Ick, Ick Ick.
When I see guys like that, I feel for the inevitable wife and daughter.


Back to prepping the stew.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Falling for Kindness

On a long drive, I was pondering men - again.

The men I have known have all been smart -  that is the one common denominator.  Some whip smart, some astonishingly quick, some deeply analytical, some mind-numbingly methodical, some well-educated, others with instinctive intelligence.    But each was smart.

Beyond raw intelligence, the group is diverse.  A 'bad boy', more than one alcoholic/addict, one manipulator, one who saw only darkness,  at least one with "mother issues".  Some short, some tall, some handsome, some less so.  One drove fast cars, one rode a bicycle 250 miles to visit, one taught me to drive a motorcycle, though not particularly well.   (He taught well, but I learned poorly).   Some readers, no cooks that I remember, one gardener, most loathed yardwork.

 At least one was a middle-of-the-road guy (you know the sort - Mom liked him), but I admit that for a long time, I was drawn to the edges.  Looking back, most were on some edge or another.  They took risks, the paths were unclear, having any sort of relationship with them involved risk for me.  Risks I usually took and perhaps even sought.

And now, I find myself drawn to kindness.  Kindness still wrapped up in some edge, in quick and unusual intelligence, in brilliant humor, in a life of successes and failures; I have never sought out simple.

But I think I am falling for kindness. It's a blanket and I love it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Upside of Sudden Cardiac Arrest

From time to time, it occurs to me that there are a few benefits of having had Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).   And I'm not thinking in terms of viewing the world and life through more a more profound lens - I am referring to odd little snaps that pop up randomly where the thought is "wow, I wouldn't _________ if it hadn't been for the SCA).


On the really mundane, I think my house is neater.  It is truly bizarre how often it passes through the mind -  casually not dramatically--- that I don't want people to have to come in the house and find XYZ in the event that today is the day I have croaked.  Tidy up.  I wonder where in the hospital discharge instructions THAT would be listed.  No lifting more than 10 pounds for 6 weeks, no stretching the left arm over the head for 4 weeks and oh yes - tidy up that house.  Spare the poor unsuspecting post-death visitors.

More importantly, I met DD.  Without SCA, there would have been no driving ban and hence, no meeting DD. The idea of not knowing that person sends shivers.

And then today I am reading a book about Buddhism. Yup, I moved from "Whores for Gloria" to Buddhism.  In a section on impermanence, the Dalai Lama writes that being aware of our own death and having an understanding that we can die at any time ------ this is helpful as we contemplate the path to enlightenment.  He comments that most of us avoid all thought of our own death and have a mistaken sense of our permanence,

As I read this, I thought - wow, way ahead of the game on this one.  Check that box. Skipping right on down that path.....

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving - One Down, One to Go

 I don't like the holidays anymore.  It's not related to Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) but I don't like them.    Last year, in the aftermath of the SCA and the domestic turmoil, it was worse; I had a true sense of dread - not quite impending doom, but not too far short. But this general malaise dates back 10 years now.  Ten years ago, we had two deaths in the immediate family within two weeks, both between Thanksgiving  and Christmas.  It was a crappy fall.  One death is hard; two in  rapid succession is just awful.  Obviously, that year, I expected to have a lousy Christmas.

Each year after that one, I thought this would be the year I enjoyed the holidays again.   I enjoyed the run-up to Christmas.  But not to be; each year, that low level dread continues.  It didn't get better, it didn't get worse  --- it's just here.

Even so, I had a nice Thanksgiving yesterday.  (and it was my birthday).  Had 8 for dinner - an interesting, lively group of friends.  I enjoyed hosting; I enjoyed cooking; I enjoyed the dynamics of the day.  But this morning I heard Christmas music on the radio and my first thought was "one down, one to go". ( I don't count New Years in "the holidays"; it's just a football marathon with a Mummer's parade for good measure.)

The good news is that in one month, the holidays will be over.   That's the run-up I now enjoy.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fear as Fever

Fears are normal.  Once you survive Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), you almost have to build an entirely new relationship with fear.  It is constant; it follows us around every single place we go. It is right there with us every single step through the day. We make all our decisions about even the smallest parts of life with a nod towards the presence of fear.  I think of it as analogous to walking around with a low-grade fever.  Not the knock-you-on-your-butt fever of 103 that would align with terror, but rather that half-a-degree fever.  It's just always there, always there.

My cell phone is being repaired. (I am SO unhip that I just can't make the shift to a smart phone; I am hanging on to my ancient RAZR for dear life).  So no cell phone for a whopping 3 days.

Before the SCA, I often lost track of my cell phone.   I didn't always carry it; I let the battery go dead - it was just not a part of everyday life.

Now, the phone is a lifeline.  Its role has changed. It has my emergency contact numbers.  When I swim in the ocean alone or walk on the beach, I think of the phone as my identification information if something happens.  It's 10% there so I can call 911, but it's 90% there so that I can be identified if my heart stops.  It's not dramatic; it's just a new role for the phone in my life.  Something I don't even think about, but I always have it with me.

But not these three days.  It is unnerving.

Fear - how bizarre.  Add to the list - fear of being without cell phone.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest just changes us.

P.S. Cell phones don't always bounce.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Scary Headlines - Skippy the Implanted Defibrillator

Today, this showed up in my inbox:  I don't see my manufacturer listed, but this is just a horrifying idea.

FDA Calls On Manufacturers To Fix Heart Defibrillator Issues.

The AP (11/16) reports, "Federal health officials are calling on manufacturers of heart-zapping defibrillators to fix long-standing problems with the emergency devices that have triggered dozens of recalls and occasionally have led to injuries and death."... the devices have been plagued by design and manufacturing flaws for years, occasionally failing to work..."  

Design and manufacturing flaws - it would seem to me that an implanted defibrillator would be one of those devices where the quality goal should be zero error.  It's not a hammer or a coffee maker where 'more or less' OK is probably acceptable.  It's an implanted defibrillator, placed there because our hearts have been known to stop without warning.

I am getting pretty pissed this morning.  The American pissed, not the British one.


Friday, November 12, 2010

It's a Film Festival

Cucalorus is a big event here; it's an acclaimed 4-day film festival.  I love movies and was so impressed when I moved here that a city this size had a film festival of this caliber.  So I offered my services and joined the board a couple months back.

I was in Wilmington last year in early November, but reeling from the Sudden Cardiac Arrest and domestic turmoil.  I think I saw perhaps one movie in the four days (and I was still on the cardiologist-ordered-no-driving bit, so that made it tough.)

One amazing year later.  Skippy the defibrillator and I are fully immersed in our Cucalorus - went to opening events and one film yesterday, several more things scheduled today and more, more, more movies.

Some of the films will be great, some will be awful, others just forgettable.  But the energy and joy of the 4 day bonanza is the treat; what a difference a year makes.  Unrecognizable, my life is unrecognizable.

Happy to get to be part of it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Inconvenient Libido - Whores for Gloria

A friend recommended this book : "Whores for Gloria".  Being the irreverent book-loving sort, generally I read most things that are recommended by friends.  But I do NOT recommend this one - unless you need to kill off or disable an inconvenient libido.

Bizarrely, the book cover quotes a NY Times review " a lyrical poem of the streets".  One of two things went on for that reviewer: first option - this quote is wildly out of context and the full sentence would have read something like " the pulverizing depravity, the portrait of utter despair,  and the vast and varied sexual violence take this book far away from being ' a lyrical poem of the street'". OR the second alternative, the reviewer went to very different poetry class than I did.

More importantly, when I reported back to my friend that I wasn't sure I was still speaking to him after he put me through this very ragged 150 pages -- I did allow that if I ever needed to "corral, restrain or kill off an inconvenient libido, I knew just the book I would reach for".  Never has so much sex been less erotic than in "Whores for Gloria".

Good thing, actually, as I have an inconvenient libido - the one that exists when you are not dating anyone, not cohabitating or married. But if need be, I guess I could read this book again.  Yes, that's the review I would put on the cover:  guaranteed to make abstinence very, very appealing.

 I know that there are many people who are comfortable and at peace living sexless lives, but I am not one of them. Wait - there was one period of time when I was quite content to be sexless - that would be called marriage.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hanging Up the SCUBA Gear

Finally decided.
Hanging it up. I have done my last SCUBA dive. That is such a tough sentence to write.

While I will go to some lengths to avoid giving in to fear, and I have so much trouble acknowledging that there are permanent effects of the SCA, that there are things I cannot do - I need to let this go.

The cardiologist initially said no, not ever, not one single dive. And he is a diver, so he understood the enormity of that statement; he understood what "he" was taking away from me. Under some pressure, he relented, checked with Medtronic (Skippy's manufacturer) and said perhaps I could dive to 30 feet. Being who I am, I leapt at that door-open-a-crack and started hatching a plan.

I knew I would have to lie to a dive operator; even in Cozumel where safety is not a top priority, I think they would balk at taking down a diver with a defibrillator. And I didn't want to go back to Mexico; I wanted this precious dive trip to be to Little Cayman. (Population: 100). Just one more time on Bloody Bay Wall.

But then I also had to come up with a dive buddy who would be uber-attentive, just in case. My first choice bowed out after a bends episode. Second up is a Richmond friend who is a diver and an MD and an inordinate risk-taker. Even he got cold feet. What was I thinking? What kind of favor is this to ask of a friend? (See the last post on this blog - I can be an ass.)

Then I thought maybe I'll just be a volunteer diver at our local aquarium - last week, I went down to talk to them about it. But I've decided. No - I don't want my last SCUBA dives to be in 25 feet of water cleaning fish crud off the walls at an aquarium. That is just too depressing - I came to accept that this idea was more depressing than simply not diving again.

So today, I made my first step - I called to arrange servicing of my equipment so I can sell it. I have a Caribbean trip planned later this year, but it will be the trip where I learn to love snorkeling.

I need to let it go. It's unseemly at best to whine about this. 98% of SCA people just die. Of the 2% who live, so many have severe physical limitations and/or varying levels of brain damage.
And me, the SCUBA whiner, I have enough brain cells left to pass the damn South Carolina bar exam (took two tries, but passed it).

I'm letting it go. I am now officially a former SCUBA diver.

Good Days But I Am An Ass - The Cleat Board

Until today, it's been a good week - played hooky one day last week for a long, long outstanding boating day. Loved it. And I passed some exams; actually both Skippy and I did.

And the good days continued. The other day, a friend made me a "cleat board" - yes, in the photo, that is a "cleat board". I suppose it might be hard for some to understand how touched I was - seriously. I adore this friend and the fact that he understood and wanted to help with my deep dread of having to learn knots. (That part of my brain just isn't there. Or if it is there, it doesn't work.   And I can't blame the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) - it's been going on for years.)

So I have to learn knots, and I have a friend who made me a cleat board. THAT, in my book, is an excellent day.

And then I became an ass. This may sound odd for a grown up adult, but I do not understand the rules of social drinking. Haven't been one, don't know many - most of the drinkers I have known have been problem drinkers, not social ones. I so like this person, he is important to me; I want him to like me. Simple, we learned this in what - 4th grade? But I f'd up. I fear that in my feeble attempts to 'fit in' I committed "social-drinker-violations"; I just don't know the rules.

I fear I made him feel lousy; I didn't understand that it was NOT OK to rib about forgetting details of things that occurred while over-drinking. I didn't get that it is NOT OK to rib about his apparently making a choice to limit what he drank yesterday. But I should know. I am an adult. AND I object when people rib me about drinking too little. I should have known.

All that adds up to - I am an idiot. I was an ass. I probably succeeding in both making him feel lousy and making myself less likable. And I don't know how to fix it.

I'm hoping it comes to me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One Word - Two Possibilities

The word "besotted" is a wonderfully old-fashioned word; it just doesn't come up in general conversation or even in much writing these days. And to add to its charm, it has two distinct definitions.

Here is my fear.
Two definitions: 1) infatuated, 2) dulled with drink.

Here is my fear. One relationship; two people; both definitions accurate.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Staying Off Those Roads - John's Quote

Was out with a friend (J.) last night. Got to feeling somewhat contemplative about - what else - the SCA. I guess it's either that or affairs of the heart, so it's the SCA today.

I had my arrest in the ER. I had gone in after awaking with an odd sensation in my chest. I got there with about 1o minutes to spare and then ----sudden cardiac arrest. The hospital is on Wrightsville Avenue. So much for background. (Oh, my friend had had a few beers; I was on driving duty - for a change of pace; that's normally his job).

In my contemplative moment, I commented to J. that Wrightsville Avenue is one of my favorite routes towards the city. BUT that sometimes when I drive past that hospital, I find myself anxious all over again about what had happened there.

My friend leaned in, looked somewhat quizzical and said -
"Just don't drive on Wrightsville Avenue".

Out of the mouths of beer bottles........

Sunday, October 3, 2010

New Favorite Cartoon

I have accepted that surviving Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) has numerous consequences. My humor probably has never been 'mainstream' or of the Reader's Digest variety. Always been a little edgy. Not a Jay Leno fan, but yes to Craig Ferguson, Jon Stewart, Lewis Black.

But now, at times, the humor is downright macabre.

My new favorite New Yorker cartoon:

Man opening his apartment door to the hallway after someone rang his doorbell.
There stands the spectre (specter??) of death - you know the image: a hooded cape-like garment and the scythe or machete or whatever it is.
Death is handing the man a note of some sort.

Caption: Don't freak out, it's just a 'save the date' card.
I like it so much, I've ordered a copy so I can mat and frame it.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I am Happy - Who Knew THAT Would Happen?

OK, so maybe the one year anniversary of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is not a total bust. I realized today that I am happy. Actually happy. I wake up happy.
How did that happen?

Reason # 1 -  my heart is still beating - that's a plus to be sure. The implanted defibrillator has not fired.  Another major plus. 2- I bought some new furniture a while back; it was delivered yesterday, including a quite funky chair (photo above). Love it. Love the whole room, actually.

So, heart, chair --- oh yes,  love it here in my new home town. It is what I had hoped it would be when I selected it a few years back - fun, lively, and soothing to my jagged soul.

My home is peaceful. A year ago, it was anything but peaceful. My heart had stopped, I had a defibrillator implanted, my alcoholic ex was out of sobriety and apparently had been (on the sly) for quite some time. Had been before we moved, so pretty big lie there. Betrayal. My days were filled with raw fear about the heart, the long healing on the defibrillator Skippy, the need for a 2nd cath, loathing the ex, waiting for him to move out and just fear, fear, fear. And  no driving for 90 days. Very few friends here as I had just moved. Lots of visitors, but few local friends.

And now, one enormous year later - my home is peaceful, I have stopped wasting energy loathing the ex and now just wish him health, albeit from a distance. I have friends both here and in far places. I get to the beach probably 3 times every week. My dog, Stella, is aging at 13, but still a joy. Dogs are allowed back on the beach now after a long summer of banishment. We walked an hour+ yesterday - it was like a doggy parade down there.

And one more - I have enough of a crush on an OMD (object of my desire guy) that regardless of what does or does not happen with him, I am confident I will be able to love a man again. And I had my doubts; I wondered if I were so broken after decades of loving or attempting to love an alcoholic who couldn't stay in recovery - I thought I might really be tapped out.
But what a joy - I'm confident again.

So why am I happy? The heart still beats, I will love again, my new home town is a joy in so many ways, I am finally done with the ex, I have an OMD, my dog is alive and puppy-happy, I have friends I love, my home is peaceful.

And I just love that chair.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"MEN" - re-Posted --- Just because I feel like it.

(from a few weeks ago - still torturing myself)


Well, the title should probably more accurately be "Selecting men". Subtitle: Not a damn thing to do with Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). Men - I have abaaaaad track record here. Starting as a child; my first crush was overwhelming; I was more than smitten; I was in love at around age 7 or 8. Utterly, staggeringly, feverishly in love. And the Object of My Desire? (OMD) None other than Sonny Jurgensen. Pre-Redskins; he was a Philadelphia Eagle. He and his favorite receiver and drinking buddy Tommy McDonald went to my church. Sonny may have been an electrifying quarterback, but he was a wee bit short of a model citizen. Boozer, party-er, too many DUI's to count, trotted out on field with a very impressive beer belly. He bordered on being a bum. Certainly in the "bad boy" camp. My hero.

Yes, this was my first crush. My mom and dad thought it was cute, which brings their parenting skills into sharp relief. A quick trip to a child psychiatrist might have been prudent.

After Sonny, let's see how my men-selection skills matured - turn to the Beatles. In the late sixties, little girls divided into two camps. The smart girls who would be good at choosing husbands - they liked Paul. You know, the cute one, the nice one, the one who loved one woman for decades. The good husband. Me? No, of course not. I thought Paul was insipid, untalented and dull. My skills took me from Sonny to the edgier John L. I was drawn, naturally, to the future heroin addict. Apparently, what we look for in a man is set at a very young age.

And so it continues. The ex-husband, old what's his name, is definitely in the bad boy camp. In his day, his looks, 'style' and persona were of the semi-dangerous ilk. While he's been called many things, insipid is not one of them. But I digress.

And now, I am drawn once again to a not-Paul McCartney guy, my current, unrevealed OMD. I think he's a step up from John L and old what's his name and certainly from Sonny J, but who really knows? Today, we are merely friends (well that's a crappy word - we are wonderfully friends, just not the other)/. I THINK he MIGHT be a step in the right direction, but my self talk goes like this:

(Angel is played by the one who says run, run, run away from this guy. Devil is we know what).

Angel: Really??? Ok, he is smart, quick, honest, magnificently funny, cute, kind. Seems to have at least the minimum level of introspection, but let's see - have I EVER been interested in a man who didn't drink too much?

Devil: the heart wants what it wants.

Angel: Oh, grow up. That is just an excuse for another round of self-destructive behavior. And now you have Skippy to think about - how can you do that to him?
Devil: Life is short. I want what I want. I love his company. He makes me laugh. I have fun - excellent, excellent, excellent fun.

Angel: Has it dawned on you that the list of incompatibilities is 10 times longer than the list of compatibilities?
Devil: Would someone please kill that Angel. It is really on my last nerve.

Perhaps I could make a dress or hoop skirt out of some combination of traffic cones and crime scene tape - all saying
"BEWARE - train wreck ahead. Train wreck ahead".

I Can Be Such a Jerk

Geez. We like to think of ourselves as nice people, but sometimes, I just have to wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a former colleague who had lost his wife years ago - all I had known was that her death was sudden and she was horribly young (+- 40) and had left behind a husband and multiple young children. Yesterday, he told me that she was in the SCA 98% - she died of Sudden Cardiac Arrest. (Back then, I think they were still often calling it Sudden Death Syndrome. I have one RN who calls it that - as you might imagine, not my favorite term).

We know 98% don't survive. Being in the 2% club is obviously a matter of great luck, though I know some believe that our survival and their death are part of some "plan" - not me - I just think I was extraordinarily lucky that day. I woke up to odd sensations; she did not wake up.

But back to my being a jerk. I have whined and complained about the defibrillator, about dealing with fears, about the looming specter of dating and revealing this crap, about people expecting me to have earth-shattering revelations, blah blah blah.

I have also been grateful - very, very grateful. But not enough.
This morning as I thought about our conversation yesterday and what he and his children lived through - the horror, the shock of that day, the incomprehesibilty of it and all they had to come to terms with.
I need to make amends to my loved ones who got and made the phone calls that morning. They were told I was near death (well, technically true, I guess. But I was never 'sick' - the heart stopped, they restarted it and I felt fine.). They were told I could have serious heart damage and/or brain damage (happily, I had neither. Aside from an ever-deteriorating memory that is probably utterly unrelated to SCA).

They got those phone calls. I can now picture it; making the decisions about who was traveling to Wilmington when, who was to talk with the doctors, all that. Happily for them, this was short lived - I was up and around and fine later the same day. Shell-shocked at the events, scared, confused, but up and around nonetheless.

They got and made those phone calls. I'm not sure I have stopped to genuinely consider what that day was like for them. Unlike my former colleague, their horror lasted only a day; his was probably interminable. But I never have asked them what their day was like; I have told them (probably ad nauseum) what MINE was like, but I guess I felt entitled to that level of self-absorption. I mean, if we are not permitted to be self-focussed about surviving Sudden Cardiac Arrest, then when?

I can be such a jerk. I will make my amends.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Skies and Birthdays

The sky. The sky is a gift. Tonight, it is one of those very very black skies offset with grey-ish white whispy clouds that partially obscure a brilliantly white not-full moon. That's the best description I can come up with and it falls so far short that it's embarrassing.

One day this week, I spent an early evening out on the friend's boat. We went out at around 4 and got back in around 9 - after dark. No swimming that day, just a slow, lazy cruise. Another perfect day. Your breath is taken away at each turn; ocean breakers in the distance, pristine marsh grasses, dolphins playing nearby -- just a magnificent day. And as we eventually turned for home, the sky... It was a mixed sky - some clouds, some sun and the colors gradually turned brilliant - so many shades of fierce red and pink and white slowly, slowly turning to black.

We both were transfixed by it - without comment for the longest time. Finally I said that it was one of those skies that it was wasteful to attempt to photograph - no picture ever could get it. An almost trite thought, admittedly.

I have just one word for a day like that - gratitude. Grateful for my friend, for his boat and for those skies. Grateful to be here - first to "be" after a year and also to be "here" in this spectacular place. And again, so grateful for my friend.

PS. Skippy's birthday is past. Tomorrow is old-what's-'is-name's birthday (aka the Ex). This will be, I think, the first time in 27 years that I will let it pass un-marked. No card, no call, no email. Before, even in our separated/divorced years, I always contacted him; I dreaded the idea that he would get no cards or no calls. This year, at long last, it just doesn't matter to me.
I believe the excision/exorcism is complete.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Whew - first anniversary is over

So glad that the first anniversary of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is in the rear view mirror; it has been weighing on my mind for weeks now. I kept waiting to feel celebratory and never did. Anxious, but never did get in a mood anyone would call celebratory.

I'm not a brooder by nature, but I found myself in weeks past brooding on the lack of cause and effect, the lack of definitive signs and symptoms and the UTTER lack of data on liklihood of recurrence. But finally, let it go.

Now, I realize that for me, for as many of these anniversaries that I am fortunate enough to have --- for me, it will celebrating a year without an event. A cardiac event to be specific. THAT is cause for celebration, to be sure.

One great aspect about the SCA anxiety is that I am far less anxious about other things. Took a boat out over the weekend with my visiting sister, who has more boating skill than I do (very low bar), but I think is accustomed to deeper water than is in our Intracoastal Waterway. She got progressively MORE concerned about hitting sandbars. Me, not so much. I wanted to explore the little fingers, admittedly at very slow speed so that any hit to a sandbar would not be apocalyptic. I mean, we HAD a depth finder.

But I relented. Relaxed and enjoyed the ride on a spectacular coastal day.

glad the year is over. Uneventfully over.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Celebratory Anxiety or Anxious Celebration

I must admit that I am still not feeling celebratory. Skippy's (the defibrillator's) first birthday is around the corner (September 5). I fully expected to feel joyful, and thought I'd be planning a gratitude-filled celebration. However, while it certainly has been on my mind relentlessly in the past week or two, instead of that joy, I continue to feel anxious.

This anxiety is not rational (is any?). It's out of character for me to dwell on what I cannot control or impact, but I continue to dwell on that morning one year ago. I want there to be cause and effect for the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA); I want there to have been undeniable signs and symptoms that morning that would have anyone,anywhere seek medical attention. Every now and then, I also just wish it had never happened, but truthfully, not too much of that.

Every now and then I think "why me?" but not often. Recently, I had to listen to an acquaintance who has subjected his body to massive abuse for decades tell me he came through his physical with flying colors. Annoying, while I prepare to mark the date of my implanted defibrillator. But these are not the dominant thoughts; these pass quickly. The 'why me?' question also passes or dissolves quickly into thoughts of my gifts - decent IQ, good hair -- what we inherit is a crap shoot, so I don't muse often or for long about getting a raw deal with SCA.

But the anxiety is from there having been no known reason and even more frightening, no compelling symptoms or signs. All I had that morning was an unnerving sensation that something was weird in my chest (turned out to be rapid heart rate). My going to the ER was just very, very lucky. I've had loved ones tell me that I went because I was intelligent enough to recognize that something very out of the ordinary was happening. I was there that morning, and I just don't think it was a decision based on IQ level.

It was instinct; it was fear of the unknown; it was something that got me to the ER.
So I am wrestling these days with the anxiety of the lack of a known cause for the SCA, no available prediction on recurrence, a complete lack of understanding of why I went to the ER and therefore survived, and having no confidence I would recognize a sign/symptom again.

But aside from all that, I'm looking forward to 9/5. that was pure sarcasm; I am just looking forward to having the date in my rear view mirror. This is not fun.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sonny Jurgensen

I must be the only person on earth still writing or thinking about Sonny. Is there a Sonny Jurgensen fan club?

Do you know that here in Wilmington NC there is a Jurgensen Field? Well, truth be told, it is the Jurgensen/Gabriel Field, but still....

Next time someone asks me why I moved here, I am going to say it was because of Sonny.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Can I Actually Date?

The one-year anniversary of SCA- Sudden Cardiac Arrest (9/5/09) is around the corner. That also marks around a year since the final demise of my nearly 30-year relationship with the ex. Ex husband. Totally ex. Tom, or as a friend refers to him -- "Old what's his name". I laughed when I first heard that sweetly dis-empowering reference last October, and it still makes me laugh today. It was a rocky late summer and fall last year, to be sure. Relationship ending, heart stopping without warning, enter Skippy the defibrillator stage left.

So here I sit, one year later. Overwhelmingly grateful to be here - to be alive, to be relatively undamaged by the SCA, to be in my home, to be among friends, to know I am cared about, to be so close to the water. To be just here.

So thoughts turn to couple-hood, or couple-ness, to love, to companion, to partner, to that dreaded word "dating". A ritual designed for kids. I am not quite there, but in the words of my very favorite 'southernism' - I am thinking about fixin' to get ready to....argh.... date.
I know I am getting there - I have pretty much stopped thinking of Hatred and old what's his name in the same breath - emotional health returns slowly in these parts.

Just regular, ordinary dating as an adult is bad enough, but now - now, there is a whole new level of baggage to be introduced - Skippy the defibrillator and how it/he arrived.
On what date do we cough that up? Can you imagine the scenario: Oh, by the way, first-date-man-I-just-met -- my heart has taken to stopping, but it's really OK because I have this tiny little set of paddles in my chest wall, wired with leads into my heart with a little tiny dude ready to yell "clear" and flip the switch - as needed. So not to worry.

Clearly not date number one. Isn't Date One reserved for really benign pseudo-information? Favorite color? Do you read? Do you like soup? Is that real hair?

So not Date One ---- but just as clearly sometime before THAT date - After all, there is a physical presence to Skippy that will be apparent.
Oh God. Maybe the Mormons have it right; I don't think the fundamentalist women ever really take off the "sacred undergarment". Is it too late for me to convert? I really think this may be a valid reason to convert.

One of the many positive things that come after surviving SCA (like - those lottery odds start to look better) --- you can get through anything. For now, I am just going to assume that will include dating.
OH God. Dating.

P.S. a new favorite New Yorker cartoon has a woman saying "To get through this, I've had to rely on an inner strength I never knew I had --- in the medicine cabinet"

Friday, July 30, 2010

How to Celebrate?

They say..... "they" being people who survive Sudden Cardiac Arrest.... they say that we should celebrate our SCA date as our "second birthday". Mine is coming up - on 9/5/10, it will be one year. One entire, jaw-droppingly astonishing year.

I've largely grown accustomed to Skippy the defibrillator's presence; I've wrestled to the ground many of the fears that started out being so enormous they were starkly, nakedly and overwhelmingly terrifying. But the thing that I have in no way gotten used to is that there are moments that come out of nowhere where it all just knocks me on my heels. Figuratively, I'm happy to say.

Moments that come out of the blue. Like cravings for cigarettes 12+ years after the last one I smoked - bang, the moment is there. Real, raw, sharp, insistent, demanding. The SCA 'out of the blue' moments are breathtaking in their way. It's just that bright light blast of "damn - did that ACTUALLY happen to ME?" My flipping heart just stopped? STOPPED?
That one is followed so quickly by the still unanswered "how the hell did I know to go to the Emergency Room that morning?" I have replayed and replayed and replayed that morning 9/5/09 and honestly, I still don't genuinely understand what made me go. And I've replayed the chain of events if I had NOT gone, or even if I had not gone exactly when I did.
And I didn't go to the ER the moment I woke up that day. I woke up, felt weird and probably spent 20-30 minutes trying to sort out what was wrong and what to do. So after a half hour or so, something made me go.

I was in the ER only around 10 minutes before the arrest. A 10 minute window. 600 seconds. Is that right? 600? Life and death.
If I had not gone to the ER when I did, I would have arrested at home; Tom probably would not have woken up.
That would have been my end.
600 seconds.

After musing and rolling around for a few minutes grappling with the out-of-the-blue SCA moment, my core of uber pragmatism takes over and I am transported back to the far less dramatic present.

So now I am back to -- how to celebrate? I've never been one for rituals. I only attended my high school graduation because my parents forced me to; I skipped both with my college and Law School graduations. My wedding was small, quick and informal. Never much cared for New Year's.

But even I, anti-ritual and pragmatic; even I feel a profound obligation and desire to mark this date.

At least this evening I do.
I just don't know yet how to....

As we say, what a wonderful problem to have.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cities Waking Up

Visiting the home town - Philadelphia. My home city has a deserved reputation for toughness and roughness around the edges. It is true, they booed Santa Claus. I always thought the other boo-ing story was worse- they booed Mr. Wallenda when he successfully tight-rope walked over the stadium. Success is boring, tragedy exciting.

Stayed downtown last night on Rittenhouse Square (moving today to the burbs to stay with family). It's hot, it stinks, it's really hot. The square was crowded last night - could there be that many people without functioning air conditioning? Classic urban scenes - small families with hot babies, dogs everywhere, a few homeless looking sorts tossed in and a chess tournament - or at least a collection of chess matches. I know it was a club, not just a casual, last minute gathering - they used timers.

Dined on that best of all Philly delicacies - for some it's the hoagie or the cheesteak or the sticky bun, but for me, it will always be ----- the street vendor soft pretzel.

This morning, it is not as hot, but you can tell that it will be. Walking out, the city was asleep (along with a surprising number of souls in the Square). By the time I walked back, the city had begun to come alive.

Here is Philly. Walking down Walnut street passing a building construction site. I am half block past it - and it is STILL monstrously loud with jackhammers. From a few stories up on the building comes a big, big sneeze. Not a dainty sneeze - one from a big man (I hope) - loud enough to be clearly heard over jackhammers and a distance of half a block.

In a split second after the sneeze - not even long enough for it to register with me - comes the equally loud, from an equal height up the building, the equally burly-man sounding "Blessya".

I love Philadephia.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Perfect Day

Those of us who have had visits with death - surviving Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) or something else along those lines --- we don't need much help finding joy in our days. We find frustration, anxiety, pain, fear, to be sure, but we also find joy in places we never looked before.

Yesterday I had a perfect day. Worked for much of it, but then broke off early to meet a friend with a boat. (This is heaven on earth - friends with boats. Much better than actually owning a boat, I think). Granted, I now live in a place I find spectacular in its physical beauty - created by the shores on salt water. For me, there will always be a special magic to 'water-you-can't-see- the-other-side-of.'

So off we went on the friend's boat heading northwards in the intracoastal waterway. It's a small boat, but on a calm day with winds from the right direction, it can safely go into the ocean. And into the ocean we went. North again. Past undeveloped land, which is also magic on the Atlantic.

We then anchored on the ICW side of one undeveloped island, trekked over and swam and body- surfed until it almost began to get dark....That incredible time of day. While you're in the ocean, you watch (or try to watch) as dusk takes the horizon away.

Didn't see another soul, not even another boat.
Just us, birds, jumping fish and the joy of endless water.

Back onto the boat and headed home as night fell.

Perfect day. Boat, salt water, quiet, empty beach, great company.

One gift from SCA - we will never take a day like that for granted.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fear and Eleanor Roosevelt

I met a woman recently who said she read that Eleanor Roosevelt said "Every day, we should do something that frightens us".
My first thought was geez, must we fill each day with an unpleasantness??
The second, always better, thought was: Those of use who survive SCA (or experience death as a temporary state) would have very little trouble adhering to Eleanor's advice.
If you come back after SCA --- fears abound; they jump out from around corners, they lurk in the most unexpected places. We tackle them and wrestle them to the ground one by one. There may be one or two that win out (I still can't quite bring myself to scuba dive).

My latest facing-fear-story sounds dumb, but here goes: a mammogram. Skippy the defibrillator went through his first mammogram this week. Not my first by a long shot, but his first. And I was so frightened about it, it honestly approached terror. It took everything I had in me not to cancel the appointment.

Disproportionate fear. Mammograms are never comfortable, but I just couldn't quite envision how all that pulling, tugging and tough compression would happen without "breaking" Skippy or setting him off. (and unlike actual people, if the anthropomorphized Skippy gets 'set off', it means the defibrillator fires). I haven't experienced a fire (yet) and I deeply dread it.

I didn't cancel the appointment and the tech was sympathetic, understanding, skilled and patient. The test does get done a little differently on that side to avoid "disturbing" Skippy. But aside from the fear, it was moderately more challenging than every other mammogram.

But fear is lethal. Fear may lead us to poor choices (and sometimes to good choices, admittedly). It is uncomfortable, unsettling and can invoke our flight response. The desire to cancel that appointment was not insignificant.

But I remembered Eleanor.

I was proud of myself for not cancelling. One more fear wrestled to the ground.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Pressure of Survival / The Right to Goof Off

Surviving Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) puts you into a very small club. I've been told that the survival rate is 2% (but then someone corrected me and said it was actually 3% - hardly a comforting difference to me). Whether it's 2% or 3% or 4%, it's a very small group. 96-98 out of 100 people who experience SCA die - permanently die, not just have a brush with death. Really die. Finito. End of the line. Not coming back no more.

But I didn't, and I have online acquaintances who didn't either - we are in the 2%. In the weeks immediately after the SCA when I was having constant (or it felt constant) contact with various medical personnel, I heard over and over references to destiny -
- God must have had a plan for you
- God wasn't finished with you yet.

And then even more references to what (to me) feels like some pretty significant expectations:
- Oh, this experience must give you a profound sense of purpose
- You are here for a reason
- It must change your entire perspective on what is important.

Well, yes and no. And while I know it is unseemly to complain about the after-math of survival, all of the above adds up to a burden. Or at least pressure. Not that I have ever been a total goof-off, but if I wanted to be, how on earth could I possibly justify it now? Did we lose that right?

Yes and no. Sure, I have times of profound introspection about how I want to spend my days that sometimes feel absolutely borrowed, BUT I also still get cranky waiting in a slow- moving checkout line. So the SCA survival hasn't completely changed my perspective. Just a bit, here and there.

But when people ask me these questions, sometimes it feels like pressure. Like I don't deserve to goof off, or if I do, even the goofing off must be profound. Can't be just regular, old-fashioned goofing off, it would have to be "pondering the essence of the universe" or "cherishing all the earth has to offer".

Sometimes, I just goof off. Throw off the mantle that because I got so flipping lucky 9.5.09 that I am now a deeper person or at minimum have an obligation to lead a deeper life.
Sometimes yes, sometimes not.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Failing and Perspective

I failed a bar exam. South Carolina no less. I have passed the only other two I have taken (Virginia and NC), but failed this one. Will re-take it in a few months. Unlike the more civilized CPA exam where I hear that one only retakes the portions one failed - in Bar Exam world, you start from square one. I have to pay a new application fee, get new fingerprints, new affidavits from people attesting to my acceptable character and fitness to practice SC law, and then take the whole damn thing again.

My issue with the SC exam was not the exam - it was that I had awful trouble getting motivated to study. The first one - in Virginia - the panic is so great that motivation was not an issue. If you don't pass that first exam, you don't get a license and you can't practice law. All that time in school, all that expense.... And when I took NC, I was less motivated to be sure, but I wanted to relocate and would not begin the process until I got my NC license. Passed that one too.
But taking the SC exam is for business reasons, and they just weren't compelling enough, apparently. I studied, but not nearly at the same level. When I received my rejection letter last week, I estimated that I missed passing by 2 points out of approximately 800. Crap.

To help with motivation this time, I'll post the rejection letter in my office, and maybe keep track of how much money the re-test will cost.

I was not surprised by failing; during the THREE DAY exam, I knew I was making up some SC state law - I knew my knowledge on SC insurance was far too slight -- I knew I was in trouble.

I've told friends that I could also blame the ex for so disrupting my life last summer and fall or I could blame Skippy, the implanted defibrillator. After all, the SCA was 9/09, and I started studying a mere 4 months later - and certainly there were and are days still when I am stunned to have gone through the experience. Stunned to have come that close to death (or to come back from death as a follower friend says), stunned to have survived it , apparently nearly entirely unscathed, stunned again about how astonishingly adaptable we humans are. Who the hell can come to terms with something like this? We can. We do.

Now if I can just pass the damn exam.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nothing and Everything Changes

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) changes everything. And then it changes nothing.

The initial aftermath is so stunning, shocking (no pun intended), far beyond unsettling. And not the purely physical manifestations - they are their own separate category. But mentally and emotionally, one starts with the MD or other clinicians explaining - sort of - what has happened.

And so it begins. First you deal with the immediate crap of it; and in my case, the physical 'crap' was really negligible. Relatively speaking, of course. Relative to others with SCA. Then, the mental and emotional adjustments begin. Initially, you think your whole world just changed. Everything in your whole world just changed. But then again - did it?

I was mortal before SCA. Granted, I didn't muse as often about my mortality as I have done post- SCA, but I don't muse about it daily anymore. It's a little more immediate than it was pre-Skippy, but not dramatically so. At least not today. Some days I guess I still feel like my mortality sits down with me for a visit - but not every single day.

I see risk a little differently. I should have worn a bike helmet before and I should wear one now. Difference is now I do. My risk of falling off the bike is a tiny bit higher (I'll fall off if Skippy the defibrillator fires). The damage from falling now v. then is the same. But I promised to wear one now, so I do.
And I worry that even with a medical green light, I may not find the courage to scuba dive again - that makes me as sad as anything. That is a risk and a fear I have not yet wrestled to the ground.

I never liked ladders; always felt nervous. Still do.

I struggled then with my weight. Still do.

Is my life shorter? Maybe yes, maybe no. Who knows?

Perhaps that is the most profound change from the SCA. A deep-seated certainty that we know nothing. And being at peace with that. Finding a joy in that. In a way, it is astonishingly liberating.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Reading Horoscopes a Day Late

Yes, I've been lax -too long since the last posting here.
And this one has nothing directly to do with SCA or near-death or those first ten minutes.

I just sent a horoscope to a friend who shares my "sign". Yes, I think horoscopes are incredibly silly; reading horoscopes is just a waste of eyesight ---- but how bad is it to read your horoscope a day late? If I ever write that great American novel, or even a mediocre one, I'll have to get that in the title. Or perhaps it would best be the title of a country-western song. But I do sometimes read them late - I get to the paper the next day and I STILL read the silly things.

I described it to my friend as the worst horoscope in the history of horoscopes. Here it was:
Sagittarius. "If you're inhaling a whiff of ambition, you'd be wise to ignore it. It is much too easy to overestimate your abilities or [be] too enthusiastic about something that may prove to be false".

As I said when I forwarded it to my Sagittarius friend: They just should have written "Don't bother. Go back to bed. Try again tomorrow".

Yesterday, I was walking on a deserted beach (yes, we have one here - Masonboro Island) musing about my future (an endeavor not for the faint of heart if your heart has taken to stopping). I am a lawyer in my 50's. Here's the funny part - I BECAME a lawyer in my 50's. Before that, I had worked in the business end of health care. Law School was both horrible and exhilarating at this age.

I've been a lawyer nearly 2 years and my work has been business, corporate law, mostly but not exclusively for health care businesses. Yesterday, as I did what I love best - be outside on a magnificent day, surrounded by salt water, cacophony of sounds presented by birds --- feeling sand beneath my feet --- I was considering if this is the work I really want to do. I enjoy it, I think I'm pretty good at it, I can make a reasonable amount of money working not too strenuous hours, but I wonder.

Is it nuts to think about shifting gears again and doing work to protect this coast I love so much?

Thank God I didn't read that horoscope on the right day......

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Surviving the SCA - come to terms with not dying.

Talking with a friend the other day and musing on our respective near-death experiences. My Sudden Cardiac Arrest was my second such event - the first was a few years ago diving in the Blue Hole in Belize. (equipment failure at 119 feet - yikes!). These are obviously very different episodes, but what they had in common was by the end of each of the two days, I was overwhelmed by the growing understanding that I could have died that day. It can take a while for that reality to sink all the way in; my mind just wanted to reject that concept - on both days.

Of course, we could each die every day; car accidents, killer Orca's, hurricanes, earthquakes, lightening - all possibilities each day. But those two days ---- those were days when death was really close by; he was sitting with me, hanging around to see if this were the day we left together.
I know I'm not alone; many people have near death experiences. And I think I am a fairly rational human being, but it can be terrifically difficult to come to terms with. (Yes, I know that's a preposition at the end of that sentence, and I remember Winston Churchill's quip to a young editor slashing his manuscript with red ink, murdering those prepositions: "This is nonsense up with which I will not put"....

Back to death. Some days I think I have come to terms with it and other days I know I have not. I was unbelievably lucky - not only did I survive (2% do), but because I was in the ER when it happened, I apparently did not suffer heart or brain damage - and so many people suffer grievously from one or the other or both. I took a bar exam this week (5 months after the SCA), with my 50+ year old memory - always a drag, but really - I am so fortunate that this kind of life is even possible for me.

This morning, in an Alanon meeting, where I had not spoken much, the topic was "Intimacy" and I was stunned that as I started to speak about the nature of my relationships in the aftermath of the SCA - I became emotional. I NEVER become emotional in public or the semi-public that is Alanon.

So I'm not there yet. I want to think that I am, but I know in my heart that I am not. If I were, if I had fully come to terms with the presence of death that day --- I would be able to speak of my family's response to the SCA without choking up.

Some days I just don't know what to do with this extraordinary luck.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Looking backwards

I met someone for lunch yesterday. A new acquaintance, perhaps we'll do some work together, we have one shared network - that type of new friendly relationship.

We got on well, exchanging our work histories, our plans; common ground included a decent sense of humor. I mentioned my Cardiac Arrest almost in passing. He was one of those people who are intensely curious about it; some are, others think it's synonymous with a heart attack, some don't care. Anyway, he asked a lot of questions from the clinical to the emotional. He's a smart guy, and they were smart questions.

One was new - and pulled me up short for a second. Simple question really. It was "since the SCA, do you find yourself thinking back and regretting things you have or haven't done in your life?". I am sure it's perfectly reasonable that many people would do exactly that, but I just don't have that chemistry or orientation or whatever it is.

I honestly hadn't thought about it during these 5 months, and that was the surprise. But when faced with the very well-intended question, I did then think about it. And no. I haven't done that; I don't think I have spent 5 minutes looking back over my shoulder. Maybe I should, but I have not.

I spend time thinking about now, my new now - and the future of course, but not looking back. I'm not sure if it's a lack of introspection or just my inherent pragmatism. I couldn't help but think "what's the point of that?" - yup, pragmatism.
And of course Alanon and Courage to change - making constant clear distinctions between what we can control and what we can't -------- and not wasting our time and energy on the latter.

Me, I focus more on coming to terms this this new now and thinking about the future - the hopes, plans and fears of it.

But is surely was a great question - so surprising I hadn't even considered it.

Not Driving Made Me a Better Driver - really

Post Sudden Cardiac Arrest, I was not allowed to drive for 90 days. I didn't have physical limitations, just doctor's orders. I think they want to make sure you're not going to repeatedly lose consciousness out there. [Prudent, but another day we can argue about SCA people behind the wheel v. texters, eaters, arguers, singers, kid-tenders and all that].

So for 90 days, I sat in the passenger seat. With lots of different drivers. I hired one for the routine, non-social stuff. The first month included a depressing number of doctor visits, then 3 times per week to cardiac rehab for the duration. And all the mundane errands that I just couldn't bring myself to ask friends to do.

Beyond Driver Dude, I was a passenger with friends, acquaintances and visitors. 90 days. Passenger seat. And we know what our normal instincts are from that passenger seat. We "communicate" with sharp intakes of breath, occasional squeals or yelps, and of course, the slamming or tapping the foot on the phantom brake pedal we have over there. In a really tense situation, we might do all at once- gasp, yelp, slam foot to floor and perhaps grab the dash or the handle above the door. Not endearing, to be sure.

I am happy to say I don't think I did any of that. It was a quick conclusion that for 90 days I would have ZERO control over the car(s). I couldn't go faster, slower, change lanes, decide to stop short at a yellow or pop through as it turned pink. Nada, zip - zero control.

So I relaxed. Honestly, you can make a DECISION to relax. There is no control, we might as well give up all illusion and hope of control and enjoy the lack of it. Happily, Driver Dude was an excellent driver, so it was easier to get started with the "I will relax and forget about control and even influence over the vehicle"... A new 12 step mantra! "I am powerless over the car, and my life has become....".

It worked, first with him and then with the others. Not all of them were great drivers, of course. One often drifts over the center line, another accelerates at odd moments, one seems to be competing for a prize for number of lane changes per mile, and so on. But regardless - no control over here in the passenger seat. [I will say that I did want to ask the center-line-drifter if she/he didn't ever NOTICE the fact that oncoming vehicles swerved and veered away from the center in wild self-defense as we approached. But I was on a mission to relax over there, so I never did ask that.]

So I went through my 90 days and then got my keys back. I was surprised how quickly I dropped into my old driving habits and attitudes. How I was cranky about other drivers again right away after 9o days of zero crankiness in a car. How I drove faster again - Driver Dude never drove fast. It was kind of nice after I got used to it. But here I was, driving fast, changing lanes, calculating the odds of getting through that light, silently bemoaning how others drove. Too fast, too slow, too close on my tail, not close enough to the guy in front of them...

I've stopped. Or mostly stopped. I found a great sticker for the car; first sticker I've put on my car since I was in my early twenties (Philadelphia Flyers stickers - they had won the Stanley Cup; it was almost a Philly requirement). Here it is; a nice discreet oval "Wag more, Bark Less". On my car. My new motto.

I drive more slowly; I don't race. I don't change lanes. I mostly don't get cranky with other drivers (though I do have my lapses, for sure). It's a more peaceful experience to be sure. All this non-barking.

Not driving made me a better driver. Thanks to SCA.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Grammy's and Leonard Cohen and being cranky

I was going to write about cars and how not driving for 90 days has made me a better driver, but hold that for another day.

It's been a week and a half and I am still cranky about the Grammy's - right, those music awards. I had been so excited to see that Leonard Cohen was to receive an honor, something along the lines of Lifetime Achievement. I told friends, marshaled an audience and poof - he got all of a 10 second "shout out" or something to that effect. THEN I checked and sure enough, he had gotten his award the day before in a "special ceremony" - like what the Oscars do with the awards we don't understand (key grips or something... or documentaries filmed in the Southern Hemisphere in odd-numbered months) . But the OSCARS - when they have special honors, they actually HONOR the person.

So Leonard, Loretta Lynn and some others got there pathetic "Shout out" during the ceremony and what was probably their time went to the elaborate spectacle for Michael Jackson. Now, I know Jackson is dead, and I know he single-handedly saved the music industry back in the Thriller days, but come on --- he died because he was a drug addict. Admittedly, I'm not much of a fan - I was, when the music was great - but over the years, the ick factor rose and quality of music declined until finally ick turned into revulsion, and I just didn't follow Mr. Jackson any more.

So he got Leonard's time, and I am still cranky. Cohen's contributions are legion. I am so grateful that I got to see him a few months ago; such an outstanding concert, and a terrific time all the way around.

So I'll put my crankiness to rest, but geez Grammy producers, you should either honor them or not - .

I'll get back to the unanticipated benefits of not driving next time.

PS Skippy remains absolutely quiet. Tomorrow I have to do a "manual transmission" of his data - should not be scary, but it is. I'm trying to figure who to coerce to come over here while I am doing it - just in case Skippy perks up.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Things We Now Think About

Such odd thoughts lurk around in the New World Order (that's the post SCA world order....). Thoughts that are along the lines of an adult version of what they told us as little girls --- always to wear clean underwear because you might end up in the Emergency Room. (did they tell little boys that as well? Who tells innocent children these frightful things - frightful both in terms of the relationship with undergarments and having us worry about the ER - who does this? Aside from the Sisters of Mercy, of course.).

This adult version, when one has a daily, ongoing relationship with one's mortality, is along the lines of "Do I care if the house is a total mess? If I have an SCA episode, I will either be no longer with us or in the hospital - most likely). Who will come in? Should I leave instructions that NO ONE is to read my journal? Even post-mortem, I just don't like that idea - though really, that unease is just completely irrational. I mean post-mortem is post mortem. But I guess the worst case scenario (in terms of the journal, messy house, yesterday's underwear) is that I land in a hospital in such a state that a family member or friend has to come into the house to get Stella (the dog) and/or belongings to take to the hospital, etc. Of course, in my irrational mind, they wander about looking through my things, inventorying my undergarments, reading what I am sure is a toss up between an incomprehensible or deathly dull journal... and THEN they get the dog and/or my belongings. And what makes it worst case is that I am still among the land of the living and have to cope with embarrassment or guilt for having hurt someone's feelings in the writings. (I used to self-edit when I lived with Tom. Then as the relationship deteriorated, I became more direct again; after all, by then I think I felt spiteful - if he read it, it was OK that his feelings get hurt. Perhaps even desirable).

And the thing of it is - I KNOW that I really should be worrying about doing my taxes, or passing the upcoming SC bar exam, or staying on my new diet, or getting my work done for a new client --- anything really, other than the state of my undergarments or journal-seeking friends and family or the house being in a state.

Thank goodness I don't have cats.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bird Population

I e-met a woman the other day who is struggling with what she calls post-traumatic stress disorder 2 years after her SCA. She faces depression and with some significant physical limitations.

It may me realize yet again how extraordinarily lucky I was on 9/5/09. As my sister says - this is why we buy lottery tickets; the percentages alone don't tell the entire story of chances and possibilities, just the probabilities. (And I sincerely hope my economics professor nephew never sees this; I can hear the groan all the way from UC Davis). But the odds for me were - 98% die after SCA AND of the 2% who survive, the overwhelming majority suffer brain damage and/or physical damage and long rehab processes. I suffered neither.

Luck, luck, luck - I went to the ER 10 minutes before the SCA, so my luck was having and recognizing and responding to the instinct to go. Once there, my survival and lack of physical and mental damage were just the geography - how close to paddles I was. I was awake, joking and in full command of whatever brain power I had before the SCA - in minutes. (Admittedly, the jokes were not good ones and my delivery was probably poor as well). And physically, aside from blood pressure that took weeks to settle down - no damage. And remarkably, virtually no damage to the heart itself.

So I feel for the woman who struggles with depression and PTSD - we all hear all the flipping time how lucky we are and the one that really grates on me is the "God must have a plan for you". Well, if he/she/it does have a plan, it's a pretty big and well-kept secret what that might be. But my luck extends - I don't feel depressed. There are days still when I am just stunned that this happened - that I got that close to death and came through as I did. I get cranky at the "God plan" crap (like he/she/it failed to make the plan for the 98%; that they were not 'worthy' of the plan? that it fell off God's to-do list that day? Nuts really).

But back to the birds of this posting title. I shared with my new e-friend that while I deeply empathize with her, I don't have to suffer the depression and symptoms of PTSD. I face and wrestle some with being pissed about the things I can't do and annoyed I have to cope with new fears, but that I also see far more birds and spectacular big skies than I ever saw before. Beautiful coastal birds and skies. Magnificent.

I rather doubt the bird population jumped on the date of my SCA, so my observation is now different. I don't think it's God's plan and I don't think my retinae somehow sharpened. While one cannot pass 24 hours every day doing nothing but feeling gratitude, I have moments of sheer joy at the birds and the big skies. (And yes, I got up during the middle of the night a month or two ago for a meteor shower...). I should probably be finding greater meaning in my new birds and skies, but today, I simply revel in the pleasure.
(And am off to find some nasty sounding meal-worms to entice bluebirds - wish me luck!)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More "Just gotta love Wilmington"

First reason - tomorrow it will be 60 degrees and sunny after a loooooong run of freezing temperatures. Everyone who lives here will be outside; I expect the beach to be almost as crowded as a summer day! Stella and I are pre-excited already.

Second - the chamber of commerce is throwing a party tomorrow night "I Survived 2009" -of course, they are thinking of business survival in tough economic climate, but me --- well, it's literal. I can't wait to go - they are giving away T-shirts with "I survived 2009" emblazoned. I think it will be my new favorite garb, replacing the Sonny Jurgensen shirt. (and that's an EAGLES Sonny shirt, not a Redskins one....)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Just gotta love Wilmington

Wilmington, NC that is, not Wilmington, DE, although I'm sure that one is lovable too.

First, not a Wilmington story, but this week, I graduated from cardiac rehab. A relief, but not for any deep reason. It just took so much time for what seems to be very little value. Ironically, the rehab days (3x per week) had become my lightest exercise days; I work far harder at my local gym. But I am an utterly compliant patient and they say go, so I go. At least I haven't had to pay a driver to take me the last month. (or as they say in the South, to "carry me" there.)

Back to Wilmington - there are so many things I love about my new home town. First, it is stunningly beautiful. The water, water, water and all that the water brings. Rivers, marshes, intracoastal waterway and of course, the ocean. And the people - it's a big small town. Very very supportive city, including businesses. There is a palpable sense of loyalty to local businesses. I've lived in Philadelphia, upstate NY, Michigan, Richmond, and I have never had that sense of support. Everywhere.

And then there is the fact that people just seem happier. I know that sounds silly or trite, but it's true - if not genuinely happier, then at least in much better moods than where I have lived before. And it's not a "Southern" thing; I got my introduction to Southern life a couple decades ago. I have been attributing it to the environmental beauty and /or the weather (horribly cold this week, but normally lovely). But last night, I met someone and we were chatting about how few native Wilmingtonians we encounter. And she said she thinks that is the reason for people's being in better moods. ..... Most people who live here have moved here from somewhere else - - and to her this means that everyone who lives here does so because we want to be here. We didn't get stuck here - we chose it.

For one or more of those reasons, I swear it is true; people are in better moods. Even with Sudden Cardiac Arrest and the other tumult since moving; count me among them. I am struck daily by the beauty of the surroundings and the Cardiac Arrest has made me see more, notice more, drink in more. Sometimes I think this would have been easier to wind through had I been in Richmond with a deeper support network - but God, I am so happy to be able to see and smell salt water every day. To see gulls, pelicans --- to feel sand, albeit not this week. I'm grateful to be here every single day.

And it's true - live near the beach and you get a LOT of visitors --- I'm awaiting the doorbell now - a Richmond friend coming for the weekend.