Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind

What a difference an hour of blubbering in front of one’s therapist can do to spray away the sticky mental spooge of a day spent in complete anxiety.
A dank, stanky place that’s like a cloak, heavy as a lead pants suit, where all you can do is sink into the darkness of your own deviant thoughts.
Today’s word is survival.
My psychiatrist (a good and wise man, who actually apologized for one potty-mouth comment; jeez, what he thinks of my colorful-as-a-sailor vernacular in the white-heat phosphorus of my emotions) was smart enough to stay out of the path of my train wreck, where I was able to truly feel several emotions that I tried in earnest to feel across this week of weeks in the spooge.
He gently scolded; he told me to ease up on myself (“You’ve been kicked enough, don’t you think? Stop kicking yourself.”)
He gave me homework.
A book.
“Deep Survival, Who Lives, Who Dies and Why,” by Laurence Gonzales. It weaves tales of backcountry survival with science – namely the way our brains work in everyday stressful situations. I got 108 pages into it yesterday and bought the last copy at Barnes & Noble so I could start highlighting passages (I don’t think he wanted his book back all underlined in fluorescent orange and yellow).
Gonzales works on the principal that there are people in the world who are “cool;” people who “…turned fear and anger into focus and ‘focus’ is just a metaphorical way of saying that they were able to concentrate their attention on the matter at hand (pp. 24).”
Concentrate on the matters at hand. Stop kicking myself. Focus (which sometimes is a misnomer; often, we need to look at the bigger picture to see that we’re about to get our hairy asses in a whole mess of trouble).
And that brings me to dad. He is a survivor; he’s one cool motherfucker. I’ve been witness to several acts of survival – being run over by a car just the most recent – that have always had me in awe of this relatively simple man.
Who can do extraordinary things whenever called upon.
The doctors all huddled today, and dad has decided to try and save his leg.
Surgeons drilled into an ankle bone last week, where they discovered the source of the infections. It was a bone damaged in the original accident on Sept. 6, and it had everything to do with all the crap that has happened since.
There’s also has the pressure would, which simply will not heal.
The process will include pulling a muscle from either the foot or the calf to cover the two wounds, then let the plastic surgeon come in and skin graft it.
The process has a 50-50 chance of success.
If it doesn't work, he'll still lose his leg below the knee in as soon as six weeks. They won’t fit him with a peg leg for another three to four weeks. He’ll lose even more freedom.
And he’s OK with it.
“I've lost Marcia, and this is just a leg,” he told me. “Big deal.”
And the cool reality settles in.
My troubles are a bit paler in comparison (and I must say here, my biggest fear in this life is losing an appendage; I cannot begin to wrap my head around what he’s had to go through these last four days).
Gonzales writes:
“The first rule is: Face reality. Good survivors aren’t immune to fear. They know what’s happening and it does ‘scare the shit out of’ them. It’s all a question of what you do next.”
Dad will either walk out of the hospital on the two feet he was born with, or he’ll roll out in a wheelchair with nearly half his leg missing (which begs the question – what do you do with it? Bury it in the family plot? Put it on ice? Send it to a taxidermist? Weird choices, to be sure).
And he’ll go on, either way.
Because he’s so fucking cool.
And he has a warped sense of humor, which I was somewhat surprised to learn how deep and wonderful it went.
Gonzales writes, “There is evidence that laughter can send chemical signals to actively inhibit the firing of nerves in the amygdala, thereby dampening fear. Laughter, then, can help to temper negative emotions.”
So I hold out hope for myself (another warped individual with a warped sense of humor).
That I, too, will come out on the other side - maybe not whole, but complete.
Face reality. Know that the path I’m on is one scary bitch of a roller-coaster ride. Process on where to go next.
Begin living my life. Begin loving again.
I start with a pretty good working knowledge of this man (who I love absolutely) and go from there. I hook it with (hopefully) inherited genetics and the mental bookmarks of my youth (“You were such a happy-go-lucky kid who jumped into everything feet-first,” my dad told me during another tough stretch in 1996. “And you didn’t just try things, you succeeded in everything you tried. I have always envied that about you.” Whoa.) and know that maybe, just maybe, there’s still a lot of coolness left in me.
It’ll start with being there for my dad. It’ll spread to being there for my friends and family.
It’ll continue with being there for myself – and relying on the kindness and love of family and friends to be there for me, too.
Cool, huh?


Anonymous said...

I've got to get that book. It sounds great. Stick with it man... I know you'll get through this.