Riding Metro North. Don’t Sit Here.

You, yes You, are standing on the platform waiting for the next train. The train approaches.  You flip open an app that displays which seats are open and…the app flashes a profile of your seat mate. Profiles are pulled together using a composite of the individuals’ blog posts, google searches and social media activity. So, what you have here is a form of seat match-making, with no names or addresses disclosed.

You, yes You, see that there are only two seats open. You scan the first profile, and you move to the second, mine, needing to quickly decide where to sit as the train pulls into the station. [Read more…]

Flying Over I-40 N. With the World By the A**.

AA Flight 1150: DFW to LGA.  It’s 5:29 a.m., and I’m standing at the gate waiting to board the first flight out of Dallas. I’m watching the waitlist monitor, KAN.D is on page 2. Wow.  An upgrade to First, for a 6 a.m. boarding, will not happen.

Then confirmed.

“Sorry Sir, the upgrade list is closed.” 14th on the wait list. 14th! A Lifetime Platinum Member…means…Nothing.  I drag my carry-on on board, passing all the smug passengers in first class and take my seat.

The video monitor on the seat in front rotates through flight details:

  • 2 hr 59 min to destination
  • Estimated Arrival Time LGA: 10:35 a.m.
  • Altitude: 28,982.9 (and turbulent)

The GQ interview with Brad Pitt is still fresh…he recalls a conversation with Ryan McGinley…”When you get to be my age, never pass up a bathroom. Never trust a fart…”  And let’s leave the rest to your imagination.

Now that, triggered movement

I cautiously step down the aisle. The ship heaves left and right, a paper airplane battered like a piñata. If He really wanted to lean in here, we’d be dust. There’s something about flying that brings the immediacy of mortality to the forefront, not to the front to First Class of course, but to the front like in Coach.

If you possess a single cell of claustrophobia, you don’t want to be in the lavatory of an Airbus A321S in heavy turbulence.  One hand grips the cool stainless steel hand rail for stability.  The other hand rests on the lap, careful not to touch anything. The floor is wet, the soles of the shoes groan. The midsection is contorted to ensure no body part or article of clothing touches anything, and if I could have levitated above the seat without inflicting a groin pull, I would have done so.  How many before me, sitting here? (Butt) Skin to skin to skin to skin to skin.  I wash my hands, and take one look around this coffin. God, when it’s time, let it be in a grassy field, on a warm sunny day, laying among four-leaf clovers and poppies, and looking up at the bluest of blue skies. The closet closes in. Get me out of here. [Read more…]

Driving I-95 S. With an empty boat.

I glance at the odometer: 80,000 miles. 8 years, 80,000 miles. 80,000.

I read somewhere, some time ago, that the average person has 50,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day.  Reading this sentence was like swallowing a handful of methamphetamines – my mind was galloping.  How did my mind jump from 80,000 miles on the odometer to 80,000 thoughts per day and some article I read x years ago?  Who’s job was it to count these thoughts?  How did they actually count the thoughts? How many humans’ thoughts did they count to get to this average, and over what period to time to make this statistically significant? And then, a hard turn to Me.  Am I average, below or above average, and if so, why? Do those of us who are carry more doubt have 25% more thoughts than those that are more stable?  This last one set off a burst of fireworks.

I’m exhausted chasing this thread.  Repeat: Mantra. Mantra. Mantra. Let it Go. Let it Go. Let it Go.  Or as Val in Finding Your Middle Ground suggests,  “I inhale peace. I exhale release… I inhale peace. I exhale release… I inhale peace. I exhale release.” I grow impatient with this mantra, my breathing accelerates, I cut it down.

Release. Release. Release.

I pause a second or two between each “Release” and reach for the volume button on the radio. No doubt I average over 100,000 thoughts a day. No doubt. And a small percentage of them can even be nurturing.

And It comes back.

A single thought. A thought that recurs, and recurs, crawling over the millions and millions of old thoughts, to stand on top of all thoughts. One experience, one feeling, during a single hour of Life, one thought that flashes back like tinsel. [Read more…]

Driving Merritt Parkway North. With Whale.

Friday evening, late rush hour. Traffic is crawling up the Merritt Parkway, my alternate route for I-95 North. Waze is navigating.

Sirius 70’s on 7 cues up Steve Winwood with Back in High Life Again. Damn tune is more than 30 years old! “From fifty to eighty”, Grace Paley said. “Seconds, not minutes.”

The intermittent stop and go, inches us forward. The pace, is ok. It’s been a long week, a long day, and we’re in full surrender mode. Weekend come, come, come, pick up the pieces. Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall, Humpty Dumpty had a…

It, the day, started at 5:30 am.  Office dark, floor quiet, and I’ve lost myself in a deliverable with a short fuse. A losing of yourself in yourself. The clock is ceaseless, unrelenting, in its march forward: 6:00. 6:30. 7:00. 7:30. 7:45, and all without notice to the occupant in the office.

I save my work. Hit print. Close my eyes for a second. The internal gearing of the laser printer warms, the file contents zip across the cables and Bam! – each of the four pages are spit onto the floor.  I peek at my watch, 8:00 am. Two and a half hours. Wow.

I lift my head from the silvery screen, making a quick break from my opioid, and stand. Too fast. 

The lights dim, the eyes blur, nausea fills the belly. I reach for the arm rest on the chair. Steady Dave, steady. [Read more…]

Feeling Trapped

spiritual-board

When William Campion was in the intensive-care unit (ICU) this month after a double lung transplant, he felt nervous and scared and could breathe only with the help of a machine.

Joel Nightingale Berning, a chaplain at Mr. Campion’s hospital stopped by. He saw that Mr. Campion had a tube in his neck and windpipe, which prevented him from speaking. The chaplain held up a communication board—not the kind used to check a patient’s physical pain and needs, but a “spiritual board” … The board also lets patients rate their level of spiritual pain on a scale of 0 through 10, from none to “extreme.” Mr. Campion, a 69-year-old Catholic, indicated his spiritual pain was acute: 8. Using the picture board, he signaled that he wanted to pray. The chaplain recited the Lord’s Prayer as Mr. Campion followed silently.

ICUs have evolved in recent years and even the critically ill are being sedated less than before. As doctors came to believe that heavy sedation—once the norm in such units—could be harmful, many patients are now breathing with the help of machines, and are conscious…more ICU patients (are) awake and alert.  The fact that these patients can’t communicate adds to their frustration…many patients on these machines feel “trapped.”…They have been intubated, meaning they have a tube in their throat, attached to a machine that is breathing for them….

The 32-year-old chaplain, who is nondenominational, persuaded a fellow chaplain—Seigan Ed Glassing, a Zen Buddhist monk who had studied art—to help illustrate the board. The two included a range of faiths and belief systems, including Christian, Jewish and Hindu, as well as New Age, Pagan and agnostic. Colorful icons offer patients the option of a prayer or confession, or simply to have someone hold their hand. Chaplain Glassing said he loved figuring out “what would a blessing look like,” or how to draw “make [me] an altar.” A favorite: depicting someone asking to be read a poem.

The study, with results published last August in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, looked at 50 ICU patients who were offered spiritual care through the board. Researchers measured patients’ anxiety before and after the chaplain came, concluding that “anxiety after the first visit decreased 31%.”

Among patients who survived, 81% “felt more at peace,” while 71% felt “more connected with what is sacred.”

~ Lucette Lagnado, excerpts from A ‘Spiritual Board’ Brings Comfort to the Critically Ill


Post inspired and triggered by two of my favorite movies: The Bell and The Butterfly and The Sea Inside.

Walking Cross-Town. Teetering on myself.

head-cold-mist-jpg

Day 0: Friday morning, not yesterday, a week ago. Flying down I-95, light traffic. I’m lip syncing America’s Ventura Highway: “Chewing on a piece of grass…Walking down the road…Cause the free wind is blowin’ through your hair.” I flick through the day’s calendar as I pull into the parking garage. Light. Nice ramp into the weekend. What Bliss is This?

By day’s end, Bliss is way amiss. Whether from a hand shake, or splashed in the air from a cough or a sneeze, or from an infected keyboard at a guest office, the virus is planted in the eye, it spreads to the tear duct and then to the nose – and we jackknife from Bliss to → Far-From-Bliss-Miserable-Son-of-A-Bitch.

Patience, a short string on sunny days, is a gator snapping. Sick man, with head cold, brooding.

The nasal secretion flows uninterrupted.  I roll the smooth, orange-crush colored LiquiCaps in the palm of my hand. Marbles! Days are measured by DayQuil feedings, ingested at 4 hour intervals and then relieved at bedtime by NyQuil. The Vick’s team is on the field 24 x 7.

I’m squinting at the DayQuil packaging. Multi-Symptom Relief. I flip it over, and the font shrinks to something less than 5 point. What a**hole at Vick’s thinks I can read this sh*t? A commercial conspiracy I’m sure, to disguise dosage levels to keep juicing. [Read more…]

It could not even see or hear. It simply smelled and tasted and touched its world

snail-elizabeth-tova-bailey

I finished this book a month ago and it hasn’t left my consciousness. Who would have thought a book about a snail would have so captured my attention, and held it for so long.  Here’s the book summary from Amazon:

“While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world. Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal…told with wit and grace, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.”

And here’s a few memorable passages:

“…I observed without thinking, looking into the terrarium simply to feel connected to another creature; another life was being lived just a few inches away.”

“By day, the strangeness of my situation was sharpest: I was bed-bound at a time when my friends and peers were moving forward in their careers and raising families. Yet the snail’s daytime sleeping habits gave me a fresh perspective; I was not the only one resting away the days. The snail naturally slept by day, even on the sunniest of afternoons. Its companionship was a comfort to me and buffered my feelings of uselessness.”

“…my snail could not see the moss over which it glided or even the plants it climbed. It could not see the trees, nor the stars overhead. It could not hear birdsong at daybreak, nor the midnight howls of coyotes. It could not even see or hear its own kin, let alone a predator. It simply smelled and tasted and touched its world.” [Read more…]

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

cereal-peach-breakfast

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

~ Jane Kenyon, from “Otherwise in Collected Poems. The poem was written shortly before Kenyon died of leukemia at age 47.

 


Photo: Christopher Gould

Be Better

better-person-8-articlelarge

NY Times 11 Ways to Be a Better Person in 2017:

Second annual semi-serious list of self-improvement tips, gleaned from the Styles stories that resonated most with readers in 2017. Here’s how to be healthy, happy and a little bit Canadian in 2017.” (And if you’d like to go deeper, our 15 tips for 2016 still hold up.)”

When Is It OK to Eat Chocolate? (About all the bloody time)

truffle-chocolate

Excerpts from Ellen Byron and Tanya Rivero discussing “When Is It OK to Eat Chocolate?” (along with DK’s reality check):

  • Really, it is OK to eat chocolate if it’s the fancy stuff. That’s what we’re telling ourselves. (DK: Not sure I’m telling myself exactly this…I am repeating, “it’s ok, DK, it’s ok, go ahead. It’s ok to eat 4 pieces in one sitting.)
  • Nearly half of chocolate eaters say they look for premium ingredients…they say that’s their health-permissibility factor. (DK: More health research that will be overturned in 10 years. Margarine over butter anyone?)
  • There’s no point in going to a gym and then downing a huge bar of cheap milk chocolate. There’s every point in going to a gym and then downing a small portion of a nice, deep chocolate. (DK: Come on. There’s every point in downing a huge bar of any kind of chocolate and then ‘thinking’ about going to the gym.)
  • Offering portion control also helps chocolate eaters feel good… (DK: Who feels good with portion control? Who? Introduce me to that human.)
  • Lindt’s Excellence bars, which are wrapped in foil and white cardboard, are designed for a “ritualistic” experience. “Consumers take care to rip the foil gently, then break a square off, then roll the foil back up…It’s meant to withstand that type of consumption where you might eat one square or two squares a day. (DK: Ritualistic? Yes, like Human Sacrifice. One or two squares a day? Laughable.)
  • New $7 chocolate bars from Godiva have indented squares that fit a thumb so eaters can snap off one bite at a time. ‘People love to have a bar of chocolate tucked away in their brief case, backpack or purse. (DK: Who can keep chocolate tucked away for more than three minutes anywhere, and especially in a brief case or purse? Who? As to indented squares to enable portion control? Ha! That’s just for better gripping a $7 Godiva morsel so it doesn’t hit the ground while you are shoveling…)
  • The relatively small amount of sugar in a piece of premium chocolate from Godiva doesn’t worry consumers the way other sweets might. “Having a small bit of chocolate isn’t the thing that’s going to kill you.” (DK: Totally right. Expensive Godiva Chocolate is totally exempt from the ills of sugar addiction – absolutely!)
  • Ms. Choma avoids buying large bars for her daily chocolate treat, fearing she’ll eat too much in one sitting. Instead (she) keeps individually wrapped chocolate truffles in her pantry. “It’s just the right size, so you don’t feel guilty,” she says. She’s mindful of antioxidants and other health benefits of chocolate, but mostly focuses on how much she likes the taste. “That’s my brain benefit,” she says. (DK: There’s a lot to digest here. But let’s just jump on the close.  Antioxidants? Goobledygook.  Brain benefit? Ho! Really?!?)
  • “We see people looking for little rewards all the time.” (DK: And we deserve it!)

Photo: Joann Hofer from XchocolArt in Carmel, Indiana with Blueberry Truffle Christmas Gift Organic Chocolate made with Blueberries, cream and luscious chocolate. (Source: Etsy.com)

%d bloggers like this: