Melancholy

baltimoreSometimes it feels hard to step into the future but it’s actually nothing you do at all. Your heart beats and one breath follows another. It does not require courage. The future might seem better or more exciting or more full of possibility if it was a choice. But you just keep going on and moving forward until entropy catches up with inertia and one day you don’t any more.

Now and then I perform thought experiments where I try to imagine consciousness outside of the construct of time but I quickly become overwhelmed by nostalgia. I am sitting on the front stoop of my childhood home talking to the neighbor boy in the back of an old Buick high on LSD, shouting and smoking on a bar stool in a dark library while my infant son is holding my hands and struggling to stand on my lap.

What day is it? Thursday. My work schedule is irregular and it’s disorienting to be home when everyone else is at work. I would be better off if I worked more and had less time alone with my thoughts. Or do I need more time alone to process what goes on at work. A lot of people are suffering.

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Fuck Food

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Years ago in NYC I had a roommate and if anyone asked him about a restaurant he’d visited, he’d always shrug and say “It’s good if you like food.” That pretty much sums it up for me, too. I just don’t get what the big deal is. Why do so many people spend so much time and effort and money on what they put into their mouths. Let’s face it, it’s just going to come out the other end and get flushed down the toilet.

America’s obsession with nutrition shows no sign of abating: gourmet foods, health foods, fad diets, bacon, anorexia, obesity, Food Network, diet cures, juicing, fasting, low-carb, sugar-free, fat-free, organic, paleo, supplements, gluten-free, superfoods. It wasn’t always like this. Decades ago science fiction predicted that regular food would be replaced with pills. (A utopia!) My suspicion is that people are obsessed with what they eat because it’s one of the few things they can control in their otherwise out-of-control lives.

I don’t have any particular aversion to food, or an eating disorder, or anything like that. I just don’t care. I eat when I’m hungry and I’ll pretty much eat anything that I don’t find repulsive (and the bar is relatively low here). I don’t eat meat, but that’s because I don’t enjoy animal torture. And even that’s not a firm line. I’m not above diverting a chicken wing from the garbage.

Barring certain medical conditions, I believe that as long as you don’t eat too much or too much of any one thing, you’ll be okay. And there is no conclusive scientific data that convinces me otherwise.

Sometimes I’ll just open a can of beans or soup and eat it cold — out of the can! Shocking, I know. Over the years people (boyfriends, roommates, coworkers) have given me shit about this. Many of those people are overweight. So you can shove your judgement up your fat ass, okay?

I also prefer to eat alone. Which makes me even more of a weirdo. To me eating is somewhere between blowing your nose and clipping your toenails on the privacy-desired scale (although nowhere near shitting or masturbating). I come from a large, blue-collar family and eating dinner was a noisy, ugly affair with frequent fights over the last, cold, greasy pork chop and plenty of dishes to wash afterward. So can you blame me?

I’ve learned to accept social eating because that’s the cultural norm but I still don’t look forward to it — and especially not with my own family. Kids are horrible dinner companions. Family meals in my home, it’s embarrassing to admit, include constant drama: picky eating, whining, and sibling torment.

I also can’t eat and talk at the same time (although I can walk and chew gum). This makes me feel stupid because everyone else in the world seems to manage it. You’re not supposed to talk with your mouth full, yet you’re also supposed to make small talk while you’re eating. Does not compute!

My husband seems to wait until right after I’ve taken a particularly large bite of something to ask me a question and then gets annoyed when I don’t answer him until I’ve finished chewing and swallowing. This happens more often than is believable. He thinks it’s rude, but is spraying him with food particles mixed with saliva more polite?

Do Not Resuscitate

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Bedside nurses are busy people, what with patients at one end telling us to hurry up and get them another green Jello and management at the other end telling us to… just hurry up. (There’s a reason why nurses get bitchy and it’s not because they hate helping sick people.)

Nurses rarely have downtime, but when they do they like to pee or drink coffee. It was late into the wee hours of the night shift when, giddy with lack of sleep, the nurses held an impromptu klatch in the break room.

The average nurse is not chummy. She’s too busy hurrying! Or paranoid that a coworker will write her up. Nursing is less blue wall of silence than Stasi. It’s best to keep your mouth shut and keep a low profile. But that night was different.

There was present an unusual camaraderie and generosity of spirit. One of the nurses shared how she developed a latex allergy from wearing rubber gloves and realized the hard way that she couldn’t use condoms anymore. But the story that really had us on the floor was about a patient that crashed in the ICU.

Although the gentleman had a very poor prognosis his status was full-code. That means healthcare workers were legally and perhaps even ethically obligated to do everything to save his life, no matter how futile or expensive those efforts might be. For people who are stupid, let me make something clear — they can put you on every tube and machine in the hospital and, generally, none of it is going to fix whatever it is that is killing you.

While two nurses started CPR and the doctor and pharmacist were paged to the bedside, the man’s wife hovered anxiously in the background. She was agitated and shouting something into the chaos over and over again. A poet would advise you not to “go gentle into that good night,” but your spouse (and your nurse) might have other ideas. What was she shouting? “Honey, go toward the light!”