Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Tooting My Own Horn

I don't use my car horn a lot, and this fact became abundantly clear when I was almost side-swiped in the parking lot and leaned on the horn to tell that asshole in the van to please not crash into my car. "Don't smash up my sweet little Japanese car, who's older than your car but I love it anyway because it's dependable as all get out, and the first brand new car I ever bought," was what the horn was supposed to say to the kid who doesn't understand the inherent beauty of car side mirrors. Instead, what came out of my poor little car at that moment was a strangled whimper, a raspy farting imitation of my car's formerly proud horn noise, that made J turn to me and comment, "Ohhhhh, that was pathetic!" Of course, he was right, but I wouldn't compound the indignity suffered by the car by agreeing with him in front of it. After all, it has served me well all these years, and there was every reason to attempt to help it save face.

To make matters worse, since J had his surgery done in Manhattan soon after that discovery, it meant spending days driving along in the city of militantly insane drivers (read: cabs), a place where one could really use a little sonic muscle, with this pathetic baby goat bleat of a horn. I could be shouting oaths at the top of my lungs and shaking with murderous rage inside the car, but that mewling little croupy cough horn told all the suicide-mission cabbies around me that I was nothing to fear. They targeted my car for the most heinous of death-defying driving stunts, and my car had nothing to say in its defense. It was most unfortunate timing, and I experienced whatever you would call the female version of emasculation.

Now, however, I have been informed by the trusty car mechanic, that he has installed the horn of horns into my little chic car. When he ordered the horn, the supplier asked whether it was a high horn or a low horn that was needed (what the?), and my mechanic didn't know which, so he said, "Give me the loudest one you have." See how in sync I am with my mechanic? I hadn't even told him that was my secret wish, and this dear boy instantly understood my need for roaring, intimidating decibels. "Believe me, this is loud," he promised me. "You'll sound like a truck!" Oh, don't tease me, good mechanic lad, you are making me crazy with anticipation.

I'm off now to test out the new toy, blowing off some steam by blowing every slow moving vehicle in the surrounding suburbs into oblivion. I will be drunk with power! I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

First Shoe Successfully Dealt With

J's surgery went really well last week, and he's doing so well, it hardly seems possible. The doctor was catiously optimistic about how things look for him, since there appeared to be no spreading of the cancer beyond his prostate. I am so fucking grateful that he's alright and the hard part's over. I never want to have to kiss him and say good luck when he's being wheeled into surgery again. It's too hard to put on that brave face.

The astounding amount of indignities one has to go through when being treated for cancer is nothing new to me, and I'm not squeamish about all the tubes and wires and bodily fluids kind of stuff any more, but you just never get over how awful it is to watch your loved one be afraid and/or in pain. And I'll admit that some of the things he said when he was cranky from the pain kind of hurt my feelings, but I'm trying to remind myself that I have been that cranky when I came out of surgery, too. He apologized for being a pain in the ass, and I told him he gets a "pass" for the last couple of days.

I'm being cautiously optimistic about things myself, hoping that when the follow-up test results are done, he is indeed cancer free. I'm also hoping that he will soon recover normal function as far as urinary continence and sexual functioning. Oh, why am I mincing words here? I hope that he is able to control his pee, and that we can continue along with our sex life as it was, or at least nearly so. I don't want to imagine how frustrated and depressed he'd be if he couldn't get back to normal with those things.

People don't realize how many invasive, nasty things have to be done to you when you become ill like this, and I won't go through it here when you can simply look it up for yourself on WebMd, but J deserves a ton of credit for dealing with this with good humor and dignity. Some guys would be absolutely wigging out over the things he has had to put up with, and I'm proud of how well he's dealt with it all.

Now, I'm just so exhausted, I could take a nap right now if I had time. And another in a few hours, and then sleep a full night, and then call in sick and sleep all of tomorrow as well. Holding in my own stress and emotional freak-out for his sake seemed easy enough, until I could exhale, as the saying goes. And then, I just felt this wave of exhaustion come over me.

Thank god this is over, and we can go back to normal again, at least until the next shoe drops. Hey, you know, there is always another shoe.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Perfectly Paralyzed

One of my favorite blog writers posted a request for feedback on how to deal with a problem, which was multi-layered, but basically came down to dealing with her life-long struggle with depression. Since her post hit home hard, and moved me in the way that only a really good writer can, I was compelled to attempt an email in response. I must admit something, which you, dear reader, already know, and that is the temptation to procrastinate dealing with my own problems by escaping into others' is a bad habit which I indulge all too often. So, of course, I was shoving aside my own to-do list to write to this complete stranger about the intimate details of my own struggle with depression, but hey, I never promised I wouldn't one day implode under the weight of my own neuroses.

While dodging my work and occasionally plunging into the Halloween candy jar of bats, pumpkins, corn and skulls, I started thinking about how to respond to her. What exactly were the things that had helped me during my own struggle with depression?

As I started writing, I remembered one of the lessons that I'd learned during my seemingly endless therapy sessions: Perfectionism is one of the things holding me back from accomplishing so many things in life. That is not to say that I suffer from the delusion that I am perfect. Oh HO, that's a knee-slapper of an image. No, the way perfectionism rears its ugly head is in the way I must plot and plan every single little move before taking action, for fear that the action taken will be the wrong one.

For example, why haven't I painted the kitchen yet? I've lived in this house for over 10 years, and I am ashamed to tell you that there is a section of the kitchen that I have never painted. I don't mean that the walls looked perfectly fine and I just moved in. I mean that there was hideous wallpaper on the walls, I ripped it off willy-nilly, and then left the walls all naked and fuzzy from old wallpaper backing. Why not just clean them up and paint them? Well, that would require picking a color scheme. White with blue sponging? Light blue and get that pretty bird border I saw years ago to go around the top? But what if I want to hang up some of my collected tins? Wouldn't yellow work better in there with that collection on the walls? And what about that space over the archway, what if I want to put a shelf there? A border would look stupid in that small space if there is a shelf, too, but then why have a border at all if you skip that wall? Okay, no border again. How about picking a bold color for a change. Oh, but should it match the yellow walls of the next room, or at least transition into the next room somehow? Should I pick out some curtains and find a color in them I like and match that? Oh, but I like these white curtains that are already in there...AHHHHHH

Uh, you see my problem already, don't you? Hours and hours spend on such nonsense thinking over the years, and no action taken. I can't commit to a damn wall color, so don't even drive me demented trying to make big decisions. The drive to make the right decision, and do it exactly the right way, and have it come out perfect, paralyzes me into inaction. It's just as J has so wisely said - it's only when the pain of staying in one place outweighs the fear of moving on, that we take action. Oh, groan, that is too perfectly true about my whole life. So many decisions made based solely on fear and pain avoidance.

I must say, in my own defense (not that anyone is attacking me but ME), that I've tried to make some strides towards picking an action, committing to the plan, and deciding to let the chips fall where they may. And there have been some big decisions made in that direction. Like asking Lydia to move out when her behavior became intolerable. Oh, yeah, that was based on the pain of her staying outweighing the pain of what would happen if I asked her to leave. Well, okay, not a perfect example, but give me a break, I'm on a sugar high here.

I did decide to throw caution to the wind for a change and embark on a relationship with J, which was a nice change of pace for my usually timidity-stifled romantic life. And that was not a decision based on pain avoidance, but of deciding to laugh in the face of fear of rejection, take the risk, kiss the boy.

It's not that the perfectionism thing doesn't still hang me up, but I'm making strides. It used to be that I would never practice something I'd never tried before in front of other people, for fear of being ridiculed for doing it badly. How stupid, right? How can anyone expect to do something perfectly on the first go, but that would complete me flummox me to the point that I would refuse to try things. Lately, I've tried my hand in a softball batting cage, I've sung in front of people, I've even taken the plunge with a cold reading on the radio, announcing the weather on a small am station for the first time in years. The more things I try, the more I feel in better control of situations, and the less time I spend fretting over the most minute decisions.

As a matter of fact, as soon as we get J through his surgery and healing period, I'm going back to the home improvement projects, and I'm going to paint that damn kitchen. I don't care what color, if I'm in a purple with yellow polka-dots mood that day, so be it. Who the fuck cares, anyway? It'll only be covered with spaghetti sauce spatters and spiderwebs soon anyway. I should save all this nervous brain energy for the big decisions. Like the living room couch pillow colors.

Kidding, I'm just kidding!

Sunday, October 12, 2003

It's Time

Tomorrow we will be going to the hospital for J to have some pre-operative tests, and to meet his surgeon for the first time. I have the strangest feeling, like we should be doing something special before that time comes, like our life together will be defined as before this meeting, and after. In reality, if there should be any such delineation, it should be before the surgery and after, since the surgery will really alter some things either temporarily or, gulp, permanently. Still, something is telling me that tomorrow will be a defining moment, and I am filled with dread.

It's not about being afraid of doctors or hospitals, since between my parents, Lydia, various family members and friends, not to mention my own visits, I am a hospital champ. I have the whole routine down, and it's almost a strange badge of honor that I refer to just a little too proudly, "I am a hospital regular!" But it gives me comfort to feel some sense of control over what is usually out of my control, and it's helpful to me. And to be sure, it's been helpful to other people many times.

For example, it's okay to help with simple things in the hospital, no one will yell at you. Like, unless your loved one is restricted concerning intake of liquids, it's good to know that you do not have to wait for the overworked and understaffed nurses to run and get him a drink. Find out where they keep the pitchers, cups and straws, where the water and ice are dispensed, and let the nursing staff know that you will go get it yourself. If you do this in a helpful and matter-of-fact way, and not in a snotty, fed up kind of way, believe me, the nursing staff will be GRATEFUL that you are pitching in on the simple stuff, rather than hitting that hated nurse call bell every two seconds. And you know what? It shouldn't be this way, but it is - the more pleasant and helpful the patient's family is, the more likely the nurses are to come into the room when the patient REALLY needs them, because they know it'll be about something important, and they will get cooperation and not grief over petty shit. It's human nature, and if you want your person to get good care, you learn how to comport yourself so that they are more likely to get staff attention than the cranky ass in the next room. Sad, but true, in my experience. This is not to say that hospital staff do this on a conscious level, or to accuse them of being anything less than consummate professionals. It's just logical - you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Back to the point, and that was that I'm not concerned about the hospital environment, but about the things that I can't control. J is going to have to endure some more embarrassing and uncomfortable tests. I'm proud of how he's been dealing with all this so far, but there are some really uncomfortable things to be discussed, and there will be a big change in his life, our lives, after surgery, and I wish it would all go away. Meeting with the surgeon will make it very real, indeed.

I want so many things. I wish that things had never gone bad with Lydia, because she was such a comfort in situations like this, and I really wish I could talk to her now. Of course, that's impossible, and with all the unpleasantries gone by, it's absurd. It's more that I wish I could talk to her the way she was a few years ago: reasonable, empathetic, knowledgeable, helpful. And I wish I could talk to my Dad. He could always soothe me when I was anxious.

I wish J's brother seemed more interested in what was happening to J. It hurts me to see how J has to initiate every conversation about his illness, and how his brother just listens without imput, without asking questions, or trying to comfort J. As much as my brother can drive me insane some times, I can't imagine him being as dispassionate as J's brother, if I were the one with cancer. I know it's hurting J, and my heart breaks for him. Is it too close for comfort, and it makes him think too much about his own mortality? Is he more concerned than he shows? Is it not real to him until J seems ill? Does he need to be moaning in the hospital bed before his brother is startled into reality? I don't know him well enough to guess, but it's really troubling.

I wish J's mother wasn't still so fragile after her own health problems, so J could discuss this with her. He's doing the right thing by keeping it from her for the moment, but it would be good if he could talk to her now. He needs support.

I wish that my brother didn't insist on turning every comment I make into a positive, like I am never allowed to express negative or unhappy emotions. As I've said before, I am thankful that this is a curable cancer, and that it seems most likely that surgery will be the only course of action needed to be cancer free. But DAMN IT, I am still allowed to be angry that it is happening in the first place, that J has to suffer, and I'm scared about how well he will cope with it all.

Despite all the time I've spent in hospitals with loved ones, or perhaps because of all of that time, I'm resentful that the powers that be are just so unrelenting with the pain and suffering. I'm grateful for the good things, I can appreciate the good things in life. I get it. Now knock it off with the bad already, okay?

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