Theres a reason why I did not commit or swear on a stack of holy books to post every single day of this month. Because I know me and my procrastinating ways.
Yesterday I went to see W in his hospital bed. He is doing well, all things considered, and in good spirits, which is half the battle after surgery. He is coping well with the pain and doing everything he is told. I delivered his phone to him, and the newspaper and his bathrobe. He seriously is one of the most out going people I have ever known. He engages everyone in conversation and learns more about a person’s life in five minutes than I would be able to figure out in a week. I rarely remember someone’s name. But I think he knows everybody on his floor. So of course they all know him.
He has a room to himself and many attentive people taking care of him. He really likes the hospital food. I wonder if that says something about my cooking….
He looked tired when I left, so I decided to leave him to his other visitors today, but I will be there to pick him up when he is discharged tomorrow morning.
And then I suppose the real fun begins when I get to play home care nurse. Fun times. We will muddle through.
Fear Factor Daily Prompt: People are afraid of all kinds of things: spiders, the dark, or being enclosed in small spaces. Tell us about your greatest fear — rational or irrational.
I am a day behind with this, so I guess we can rule out the fear of being late. There is no one major area of crippling paranoia for me. Just a lot of minor annoying (but, of course, completely rational) phobias which I have decided to organize into an alphabetical list.
1. Aliens (especially the ones that are cleverly disguised and walking among us.) (Hey, I’ve seen the documentaries, I know about these things)
2. Bats (the kind that fly around at night wanting to get tangled up in your hair)
6. Falling (hard and awkwardly enough to break bones) (or down an abandoned mine shaft)
7. Germs (and people who don’t wash their germy hands)
8. Heights (rooftops and beyond)
9. Illnesses of the fatal variety
10. Job interviews (avoiding them is the reason I’ve been doing the same job for so long)
11. Karaoke (Really, that shit is scary)
12. Lightning bolts
13. Memory loss and Madness (although if I do go mad, who knows, it might just be a different kind of happy)
14. Natural disasters
18. Roller Coasters
19. Swimming (without a life jacket) (in the ocean) (…which would lead to drowning….)
21. Unidentified Flying Objects
22. Violence (physical, verbal, abuse of any kind)
24. Xenophobia (Yes, I know, fear of a fear. But until we get over our fear of strangers and foreign things, peace on earth will never happen)
I probably won’t write a children’s alphabet book based on this list, complete with frightening illustrations, although stranger things have been done with the alphabet. And many of the things I’ve listed (like the last two, for instance), I have no actual personal experience with whatsoever. They just seem to me to be absolutely fear-worthy.
I missed answering the promptless prompt last week about retrocausality (“can the future affect the present, and can the present affect the past?”) because, frankly, it confused the hell out of me. I took one set of philosophy classes in my life where everyone sat around a table and argued themselves in bewildering circles, and that was enough with the thought experiments for this poor befuddled little brain. I passed the course, by the way. I found out I could say any bizarre thing I wanted and the rest of them (including I guess the professor marking the final exam) would be properly astounded by my deep thoughts.
Well, my thoughts aren’t that deep anymore. Sometimes I believe we think entirely too long and hard about things and that’s why we get headaches and are all crazy as loons.
Which brings me to the promptless prompt for this week – L’appel du vide is French and translates to “Call of the Void”. It is the unexplainable urge to jump when standing on the edge of a cliff, or tall height. It can be considered a form of self-destructive ideation, or a protective instinct to let the brain play out what the body should not. It’s definition has been expanded to describe responding mentally to the call of the siren song– whether that means the desire to reach into a fire, drive into a wall, or walk into the eye of the storm.
See? Bat shit crazy. With death wishes. Not a great combination for the survival of our species, is it?
I am going to be alive (although perhaps just barely) in the year 2040. (A psychic told me this, if you’re wondering how I came up with it.) I believe the reason for my longevity will revolve around the fact that I am a gutless wimp. I have never in my life experienced the urge to jump off a cliff. I do not reach into fires. I crawl under my bed when there’s a storm.
Okay, I made that last bit up, but I certainly don’t go out for a stroll during a tornado watch or drive my car at breakneck speeds like all the other lunatics out there. Or jump out of airplanes. Or engage in any activity that has the potential to cause physical pain. Like hot yoga or housework.
Even in my head or my dreams I never do anything even vaguely adventurous. I do not understand extreme sports like mountain climbing, or taking unnecessary risks or the mindset behind any of that stuff. I think roller coasters are stupid. I had an adrenaline rush once, but it was from a cortisone injection in the bottom of my foot and completely by accident on my part. I thought I might be having a heart attack but the doctor said it was a normal reaction to the shot, and kind of rolled his eyes when I suggested he might have warned me. I never went back to him.
I don’t even answer the doorbell or the phone if I’m not expecting a visitor or a call. So the voidcan call me all it wants – it will get no response from this chicken-hearted scaredy-cat with a brain that can’t fathom the worst case scenario and has little desire to try.
Prompts for the Promptless: Qualia (single form, quale) is a term that refers to the individual, conscious, subjective elements of experiences. Examples of qualia are the pain of a headache, the taste of wine, or the perceived redness of an evening sky. In other words, qualia refers to “the way things seem to us”.
I’ve been procrastinating and avoiding this subject because I like to think I’m perfectly normal. Who isn’t reluctant to admit the possibility of some sort of inner weirdness. But I suppose if I never admit it, I’ll never know if there are other people out there who experience the same thing. I have made vague references to it in conversations, or given out random hints, but the reaction is always confusion and skepticism, and then we just talk about the weather.
I’ve already admitted elsewhere that I think of spider webs when I spritz my perfume. My honey yogurt soap to me smells exactly like the beach, although when I’m at the beach I never think of that particular soap. Large bodies of water make me want to stop breathing. I have to remind myself to inhale and exhale and stay calm and think about something else. My moods are associated with colors. When I’m happy I’m yellow. Green is super charged. Pink is perfectly lazy.
All of that is curious enough I suppose, but there’s something else I’ve felt several times in my life. I will tell you about one of my quale experiences, and then you can look all confused and skeptical and go check out the weather channel.
At some kind of Christmas party or dance (I don’t remember exactly what it was) many years ago, W and I were saying goodnight to my brother-in-law and his wife when I was suddenly hit by a thunder-clap of doom. There was no noise, but it was deafening. I was knocked off my feet, but I didn’t fall over. The feeling was black and overpowering, like a severe electric shock with no physical pain. It lasted only seconds and then it was gone. I hugged my brother-in-law a little too hard, and held on to him a little too long, knowing that something really bad was going to happen to him, although I couldn’t have said what that might be. I remember telling him I’d see him again because those felt like magic words to ward off some terrible disaster. He laughed and said of course we’d see each other again, we were all going to be at his parents house the next day.
I felt like crying, and sat in stunned silence on the drive home, thinking they might be involved in a car crash, or their house would burn to the ground, or they’d be abducted by aliens. I also thought that quite possibly I’d had way too much to drink and was being completely ridiculous. But I did tell W about my bad feeling, almost like a premonition, that something awful was going to happen to his brother. Then I reminded him of that a few months later when his brothers headaches had become unbearable, and he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Now here’s the strangest part, if that’s not strange enough for you. When we got the phone call with this sad news, I felt almost euphoric. That was the bad thing that was going to happen, but it wasn’t that bad after all. The surgery would go well, and he would be fine. I knew this. I kept saying, amidst all the worry and the sadness, he’s going to be okay. And he was, for a lot of years after that.
This was not the first or last time for me, having this bizarre experience, but I don’t think it can be called an ability when I really have no control over it. The feelings are always extreme. I don’t know where the crazy joy or the devastating sadness comes from, but when it happens I think those few seconds will kill me, but I don’t die. Or haven’t yet anyway. It has made me try to put up a sort of invisible shield around myself when I’m with people so that if they are sending out bad vibes I won’t get them. It has made me stay away from places I should have been where I might have given comfort because to me, ignorance of the bad things is equivalent to bliss. It has made me try hard not to feel anything too deeply, or get too involved, or be too empathetic. But inevitably this avoidance seems to build up to my quale, my personal internal sonic boom, the explosion that shatters me and no one sees me break.
This was all so hard to admit, because, like I said, I prefer to have people think I’m normal with normal quirks and eccentricities, with qualia that might be considered a little out to lunch but not psychotic or insane. I don’t tell anyone any more when I have the gloom and doom experience because I don’t understand where it comes from or what it might portend. It could be nothing. I always hope it’s nothing.
So what’s the weather like where you are? May your whole day be nothing but shades of pink and yellow.
How long has it been since you read a book that brought you to tears? It was yesterday for me. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green is one of those books that’s hard to put down until you’ve made it all the way to the bitter-sweet end. It is about sickness and death, and yet it’s also a life affirming love story, both funny and sad. It is touching, and it is beautiful.
I read a rather awful review written by someone who said John Green could not possibly understand “the terminally dark” since he hadn’t experienced it himself first hand and therefore it was not his story to tell. I think this person was especially upset by the humorous bits, as if the real thing is something you couldn’t possibly joke about. But we all have lost loved ones to cancer and have witnessed the battles and the suffering and the pain and have tried to make our own peace with it. There seem to be as many cancers out there as there are reactions to it, and I don’t believe there is any right or wrong way to deal with it and to cope. Everyone struggles to do the best they can with whatever strengths they have. This story may not mirror your own personal experience, but I don’t think that makes it any less valid.
“I’m in love with you,” he said quietly.
“Augustus,” I said.
“I am,” he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
“When you go into the ER, one of the first things they ask you to do is rate your pain on a scale of one to ten, and from there they decide which drugs to use and how quickly to use them. I’d been asked this question hundreds of times over the years, and I remember once early on when I couldn’t get my breath and it felt like my chest was on fire, flames licking the inside of my ribs fighting for a way to burn out of my body, my parents took me to the ER. The nurse asked me about the pain, and I couldn’t even speak, so I held up nine fingers.
Later, after they’d given me something, the nurse came in and she was kind of stroking my head while she took my blood pressure and said, “You know how I know you’re a fighter? You called a ten a nine.”
But that wasn’t quite right. I called it a nine because I was saving my ten. And here it was, the great and terrible ten, slamming me again and again as I lay still and alone in my bed staring at the ceiling, the waves tossing me against the rocks then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliff, leaving me floating face up on the water, undrowned.”
There is so much to love about how this book is written. All the incredibly wise and perceptive passages made it hard for me to choose just a couple of quotes, but I hope these spark your interest enough to read the rest.
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