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.