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.