Archive for the ‘Living alone’ Category

30somethings on hold

September 4, 2011

I have discovered through personal experience that there is nothing like a fractured rib and a punctured lung to put sex — or writing about sex — on the back burner.

Something about having the 911 operator ask for permission to break down one’s door makes certain mundane routines seem much more desirable. “No, it is NOT all right to break down my door; this is a rented condo.” But dang, I’m so dizzy and my head is bleeding (I hope I don’t need stitches), so maybe I can lie on my back and push myself across the living room …

I know. You think I’m joking. I wish.

Last weekend I spent my first night ever in a hospital, getting lots of CAT scans and chest x-rays to diagnose my injuries and the condition which caused them: neurocardiogenic syncope, which basically means I might faint when I stand up in the mornings. Apparently my heart is sometimes a second too slow in pumping blood to my head once I go from horizontal to vertical. And while the fainting isn’t dangerous at all (cue laugh track), it’s the fall that’ll kill you.

I felt lightheaded as I got up that morning, so I put both hands on the door jam and wall of my bedroom, but it wasn’t enough. The next thing I know I’m on the tile floor of my hall, blinking at the ceiling and trying to figure out what I’m doing down there. I have no idea what all I hit on the way down, but I’ve been finding mysterious bruises and sore spots all over my body. I don’t think I’d want to watch a replay, but my doctors could have used a hidden cam of the fall.

Head wounds bleed a lot, so that was disconcerting, but the whack on my head didn’t need stitches after all, for which I’m very grateful. But I hit the floor with enough force that my rib cage hit my lung and made a hole. Thankfully, the rib didn’t actually break, which I guess is what usually punctures lungs.

Anyway, that punctured lung, on the left side, is what brought on all the drama. Once the air leaked out, I began to have trouble breathing, and the symptoms mimicked a heart attack. It honestly felt like a hand was squeezing my heart, and with enough force to cause terrifying pain. By the time the paramedics arrived, I was gasping and having trouble talking. Pain level on a 1-10 scale? 10!

They did heart readings immediately (just inside the door of my condo, where I lay after finally unlocking my door) and determined my heart was OK, which was a relief — but NOT! I couldn’t figure out what could hurt so much in my heart area, that wasn’t my heart.

The one light moment of the whole event came when the guys were asking me to tell what day it was, whether I had any history of heart attack in my family, how old I was. I could not get breath to answer anything quickly, so on the age question, one guy tried to helpfully supply the first part of my answer: ” Thirty …. ?” he said.

Laughing was out of the question. Even smiling was beyond me. I finally just slowly gasped, “Fifty …. seven.”

“She doesn’t look it,” muttered an unseen but appreciated paramedic.

It was all downhill after that; actually it was downhill from the moment I fell. The elevators in my condo building are too small for a gurney, so I had to be strapped into a wheelchair for transport to the ambulance. I spent a couple of hours in the emergency room where they found the fracture in my rib and hole in the lung. Fortunately, only 10 percent of my left lung had collapsed; but such holes can expand and I was admitted in case I lost 25 percent of my lung capacity. At that, they would have put a tube in to reinflate it, I believe. It’s hard to pay attention to everything when the doctors and nurses come and go in dizzying fashion.

The good news is my wonderful friends showed up immediately at my bedside and didn’t leave me alone for any of the scary, confusing, humbling hospital stay. They formed a network to provide rides, errands, Rx refills, Blue Bell ice cream and more. I spent 4 nights recuperating with one saintly couple before they cleared me for independent living again.

I returned to my little condo with relief, but also some trepidation. Nothing bad had ever occurred there, and now I have unsettling memories to add to all the peaceful, happy ones. It’ll take a while for everything to integrate. I’m torn between wanting to pretend it never happened (start exercising right away and ignore the warning that ribs take 6 weeks to heal) and remembering what it felt like to regain consciousness on my tile floor, confused and alone and bleeding.

I told a friend this, and she offered her belief that it’s best to honor all your memories, good or bad.

I know she’s right. It’s just going to take a little time to assimilate this whole experience.

Since there isn’t a cure for neurocardiogenic syncope, I might faint again. (This is actually the second time it’s happened; the first time also occurred just after I got out of bed, but I had 19 stitches in my head that day, and no diagnosis, just the assumption that it was an accident.)

Now I am more nervous about the slightest dizziness, and I am resigned to grabbing at walls even when there’s no need. One nurse told me the treatment for this condition is to sit down when you feel dizzy. Real high-tech right? And I read online that it’s more common in tall people, supposedly because the blood has a tiny bit farther to go from the heart to the head.

So … I’m educating myself and that’s a good thing. One friend told me of a young man in his 20s with neurocardiogenic syncope who faints a lot, like in the middle of the day even. My heart goes out to him, and his case gives me perspective. With only two incidents to date, I feel fortunate instead of cursed.

So that’s the path I’m on: taking stock and looking for the good in every event, even the ones that truly suck. Having a diagnosis is good. My goal is to take precautions so any future faints will be nothing but mild little swoons, an ever-so-common occurrence in this Southern summertime heat.


Alone at last

April 7, 2010

An e-mail this morning from a friend who said she enjoys following my blog sent me immediately to this site for a new post. Can’t imagine why I don’t do this a little more often, and hey, maybe I will now that I have no one to talk to. Cyberspace makes such a convenient substitute.

Yes, I’m living alone. For the first time in my life.

When I landed in the West Palm airport after driving to Cleveland to accompany my roommate to her new home and life, I was pretty despondent. I didn’t ask anyone to meet me inside, and that was a mistake. I felt so completely solo walking down the long, wide halls, watching all the reunions of passengers around me.

Then, for some reason, it occurred to me that it no longer made sense for my former roommate to be the ICE (or In Case of Emergency) number on my cell phone. Which she has been for years and years. The thought of removing her from that category and facing the chore of figuring out who the heck my ICE would now be did me in. I teared up, realizing how close we had become and how much we relied on each other. I was definitely dragging.

But a girlfriend from the newspaper pulled up out front a while later to run me home and we had a great visit catching up on folks I miss from the old Palm Beach Post gang, and I started to feel normal.

And honestly, it hasn’t been bad since. I do feel a giant void because I no longer know everything my roomie is up to and involved with, but we’re staying in close touch to ease those pangs. She sends me photos of unpacking and I send her pictures of the sunrise on Flagler Drive, where I live now.

But otherwise, I’m adjusting. I got home on a Monday, and though I ran a few errands and talked to sales clerks, I didn’t have any social engagements until dinner with friends on Saturday night. That’s a lot of alone time right up front. I did half a dozen phone interviews for the book however, which provided excellent therapy for my extroverted self.

The women I’ve spoken with are fascinating, forthright and funny. Getting them to talk openly about sexual desire isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think. It seems we’re all hungry to pull aside the curtains and learn a little more about what makes us tick and why desire is such an ephemeral thing. I wish I could meet them all in person, they sound like such fun people on the phone, but the number of interviews this book is going to require makes that impossible.

I’m not working very fast yet. I admit that. I assume it’ll go faster when I don’t have the distraction of trying to arrange all my stuff. Speaking of my stuff, WHY am I so absorbed by it? Working a full-time job left little time for obsessions, but now I’ve happily become camp counselor to all my belongings. Music? Over here. Family letters? Here with birthday cards and the like. Photos and photo albums line up over there. Tools? Hmmm. Let’s find you guys a box that will hold the entire gang and a shelf.

Honestly, it’s The. Most. Fun. Which is not to say that as I putter around in search of the ideal locale for, say, my sports equipment or perhaps my  jigsaw puzzles, that I’m unaware of the fact that I am contributing nothing, nothing to the planet. I’m taking up space, filling the dumpster with my castoffs and adding nothing to the social and political conversation of America.

So why am I so content? Maybe it’s just a phase, but I am deeply happy. I feel profoundly grateful for the chance to direct my own activities, to be free of the 9-5 workday for now. I’m shocked at how little work I have to do before my Camp Counselor is wanting me to take a break and tackle another home project. (Gotta get some pictures on these walls sooner or later, but they’re concrete and I’m a bit intimidated!)

This is a one-bedroom place and I’m probably three-quarters of the way through organizing, so I know the puttering will wind down pretty soon. But it’s been an amazingly contented week for me, realizing I like being my own company, that it’s OK (if perhaps not admirable) to be connected to my belongings, that it’s permissible to savor this amazing freedom.

After a lifetime of sharing dorm rooms, apartments, houses and land, I’m ready to fully experience the privilege of getting settled comfortably in this precious, solitary space.

Meet the new roommate

March 11, 2010

I wish I could say the transformation from journalist to author is further along than it is, but honestly . . . it’s taking me a while to switch from worker bee who buzzes around weekly deadlines to self-directed, disciplined writer who turns out solid, scholarly manuscript in 9 months.

In other words, gack.

I’m doing research, studying the 950 surveys we’ve collected so far (1,200 is the goal), taking notes as I go and marking potential interview subjects along the way — but it’s so different from actually writing and completing a story. Yesterday, after studying some excellent samples of non-fiction book proposals an agent sent me, I dove back into my own proposal, and did some serious tinkering. That felt really good, actually writing, so today, I’m going to continue. I need the feeling of mastery that controlling the words gives me, no matter how necessary it is to lay all the groundwork in the research arena of this book-writing process.

Meanwhile, as hinted previously, my roommate has indeed sold the house, which means my workspace will soon double as my living space. This has entailed the gradual filling up of my empty-except-for-a-desk condo to a place that only awaits my bed and chest of drawers. Final move-in is a little more than a week away.

But before I move in, I’m making the trek to Cleveland with my roomie, who’s moving there to live in the same town as her dad — for the first time since high school graduation. She isn’t crazy about driving, but I’m a fan of road trips, so she asked for my company on this last rendezvous as roommates, before we split off and begin new chapters. After 7+ years, I can honestly say she’s the easiest person I’ve ever lived with. By far, actually.

And now I’ll be living with myself. Alone. For the first time in my life. My ex used to travel alot, but I imagine that living with two dogs and expecting your husband home for frequent visits doesn’t feel the same as rattling around a place all by your lonesome, absent the heartbeat of even a pet or the expectation of a visitor.

Nonetheless, I am eager for this. It’s time to see how I function solo. In fact, it may be past due. I’m ready to see what surfaces when there’s no one else’s opinion to ask, no one else to accommodate. I know challenges are inevitable, but this seems like the perfect chance to explore a side of myself I’ve never had the chance to meet.

Let’s just hope we get along!

A space . . . created

January 9, 2010

So it’s been a while between postings, but there was the whole Texas, Christmas, snow, family, New Year’s, friends, airport thing to tend to.

I had many adventures during my 16 days away, some of which I may blog about later, but for right now, I have actual progress to report. Yes, I realize it’s about time. But it’s big news!  I have located and rented a place to write. This has become necessary because our house is for sale and will not tolerate the persistent mess I am required to make as I dig through the surveys we’ve gathered for the book, spread research books around me and just generally take up a whole room with creative artist’s sprawl.

Sure, I’ve read dozens of stories of fabulous people writing fabulous books with no sprawl space and no computer and little food and whatever other hardships can be conjured. I’m fully aware that good prose doesn’t require a big desk or a bit of solitude.

But a wonderful couple I know recently moved from a third-floor condo into their first home, and the condo has been empty for several months. We struck a deal for me to hang out there days, making a fine mess, finding a bit of solitude and getting comfortable with my writerly self. It’s close to the water, so it’ll be great for walks, and even has a porch area out back where I could carry my laptop. Naturally, it’s unfurnished, and while I have a book shelf and an excellent, recently-purchased office chair, the one thing I really needed was a desk of some kind. I knew the place was right for me when my friends, just before leading me into the condo, reluctantly told me that the one piece of furniture left behind (because they just couldn’t find a place for it at the new house) was a big desk. Was that a problem?

Well no it isn’t! Where do I sign?

I’m up late tonight because I have a bit of excess energy I won’t be able to burn off till tomorrow. See, in a few hours Paint Day begins, and I’m pathetically eager to show up with rollers and masking tape and grubby clothes. We’re going to turn the walls pale yellow—I got to choose!—and I’ll finally be doing something to bring the book closer. Having a physical task that will help create the space I’m longing for has me chomping at the bit.

By tomorrow night I’ll undoubtedly be exhausted and sore, but believe me, it’s gonna be that happy-tired feeling, the one that makes you sleep deep and peaceful.