A few weeks ago, I woke up from a dream with the words ‘The End is Nigh.’ I take little to no interest in anything apocalypse. Existential dreams are passé. I have no time to think of the end of time. Little me left, to think of the end of me. Without being depressingly prophetic or wishful about it.
I got surgery earlier this week. Nothing too life-threatening, even minor and routine and other such words that suggest diminution of what still consisted of going under a knife (or precision surgical tools), under heavy medication, all the while entrusting everything that is Self to humans unknown who can sometimes behave with questionable humanity towards you, and a general loss of dignity, shame and agency. But, hey, it’s routine and I am able enough to write on a computer after a few days, unlike those who are dying or having babies.
I got bored of the conversation by Wednesday. There was too much unsolicited advice around, too much talking about me as though I wasn’t there, too many stories told of how inconsequential it all is. All of it. Even death doesn’t make the cut for some people, and depressingly so, because life doesn’t give them much bang for their buck either.
I now register it as trauma. I had carried a notebook and a pen with me to write thoughts and observations as per usual, though my ‘party’, my entourage, had wisely taken it away from me. Having an IV cannula fixed to my right hand ensured I had to keep my words in my head. I might use the material for fiction here and there, but I cannot bring it to fact. There are layers, layers after layers that are the depth of a 100 year old trunk of oak, which are only ever revealed in such moments of extremis. But hey, it was minor. Routine.
Just like serial killing is minor and routine to serial killers, our experiences with ill health are minor and routine, especially when it’s happening to someone else. Not only are you literally stripped of your dignity (bare-butting can strangely feel liberating. And this comes from someone who’d wear a trenchcoat on a beach), you lose validation, individuality. You might as well chant the Dr. Suess quote “There is no one alive who is youer than you.” because you are only a number, even less. A nurse told me the first lesson in professionalism she got at nursing school was to think of patients as cattle, not people.
Or you could use the word assigned to you as your mantra : patient. Be patient, for you are a patient, and you cannot guarantee others being patient with you. I came out of it, “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better.” (The Beatles, “Getting Better”) And that’s that. And yet, it’s not the same. I can’t write my way out of it. Talk my way out of it. Read my way out of it. Music my way out of it. Shop my way out of it. Walk my way out of it. Love my way out of it. There is no way out of it. It’s morbid and I’ll say – cringeworthy – to use words like mortality, existence, the human condition etc. because that is not the 21st century way of looking at these things.
We’re beyond it, robotic. Afterlife, pro-life, anti-life, larger-than-life, better-life, more life, android-life none of these is our concern. It’s just my life, and the rest are numbers. Two killed. Five die in what could potentially be a plague. Hundreds die in natural disaster. Youth jumps in front of train…numbers, gory details that evoke normalized pleasure, and the only expanding lungs, pumping heart that makes any difference to you are your own. Make the most of what is good, because there is nothing affirming about sickness and death. It’s thoroughly isolating and wretched.
On a lighter note, it’s good to be back. I look forward to catching up with your blogs and all things WordPress. Let me know what I’ve missed in our community in the comments!