I’M JUST FINE. THANKS FOR ASKING.

BLAST FROM THE PAST:

A mere two years after a double mastectomy, I’m facing another medical crisis. I’m not handling it gracefully. Too many crises. Dozens of surgeries. I can’t bore you with details; I have, thankfully, forgotten them.

Fake breasts

I’ve spent more time in the hospital than most interns. I’m a professional patient with the scars to prove it. When I die, they should stuff me. Put me in some kind of museum proving with enough medical attention, even the totally unfit can survive. Each doctor who redesigned some portion of me can tattoo his signature along the appropriate scar, assuming all the doctors are still alive. Probably they aren’t because I started my career on the wrong side of medicine while still a teenager and apparently am not due for retirement anytime soon.

I need a new mitral valve. I used to joke and laugh, saying the only major system in my body that continues to work is my heart. I laughed too soon. Probably jinxed myself.

I go into each surgery with fear and resignation. I know how I’m going to feel when I wake up from the anaesthesia. I will hurt. I will be sick and disoriented. I will realize I must have survived because I’m aware how totally miserable I am. Again.

Last time I woke up and the first thing I did was look down at my chest to see if I had a semblance of breasts. I did. Lumpy, not flat. Though I knew they weren’t original equipment, I was comforted by the familiarity of the landscape. With all the pain, drains and anger at my body for betraying me, it was nice to know I would at least appear — on the surface — female.

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View of Boston and Fenway Park from the Baptist Hospital

That was when I said: “Never again. I’m never going through this again.”

I should just shut up. How stupid am I? I can’t remember how many times I’ve woken from that weird deathlike anaesthesia sleep and have fought my way back up to the light. Each time, just a little weaker, a bit less sure of the future — but alive. Hanging on.

Lobby of the Dana-Farber in Milford

Lobby of the Dana-Farber in Milford

It’s too soon. I’m not ready. Maybe this time the magic won’t work. My first husband died following complications of mitral valve replacement surgery. I watched him die. After the surgical accident that killed his brain, he remained technically alive, but in a vegetative state for 9 long months. I took care of something that looked like him, but whose eyes were empty. When finally he passed completely, I and the rest of his friends gratefully wished him well on a journey he should have taken nearly a year before.

Probably no surprise that this particular surgery holds a special terror for me.

Less than two years since I vowed “Never again,”  again has come. I suppose I’ve already made the choice to let them fix me, or try anyhow (does “or die trying” sound too ghoulish?). The alternative — slowly dying while my heart becomes less and less able to pump blood — doesn’t sound attractive. An attractive option does not seem to be available. But, there’s no advantage in waiting. I won’t get younger or healthier. The older I get, the more dangerous surgery is.

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Glass shaft at the Dana-Farber.

I gave myself a little gift of time. I put off my appointment with the surgeon until the beginning of September. I need to get my head into a better space, to settle down emotionally. A few weeks of denial before I tackle another scary reality.

So for the next three weeks If you ask me, I will tell you. I’m just fine. Thanks for asking.

LIFE IS TOO SHORT

No Time to Waste — Fill in the blank: “Life is too short to _____.” Now, write a post telling us how you’ve come to that conclusion. (Thanks for suggesting this prompt, theempathyqueen!)


Life is too short to drink bad coffee. Or eat lima beans, or work at a job you hate.

Mr. Coffee brewing

It’s too short read dull books or watch bad movies. Far too short to spend with boring, stupid people.

Really, life is too damned short. Even if you live a long time.

I know this because for a lot of people I used to know and some of whom I loved, it has already ended. None of them has come back to romantically haunt me (Hollywood notwithstanding), so I’m guessing the end is final. No reruns.

Tombstones

Make the best of today. It’s what you’ve got.

(Haven’t I said this before? I’m pretty sure I did.)

TAKING A HINT

ATTACK OF THE ELECTRICAL GREMLIN

Garry was on his way to visit his brother in New York. He got a late start … too much last minute stuff, too much time checking email and sipping morning coffee. When finally he got on the road, it was almost noon. He was a couple of miles from home, heading for the Mass Pike, when the electrical gremlin hit.

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The right side rear window went down and refused to go back up. Finally, after some wiggling of switches, the right rear window closed. But the left one promptly went down and refused to rise again.

Why? Who knows? The mystery electrical gremlin, the bane of modern computerized cars had struck. It has happened before. For no reason.

Garry called and said he was coming home.

When the car was in the driveway, I went down to see if I could convince the system to reboot. I opened and closed windows. I jiggled switches, turned things on, turned stuff off. I turned the engine on, off, on.

Locked and unlocked the doors. Eventually, the gremlin was exorcised, disappearing as mysteriously as it arrived.

Garry had enough.

“I know how to take a hint,” he said. He called his brother and rescheduled. Next week is looking good.

WHAT’S FOR DINNER?

My enthusiasm for cooking is at an all-time low. I’m not sure why, but it may have something to do with 45 years of cooking meals for husbands, children, family, friends … even myself. But, like it or not, dinnertime arrives everyday.

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I am left staring into the freezer wondering what to defrost. We just went shopping, so there’s a choice. My fallback position is frozen pizza, but we’ve eaten too much pizza lately.

As I stood there pondering, a package of frozen Italian-style turkey sausage flew out of the freezer and landed at my feet.

“Okay,” I said. “Got it. We’re having pasta and sausage for dinner.”

I too can take a hint.

YOU MIGHT AS WELL LAUGH

Oh, The Irony

For some of us, irony is just the way it goes. Life is one ironic incident after another. Just when you think you’ve finally got it together, it falls apart. The job that looked like a career maker comes with the boss from Hell and some vital organ fails. Oh well. You might as well laugh. There’s no percentage in tears.


Life in shreds? Out of work? Evicted? Hiding from the repo guy? Other half dump you? Meds not working? Bank threatening to foreclose? Don’t take it personally. It’s just  a little ironic humor by Life, Inc.

Disaster is life’s cute and funny way of pointing out how little control you have over your fate. Don’t cry. No one likes a cry-baby. Smile! That’s it! Go on. No suffering allowed. No one wants to hear your sad story … unless you turn it into a funny story! Then everyone wants to listen.

The first time my world went to pieces, I walked away from a dead marriage, gave everything to my ex and moved to another country. The joke was on me. I promptly married a guy so much worse I get dizzy thinking about it 30 years later. When that fell apart (though it lasted longer than it ought because I wouldn’t admit what a horrible mistake I’d made), I staggered — bloody, dazed, and penniless — back to the USA. When I stopped feeling as if I’d gone through a wood chipper, I married Garry which I should done in the first place, except he hadn’t asked. Minor detail.

All that seemingly pointless pain and suffering was not for nothing. Stories of hideous mistakes and horrendous outcomes are the stuff of terrific after-dinner conversation. A few drinks can transform them into hilarity. Misery fuels humor. It’s a fact. Misery, mistakes, and disasters are high comedy. Funny movies are not about people having fun. They’re about people in trouble, with everything going wrong, lives in ruins.

There’s a fine line between comedy and a tragedy. Mostly, it’s all about the ending. Tragedies end with piles of corpses. Comedies (usually) don’t. Otherwise, it’s mostly timing.

Funny stories weren’t funny when they happened. Later, with perspective, they’re funny. After I was told I had cancer in both breasts (they were having a two-for-one-special at Dana-Farber), I had them removed and replaced by silicon implants, but stopped short of adding fake nipples. Previous surgeries having left me with no naval, I now present myself as a space alien. You don’t believe me? It’s true.

And about those fake tits: I own tee shirts that say “Yes, they are FAKE. My real ones tried to kill me.” It’s a killer at parties, the high point of my cancer experience.

Fake breasts

Ironically — there’s that word again — a mere two years later, my heart needed a complete overhaul. The ultimate irony (but luckily, not the final one) because I’d been telling everyone my heart was the only organ that worked properly. Famous last words.

When life goes to Hell in the proverbial hand basket, a lot of people who were sort of friends eye you with suspicion. Is bad luck contagious? But they also look at you with a subtle whiff of satisfaction. They wouldn’t be so rude as to say it aloud, but they are overjoyed it happened to you, not them.

If you are a writer, out of the wreckage may emerge a book — or at least a Freshly Pressed badge from WordPress. It wasn’t for nothing after all.

Personal traumas are collateral damage in our Darwinian battle for survival. No one gets through life unscathed. Just, for some of us, it’s rather more scathing.

Mindful of future tragedy lurking down the road, prepare some clever repartee. You can give it a test drive at the next get-together with your successful pals. Something to look forward to.

As a bonus, you’ll truly appreciate the irony when your friends’ lives go to pieces.

No matter how awful things are, you will stop bleeding and screaming. Eventually. Depression will ebb. The crushing weight on your chest will be replaced by a permanent sense of panic which you will call “normal.”

It’s all in good fun, right?

THIS WORLD SHOULD END

The Path to a New Beginning, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Ask anyone what is wrong with the world, and you will certainly get an opinion, or many of them.  We can all point to things that are wrong with politics, education, religion or whatever it is that crosses your mind, but we don’t all agree on what those things are.  We are polarized to the max, whatever that means, and we can not reach consensus.  Worse, influential people will try to make sure the majority does not rule.

With an eye toward the concept that this world should end, the one that is full of prejudices and deceit, is a video that presents our problems in detail.  That You Tube video has gone viral.  A rap artist and rights activist who calls himself Prince EA has put out a video that quickly hit a million views and is reposted and shared everywhere.  It needs reposting again.

Richard Williams, a 26-year-old advocate for change, has taken a stage name, Prince EA.  It is not unusual for a rap artist to take a stage name, but this one has significant meaning.  For Williams it means Prince of the Earth, for it is the earth he is most concerned with.  The earth, and all of its problems, needs a mighty voice and that is what Williams aims to provide in a well produced video.  He wastes no time in coming to the point.  The video opens strongly:

The world is coming to an end
The air is polluted, the oceans contaminated
The animals are going extinct, the economy’s collapsed
Education is shot, police are corrupt
Intelligence is shunned and ignorance rewarded

The people are depressed and angry
We can’t live with each other and…

He will tell you we can’t live with ourselves. We can’t really communicate with others.  Do we not live in a world of “robotic communication?”  I see it all the time.  There are people too busy with facebook, twitter, tumbler, You Tube or whatever to have real communication.  So perhaps it is somewhat ironic that Williams’ message has gone viral on You Tube.

Presidents lie, politicians trick us
Race is still an issue and so is religion
Your God doesn’t exist, my God does and he is All-Loving
If you disagree with me I’ll kill you
Or even worse argue you to death

When we argue people to death, how often do we do it anonymously, via facebook or Twitter.  How willing are we to really face these problems and seek solutions?  The world we see is one Williams thinks should end.  Do you agree?

Our role models today
60 years ago would have been examples of what not to be
There are states where people can legally be discriminated against
Because they were born a certain way

There are indeed role models today who in past generations would not have been allowed to be seen by youth as a standard to achieve, if they were allowed to be seen at all.  And while we permit this type of role model, we see others that certain parts of society would like to suppress, because of skin color, sexual orientation or religion.  How can we popularize sex and violence while discriminating against love and religion?

So what can we do in the face of all of this madness and chaos?
What is the solution?

Prince EA asks the question and he is not afraid to follow with the answer.  It is a simple answer of course.  It is the answer we have known all throughout time, but rarely seem to apply.  “We can love
Not the love you hear in your favorite song on the radio
I mean real love, true love, boundless love
You can love, love each other”

This is why the world should end.  It needs a fresh start with love.  It is the love we must all provide.  Where do we start to write a new history? Where is that new beginning?  Where is that message that we need to go viral?

“Why I think the World Should End,” by Prince EA, Cinematography and Editing by Brandon Sloan

FIXING TYPOS IN MY LIFE STORY

IMAGINARY FRIEND – Weekly Writing Challenge


When I was little, I had imaginary playmates. I talked to them. They followed me around. I was never lonely because I had friends who understood me. After I started school, my shadow friends left, never to return. More accurately, they consolidated and acquired a more sophisticated persona.

“They” became a “she.” My narrator. And she as been with me my entire life. A companion for sure, but also a “shadow me.” She sits on my shoulder and almost never shuts up. Whatever has gone wrong in my life, I can blame it on the narrator. It’s all her fault.

My narrator remembers everything. She fills in my back story. Technically, I’m in charge of my life, but sometimes, I wonder. My narrator seems to know what will happen before I do. She never stops telling my story.

She is my third person perspective on life — as I live it in real time. I’m so accustomed to her running commentary, that during her brief silences, I become alarmed by her absence. She is so much a part of how I make sense of life (the universe and everything, thank you Douglas Adams), I’m unsure whether or not I could understand anything much without the accompanying narration.

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As long as I can remember, my narrator — who is me but not me — has had no name except maybe a form of mine. She is writer-Marilyn. She has a job. To fill the gaps in my story. To add “he said” and “she said.” To describe the things people do. Sometimes supply a little mood music, suggest changes to the script, and scenery. She “fictionalizes” reality.

My unreal pal distracts me and has no respect for “the moment.” No respecter of persons either, she will make me laugh precisely when I shouldn’t. Over the years, she has gotten me into trouble with bosses, teachers, spouses, and complete strangers. I can hardly explain it’s not me laughing at them … it’s that damned narrator.

Despite the perils of the relationship, I’ve learned a lot from my nameless friend. She has taught me to view life as an endless story with chapters, back stories, hilarity, weird characters, strange coincidences, tragedy, romance, hope, and despair. Because she weaves the story lines together into the epic of my life, I have a better world view, a more cohesive vision of how I fit into the fabric of others’ existences — and how other people fit into mine.

She complicates my life and at the same time, simplifies it.

My only job is to follow the script, even when it makes no sense, and to fix the typos when I spot them. My narrator takes care of the rest.

LIFE’S GRAND SLAM – A WALK-OFF HOME RUN

Grand Slam

The World Series starts tonight! In your own life, what would be the equivalent of a walk-off home run? (For the baseball-averse, that’s a last-minute, back-against-the-wall play that guarantees a dramatic victory.)


We are baseball fans, so when you mention baseball and walk-off home run in one breath, David Ortiz rises before my eyes. I know the Sox aren’t in it this year, but it’s been an interesting baseball season with last year’s first place Sox become this year’s solidly last place Sox. How did they do that? How do you take a winning team and become the biggest losers in just one year? Without major lineup changes or something weird happening with the owners? I don’t get it.

Go Royals.

Back to earth. At this point, my walk-off home run would be a multi-faceted project involved a magic remedy to alleviate arthritis, regenerate missing body parts and internal organs, and winning a big payout on a lottery ticket which I suppose I’d to actually buy, something I keep forgetting do. I used to buy tickets, but during the past year, I never seem to have cash when I am someplace that sells tickets.

nationals in DC baseball

These days, I’d be a happy camper if I could get a night’s sleep and wake free from pain. One day a week. To have the calcification of my spine stop getting worse, even if it won’t get better. To have enough money to buy an all-wheel drive vehicle to get me out of the driveway when it snows.

Mind you, I’m not unhappy. Despite everything, I find life engaging, entertaining, amusing, satisfying. Fun. I’ve had to find new things to enjoy, but everyone has to adapt. We change, the world changes. Unless you want to be one of the people who sits around griping about the “good old days” and how nothing is as like it used to be, we all have to find new stuff to enjoy and new ways to do it. It merely takes some determination … and creativity.