Recently something scary happened – I won’t bore you with details (is there anything more awful than hearing people talk about their medical issues?) – but here’s the summary: I got sick, collapsed, went to hospital at 4am, had surgery the next day.
I’m fine, physically.
The whole thing, although minor on the physical scale, was grand on the psychic scale. It made me think Big Thoughts about why I’m here, what kind of life I want to live…all the things we do when we get frightened and realize that health and life are precious.
Have I ever told you about my obsession with clean slates?
This is one. Moving, surgery, thinking differently about how I live, how I hope to live and who I choose to live with…this, I know, is a defining moment.
When I was in the ER, I overheard the stories of other patients. Two stood out. One was a young/old man: born in 1969, so just four years older than me, but he looked a hundred. He was there because he drank Lysol and rubbing alcohol until he nearly died. But he was proud that he didn’t “do rock, not like some other people.”
At 5.30 am, a 17 year old girl was brought in by police and paramedics. I heard them explaining the case to the doctor: assaulted in a park by “multiple parties”, bruising, swelling but no broken bones. I listened to her give her statement to the police woman: she was partying in the park, got in a car with some people she didn’t know, one of the girls thought she was hitting on her boyfriend, and all the girls beat her, hitting her over and over until she passed out. When she came to, she walked to a nearby 7-11 to call police.
When she was talking to the police officer, she sounded young and helpless. She cried quietly.
Then her mother arrived. Her mother gasped and sobbed in shock at the sight of her daughter’s smashed and swollen face. She wept, telling her daughter over and over again, “I love you, I love you so much.”
The teen got angry, brittle, hard: “Quit crying. I’m fine.”
And in that exchange I sensed a whole story: the rebellious young girl, putting herself in harm’s way and then dismissing the consequences.
Just like the young-old man, drinking poison but insisting he wasn’t trying to kill himself. Putting himself in harm’s way but minimizing the consequences.
The young girl and the young-old man are extreme versions of all of us. We’re looking to feel, looking to numb. We’re willing to put ourselves in harm’s way.
Listening to the lives of these people unravel in the ER (much like mine was), and later on MSN, listening to a friend, I realized that sometimes we structure our lives like a primal, blood-and-guts Groundhog Day – less the learning. We do the same things over and over, repeat the same mistakes, over and over, and all of it is a form of waiting, delaying, distraction, death.
There is no waiting for life, or love. It is here now. Live it, protect it, french-kiss it. Over and over again. Please.