Cluttered Confidence

I missed my doctor’s appointment this morning, besmirched and slightly jaded by the handling of my person by the medical industry thus far. I have been diabetic for 17 years now. Some things I have begrudgingly submitted to, others I refuse to contemplate. And then there are those things that are, but shouldn’t be. I remember once, when I was 11 or so, I had an intense compulsion to never again take an insulin shot. It was as if my fingers wouldn’t move, my mind wouldn’t accept its resignation to this new form of survival. But it had to be done, or there would have been the eventual coma and the (hopefully) eventual death. It took me an hour or so, but my pre-teen mind found ways to convince itself of the necessity of stabbing small needles into my body.

And so it goes. Life has continued from that day to this day with myriad syringes (roughly 130 a month or 1560 a year) and myriad pricks of the finger to make myself bleed. The resignation to my position has been massive. There is no fighter left, except to fight for life. And there certainly is no sympathy from anyone I know, which is, truthfully, as it should be. 17 years of sympathy and I would be paralyzed by my supposed deserving of some sort of complete cure. But no cure is coming and I have slowly, properly, withered into my set position at the bottom of the pile of healthy young men.

They have rescheduled me a 15 minute appointment for tomorrow morning. 15 minutes with the man who is supposed to understand my experiences better than most. He is paid (handsomely) to provide valuable advice and medical wizardry that will somehow improve my experience. I have never met this man before in my life. But they have given me 15 minutes with him. Should I feel grateful? Certainly I am meant to give him my money without question. But, after quite a few visits like this, I have come to understand that there is no particular care to be expected from this man. The measure of his value has come from his time sitting and listening to another man or woman speak. Am I to honor him? Believe he can know my struggles in 15 minutes? Should I expect him to care? I doubt he will.

Over at the University of Washington, just a couple of hours away from me, they’re doing some sort of testing  that involves an artificial pancreas. There is hope for people like me. The millions of us. And our numbers swell daily. Whole ranks of children, soon to understand that survival is more complicated than they thought. That one bad decision on their part could mean their life or, at very least, could cost them their eyes or their feet. There are the vast number of us who are now adults, living in worry that our teenage years (which are very difficult for type 1 diabetics due to hormone shifts and other internal changes) have damaged us beyond repair. That someday soon we will be a younger version of that older man that we’ve seen in his wheelchair, unable to walk after they removed his feet. Unable to see after his eyes failed him. Is that me? How soon?

It is a crushing weight. The daily pattern of syringe and lancet is the least of our concerns. Waking in the dead of night, sweating and shaking and unable to make our minds work because the insulin we put in ourselves was a little too much for what we’d eaten. I know what dying feels like. As the insulin allows the sugar to feed the cells and too much sugar is allowed to leave the blood stream because of a miscalculation of insulin, or any number of random, unexpected reasons, the body begins to die. It starts to slowly shut the brain down. The hands shake and you begin to sweat for no reason, which can be very uncomfortable depending on the circumstances. You become irritable or lose lucidity. Finally, if left to run its course, your body puts itself in a protective coma. Sometimes you die. Sometimes you don’t.

The other side of that is high blood sugar levels, when you haven’t given yourself enough insulin for the situation you’re in. Perhaps you’ve eaten the types of sugars that take a long time to break down and your sugar rises unexpectedly an hour or so after eating. Or perhaps you are playing some sport and the chemical changes within your body increase the amount of sugar a healthy body would expect and thrive on. You begin to urinate frequently, as the body tries to get the sugar out of it in any way possible. In order to urinate, your body demands huge quantities of water and it often feels as if you haven’t drank in days. Your skin becomes uncomfortable and your eyes start to have trouble focusing. You become short-tempered and irritable, which has damaged more than one relationship in my life. You become sluggish and frustrated and, eventually, your body can go into a protective coma in this state as well. I believe you are less likely to die in that circumstance, but high blood sugar is still the more dangerous situation. High blood sugar leads to blindness and amputations when the veins are damaged over a long period.

Diabetes is exhausting. This man I will go see tomorrow knows all of those things. He will give me my 15 minutes and he will be done with me. Because my diabetes, monstrous as it is, is no worse than the arthritis of his next patient. Or the legion of sicknesses that have their hold on man.

So I couldn’t convince myself to go today. Just like the 11-year-old me, I had to argue with myself. Had to convince myself  that there is value in these actions. I hope there is.

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How I Found Flash Fiction, Part 3

(This is the third installment of How I Found Flash Fiction, the fascinating tale of a close friend of mine, Cory Bradley.)

I found myself in Ireland.

I thought a lot about that opening statement. I originally intended simply to remind everyone where we were at on my journey to finding flash fiction. But for those of you predisposed to reading deeper into a writer’s words (like my former-enemy-professor-turned-mentor, Mr. White), then I suppose it could be understood that, in a more spiritual sense, I FOUND myself in Ireland.

Following the spring term, I got a summer job painting houses so I could save enough money to return to school in the fall (no financial aid for me). It was a destructive time in my life, however, and as the days grew longer, my desire to escape my circumstances grew stronger. So rather than go back to school, I quit my job, took the money I had saved and flew as far away as it would get me. Yes, I was that twenty-something cliché; the poor young man, lost in life and tortured with emotional angst who believed a change of scenery would solve all of his problems. It didn’t. In fact, the scenery of the Pacific Northwest where I grew up is disappointingly similar to Ireland, though it has no mountains and far more sheep and castles. Nonetheless, as many had before me, I succumbed to the siren song of the Emerald Isle.

Familiar landscapes aside, Ireland was everything it should have been. I backpacked my way clockwise along the coast, from Dublin to Galway. I stayed in hotels and hostels, in bed-and-breakfasts and rented rooms adjoined to pubs. I was even invited into many residents’ homes: young and old, single, couples and families. I became a part of their lives, even if it was for only the briefest of moments. In true Irish fashion, I sang and danced, drank too much and fell in love more than once. In short, the experiences I collected have been enough to fuel my writing for these past ten years (nearly). Naturally, I didn’t immediately recognize the potential for such great stories. No, that realization did not come until I received the email mentioned in Part 2, a notification from Mr. White that my short story, “I Wake Up Running” was accepted for publication. THAT was the moment I knew what I was going to do.

The thrill of publication convinced me immediately, sitting in that dingy Internet Café (remember those?), that I was going write a story based on my time in Ireland. Would I continue writing short stories, with which I had achieved such blinding success? Foolishness! Why would I do that when I had already conquered the world of short story publication? No no no, when I got back home, I was going to write…A NOVEL!

Cory has recently published several pieces of flash fiction, each taking place within the literary landscape of Auditorium, a city that holds a larger, overarching story. You can find his flash fiction herehere and, most recently, here. Please let us know what you think.

Tonight, And All The Colored Lights

It’s been a while. Sometimes the pace of life creates a pull towards a darker shoreline, an evil reef waiting just beneath the surface to puncture my thin raft. So I apologize for stepping out so fully over the last few days. I started this to share my progress towards a goal, and hopefully to gain support along the way. So far, I have just about 50 excellent followers, all of which (all of you) I am thankful for. This is the reason I write and the reason I felt I could be successful in sharing my stories with a larger audience than my small town friends. And I am proud to come here and, hopefully, be read by you tonight or tomorrow or whenever you feel most interested in me.

My voice is quieter tonight, and with less power. Last night I took a trip to the city and screamed til I couldn’t scream anymore, but it was with a purpose. It reminded me, though it’s surely the shape of a clumsy metaphor, that enough people with enough communal focus can make anything happen, even earthquakes. Seeing your support and seeing a community make its own name counts as proof to me that my small goal of raising money for this project of mine is possible and within reach.

We’re still working on the art. It’s moving slowly but at this stage it’s more hobby than profession. I am thankful for Stephen’s help and I know this project would be nowhere without him (does that count as a pun?). I found out a couple of days ago that there is a self publisher right here in my tiny little town of Sequim. I’m hoping to be in contact with them very soon. There is so much promise here.

And looking up at the stars tonight is like a memory. It’s very cold this week and the sky is clear and full and powerfully rich with lights. I remember (it hasn’t been that long, really) my teenage years, in which I held a certain obsession with the stars. They were the perfect metaphor to me. The way they were so magical and bright and holy up there. Untouchable, or so it seemed. And yet we’d gather outside, like some national past-time, and we’d bring our blankets and lay them down to look up and watch the stars fall. Of course they aren’t stars falling, but to me the metaphor still stood. We’d ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ like we were watching fireworks, as these perfect, innocent, exquisite things fell from their places to a cold death on our ground. To me it was like growing up. We start with such promise-so much innocence and confidence. As we grow we are weighed down by our selves and by the expectations of others, almost like they were wishing on us, like we were stars, until it becomes too heavy and we fall. I felt like that was being an adult. We are just fallen stars in a place we never belonged.

I don’t think I feel that way still, but there is something inside me like it. It propels me to continue moving forward, to not burn out. It also allows me to see beauty in the fallout, in the destruction that is life. As Davey Havok once wrote “There is poetry in despair, and we sang with unrivaled beauty, bitter elegies of savagery and eloquence. Of blue and grey.” That is my goal as a writer, to find that poetry and make it available. In fact, there might not be any one thing that has affected me so deeply inside (aside from my spiritual belief system) as the album Sing The Sorrow by AFI. This is where I learned to see the stars for what they are, and to see people in the same light. (another pun?) So I suppose I ought to thank Davey for that. I also recommend just reading the lyrics from that album. There is very little in all the world of poetry better written than those lyrics. So, to end this kind of overlong post, I’ll leave you with a couple of lines. This is from Death Of Seasons.

“I watch the stars as they fall from the sky
I held a fallen star and it wept for me, dying
I feel the fallen stars encircle me, now as they cry

It won’t be all right despite what they say
Just watch the stars tonight as they, as they disappear, disintegrate
And I disintegrate ’cause this hate is f****** real
And I hope to shade the world as stars go out and I disintegrate”