28 July 2014

Recollections from My Deathbed

Science says we dream all the time, but I rarely have any recollection of them. Last night, though, I had one in which I was in a hospital bed. A doctor who kinda reminded me of former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told me there was nothing more that could be done for me except to try to make things less painful and more peaceful. I don't think it was ever explained just what had happened. I like to think I sustained mortal wounds in a spectacular battle, Optimus Prime-style, but it was probably just my stupid guts. He said I had maybe a couple of hours remaining. Most of my family and friends were in the waiting area. I asked for each of them to be sent to me one at a time, and for him to do whatever he could to buy me enough time to say something to each of them.

I told some what I had learned from them; others, what I hoped they'd learned from me. In broad terms, I like to think those around me have helped me to define and apply my core values: compassion, patience, encouragement, trust, respect, kindness, acceptance. Likewise, I hope I've in turn helped others to find the self-confidence to question things, to find and use their voices, and hopefully to take a step they didn't originally think they could or maybe didn't even want to take.

I don't recall the issue of forgiveness coming up. I've made mistakes and I've been wronged, but I generally feel square with the world these days. My conscience feels clean at night and I don't carry the toxin of grudges. Sometimes I forget how valuable that is.

I told a couple of jokes I like to tell to some of my visitors. I like to make people laugh.

Guy gets pulled over by a cop for speeding. Cop walks up and asks for his license and registration. Guy says, "Well, officer, I'm gonna be honest. My license was revoked, and I don't know a thing about the registration for this car. I stole it just now from a little old lady I've got tied up in the trunk."

Cop says, "Wait right here" and then calls for backup. Within minutes, they're surrounded by every cop in the tri-state area; SWAT and helicopters and K-9's, the whole deal. The police commissioner himself tentatively approaches the driver and asks for the guy's identity.

Guy very cautiously produces his wallet and shows the commish a perfectly valid driver's license.

"I don't suppose you have the registration for this car?" the commish asks.

"Right here," the guy says, extracting it from the glove box.

Perplexed, the commish asks if the guy would consent to opening the trunk. Guy says that'd be fine, so they go around to the back of the car. He unlocks the trunk. No little old lady.

"I don't get it," the commish says. "The officer who called us in said you had no license or registration, that you'd stolen this car and had the driver tied up in the trunk."

"Yeah? I'll bet the lying s.o.b. said I was speeding, too!"

I brought up a favorite shared memory to some of my visitors. The best anecdotes can be conjured by shorthand, of course. A time and place (Salinas, KS; December, 2002) or a phrase ("twenty-four m***********' doughnuts!") will do the trick. No one said anything to me about the memory on their mind. Maybe because it was my dream? I don't know. I remember telling my cousin that this blog was full of my little stories and that it would be here for her once I was gone. [Note to self: record more anecdotes here.]

Some visits were entirely silent. A few just climbed into the hospital bed next to me and I did my best to just hold them for a few minutes. It was easier that way. I felt particularly mischievous and faked already having died just before one friend came to see me. I laughed. She didn't. I'm not going to reveal which friend this was because I think she'd be angry with me in real life if she knew I'd done that to her, even in a dream. Besides, I might actually have the presence of mind to pull that stunt one day and I don't want to spoil it entirely.

In all, I guess I remember about a dozen different visitors, with the sense of having met briefly with twenty or more in all. I don't remember how it ended. Maybe I'm still in that bed saying goodbyes. Maybe I just kind of slipped away. It could even be that I started to wake up around the end of the dream. I can't say. It didn't feel like awakening had interrupted the dream, but it might have.

I made one friend smile by simply going over a quick list of singers I was now going to have the chance to hear: Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Ray Price. I hoped they all sounded like they did later in their careers. I don't know why it should have mattered in the dream for me to remark, or for me to remember that detail from the dream, but there it is. I feel like he and I sang something together a cappella, but I couldn't rightly say what it was if we did.

As far as my arrangements, I let it be known in the dream and I'll say it here: Cremate my remains and scatter the ashes. I don't much care where, but no one gets to keep any of them. I don't want to be a tangible souvenir. I'm not sure how legally binding a blog post can be, but in the event that something should happen to me and I haven't made any formal final arrangements, someone please be sure to remember this!

20 July 2014

I'm Vulnerable, so Why Aren't I Worthy?

A friend of mine brought to my attention this TED Talk by Brené Brown. The impetus for my friend sharing this with me was the connection made by Brown between people who have ownership over their vulnerabilities and being "whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness." Here's the entire talk, if you're the kind of person who'd rather go over primary source material first, rather than through the filter of a secondary source (i.e., my reactionary post about it). If you'd rather read the transcript, it's here.



Whether you just watched that or not, I want to highlight what Brown says beginning at 9:39:
The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn't talk about vulnerability being comfortable,nor did they really talk about it being excruciating -- as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing.They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, "I love you" first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They're willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.
Now, Dear Reader, I suspect you already see the connection I've made to Brown's remarks but just to spell it out, I identify with this characterization to a tee. It's something I have used for most of my life, really. I know it's hard for a lot of people to even articulate things about which they feel vulnerable, much less summon the fortitude to raise their hand and draw attention to these things. But I can articulate things reasonably well, and I am also willing to expose myself to criticism.

I was reminded of all this in 2011, when I was hospitalized at Our Lady of Peace to treat suicidal depression. What helped me more than anything about being there were the conversations in which I found myself articulating and volunteering things that others couldn't, or wouldn't. But after each group session, at least one other patient would privately thank me for speaking up.

Sometimes they were just uncomfortable speaking in front of a group - difficult for many people anyway, much less at a time in their lives like where they were at that time! Sometimes, my fellow patients just didn't know how to put into words what they wanted to share. Regardless of what their reasons for not volunteering to put their vulnerabilities on display, I was reminded throughout that weekend that I am capable and comfortable doing it.

This brings me back to Brené Brown and her research linking ownership of vulnerability with self-worth. Reading the transcript of Brown's TED Talk, I nodded along at almost all of it. It was like she was explaining why I am the way I am. I very much agree with Brown's points about how being comfortable with our vulnerability is a linchpin of our connections with other people; it's why my hospitalization helped me in 2011, and I like to think it's why you, Dear Reader, get something helpful out of this blog every now and again. That possibility is why I share what I share, after all.

So why have I never felt the self-worth that Brown's research correlates to ownership of vulnerability?

Why can I put myself on display so openly and make those personal connections, etc., but not feel that "sense of worthiness" that Brown says I should also feel?

18 July 2014

Top Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes - Riker


I decided it was high time to run down my favorite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, by character. These lists are presented in chronological air date order, rather than any kind of ranking. I arbitrarily restricted each list to five episodes - four and a quarter hours of viewing sans commercials. 

Because each list is limited to just five episodes, I excluded two-parters. So do me a favor and don't complain that this list is invalid because it doesn't include "The Best of Both Worlds" and/or "Chain of Command". Yes, both are brilliant and Jonathan Frakes's Riker had some great moments in them, but if I went with those, that would have precluded most of this list. Which brings me to...

Top Five Episodes Starring
Jonathan Frakes
as Cmdr. William T. Riker


"A Matter of Honor"
2/6/1989 | Teleplay by Burton Armus, Story by Wanda M. Haight & Gregory Amos and Burton Armus | Directed by Rob Bowman

It's a simple concept: Riker serves as first officer on a Klingon ship as part of an officer exchange program. It's a whole lot of fun, though, to watch him defend against the machismo of the Klingons. This episode is basically every geek's fantasy of standing up to the jocks, and it's why we love Riker.


"First Contact"
2/18/1991 | Teleplay by Dennis Russell Bailey & David Bischoff and Joe Menosky & Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller, Story by Marc Scott Zicree | Directed by Cliff Bole

Riker goes undercover to observe an evolving society, but is injured and discovered to be an alien. It's an interesting look at various reactions to the existence of other life - and it's hard to really be interesting about a subject as heavily discussed in the genre as that. There's also the matter of an indigenous woman blackmailing Riker into fulfilling her kinky fantasy of having sex with an alien as the condition for helping him escape. Generally, this is considered something of a lark but it invites a rather serious discussion about sexual negotiations. The episode handled the issue clumsily, I'm sorry to say, but I do appreciate that it's in there to get us thinking and talking.


"Frame of Mind"
5/3/1993 | Written by Brannon Braga | Directed by James L. Conway

"I might be surrounded by insanity, but I am not insane!" This episode is Frakes's shining hour in my book. It's why I was unimpressed by Inception; Christopher Nolan basically took the same concept but spun it as a ho-hum heist instead of the captivating psychological drama that TNG did. (There. I said it.) This episode was very much on my mind in 2011 when I checked into Our Lady of Peace. I was relieved that my experience there was nothing like what Riker endured here. That last scene, of him tearing down the set by himself, is one of the most powerful moments in the entire series, and it's only become more powerful for me in recent years. This episode could have easily been cheesy or outright insulting, but between writer Brannon Braga, director James L. Conway, and Frakes's performance, it's one of the crown jewels of the show.


"Second Chances"
5/24/1993 | Teleplay by René Echevarria, Story by Michael Medlock | Directed by LeVar Burton

Season Six was good to Number One! One of the last episodes of that season brings us this one, in which we discover that a storm caused a transporter glitch eight years ago to create a second William T. Riker who was stranded on a planet that our William T. Riker got to leave. Being marooned is a nightmare, and so is being involuntarily replicated in some way, so combining the two is genuinely disturbing. Today, the episode plays strongly as an allegory for post-traumatic stress disorder. I would imagine this one is extremely powerful for a lot of our military families.


"The Pegasus"
1/10/1994 | Written by Ronald D. Moore | Directed by LeVar Burton

We often point to Data and Worf to trace the growth of TNG, mostly because they had the most conspicuous event episodes, but "The Pegasus" showcases Riker's growth. We're reminded, through his account of his relationship with then-Captain Eric Pressman just how much a stick in the mud he was when we first met him - and then we're asked to imagine that he used to be even worse! But beyond that, this episode has a smorgasbord of great elements: The mystery of what happened on, and to, the U.S.S. Pegasus; the cat and mouse game with the Romulans to find her; the test of character and loyalty; and, of course, that delightful pre-credits teaser featuring Captain Picard Day.

There you have it, Dear Reader: My top 5 Riker episodes. Agree? Disagree? What would you pick?

Picard | Riker | Geordi | Worf

15 July 2014

Praying for Myself

I seldom discuss matters of faith in this blog, or even at all, because it's a deeply personal and complicated subject for me. Lately, though, something has been on my mind and I haven't found a satisfactory perspective so I thought I'd take the chance and put it out there. It's my sincere hope that maybe some thoughtful discourse will follow.

If someone specifically brings to my attention a prayer request, I usually oblige. On those occasions, I'll let the person know that I did, but that's more just to acknowledge that their request hasn't fall on deaf ears. What they need at those times is some kind of reassurance that someone is aware of their situation and cares. I can handle that. I will also often, on my own, ask God to help others find their way through a difficult time or to bring healing to them - physical, emotional, spiritual, whatever. I rarely tell anyone I've done this. I'm not seeking credit for anything that may come from those prayers, after all.

What I can't handle, though, is asking for anything for myself.

This isn't a matter of pride for me, or vanity. It's more just a simple matter of manners with me. I just don't want to be That Guy. You know, the one who puts you on the spot every time you see him with some request or another.

Plus, I don't like being micromanaged, so I figure He doesn't, either. If the point of my faith is to trust that God knows and cares about me, that He wants good things for me, and that there's a place for me in His plans, then isn't asking Him for something tantamount to badgering Him about His plans?

The most famous Scripture about praying is:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. - Matthew 7:7-8
Is this about teaching me that I can have what I ask for but only if I ask for it? That seems kind of petty to me. I've always had a chip on my shoulder toward anyone who can see someone else needs help but won't give it or even offer it until that person asks. I've always perceived that as pettiness winning over compassion. It goes back to my childhood, knowing some people who seemed to relish being asked for help. These people practically rooted against the person in need, just to see them pushed so far that they would finally ask for help. It was about their ego, not compassion. Maybe that's an unfair grudge to extend to God, but there it is.

Anyway, I run into another problem here. By restricting myself to only those areas where I am powerless to do anything more on my own, I am by default firmly in the realm of Big Picture stuff. I don't ask for anything material in nature. I'm usually rankled by it, but I accept that He can be there with us while still allowing us to suffer. I'd like to have more good days than bad, physically. I'd like to have better mental health. I seek companionship. I don't want to die alone and be eaten by the cats, though I'm pretty sure that's what's in store for me.

There are some things within my power to affect these things, but most of those aren't so much things I can do to make things better so much as things I can do that will make matters worse, and obviously trying to avoid doing those things. For instance, I know there are foods I can eat that will send me straight to the ER. I have the agency to choose not to eat those foods, so I can avoid the ER. But avoiding the ER is not the same as improving things.

This also brings me to the matter of my struggle with the very concept of "deserving" things. I run from that concept as quickly as I run toward a pan of brownies. I can't wrap my head around that. I can't even say, "I deserve" aloud. Can't do it. Not even as a setup for a hyperbolic joke. Maybe I don't deserve anything. People flip out whenever I suggest that possibility, and I think it's because they're terrified that if I don't deserve anything then maybe they don't, either. I can see why that would be troubling to someone who believes they do deserve things, though I've honestly never considered that my standing should have any implications for yours.

Almost ironically, the reason I don't go near the "deserving" claim is my faith. To invoke a secularism here, I refer to a song:
"You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table/There'll be time enough for counting when the dealin's done." - "The Gambler" written by Don Schlitz
It's not my place to tally up where I stand or what I've "earned". I trust simply that when the time comes to be judged that whatever I've done right will be recognized along with whatever I've done wrong. I'm sure some others out there there view life more as a matter of cashing out along the way, but I don't. I'm still sittin' at the table, so the counting has to wait.

I have, though, finally broken down and asked Him lately for something. I don't want to discuss it, except to say that all I ask is a fair opportunity at something; something that feels as though it could be something He's put before me in the first place, but is not within my power to realize. Again, it's a matter where my power lies more in the area of being able to screw it up than in making it happen. I feel selfish and vulgar each time I've brought it up.

So, for those of you who do pray: Do you ask for things for yourself? Do you think in terms of what you "deserve"? How do you feel about all this? What am I missing here?

11 July 2014

Top Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes - Picard


I decided it was high time to run down my favorite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, by character. These lists are presented in chronological air date order, rather than any kind of ranking. I arbitrarily restricted each list to five episodes - four and a quarter hours of viewing sans commercials. 

Because each list is limited to just five episodes, I excluded two-parters. So do me a favor and don't complain that this list is invalid because it doesn't include "The Best of Both Worlds" and/or "Chain of Command". Yes, both are brilliant and Patrick Stewart gave two of his finest performances in them, but if I went with those, that would have precluded most of this list. Which brings me to the first in this series..

Top Five Episodes Starring
Patrick Stewart
as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard


"The Measure of a Man"
2/13/1989 | Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass | Directed by Robert Scheerer

Most people would call this a Data (Brent Spiner) episode, because it's about an effort made to classify Data as Starfleet property on the basis that he was found by a Starfleet away team and that artificial intelligence is not recognized as true sentience. For me, though, the thing is that Data is really the passive object of the plot; not its chief actor, who is Picard. From a dramatic storytelling perspective, "The Measure of a Man" is really more about how Picard handles the situation, fighting every step of the way for his second officer's rights - but also for his own values.


"Family"
10/1/1990 | Written by Ronald D. Moore | Directed by Cliff Bole

The aftermath of "The Best of Both Worlds". Picard confronts his personal trauma and his bullying big brother, Robert. It's a deceptively simple look at coping mechanisms and brotherhood. If made today, this theme would have dominated the entire fourth season of the show instead of being wrapped up tidily in a single episode, but that's how shows were still produced in those days.


"Darmok"

9/30/1991 | Teleplay by Joe Menosky, Story by Philip LaZebnik and Joe Menosky | Directed by Winrich Kolbe

My personal favorite episode of the entire series. Picard is on a planet with Dathon (Paul Winfield), whose entire language is built on metaphor. They're isolated from their respective ships, and together they have to overcome their language barrier. Admittedly, the setup is contrived but the heart of the episode is spectacular. I've always found linguistics fascinating anyway, and it's always nice when science-fiction can be bothered to step away from the convenience of having all these different species speak in English. Bonus: This episode introduces Picard's spiffy suede jacket.


"The Inner Light"

6/1/1992 | Teleplay by Morgan Gendel and Peter Allan Fields; Story by Morgan Gendel | Directed by Peter Lauritson

Because of my no-two-parters clause, this Picard list is missing "The Best of Both Worlds" and "Chain of Command", but "The Inner Light" is pretty much obligatory. Zapped by an alien probe, Picard goes into a sort of forced dream state in which he relives the life of someone else. There are lots of reasons people love this episode, but mine has always been just the fact that it's an acknowledgment that ordinary lives are important, too. Plus, there's Jay Chattaway's lovely theme.


"Tapestry"
2/15/1993 | Written by Ronald D. Moore | Directed by Les Landau

When Picard's artificial heart fails and he dies, Q intercepts him and gives him the Christmas Carol/It's a Wonderful Life treatment by showing him how differently his life would have been had his foolhardiness not earned him that fake ticker in the first place. I'm a sucker for the concept anyway, but even beyond that, it's a compelling commentary about how we grow as people in unexpected ways. Thematically, the episode would have worked built around any of the show's characters, but it really needed to be someone with some mileage. Because it's Picard, the wistfulness of the introspection feels more authentic than I think it would have had the story been about one of the others.

Picard | Riker | Geordi | Worf

So, how about it? Are any of these your favorites? What would you have picked - and what would you have removed from my list to make room for it?

Star Trek: The Next Generation is streaming on Amazon PrimeCBS.comHulu, and Netflix.

10 July 2014

Gail Simone's Run on "Batgirl" Ending

The news broke on MTV.com this morning: Starting with issue #35, Batgirl is getting a new creative team...which in turn means that issue #34, shipping in August, will be the final issue penned by Gail Simone and illustrated by artists Jonathan Glapion (pencils) and Fernando Pasarin (inks). DCComics.com's page dedicated to the book shows Batgirl: Futures End #1 ships in September, written by Simone. The art on that book is by Javier Garren. Futures End is set five years into the future, where things have gone apparently pretty wrong. I can't tell from the solicitation if this is a one-shot coda to Simone's run on the book or a spin-off.

It was three years ago that DC launched The New 52. I hadn't looked at monthlies in an entire decade by that point, save a brief flirtation with Superman/Batman that lasted all of about four months. It was the prospect of a Barbara Gordon-as-Batgirl book that most interested me. By the time I took to reading Batman comics a quarter century ago, Babs had already been paralyzed by The Joker in Batman: The Killing Joke. I instantly loved the character, though, and I always felt cheated that my generation didn't get to have Barbara in action as Batgirl.

We did later get Barbara-as-Batgirl in Batman: The Animated Series, which was spectacular, and in Batman & Robin, which wasn't, but it wasn't the same as having her in that persona in a mainstream, in-continuity book. I respected what they did with her as Oracle, but it too wasn't the same. Of course, at that time, I was healthy so I didn't have then the deep appreciation I have now for what Oracle represented and means to a whole lot of readers.

Though I hadn't read anything in comics for ten years, I did keep tabs on things from afar. I had heard a lot about Gail Simone's work. Her reputation was for a balance of heart, humor, and above all, respect for people. The immediate fan reaction was divided over whether or not Barbara should revert to being healthy and active as Batgirl, or if she should remain paralyzed as Oracle, but it was unanimous that Simone should be the one entrusted with such a sensitive project. I felt confident going into issue #1. I was instantly sold.


The very first Batman comic book I ever bought was Detective Comics #603, written by Alan Grant. I would read a whole lot more of his Bat-work over the years, including the first three years of Batman: Shadow of the Bat. (Grant continued writing after Zero Hour, but I stopped reading. I was just fatigued as a reader by then.) Grant's take on Batman is the one that defines the character for me. His Batman is about social justice; of a man with all the privilege in the world whose life experience has led him to use that privilege in service of others. Grant's Batman is one who cares about people. His Batman saw the "undesirables" in Gotham City as human beings who deserved a champion.

In one of the first few issues of Simone's Batgirl, Babs encounters Ricky while apprehending him as part of an inept group of robbers. When a ruthless vigilante mutilates Ricky in the name of "justice", Barbara comes to his defense. It's a scathing rejection of the anti-hero fetish that has run roughshod over our nobler values, not just in comic books but sadly in our politics and society at large. It was then that I understood the devout following that Simone has earned over the years. Everything that clicked for me in Alan Grant's Batman stories was alive and well in hers. In a single word: Compassion.

I also quickly discovered that Gail Simone has a nightmarish imagination and seems to delight in conflating these values of compassion with some truly disturbing plots. Anyone who thinks that believing in things like empathy precludes going in some dark places needs look no further than her storytelling. I'm reminded of a comment Johnny Cash made during his At Madison Square album. The Man in Black was telling a story of playing shows for troops in Vietnam and trying to cheer them up in the infirmary. When asked whether that visit made him a hawk, Cash answered, "No, that don't make me a hawk. But it does make me a dove with claws, though." A dove with claws. That's probably the most concise distillation I've ever heard for what I value in a hero - real or fictitious.


Anyway, so I've read the MTV.com interview with the incoming creative team. Their plan is a near-total reboot of the book. Barbara will leave the working-class area where she's been and move on up to the East Side. The book is going to showcase "flirt, fun, and fashion". It's intended to be lighthearted, easy reading. The part of me that has been digging Jeff Parker's Batman '66 believes we need more lighthearted comics and sees a lot of potential for Barbara Gordon as Batgirl to be the epicenter for such a book.

And yet...

Even rarer than lighthearted comics these days are ones that espouse the "dove with claws" values that Simone has fought for on the page through Barbara, as well as in real life. If you want to see what a real dove with claws looks like, just pop on over to her Tumblr blog or Twitter feed. Or read any of the zillion interviews she's given.* She gives voice to people who are all too often marginalized and outright erased. She writes these stories this way because she cares about human beings. That's why Batgirl works. She's sensitive to what Oracle means for an entire generation of readers.

I wish the new creative team the best of luck. I mean that. These characters are bigger than any creator or creative team. They're transient. I get all that, and I made my peace with that back in my youth. But I fear that it's going to be awfully hard for Barbara Gordon to continue to engage and represent the "undesirables" of Gotham City if she moves into an insular posh end of town where, by design, those people can't go and aren't welcome. We're told that Barbara's trans roommate, radical activist Alysia Yeoh, will continue to exist in the book - but that she's staying where she is and now the Gotham River will be between the two friends. That feels an awful lot like the new team's way of saying, "We just don't want to deal with all that stuff".

And that's why it's so important that for three years, Gail Simone did.

Batgirl #34 - Gail Simone's Final Issue(?)
*Speaking of interviews with Gail Simone, I conducted one with her at C2E2, along with half a dozen other folks in the business, for a piece on the convergence of comics and Hollywood, from the side of comics. Right after I got home from that show I fell down the rabbit hole of depression again and those recordings and notes have collected dust, but I promise: I really am going to finish the piece now that I'm back in a healthier place!

05 July 2014

Can Anyone Remember When I Used to Be an Explorer?

There's a genuinely great moment in Star Trek: Insurrection, an otherwise mixed Trek outing. Captain Picard, wary of his assignment to recruit a new member to the Federation for the express purpose of deepening the roster at a time of war, wonders aloud, "Can anyone remember when we used to be explorers?"

That's about how I feel about my health. A little more than a week ago, I finally got to see honeyhoney perform in concert, at a little dive called Zanzabar in Louisville. I'd wanted to see them perform for six years, and was thrilled to finally get to do so. It was also my first concert since Black Joe Lewis in 2012, which you may recall was quite a big deal for me, Dear Reader. I invited several of my friends to turn up for the show, but only one managed to make it. (Funnily enough, this friend also has Crohn's.) We had a ball, and I was thrilled to share the experience with her. After the show, we got to chat with Suzanne Santo and Ben Jaffe for a bit. My friend shot this picture of me with them, and we have really creepy reflective peepers. Oh, well. Whaddya gonna do, right?


I've spent most of this entire week completely exhausted, though. I spent a little bit of time Monday evening with my niece. She called me again on Wednesday to see about hanging out, and I had to pass because I could barely keep my eyes open. I missed most of my friends's annual Fourth of July party last night because insomnia Thursday night into Friday morning caught up with me and I slept through the afternoon and early evening. I woke up just before 7:00 in the evening, dashed over as quickly as I could, and was too run down to stay past around 10:30. They were actually still lighting off fireworks when I bailed. I slept for about 15 1/2 hours once I got home, not getting up until late afternoon/early evening today.

And this, Dear Reader, is on the "good" side of what life with Crohn's is like.

Nobody told me about this part. They told me all about the Prednisone, and upper GI's, and other such things, but they didn't say anything about whole weeks lost to fatigue and unearned soreness. It didn't used to be like this. I know it didn't. I can prove it, because I have a record of all the baseball games, concerts, and movies I attended in my teens and twenties. There is evidence that I used to be a goer and a doer. I spent two weeks in Barbados back in 2000. I spent a combined two weeks in Las Vegas at the end of 2002. Sure, when I worked at Cracker Barrel, I wasn't as able to up and go do things because I had to work weekends (that's the nature of restaurant work, after all), but even then I managed to make my way out to my fair share of events.

And yet, these days I often feel as though I've researched someone else's life rather than recalled my own; that these artifacts belong to someone else rather than to me. There are, of course, plenty of other activities that didn't have a ticket stub. I know I spent evenings in the summer of 2001 at a defunct driving range in Pendleton, KY, whacking away at golf balls for hours on end with my brother and various friends. Used to just take off driving with no destination in mind with friends (remember when anyone could actually afford to go joy riding?).

I'd hear a song that caught my ear and wind up spending an entire day crisscrossing Louisville's music stores, hunting down every single thing I could find in that artist's discography. It was as much about the search as it ever was about the acquisition. I loved those days of hoping one record shop might have something none of the others had, and there were no meaningful barriers to making the effort to find out.

But, that was a long time ago in another life.

Today, any outing at all for me has to consist of at most a few specifically targeted places. They have to be near one another, and I have to know exactly what I'm hoping to find so I can get in and out before I feel too miserable to continue. Sure, I can research a discography online these days, and between Amazon, eBay, and iTunes find most anything, but it isn't the same as doing the legwork. Because, again, it was never just about acquiring the music. It was about going on an adventure, not even knowing what existed so I hoped to be surprised at what I found. I remember getting the biggest kick out of discovering The Best of Country Sings the Best of Disney, which I bought on a lark because I was on a Collin Raye kick at the time. (It turned out he did an absolutely brilliant cover of "A Whole New World", by the way, that was well worth the purchase.)

Sometimes I wonder, when I think of what it was like when I was healthy, just how the passage of time and the wear and tear on me appears to the healthy people around me, who were there for the good times. I used to be the given in pretty much any plan. No advanced notice necessary. No one even asked if I wanted to go do something; they just showed up and said, "We're going out" and I'd throw on some pants and away we went. Then it reached the point where invitations were extended more as a formality, knowing I'd wind up either declining or having to cancel at the last minute. Everyone has always been polite about it, reassuring me that they understand why I can't or didn't attend one function or other.

Of course, my health isn't the only thing that has changed these last nine years. We've all gotten older, become more involved with different things that preclude up and going out on a whim. That's just the nature of things. Aside from my health, I'm the one freest to go along with an idea these days. Everyone else has a significant other and/or at least one child. Some have demanding careers. There's nothing unique in any of this, but at the very least, there's satisfaction to be found in being a spouse or a parent, or in a career. There's no satisfaction whatsoever to be found in simply having rotten health.

Days like today bring me a combination of disappointment and resentment toward myself. It's been a decade now since Crohn's first appeared in my life (I was misdiagnosed in 2004), and I still feel bitter about every time I've had to say "Sorry, I can't do it", "Sorry I'm late", and/or "Sorry, I need to go." Some might roll their eyes at this post and mutter something about how I'm "feeling sorry for myself". This isn't Depression talking/writing, though. This is just a part of the frustration that goes with this stupid disease and the wear and tear it wreaks.

How about it, Dear Reader? If you have a health problem limiting you, how do you feel about it? If you've been part of my life going back to my healthy years, I'd be curious to hear how you perceive the changes in me over these last nine or ten years. And if you were at that honeyhoney show, I'd love to know if you could fill in a couple gaps in the set list!