Words and images do cartwheels around my bed at night. They don't belong to me, but have you ever tried ignoring a wild rumpus? If I dare wake at any point, there are few options: to lay corpse-like maintaining the illusion of sleep, or sit up and read 100 Years of Solitude or War and Peace to put me back under. If I fail the charades, lively spirit muses who are impervious to sleep and logic, insist upon my full participation. Around 2:30 AM, as I lay prone and considering how long these incisions will take to heal, Susan Sontag was arguing with Charles Bukowski at the foot of the bed. There was some hint of a disagreement over the historical roots of misogyny as they performed a rare but endearing rendition of The Odd Couple. If it were a reasonable hour, I'd ask them to dinner. Who wouldn't enjoy a table of infamous writers clashing over a savory risotto paired with crisp mineral sauv blanc- or maybe a vintage red (notes of manure and leather, anyone) ?
I would lay such a perfect table that Martha Stewart would feel jealous. Unique floral designs dotting the mod runner, ambient timeless music humming out of hidden speakers next to glowing candles casting twitchy shadows onto expressive faces. Nin, Rumi, Woolf, Fitzgerald, Rowling, Twain, Oliver, Didion, Miller, Neruda... Oh the possibilities! For extra spice, I'd invite a Beatle and a Talking Head to sit next to young Elvis and his friend Aretha. If you are reading this, you are invited. We can play music trivia and have a karaoke dessert.
Hey man, don't step on my Agonist and Percocet daydreams or I may refuse to share the latest Kiddo DPP (dinner party playlist) and your ears will miss out. The point is that I keep forgetting to turn the light off at night, like more reasonable people wisely snuggled into their cozy beds replenishing glycogen and honoring circadian rhythms. The crew at my bedside just began chanting, "Free Bird! One more time!" A symphony of voices ever demanding, from some hazy hypnogogic state, to be heard. Muses need a conduit, but the threat of being forced to listen to free bird puts my feet on the floor. OK Kids, party is over. Coffee please.
Insomnia is not uncommon in PwP or any number of diseases (a lack of ease, as it's root suggests) and it manages to steal the luxury of zzz's from the healthiest among us. My problem is based in chronic pain, but one need not look further than the headlines to feel unsettled. I'm afraid to look anymore. Supposedly our gen pop is getting less sensitive, because we can no longer escape the constant trickle of negative news. Bombarded by man's inhumanity to man, nature, or any living creature that dares interfere with our egocentricity- we thrash around, perpetuating suffering. Human neurosis has not changed in thousands of years, it just takes on different forms. Throughout history, it's the same story. When will we get it right? Nobody has any idea what they are doing! Is the sky really falling this time?
Don't get me wrong, there is no room left for any Pollyanna suggesting we all "Stay positive! Avoid all negativity! Just be happy!" Seriously? I politely ask you to shut the fuck up about silencing anyone speaking the truth. It may be inconvenient for you to hear, but that does not make it less real. Let go or be dragged, as the saying goes. Even the ugly bits have a place here, and no amount of denial or clever avoidance will change this fact.
I just spent several nights in the hospital composing electronic music from all the beeps, intercom pronouncements, shuddering machines and shuffling feet. Bjork would've had a blast making one of her unique arrangements from noises at Cal Pac Med. Now wake up and let me check your vitals for the seventh time tonight Ms. K! My heart and lungs thank you, but did I accidentally sign paperwork for a sleep trial? I didn't go to the hospital to gather REM though, I was bullied there by a genetic defect blocking my kidney. One that put me on bathroom floors begging to die too often over one of the most excruciating years of my life. Kidney pain, you say? Like stones? You might mean crystalized shards of glass in the ureter, sure, yet this was an emergency more menacing than kidney stones. If you weren't awake before, flank pain will get your attention fast! It was anything but fast or easy, but I'm wide awake and ready to share a short list of observations before we end today's post:
Nurses are fleet-footed goddesses. Serving others IS love. Swoon, gasp, and my offer of infinite respect for your unflinching and swift clearing of endless streams of human fuselage and buckets of agony.
Whoever invents wires and cords that do not tangle around the rolling IV pole will be a millionaire. Patients just need to pee every half hour, but 2 bags, drains, monitors and gigantic IV ports all vying for the same claustrophobia-inducing space makes that a challenge.
My sweet roommate had been in the hospital since July, and her story makes her an example of unbelievable perseverance and grit. I will forever remember her soft voice crying out for help throughout the night. I wanted to help, but was literally tethered by wires and cords in my own misery. The worst part of any illness I've suffered is that it affects my capacity to help others.
Chronic and intense pain usually supersedes our best intentions.
All people bleed the same color. DAMMIT IT'S TIME WE GET THIS RIGHT, EVERYONE! We cannot afford to go backwards.
Hospitals are great equalizers. Inside, you are a bag of fragile bones in need of assistance, no better or worse, and certainly no more important than any other. Remember that when that hard-working nurse or assistant wheels you out, hot stuff.
Pay it forward. This is how it works and why I come here to offer the small contribution of my voice. Alone, or all one. The choice is yours. Please just don't be late for dinner. Robert De Niro is waiting. You don't have to bring anything but yourself.