When you break open, it happens by surprise

This is what broke me open. The heart attack didn’t do it. The complications from the heart cath and stent of a 90% blocked major artery didn’t do it. A hole in my femoral artery didn’t do it. My disbelief and anger at being told it was all in my head didn’t do it. This tiny bottle did. The moment I saw it today after John brought home all my new prescriptions, I could see my hands fly to my mouth as if in slow motion, and feel the sobs start. This is what broke me open, a bottle of nitroglycerin pills that I will carry in my purse, my blue jeans pocket, my car, my suit jacket, my beautiful hand-painted silk tunic, for the rest of my life. The tears were immediate, hot, unrelenting. I held my incision to reduce the pain from my sobs moving my abdomen up and down, causing paroxysms of hotness. John walked in, wondering, and I held up the bottle, and tried to speak: “This is what Daddy had. This is what he had in his pocket when he died. I found it in the pocket of his blue jeans when we got home from the hospital after he was dead. And I kept it. I kept everything he had in his pockets that day, in a little box. With a tiny bottle of nitroglycerin just like this one.” My words rushed together, largely unintelligible because of the crying. John stood still. I had been young when I carried his clothes home from that hospital, but old enough to recognize the lunging desire to capture...

poetry wednesday: you know that otherwise is coming.

From my hospital bed to you, an old favorite by poet Jane Kenyon: Otherwise 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.   At noon I lay down with my mate. It might have been otherwise. We ate dinner together at a table with silver candlesticks. It might have been otherwise. I slept in a bed in a room with paintings on the walls, and planned another day just like this day. But one day, I know, it will be otherwise. —Jane...

No, you are not an hysterical female, and this is not just anxiety.

  “He’s working with a med student shadowing him today. Do you mind being seen by her first?” In the spirit of education, I said, “No, of course not.” She had long strawberry blond hair and big glasses. We talked. “What brought you here today?” she asked. “Well, I was seen in the ER three weeks ago for a blood clot in my leg and they told me I needed to follow up.” I watched her write down “Deep Vein Thrombosis.” “It wasn’t a deep vein thrombosis, but they did find a blood clot, and told me to follow up with you.” She marked out “Deep Vein Thrombosis” and led me through my recent history since the Bad Fall Onto My Head on November 1st: concussion, double vision, vertigo, blood clot, and now this follow up, which also added recent chest pains to the list. “Yes, a tight band of severe pain across my chest on the least exertion – going to get a cup a tea can cause it. Feels like your lungs feel in extreme cold when you have bronchitis and you take a deep breath. Significant pain and then I have to lie down for it to resolve.” The doctor came in after a bit and explained things more thoroughly with this new audience, teaching while not listening, rather than just not listening. We talked for a while. And then the bottom line, as the doctor talked to the med student. “What we really are dealing with here is anxiety. Because it is anxiety that would take her to the ER on a Saturday with what...

poetry wednesday: the truth about words in a certain order

Anybody Can Write a Poem -Bradley Paul I am arguing with an idiot online. He says anybody can write a poem. I say some people are afraid to speak. I say some people are ashamed to speak. If they said the pronoun “I” they would find themselves floating in the black Atlantic and a woman would swim by, completely dry, in a rose chiffon shirt, until the ashamed person says her name and the woman becomes wet and drowns and her face turns to flayed ragged pulp, white in the black water. He says that he’d still write even if someone cut off both his hands. As if it were the hands that make a poem, I say. I say what if someone cut out whatever brain or gut or loin or heart that lets you say hey, over here, listen, I have something to tell you all, I’m different. As an example I mention my mother who loved that I write poems and am such a wonderful genius. And then I delete the comment because my mother wanted no part of this or any argument, because “Who am I to say whatever?” Once on a grade school form I entered her job as hairwasher. She saw the form and was embarrassed and mad. “You should have put receptionist.” But she didn’t change it. The last word she ever said was No. And now here she is in my poem, so proud of her idiot son, who presumes to speak for a woman who wants to tell him to shut up, but can’t. ____ There is so much I...

What I learn on the orange couch: how to create boundaries for the first time

His shoes are almost always brown. Sometimes, like last week, his socks match his bright green jacket, which I think is worn on days with rain. But I can’t be sure; my evidence is sketchy, inconsistent, and random. I sit across from him, on a nubby burnt orange sofa that feels sturdy and new-ish and is so dark it is almost red; it is long enough for a family of four, depending on the capacity of that family for closeness. Which, perhaps, is the point in his line of work. In May of last year, I started seeing a psychiatrist. I’ve mentioned this before and will mention it again, because it is time for us to shed the stigma that rides alongside mental health interventions, like a puppy in a sidecar, but not as cute. Too many people suffer and die for not stepping into the sunshine to say, “Help me, I’m not waving but drowning,” like my mother, and I won’t be a party to that for myself after spending more than 40 years trying to bring sunshine to her or at the very least, trying to give her the information she needed to know that there was sunshine, somewhere. Note to self, Step One: Stop caring about what others will say. It doesn’t matter and they don’t care anyway. And if they do care? Then they are caring about themselves and not you. Step Two: Stop believing you can bring sunshine to anyone. My visit on that day in May 2015 wasn’t exactly by accident but by proximity instead, an appointment of convenience, you might say. We needed...