Terminal Waiting

Your wife sits on the plastic sofa, struggling to hide the misery marching across her face. The nurse sits beside her prepared to attempt to soften the blow of our discussion. You are tucked into the recliner with your heavy, waterlogged legs elevated to help reduce the swelling. Your face is painted with the pallor reserved for the poor souls who have survived septic shock. The air is tainted with a musty, decaying, chemical pollution reserved for Intensive Care Units. 

The appropriate demeanor escapes me  as I struggle to find the correct tone for the questions I have to answer on this obscenely neon form. The bright orange paper would be better utilized on a hunting lease. My fingers are cramping under the strain of my attempts to hold my trembling at bay. The gravity of this conversation intimidates me. I am horribly under- qualified for this. 
I scoot the bedside table out from between us and take a seat on the freshly made hospital bed. I attempt something like a smile. Would it be terribly inappropriate for me to crack a joke? Do I minimize the seriousness of this talk? 

Slow, deep breath. 

I intentionally avoid eye contact with your sweet spouse. This is your decision. One of the few things you still have complete control over. I owe it to you to not mess this up. 

“So, I have a form that I have to discuss with you before I can send you home. I know you have already had this discussion, but I have to clarify the specifics and record it so we have a record of your wishes.” 

I glance down at the first item, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. CPR. A horrifying act which can sometimes saves a life. I have to ask you whether you want someone to attempt to intervene if your heart stops beating. 

Usually, I make a point to say that I ask everyone this question and reassure my patient I am not anticipating this issue. 

Today, I am sending you home to stop treating your terminal disease. I am tasked with clarifying your directives to healthcare providers. 

“Joe, the first thing on this form is if you want someone to attempt to restart your heart if it stops.” 

You shake your head no. 

Check. 

Strange how such a permanent decision is indicated with a check mark. It feels like there should be at least a paragraph written there. Perhaps a reassurance to everyone they are doing the right thing. How can doing nothing be the right thing? 

The next item addressed several different options if you develop respiratory failure. I have to ask about each one. 

“If you stop breathing or if your breathing is ineffective do you want to have a tube placed so we can put you on a ventilator?” 

Vigorous head shake. 

“Even if it could be a temporary or reversible problem?” 

Slight hesitation. You mutter something that resembles a no. 

“Would you want noninvasive mechanical ventilation, which is a mask that provides pressure and can sometimes help?” 

I get a blank stare. 

“Ummm. Joe if you begin to have trouble breathing do you want to be brought to the hospital for us to attempt to keep you alive with machines? Even if they would not require intubation?” 

I wait while you appear to consider these options. Finally you glance at your wife and whisper “no.” 

I go through the rest of the details spelled out on the form. Coming to the hospital if your condition becomes worse. Artificial nutrition if you is unable to eat. Intravenous hydration if you cannot not drink. 

I have stutter and stammer my way through each question. I fight the urge to try to convince you to keep fighting. I want to encourage you to “beat the cancer!” This is just a battle, I know you can win the war. 

I look over at your wife and realize she is crying. I desperately need to fix this. I need to give her hope. I look down at the form you have painstakingly signed and initialed and read the most annoying words possible. 

Black Ink Only. 

I glare down at my blue pen. The blue and orange remind me of the colors the football team wore when I was in high school. 

I also realize my cell phone number is written in the forbidden blue ink instead of the office number as my contact number. 

I don’t want to admit my ineptitude. I want you and your wife to trust I have done everything the way I should. I don’t want to give you a reason to doubt your decision. I pull my pager out of my pocket as if is vibrating an alert. I rush back to the nurse’s station and ask for the form. 

“We already gave it to you.” 

Now I have to admit my inability to follow directions to someone else. I start choking and coughing as acid comes from my churning stomach burning the back of my throat. 

It turns out they have run out of the orange paper. She can’t print me a new copy. EMS is here waiting to transport you home and I have not even written your prescriptions. 

Finally someone finds me a new form on a different floor. I stand at the counter and carefully fill out everything but your signature. 

I walk back into the room and lie. I tell you I was unaware there had to be two copies. 

Everyone knows this is not true. You graciously let my obvious gaffe slide. I ask you if you need anything else. 

“Yes. I do. I need a hug.” 

I can barely compose myself. A few tears manage to escape. The lump in my throat prevents me from speaking. So, I lean down and give you a hug. 

“Thank you for taking care of me. Now, is it okay if I take my pills with a shot of Knob Creek?” 

All four of us bust out laughing. 

“Well, you are dying. You can do whatever you want.” 

I brace myself for the stony silence I generally earn when I say something exceptionally blunt. Instead, all three of you laugh even harder. 

I have to excuse myself to write the prescriptions you need to fill before you get home. I know I will never see you again, so I take the chance to hug you and your wife one more time. 

I’m not gonna lie, more than a few tears were shed on the drive home that night. 

Terminal Waiting

Tinder Adventures Continue

  

My Tinder experiment last year was quite the experience. I spent more time shocked by people’s audacity than feeling any love connections. 

As I gear up to spend a little more time on the east coast, I am convinced Tinder could at least provide some distraction and entertainment. 

Surprisingly, I am having fun again. Deleting the inappropriate ones. Ignoring the creepy ones. Laughing at the guys who are posing topless. 

I’m texting one potential match and he may have earned himself a date by making me laugh. I informed him I was the selfie queen. He responded that he could be king and proceeded to take a public bathroom selfie. I am a sucker for a well timed selfie battle. 

Life is fun. Tinder can be fun. Let’s all just lighten up and enjoy life for what it is. 

I would like to avoid the douchebaggery of dick pics. I could do without seeing your chest carpet. Ew. I’m still not sure what they are showing off. But okay. Whatever works for ya buddy. 

I don’t have to find a Prince Charming or the love of my life. I get to meet new people and go on adventures. If I manage to make a new friend, I’m gonna consider that a success. 

Tinder Adventures Continue

Blowing Through You

Sometimes the wind cuts into your skin like a sharp knife. It steals your breath away and leaves you gasping. The very next day you wonder if it is inappropriate to wear shorts in late December.

Welcome to West Texas.

I have noticed I complain a lot. Usually about little things and minor inconveniences. Truth be told, I’m generally not even very annoyed. I am just complaining.

I complain because it is windy, too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry, too bright and too dark.

I’m going to be late and I can’t believe how early I am.

I have insomnia and I slept too much.

I complain because people are driving too fast to suit me, or they won’t get the lead out and move out of my way fast enough.

People talk too loud and I need you to speak up because I can’t hear you today!

The seam on that sock rubs my toes, so I am going to put it back in the drawer because I never want to wear it again.

I complain because I have a drawer full of socks that I hate and I can’t find the ones I like.

My flight is too early unless it is too late.

The dogs won’t settle down or all they do is sleep.

I don’t want to talk on the phone but why have you not called me?

I don’t know how to fix the problem, except when I notice I am whining about something inconsequential, I try to stop and remind myself that I am working diligently on having a better attitude.

One would think this reminder would be appreciated. One would assume I had simply forgotten to be more gracious at that particular moment.

Unfortunately, ONE would be wrong. I find myself annoyed and complaining about myself reminding me to not complain so much.

It’s exhausting! I simply can’t fathom why I can’t just chill out and prance around grinning all day. It takes real effort to be this negative all the time.

I think perhaps I suffer from the affliction I see so many others struggle with. Contrarianism. 

I am convinced some people (including me at times) complain for the sake of complaining. Frequently the object of our disdain is not even something we feel all that strongly about. 

Tonight I am surrounded by falling ice. It’s cold outside and I am exhausted from my day at work. I could sit here and bitch about any number of things. I could also sit here and focus on the good things. It’s my choice. 

I’ll probably do both. 

Blowing Through You

Stranger Danger


It’s a full flight. It’s almost always a full flight. It’s funny how desperately everyone secretly wishes no one sits next to them. 

Me? I concentrate so hard on not making eye contact so I can avoid sending inviting signals to anyone who may want to make friends. 

So, here we are strapped into a metal fuselage hurtling through the air while cortorting ourselves into miserable back abusing positions just to avoid touching or talking to a stranger. 

I am wearing my new bright red wireless headphones. Sometimes I don’t even listen to anything; I simply use them as armor so I don’t have to get to know my seat mates. I huddle as close to the window as I can get and stare longingly at the ground, wishing my feet were planted in the dirt. 

“Flight attendants, please take your jump seats.” Wait. What? What’s wrong? Oh, holy hell. We’re all going to die. I’m too young to die. I knew flying was a bad idea. Why are the rest of these fools sitting calmly and not freaking the fuck out? 

“Ladies and gentlemen, the air is just a little bumpy as we head for descent. Please make sure you are in your seat with your seatbelt securely fastened.” Oh. Okay. I’m not going to die. Phew. Survived another near death experience. I hate flying. Why is this dude next to me widening his man spread? I am already curled up as close as I can get to the window. I have not moved in almost three hours. My shoulders are killing me from hunching into my seat, all so I can not infringe on his space with my ample body mass. Ugh. I feel fat. I need to pee. Am I bothering this poor guy next to me? Well, if I am… he deserves it! Why are you trying to pretend you are seven feet tall? Your legs are not that long. Close the gap little Buddy! GRRR. 

Finally the plane seems to be making it’s way slowly to the ground. Relief washes over me because we managed to avoid the free fall I prepared for after the pilot’s first announcement. I am quite certain my panic swayed the tides of inevitability from doom. Almost there! 

Oh. Crap. I forgot. I still have another flight to catch before I am in Hartford. Hopefully the next flight will not be as crowded…


Stranger Danger

Distorted Beauty


Selfies became a lot more fun when I found apps like Prisma. Now I can make myself look like a cartoon character even if I don’t know how to draw. 

I guess some people may think selfies are ridiculous, however when you spend as much time traveling alone as I do, you gotta get pictures somehow. 

It has nothing to do with vanity. 

I spent years hating every single picture that I ever saw of myself. I struggled to smile for the camera. I tended to avoid pictures if I could get away with it. I simply did not want there to be any record of the way I looked. 

I made funny faces. 

I am too fat. 

My nose is too turned up and my nostrils flare when I laugh too hard. When I am mad. When I am tired, happy, or sad. Okay, my nostrils just flare a lot. They are active little boogers.

My neck is short and thick. 

You can’t see my collar bones. 

I am built like a potato, all lumps and no curves in the right spots.

I perpetually looked constipated or pissed off in almost every picture. 

I was dressed wrong. 

I was not thin enough. 

My hair did not look right. 

My teeth looked odd. 

I spent so much time berating the image of the girl on the paper that I couldn’t appreciate the memory that had been captured. 

It goes beyond a low self-esteem. I was full of loathing and resentment. I just knew I was not enough. 

I hated the camera. I made fun of “those silly girls” who had the audacity to playfully pose for their own shutter. I convinced myself they were somehow the antithesis of who I should be if I was to be taken seriously. 

There was not one single event that was the turning point. Slowly, I started posing for photos with friends. I started out standing behind everyone a peeking over their shoulder. There must be a hundred pictures of my son and I with me grasping his shoulders and peering around his head. 

Once iPhones had the forward facing camera, making faces in the camera replaced making faces in the mirror. Don’t lie. You know you do that too. It has nothing to do with liking the way I look, it’s almost like a curiousity about what my facial expressions look like to other people. 

Occasionally, I take a photo that doesn’t look too bad. If the light is just right and I am relaxed I like some of the photos. Honestly, part of it is practicing posing, angles, and lighting. I feel like I am making progress. 

I’m not going to pretend like I feel like I look good the majority of the time. I still hate so much about what I see. 

Aging is difficult. 

I have more acne than I did as a teenager. 

I can’t even begin to imagine what is happening to my pores, all of the sudden they decided to become prominent, and they collect debris like tiny gaping hoarders. 

The skin on my face is thinner, drier, more oily, blotchy, and something is happening my eyelids. It’s as if the tissue is migrating to under my eyes instead of holding my eyebrows up. 

My eyelashes have decided to abandon me. Perhaps they have migrated up to my brow. 

There is a very deep ravine marching across my forehead. There is no way to smooth it out anymore. 

There are gray hairs sneaking their way into my brunette locks, which has taken on a dull sheen if I don’t get it colored by a professional. I was also unaware of how the shaft would become thinner and increasingly prone to breakage. 

And don’t even get me started on my chin. All I can say is tweezers are no longer optional. Perhaps this is the lash’s new address. 

Despite my dissatisfaction with essentially every body part and feature, my son has my smile and my nose. Really he looks very much like me. I think he is the most handsome dude ever. I realize you are most likely suffering from the delusion that your son is the best looking kid to walk the earth, but you are mistaken. It’s okay, I won’t correct you. Well, not out loud anyway. 

How can I despise the features of my face, when I see them on my son and feel they are perfect? How can I tear down someone else’s child? Bet you didn’t know I was someone’s perfect child. I would never say the things to another woman that I say to myself. There is a bit of honesty I was going to insert right here, but it really made me sound like an asshole. It had to be cut. Just know I am not as kind as that last statement sounded. I am really quite snarky. 

So, what have I learned? 

It takes a conscious, purposeful effort for me to be kind to myself. Sometimes it takes just as much for me to be kind to others too. I have to frequently redirect myself and somehow prove that I am not quite the ogre-spinster I picture in my head. 

Yes. I know. Looks are not everything. If you are nice and behave in a warm, loving way, you are are beautiful. There are a million other cliche phrases I can insert here to fight the good fight against the shallow tide pool of my judgemental mind. Let’s be real though. A girl wants to be pretty. I want to feel pretty.

I’ve spent years trying to pretend I didn’t care and acting out all my tomboy fantasies. I kept my hair chopped off, dressed in horrifically ugly T-shirts with obnoxious sentiments, I even wore a doo-rag religiously for several years. I was trying to prove to myself it was okay for me to hate the way I look. I didn’t care anyway. So there! 

All I managed to accomplish is a profound delay in acquiring the skills necessary to operate the various tools of femininity.  

I still don’t know how to use the curling iron. The blow dryer is frequently a disaster.

I can’t paint my own nails. 

Eyeliner is pretty much hit or miss. 

Eyelash curler? Oh, the medieval torture device that must have been invented by a masochist? Nope.

The eyebrows? Yeah, that’s tricky. Mine are frequently crooked, giving me a mildly surprised expression. 

My clothes frequently don’t exactly go together. How the hell do people know what makes an outfit? Maybe there is a book. I should google that. 

Despite my desperate and often humorous attempts to appear like I have an ounce of taste, I like it. I like wearing clothes I think are cute. I enjoy having long hair. Red lipstick is my absolute favorite thing in the world. Sometimes I even feel kinda cute. 

So, I am going to keep taking the damn selfies and practice smiling like a girl. I am going to take selfies making funny faces too. I may even try to learn how to giggle. I owe it to myself and all the people who love me to record the fact I was here. 

When I am lucky, I will see a glimpse of the daughter my mother thinks is beautiful. Maybe someday I will feel a little less disdain towards her. 

Distorted Beauty

Insomnia and 24 Hour Diners

I don’t know if you can actually call it insomnia. I went to bed too early and woke up too soon. I slept well, so I am up. Not much is open this time of morning. I had to drive 8 miles down the highway to find this little place. Actually, I Yelped. I did not drive around aimlessly, that’s not even a thing anymore. 

I have to be honest this is one of my favorite parts of traveling. I love finding these little places. Usually the food is just okay, but I generally have a great time drinking coffee and reading a book over my solitary breakfast. 

Tip: you usually can’t go wrong with an omelet. Always get a glass of water with your coffee, and hope they are willing to make you a fresh pot. 

Life is an adventure. You have to get away from the hotel from time to time. 

Insomnia and 24 Hour Diners

Leaving Sucks Sometimes

I am so lucky to get to do what I do. I am able to support my family, I get to travel and meet new people, and I get to help people. 

Sometimes leaving is bittersweet though. My family is at home and I am off on my next grand adventure. Sometimes I wish I could pack them all up in my suitcase. 

I’m not complaining. I swear. I just wish my hugs could have lasted a few more seconds. 

I also wish the dog would have been more gracious when I woke him up to get some puppy love before I left. Apparently, Boomer Wayne is not much of a morning guy. 

Leaving Sucks Sometimes

Headed Back To The Wild Northeast. 

Last week I was chillin’ with this little lizard in Florida. Tomorrow it is time to pack for my next adventure up North. 

I’m excited to head back to Massachusetts and more than a little relieved that my anxiety has not spiked like it used to before every trip. 

I am looking forward to seeing old friends. I am excited about a dinner date I have planned with Tinderbabe. I am ready to tackle a new hospital and meet new people. 

All in all? 

Life is good today. 

I got to introduce my son to Gremlins. I have no idea how I let him get to almost grown without watching it with him.

I had a week to recover from Disney World Plague. I was so sick by the time I got home. Miserable. I blame all the rugrats. Children should not be allowed in Disney World until they have been swabbed for communicable illnesses. 

New adventures are in the air. After Massachusetts, I will be starting in Maryland. I can’t wait! 

Headed Back To The Wild Northeast.