The thing about age is that you don’t need to take your finger and poke the corpse. You know it’s dead. You mourn the apathy, not the loss. And you walk through the door; you don’t slam it. You don’t turn around. You just don’t love them anymore.
I just had a conversation with the nurse who’s taking care of me. I’m as open in my life so people share with me. She’s very sick. I won’t reveal her illness. But it’s severe. We talked about two things. We talked about having an illness that isn’t noticeable. The wound nurse treated my foot ulcer last night. It’s an open bleeding sore. It’s obvious. But when you have an illness someone can’t see, it’s dismissed. We talked about not wanting sympathy – merely wanting acknowledgement. I told her that I’ve lost most of my friends since I’ve been sick. I didn’t know why. And then she told me. I love she had my answer. “People don’t want the emotional responsibility of you.” I love that. So true.
And then we talked about hatred. I’ve noticed there’s an undercurrent of snide and snippy in conversations. I feel like people are ready to pounce. I had a conversation with a buddy the other day. As I spoke I felt like he snatched the words from my air. It was nearly violent. And the nurse and I talked about it. She feels it too.
Lately I feel sad and bitter and hopeless and full of hate. That’s not like me. That’s not who I am. I need to change that. I won’t let my soul become wounded. And I can’t inflict my sadness and hopelessness on others. So. Hopefully the docs will be able to adjust my meds to a reasonable and livable baseline. I’m going to concentrate on my play. And I’m going to tuck my writing aside and not gush until I’m certain I can control the flow.
You know how people drunk text? (Oh I’ve done that. That’s why I delete an Ex’s number the moment we break up.) But I don’t drink anymore. So I write when I’m filled with emotions. Someone should probably take away my keys. (Is that why they call it a keyboard?) I think I use Facebook wrong. I use it to face my fears. I post to face my facts. Maybe I should’ve kept everything at face value. Doesn’t really matter either way. I thought about the idiom “save face.” Yeah. I’d say it’s time I did that.
I write my wounds. Every day.
And people ask me why I do. I don’t know. I just do. And often my words come back to bite my ass. Often I’m still the punchline. And even at this age, it hurts to get punched.
Last week I stood in my kitchen and made a grilled cheese (lent) sandwich with provolone cheese. And I thought, I used to work in a deli. All at once I wanted someone (anyone) to know I had worked in a deli. I wanted someone to be aware of that fact. I didn’t want it to be forgotten. And I know how foolish that is. Who gives a shit? But I fear I’ll be forgotten. And I know it doesn’t matter that I worked in a deli. I knew my lack of proportion. But it’s the fact that’s disproportional; it’s not the fear. And I know that.
And I know I’m not read anymore. But sometimes it matters more it’s in words than whether or not it’s read. So. I’ll blurt without edit.
I had such a lovely weekend. I’ve had a lovely week. I thought today about 55. I’m almost 55 years old. You know what’s great about 55? I’ve learned balance. I can do balance.
Physically the weekend has sucked. The medicine doesn’t seem to be working anymore. I’m weak and I’m having trouble breathing. I’m so nauseous and I’m so lightheaded that I’m having difficulty trusting my actions. But it’s okay. I’m not afraid anymore. My foot is now bleeding from three separate ulcers. I’m using 4×4 gauze pads, gauze, & surgical tape to wrap my foot. It’s okay. I’m not afraid anymore.
I took my parents on a car ride today. I wanted to show them the potential theaters for my play. The theater I had chosen is closing May 17, so I’m searching for a space again. While driving around MPLS I saw so many bicyclists and I started to cry. I’ll never bike again. Biking was huge to me. And I’ll tell you why.
When I was a boy I rejected sports. I saw the cruelty of competition so I stopped competing. It was a very difficult moral decision. It meant I excluded myself from most male activities and consequently I wasn’t included in male friendships. I had a lonely childhood. It was easy to label me gay since I wasn’t like most boys. And homophobia was as prevalent in the 70s as pot. I began to question my masculinity. But not my sexuality. I knew I was straight; I worried I was less a man. Eventually I discovered the joy of companionship with the opposite sex and I’ve spent a huge chunk of my life enjoying the company of women. But I did miss male companionship. As I aged, I developed fruitful male friendships. But there remains a gap in every group. I have very limited knowledge and no talent of sports. So in many ways I can’t participate in the sport of masculine conversation.
Until I bicycled.
I love bicycles. I love the physical challenge and the achievement of the physical activity. And in a very real way – I felt more masculine. I felt more like a man.
So today when I saw the bicyclists, I wept.
I won’t bicycle anymore.
And then I saw my sin. My perspective is wrong. I shouldn’t lament something I can’t do. I should be grateful for something I did. And I silently bowed my head with gratitude for the moments of joy I experienced.
Yes. My foot is bleeding. But you know what? At this very moment I have 7 friendships that are direct descendants of my foot problems. I wouldn’t have met these men or formed these friendships without the trauma to my toes. Now I reject the whole Pollyanna bullshit as unrealistic and simpleminded so I’m not going to claim the friendships were worth the costs of my toes. But I am aware that life is a balance of scales.
I’ve had a great life. I have great friends. I’m grateful for the moments of joy I’ve experienced.
I don’t sleep anymore. I’ve spent the last couple of hours watching YouTube videos proving Amy Schumer steals jokes (I’m so over her but I don’t have the heart to listen to the sadness of The BBC anymore so YouTube is my distraction) and now I’m watching the ceiling and accepting the fact I can’t sleep anymore. It’s so difficult to describe how I feel. It’s so odd to have my entire life change so quickly.
Too quickly to accept.
I went to see a doctor about a cold and he said I had an irregular heartbeat and he ordered tests.
And now I can’t walk to the corner with my sister without stopping every couple of houses to rest. How did that happen? How do I accept that?
How do you accept that one day you can’t ride a bicycle or take a shower without sitting on the edge of the tub to rest or that talking takes the voice control you learned in choir just to hold your voice steady? Do you explain that’s why you go hours each day without spoken words or why you don’t answer your phone? How do you accept that you can’t participate in conversations like you used to?
How do you accept that shopping physically costs or that now you’re so dizzy you worry about the responsibility of driving?
How do you accept the waiting? Waiting to see whether the medicines that make you feel so awful will correct a problem that’s deteriorated over the last couple of months of medicine.
How do you accept can’t? How do you explain the difference between can’t and won’t?
How do you accept the fear? The fear of being forgotten? The fear of being a burden?
How do you accept the selfishness of sickness? How do you explain you can’t listen because all you hear is your pulse in your head? How do you explain you can’t feel empathy or sympathy because you’re preoccupied with feeling your heartbeats as they run like small sparks across your chest? How do you explain that you’re consumed with monitoring the illness that’s consuming all your physical strength? How do you explain you’re heartless because your heart is less?
How do you accept that bed has become your purgatory? How do you accept that you can’t sleep because of the sober spins? How do you accept the exhaustion of attempting to steady yourself and trying to stop the rapid revolutions? How do you accept that the jitters that rob you of rest and how do you accept the nightly terrors that you may not have rest the rest of your life?
But I’m accepting it. I accept I can’t be impulsive. Impulse. Am pulse. Never considered that connection until I just typed it on my phone. I can’t be impulsive anymore. I plan my movements. Everything is measured. I sat today and I judged when I should stand up because when I stand I have to steady my stance because I’m so lightheaded.
And I accept that the medicines have changed me. Constant dizziness and constant nausea are the artifacts. And I need to accept feeling like I’m drunk may be my new normal.
Anyone who knows me knows i constantly examine my conscience. It’s what I do. In my youth I was such a liar that now I’m driven toward authenticity. How is one authentic when every move is measured and every word is guarded? I don’t know.
But Mark R. Trost isn’t Mark R. Trost anymore.
And I have to accept that. I’ve lost so much in the last couple of months. In a way I’ve lost my identity. I’m not a writer anymore. When you measure each action and reaction you lose your confidence. I’ve lost my confidence. The impetus of my writing was my confidence in my enlightenment but now I live in darkness of loss.
So now I ask for acceptance too. I need people to accept that I’m a shell until I find my emotional fuel again. I need people to accept that I can’t find confidence right now so they’ve got to accept my fragility. I need people to accept I can’t be lighthearted. My heart is heavy. I need people to accept I don’t want the responsibility of having an emotional response. I need people to accept that all of this is incomprehensible to me. And I’m not used to that. I’m not accustomed to being confused.
I need people to understand “it could be worse” are rote words to my ears. No. To me this can’t be worse. Heart Failure has stolen my actions and reactions. My very essence as a man was my immediate emotional, spiritual, and intellectual spontaneity. I lived in every moment and I lived every moment. And now that essence is dead. And I don’t know how to accept that.
Today I sat on the examining table at my podiatrist’s office as he debrided my foot. I realized that my foot has bled for a couple of days shy of 6 months. My heart doesn’t function well enough to send enough blood to my extremities to heal the wound. And as I prepared to leave his office, I occupied the examining room for too long because I didn’t have enough energy to pull on my socks and put on my shoes. As I struggled, I prayed I had enough control to prevent me from vomiting from weakness. As I walked down the hall to the elevator I worried I didn’t have enough energy to walk to my car. While on the first floor I walked so slowly and I felt so exhausted that I didn’t have enough strength to steady myself. A man was kind enough to offer to get me a wheelchair.
I spent the rest of the day worried about whether or not I had enough money to make the necessary arrangements for the end of my life. Now I’m not really a dramatic man; I’ve very pragmatic. I’m nearly 55 years old. I have a poorly functioning heart- with too many beats, an aortic aneurysm, and an ejection fraction of about 31%. I know my heart isn’t strong enough to maintain itself with 3 different issues attacking it. So. With the intention of kindness to my loves, I’ve arrived at the conclusion I haven’t done enough. I need to make final preparations. Just in case.
And I realized my perspective has changed since my diagnosis. I’ve written so much about the can’t and the couldn’t.
But today I realized I think about enough.
All the time.
Have I done enough?
Am I good enough?
Do I have enough faith to endure?
Do I have enough time to fulfill my familial obligations?
Do I have enough resources to maintain a sustainable standard of living?
Does my heart function enough to keep me alive?
Will the new medicine work well enough to avoid future procedures I can’t afford and they don’t perform at my healthcare organization?
Are there enough physicians in my state to perform the new procedure? My doctor thinks there are 2 in Minnesota who perform it.
Have I achieved enough to have a worthy legacy?
Have I been kind enough?
Have I offered enough contrition?
Will I ever get enough sleep?
Do I have enough money to bury myself? Do I have enough money for a coffin and a headstone and a plot? I’m smart enough to know that I don’t have enough time to procrastinate.
Do I have enough courage?
Does God know I’ve had enough?
I don’t know how much more I can take.
I need mercy.
Daily I write sentences or paragraphs and tuck them in my cloud. I usually don’t want to lose the thought and I intend to edit the words or expand the concept. And then about once every couple of months I peruse the documents and delete them. Well, if I didn’t see the merit then …? I started this practice years ago. Then I scribbled and filed.
I found this piece tonight. I don’t intend to edit it and I don’t see the need to expand it. Yet I don’t want to abandon it. Because of all the cardiology things going on inside me, it resonates in a completely different manner now. I’m glad I kept it aside.
The heart is the most self seeking organ in the body. It merely gauges a personal reaction to an action. Consider the physical pyramid: the heart lies in the center but the mind is the pinnacle. A man’s most prized possession is his conscience. It’s the seat of his justice and the reminder of his obligations. If you want to offer humanity your greatest gift, offer your assistance. Don’t offer your heart; offer your help. The fundamental flaw of The Wizard of Oz is that they asked for all the wrong things. The yellow brick road led Dorothy back to where she began.