“Thwack!” goes my head, pummeling the van door.

“Thwack!” goes my head, pummeling the van door.

See bright spots of light. Can’t balance no more.

Closed out my phone call, “I love you. Uh, bye.”

Stumbled to my knees, my head hanging high.

 

Called my chum Em’ly, the reason I’m here

Coordinated as if drunk on beer.

“I’ll call you in ten,” she said and hung up,

so I wondered whether I was wrung up. 

 

Am I concussed? I had seen stars. And my

neck mashed. From whacking it hard and uh, high.

Big ol’ thwackin’! A painful a-whackin’!

I pray the world fades not to, uh, black, and

 

but if it does, at least I’d’ve learned… Not

much of anything. An accident turned

me into a grave. A silly way to

die. In future, I’ll be A-More-Aware-of-Surroundings Guy.

 

I worried about permanent nerve damage for the first time today.

I worried about permanent nerve damage for the first time today.

On Monday I underwent sleep apnea surgery. I wasn’t afraid. I trusted my surgeon.

I had my first post-op visit today. I’m healing a half-week ahead of schedule. My surgeon removed most of the rubber bands holding my jaw closed. He said my muscles were still too weak to hold my jaw in place. He showed me how to replace bands that snapped.

Two hours later, I moved a band to make my right and left sides symmetrical. My maxilla, lower lip, and parts of my chin went numb. I had recently regained feeling in these parts, having lost it after surgery. Losing it again concerned me. My speech deteriorated. I sweat in fear.

I sent a message to my surgeon. Those can take days to return. I called his office. They close at 5. I called a doctor I knew. She said permanent nerve damage can’t be done overnight.

I believe her. I still feel panicked. Each sensation in the chin prompts terror. Sure, they remind me I have sensation there, but they also feel like a stretched nerve. Worse, I still feel pain from the surgery and can’t separate the normal surgery pain from any pain I might have caused. My mind spins:

  • Will a stretched nerve always regain sensation over time, just as happened in the days post-surgery?
  • If properly-placed bands are holding my teeth in the right position, will I definitely be all right?
  • How much leeway do I have in the band placement? (I.e. I am pulling my jaw forward slightly more than when I left the doctor’s office. Is that safe?)
  • Did I cause myself permanent nerve damage?

I’ve never dealt with questions like this before. They terrify me.

Thanks, Dad, for an incredible day.

Thanks, Dad, for an incredible day. More connected with you than I’ve felt in memory. Your stories that weaved from place to place—about which I sometimes ask, “what was the point?”—today, the sharing was the point. Maybe that’s always true.

 

Am I focusing on the present because I’m having intensive surgery on Monday?

Could be…

Possibly…

Probably.

 

Right now, I’m afraid. Not of death, but life:

  • What if improving my breathing isn’t miraculous?
  • What if I fail?
  • What if I die?

Death I can deal with. It’s failure that’s unacceptable.

 

I’m donating my tomorrow to high school kids. Teaching, mentoring, engrossed in giving.

 

When I could die at any moment, why do I hop stepping stones?

  • “But Kid, the best stepping-stones are rock and their own right.”

 

I didn’t think about any of that today. Just talked with you, Dad. And I loved it.

If I die Monday, may my tombstone read,“Died doing what he loves.”

On Monday I go in for Jaw Surgery. If I die, I want my tombstone to read, “Died doing what he loves.[1]

I’ve never seen a footnote on a tombstone. Nor ellipses. I’m updating the medium. The joke makes it more palatable.

I joke because I’m afraid. I’m afraid because it’s frightening. I’ve never been closer to death than I will be on Monday.

I’ve always mused on death. I wrote my first auto-obituary at 13. The same way some people use the largesse of space to decrease their anxiety; I use death to accept depression. When I wake up late enough that I feel grumpy, the phrase “death and taxes” echoes in my mind. It reminds me of two crucial elements – timeliness and humor. One makes today matter and the other makes life worth living.

I’m spending tomorrow and Sunday advising a local high school youth group, and Saturday with my dad. If I die, let it be known I went out doing what I loved.

 

[1] Self improvement.

Okay, cocaine.

It’s Good to be Disliked, A Manifesto.

I probably don’t like you. You’re welcome.* (*: Not sarcastic.)

My fourth-grade classroom restricted its students to bringing identical Valentine’s Day cards for everyone or no cards at all. I found this a problem, as most of my classmates were bland blobs, while a vocal minority were… [people I didn’t like].

Only this year—at age 25—did I finally realize I can choose my friends. Four of my friendships ended this year, and I’m glad they did.

An ex ended our friendship—my first official ending—in July, followed by an old poker buddy in August. I ended one in October—my first initiation—and a different ex ended our friendship on Monday. Every one of these has been a wonderful change, with benefits extending far beyond free time.

It’s common knowledge—and I find it experientially true—that you “can’t please all the people all the time.” Apply that to relationships: Some people won’t like you. Turn that around: You won’t like some people. 

Ending a friendship is therefore an act of integrity. It forwards your values. It makes manifest your soul.

You prioritize your family. You care about your friends. Most people choose a partner to prefer over all others. Having preferences is Good. It’s the foundation of consciousness. 

All my friends have former, now-dead friendships. Most drift apart instead of going out with a bang, but both seem to happen surprisingly often. People grow and change. Friendships die. We can still love what was.

You can hate some people and everything they stand for. You can love with abandon those you prefer. You can express your soul. If someone doesn’t like you, good for them.

We used to make plans.

As a kid, I’d schedule a play date weeks in advance. These days, even when after confirming a reptile festival the day before, I still assume a 50-50 chance my friend bails. When he does, 8am day-of, I’m annoyed. I’m confused. How much is him and how much is changing culture?

I’m not here to tell you, “Something is lost.” It is, but that’s not the point. Instead, it’s simply that some things have changed:

  • We’ve lost certainty and confidence.
  • We’ve gained flexibility and opportunism.
  • We’ve lost reliability and comfort.
  • We’ve gained the more frequent upgrades.
  • We’ve lost security in friendships.
  • We’ve gained the freedom to follow our whims.

If people still lock down plans, I don’t know them. My friends might be outliers, or perhaps the Bay Area’s incessant climbing keeps everyone on the lookout for upgrades. Or maybe this experience is a worldwide phenomenon. Faster communication means more rapidly changing circumstances.

No matter the reason, I must adjust. It’s a tough lesson to learn. Negative punishment can easily become mis-associated. In this case, to self-blame:

  • “What did I do that made him cancel?”

or, worse,

  • “What’s wrong with me that made him cancel?”

I try not to see it in those ways. I try to see it as the new world order. I think that’s accurate, but I’m not sure. Are you?