Too Much Too

11“We weren’t at the wrong time,” she shook her head and lifted the wineglass to her lips. “There was just too much of an age difference.” She took a sip and set down the glass.

“My God that was ten years ago. I was a kid!” He laughed. “I’m still too old for you.”

“So, tell me about your heart.”

It was his turn to shake his head. “No. I don’t want to turn this into that. Let’s do the catching up thing and the reminiscing thing.”

He looked at pictures of her daughter; she heard about his play.

She interrupted him, “Was I in it?”

“One scene. I’ll send you a copy. I gave the only copy I brought with me to a friend of mine tonight. Did you want to order an appetizer of something?” He sat down his emptied highball. “They have great food here. I ate dinner here tonight.”

“No. I’m fine.”

“It’s so late. I’m really glad you came to meet me.”

She smiled and sat straight on the stool. “So why are you here? Explain it to me.”

“Well, I’m hoping to ghostwrite another autobiography. I don’t know if I’ll get it or not. And then I met with some investors. We’re talking about investing in a play and premiering it here.”

“That sounds exciting! Would you move to Chicago?”

“I don’t know. It’s all at the preliminary stages. The wallet guy likes how I write but he didn’t like the play. He thought it was too narrow to be a commercial success. But,” he stopped when the waitress approached and ordered another Manhattan. “So the idea is that I write another play. Something more traditional. And if he likes it, they’ll finance it. I told him I’d email him an outline when I get home. Which will be a feat because I haven’t one Goddamned clue what the play will be about!” He laughed.

“You’ve never had trouble with that.”

“Would you like another one?” He pointed to her emptied glass.

“Sure.” She reached across the table and patted the top of his hand. “So tell me. Who are you seeing? What’s new on the dating front?”

He saw the ring on her finger as it caught the light. “No one.” He sat back into his stool and crossed his arms over his chest. “I hate how I look with this weight. So I haven’t any confidence at all. And with the heart shit, I just can’t see getting a woman interested enough to want to join in on this death march.”

“Do you have anyone with you during all of this?”

“Well, my family. Of course. But no. Seriously I’m not seeing anyone. I was interested in someone but she made it quite clear she wasn’t interested in me. And that’s okay. And what the hell. It’s okay. I didn’t take it personally. I’m not me anymore. Not right now.” The waitress brought his drink and he ordered another glass of wine for her.

“How many have you had tonight?”

“I’m okay.” He took a sip. “I’m staying here. I just need to get to the fourth floor.”

“I’m concerned about your heart.”

“Yeah, you’re right. I’m drinking too much. I’m just so Goddamned depressed. And I can’t pull out of it.”

“Have you thought about getting a little professional help?”

“I am. I am seeing someone.”

“Good.”

“I’m so glad you met me tonight. I’ve missed you.”

“Have you?”

“Sure. You’re a big part of my life. I couldn’t come to Chicago and not see you. I don’t know if I’ll see you again.” His sadness caught his sentence in the middle of his throat. “Do you ever miss me?”

“No.” She rubbed his forearm. “I’m too busy to miss you. I work all the time and I have a husband who doesn’t like that I work all the time and I have a daughter I see 10 minutes a day.”

“Are you sorry you did the doctor thing?”

“No. I love it. I’m just busy. Nothing more than that.”

“I was a fool to let you go.”

“Truth be told Mark,” she looked into his eyes, “you never really had me.”

“I know. I was too old for you.”

“No. You were too much for me.”

“Let’s talk about something else.” He took a gulp of his drink. “What’s the rents like downtown?”

“Depends on where you want to live.”

“What’s wrong with Michigan Avenue?”

She laughed, “Well, you’d have to write one helluva play!”

The Selfishness of Sickness

SleeplessI 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.

Recapture

Untitled

It’s the helplessness. It’s the less of control.

That’s what disease does. It strips your supremacy. Your body assaults you. Stealth. Without threats. One day you’re a prisoner of a war captured by a new reality: impotence.

One day you can’t. Each day the can’ts accumulate. And soon you’re surrounded by the couldn’ts. I couldn’t for more than a year. I couldn’t ride a bicycle or walk a block or lose the weight or heal the ulcer or breathe without labor or say consecutive sentences or risk the heartbreak or control my coulds.

And my will withered.

This weekend I compelled myself. I willed myself erect. I willed myself engaged. I willed myself to accomplish. I stood up, I spoke up, and I achieved. It was difficult standing on that stage. But I did it. I recovered my remains. And I resurrected my hope.

I resuscitated my dignity. I reclaimed the reign of my dominion of myself.

After a performance, I stood beside one of my closest friends. One of the circle who matter most. And my illness attacked me while I was the most vulnerable. I suffered the third most humiliating moment of my 55 years. I spoke my horror aloud and my friend soothed with a simple, “fuck it.” And at the moment – he rescued my pride. An exhale later I reclaimed my control.

I can’t control the attacks against my heart. Congestive heart failure is an insatiable beast. But I can control my reply.

This weekend I replied.

 

(Photo courtesy of www.quora.com)

Autumnal Leavings

autumn_leaves_PNG3601Tonight: dress rehearsal for UNZIPPED. And yet, it’s not. I don’t have dress rehearsals anymore. I’m too sick. Now everything is a performance. I’m pushing all my powers to perform my necessary tasks.

Yesterday I had lunch with a buddy. As I walked down the hall to the restaurant I grew afraid. I’d never felt so ill. I slid onto the stool and I steadied myself. I considered what I should do. I knew I should go to the hospital. But – I have a play this week. Too many people are counting on me. Too much money is at stake. Coupled with medical bills? Too much debt to incur. I excused myself and walked to the restroom. I balanced each palm on the porcelain and I looked at myself in the mirror. I prayed aloud, “Please don’t let me die.”

An aside about side effects: now I have short term memory loss and sweats so thick it’s like goo. An actor who’s having trouble with his memory on the eves of his performances. And the script isn’t even  horror. An understudy? I’ve overstudied. I’ll perform. I’ve learned how to endure. I’ve endured the last year of heart aches.

At the sink I splashed the coldest water to cool my clammed skin, and I steadied my feet. I walked back to the restaurant and I resat on the stool.

I’m living with a pulse that hovers in the 40s. I can’t lose weight and my body is weighted with the physical weary until I must pace to advance. Chair to chair. Step to step. Task to task.

I’m pushing myself until October 18. Please God – a successful procedure.

Please God a successful play.

I remind myself of O’Henry. I hope this isn’t my last of my leaves. I’ve always wanted to leave my Mark. I just never thought of it all so literally.

Enough

at_exam-roomToday 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.

Endings.

20161105_062657“So tell me how this ends.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“I want to know the ending.”

“Oh. It won’t be sudden. Your heart will just stop. Like it would for someone elderly.”

“Okay. Because I’m afraid to go to sleep.”

“It won’t be a heart attack.”

“Okay.”

“Anything else?”

“So ten to fifteen years? I’m only 55.”

“Let’s be more optimistic than that.”

“Okay.”

I’ve Contained Myself

playpen_by_britishducksI stood in the hall of the hospital and tried to explain myself to a man who knows me well. “I’m not afraid to die. I’m not.” I protested. “It’s just that everything has been redefined. They’ve put me on a timeline. Now I have boundaries. I’m like a child who’s been put in a playpen. Every time I turn I face a fence.”

That’s how I feel: redefined.

And confined.

But I’m not afraid to die.

I’ve never written about death. I’ve never really thought about it before. But now I think of it every day.

Sunday night I sat in a chair and watched a comedy concert. I think Kathleen Madigan’s comedy is genius. All at once I had a thought: my heart is a time bomb. And I felt panicked. I wait for my heart to fail. I don’t know when; they don’t know when. So I wait.

So I’ve thought about death. A lot.

For the first time, I’ve understood suicide. I’m not suicidal. I’m a Roman Catholic. I believe in heaven, hell, and purgatory. I do. Suicide is not an option to me. But I understand it now. It’s about the waiting. It’s about the desperation. It’s a can in the midst of can’t. It’s difficult to be confined in can’t.

I’ve spent a life battling biology with spirituality. I’ve defined myself as a spiritual being. And now I’m redefined as a biological being. Biology has taken precedence over spirituality. Caring for my body is paramount because my body is happening. The spiritual is pending.

And I know that death is just a biological evolution.

I’m redefined in my relationships. I’m the man in need not the man with resources. And I’m confined by the redefinition.

Biologically my body is failing. I can’t control my body’s reactions. I chose actions. And those chosens begat consequences. I can’t control the biological reactions.

I have to redefine my actions and my essence.

I’m not afraid to die.

I’m afraid I can’t live contained.

(Photo courtesy of BritishDucks)