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Monday, August 26, 2013

A Word on Vices

I'd like to talk about the things that kill us: Vices. 

What a week. A diagnostic one. A trip to the doctor this past monday found me urinating in a cup for a quick analysis, then my blood drawn and sent to the lab for further tests. The doctor suspected something, but stayed uncommitted. She told me to go home and rest. I did. I spent the day on the couch, nursing a headache. Overcome by lethargy, blurry vision, and insatiable thirst, I watched TV, slept, ate and drank water. I thought I had cancer. 

Tuesday I stayed in bed most of the day. Slept. I slipped in and out of consciousness and refrained from eating sugar. Irritable, I fought with my wife for no reason; maudlin, I cried over nothing. 

Wednesday, I began feeling better. I even told a joke or two. Seeing my wife smile was a wonderful thing. I wrote. I waited for the blood reports to come in. Whatever news it would give me would be awful, I knew, but there was a slight hope, a chance that I might be spared the fate that killed my grandmother and my grandfather. 

Thursday, the doctor called me. Her suspicions were confirmed. She said I have type 2 diabetes, advanced stage. She says I must have had it for years. My heart sank. What else? She said my LDL cholesterol was at critical levels. She ordered me to see her diabetes specialist Dr. Hana the following day. I  made the appointment online. 

Friday, my wife and I drove to San Francisco to the medical clinic, met with Dr. Hana. After another urine analysis she suggested I check into a hospital. I refused. What was all this fuss? We settled on a different plan. I would drink a gallon of water, eat a light breakfast and see her in a couple of hours. 

While at breakfast Dr. Hana called. She said she spoke to her colleagues about my case and they ordered her to order me to the ER. Her voice sounded urgent. I told her I would drive back to Napa, where we live, and check into Queen of the Valley. 

I spent a night in the ER. The nurses set up a saline drip that pumped fluid into my veins. Every few hours a nurse or doctor would visit me and check my blood pressure, inject me with insulin, give me pill to swallow. I slipped in and out of consciousness. 

Through it all my wife's love and care and attention sustained me. She saved my life. Every few hours I was taught the facts of diabetes, how to manage it. The nurses instructed me on how to use the blood glucose monitor, how to inject myself with insulin. The nutritionist visited me to teach me how to read the food labels on packaging. I was handed packets to read, all while my head felt ready to burst. 

The reality: I am a diabetic. My relationship to food and drink has instantly changed. I am no longer free to eat and drink what I want, to abuse my body with alcohol, nicotine, sodas, coffee, cream, fatty bacon and red meat, et. al. I am forced by my failed pancreas to inject myself four times a day with insulin, consume pills to keep me alive. 

I know that by following a proper diet and getting plenty of exercise and rest, I can overcome my dependence on insulin and the drugs, but that reality seems far-fetched at this moment. Right now, I am, no pun intended, digesting this new situation. It is sobering to think that a man who has never been in the hospital (except for the day he was born), who has never broken a bone, or undergone surgery of any kind, now has to face this life-threatening disease. Will my toes be amputated? Will I go blind? Will I lose my hearing? Writers are trained to see the glass half empty. 

There is more to say and it is late and I am dizzy from the insulin shot that burns in my stomach and works its way through my system. There is more for me to say and I will say it. I will try. I only hope I have the words. At this moment, I don't have perspective. Not yet. This feeling in me is still raw. 







Monday, August 12, 2013

A Quick Note on Editing

A bit of honesty right here. I struggle with reading. I struggle with writing. Now that I am in the editing phase of my novella, I struggle with editing. What really upsets me is looking back on the self that wrote a sentence that later makes me cringe, or reading a paragraph I've written, thinking it good, only to be disappointed by the lack of depth contained therein. Luckily, though, I haven't found a "method"to cure me of bad writing, except that I have come to the understanding that disappointment, frustration, even that sick little feeling you get when something you've written goes out into the world you know isn't your finest, are all helpful reminders that writing, like life, are unfinished projects that continue to evolve, mature, grow.

If I were writing genre fiction, not that I'm knocking genre fiction, I would be less inclined to obsess over sentences, focusing on plot and character as it relates to theme, and using the sentence only to carry the weight of those ideas. But as a literary minded writer, a closet poet, a man in love with the artful phrase, I can only say that I am compelled to try and write musically. This comes at a cost. Alienation for some; disappointment for me.

I wish when I said, "It's done, or, done enough," I didn't have to read back what I had written in a month and decided that what I had thought "done" was simply another draft. It pains me to look over and edit a previous draft, then another, then another, and hone further, refine further, excise each page of everything that rings false. But that is the process of writing, a symptom of the writing life. You simply have to dive back in. It is imperative that before the next time you send something out into the world (even something as a Blog post), that it accurately reflects your thoughts at the time you thought them, and on a mechanical level it is vital you catch your basic mistakes in punctuation and grammar.

I am speaking to myself here. I am a notoriously bad typer and these modern keyboards don't instill confidence in me, especially when I have to fix a missed keystroke, or a wrong one. I have to stop, address the red line beneath a misspelled word on the page and it's them my thoughts go awry...sometimes. But let me make no excuses for myself. Let me press on and write and commit to my commitments to improve. Writing, after all, is a journey of self, of self-discovery, of self-mastery, and all that takes a bit of time.

(I know I'll read this later and find something in it I hate!)