Virtu-ality

I once heard this bit of advice when I was interested in becoming a rich and famous writer.

Write what you know.

Unfortunately, I didn’t follow that advice at the time, and it may be at least one reason why I became neither rich nor famous as an author. I’ve probably gotten better at following that advice. Most of my blog posts have been about things that I know. Psychiatric nursing. Getting drunk. Doing stupid stuff…  However, I doubt I’ll ever become rich or famous no matter how many Rules of Writing I follow.

The most important thing, according to the people in the know, was to just keep writing. Just in cases you were wondering…

I’ve had a lots of time to ponder the wisdom of those words, but I think you actually have to be a good writer in order to achieve fame and fortune.

I doubt I’ll  ever attempt to write another novel. I’m content with an occasional post in my blog. And is there such a thing as a rich and famous blogger? I suppose it’s possible, but only because I believe almost anything is possible.

I have a lots of time to ponder life; its many facets and mysteries. I get a lots of different points of view from my friends on social media.

One of the things I started pondering recently came from a post on Facebook from one of my friends:

Is it just me, or are people getting stupider?

Technology is a wonderful thing, but with so much knowledge and information available at our fingertips, maybe we are getting stupider. Well, not my generation. The ones that followed us.

I’m pretty sure every generation thinks they’re the only cool generation. The preceding generation is over the hill. The following generation doesn’t have a clue. And there may be some truth to that.

And then again, maybe my generation is responsible for producing a couple of generations of moronheads. They may not know shit, but they are technological wizards when it comes to finding what they want/need to know.

There’s an app for that.

That bit of advertising genius was aimed at Generations X, Y and Z. Not at me or my generation. We’re still trying to figure out if the Snapchamp is cute or creepy.

* * * *

I used to belong to a lots of groups on Facebook, but I’ve bailed on almost all of them. I found myself getting annoyed by the things the stupid people in the groups posted. It’s one of transitions you go through when you retire.

I used to belong to a Classic Movie group. I like classic movies. I thought there might be some valuable insights posted by other classic movie fans. I was wrong. This was one of the insightful posts from that group:

What’s your favorite Doris Day movie? I like Pillow Talk

There were literally thousands of posts like unto that, just change the name of the actor, and the movie.

But this post still has me scratching what’s left of the hair on my head:

I love Robert Redford. I love all of his movies! My favorite is Paul Newman!!

unnamed

That was pretty much my reaction, too. I’m no longer a member of that group.

* * * *

The Winter Olympics started a few days ago. I love the Olympics, too. So I became a member of the Official Winter Olympics Facebook page last Friday. And then I waited for the Opening Ceremony on come on at 8:00 PM.

While I waited, I read posts from my fellow lovers of the Olympics. There were a lots of posts like unto this:

Hello from Seattle! Go Team USA! Where are you and who do you want to win?

And I was okay with that. I mean, it’s the Olympics. Of course you’re going to root for your country. Who doesn’t? I responded that I was in Mexico, rooting for the Mexican Bobsled/Curling/ Ski Team.

Someone from Nigeria posted that she was proud of the Nigerian Bobsled team, the first African bobsled team in history. And a guy from the US responded, I think Jamaica was first.

And I responded, Yes, the African nation of Jamaica!

I could feel the Sands of Stupididity starting to flow into the hourglass, and then it happened, at 4:00 PM. Someone posted this:

I can’t find the Olympics on my TV! Am I missing something?

My first response was this: Yes! Your fucking brain! But I toned it down and said this instead: Yes, the Olympics.

And then I bailed on that group, too.

If there’s a message in this post, it’s this:

Never underestimate the power of stupidity

* * * *

I spend a lots of time on Facebook. I’m retired. Time is a resource that I have in abundance. I keep up with all of my virtual friends; their triumphs, their heartaches.

A couple of them just got married. A couple more of them are pregnant. One of them might be going to prison for some things she did several years ago when she was strung out on drugs.

When I read her post, the first thing I thought was, There but for the grace of God…

I’ve become much more selective about the people I send Friend Requests to. I haven’t had anyone ask me if I want to see naked pictures of them or sex chat in months. But I have been getting requests for something else.

Money. Or an iTunes card, whatever that is. I’ve only given serious thought to sending money to someone once, but I actually knew her, and she’s a sweet girl. I’ve never seriously considered sending money to someone I’ve never met.

And there’s one other thing some of my virtual friends are looking for:

A relationship.

Yeah, I don’t get it either. I’m not sure I could ever admit I met my wife on Facebook. I know online dating sites have become very popular, but I’m not sure I would ever use one.

And the thing I don’t get the most is Why me? I mean, there’s nothing on my Facebook profile that indicates that I would be interested in dating anyone. Maybe I should have a few people look at it, just to make sure…

This is an amalgamation of several conversations I’ve had over the last six months or so. I doubt any of them have been this long or detailed.

Random Girl: Hi  where are you from

Me: That information is on my profile page. If you don’t mind my asking, why did you send me a friend request?

Random Girl: Im looking for a serious relationship with a serious man.

Me: Sorry. I can’t help you. I’m not a serious man. You can ask around. I’m probably the least serious man on the planet.

Random Girl: lol your funny

Me: It’s you’re, not your…

Random Girl: what ever I want to meet you

Me: Are you on drugs?

Random Girl: no when can we meet

Me: Let me ask my wife. She doesn’t think that’s a good idea.

Random Girl: your married

Me: It’s you’re, not your… Yes, I’m very married. My wife is a supermodel. You would’ve known that if you had read my profile page.

Random Girl: thats okay. I still want to meet you send me a picture

Me: No. There’s a picture of me on my profile page

Random Girl: okay your really handsome

Me: It’s you’re, not your. That’s not my real picture. I look hideous. I was blown up by a bomb during the war.

Random Girl: you were in the war which one

Me: All of them since the American Civil War. I was almost killed at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Random Girl: okay I still want to meet you

Me: No, you don’t. The Battle of Gettysburg was fought in 1863. Besides, I live in Mexico. You’d hate it here.

Random Girl: Ive never been to mexico do you live on the beach

Me: No, I don’t live on the beach. I live in the mountains. It’s boring here, you’d hate it here after twenty minutes. Besides, I’m probably old enough to be your father.

Random Girl: how old are you

Me: I’m 62. How old are you?

Random Girl: Im 28 age isn’t important

Me: Jesus! I’m old enough to be your grandfather! The only people who say that are stupid young people!

Random Girl: lol I don’t like boys my age  I want a mature man who will treat me nice like you

Me: You don’t even know me! I could be a serial killer!

Random Girl: lol what do you do in mexico

Me: I just told you, I’m a serial killer. Why else would I be in Mexico?

Random Girl: I dont think youd hurt me

Me: That’s what the last three girls like you said. I’m running out of room in my backyard

Random Girl: for what

Me: To bury bodies

Random Girl: okay when can I come see you

Me: You can’t. I’m married. And if I don’t kill you, my wife will.

Random Girl: why would you’re wife want to kill me

Me: It’s your, not you’re. She’s a serial killer, too. That’s why we make such a cute couple.

Random Girl: but I want to take care of you

Me: I weigh five hundred pounds. I haven’t had a bath in a week. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.

Random Girl: its okay

Me: Oh, that’s different. I just shit my pants. How long will it take you to get here?

So far no one has hung in there after that line, no matter how much they said they wanted to meet me.

From the Odds and Ends Department

Have you ever watched something on TV, or read something, and thought, Man, I could do so much better than that! You might even be thinking that right now…  Especially if you’ve read more than one of my blog posts.

I mean, all this guy writes about is getting wasted, his slutty girlfriends, and how all of his relationships fell apart! There was that story about his nympho Russian girlfriend, Ivana Sukyurkokov. And his heartbroken Chinese girlfriend, Wat Wen Wong. Jeez, his blog is dumber than putting wheels on a ball! I liked him more when he wrote about crazy people!

And I hear you. Before I started writing my blog, I thought bloggers were people who needed to get a fucking life, man. They were probably people who thought Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian were the epitome of American society and they all wanted to be Paris-ites, or biffles, or twat waffles with them or something.

I’ve started reading some of the blogs that are out there on the Interweb, and I was wrong about bloggers. Most of them appear to have lives.

Except me.

I’m retired. If I were to write about my day-to-day life now, my blog would consist of restaurant reviews in the Lakeside area, and stories about how much I love my Sleep Number bed®.

And to be honest, I probably liked me more when I was writing about crazy people, too. But those stories are relatively easy to write, and like everything else in life, it’s only when you step outside of your comfort zone that anything meaningful happens. It’s the stories I didn’t want to write that taught me the most about myself. It was the stories that hurt like hell that showed me how far I’ve come.

And how far I still have to go.

And the other thing about writing about my nursing career is not every person I cared for resulted in a story worth telling.  Knife wielding homicidal maniacs were the exception, not the rule, thank God. Most of my patients were never a problem, unlike medical dramas on TV. I’d probably hate being a TV nurse, unless my work partner was the hot nurse with the big tits…

The majority of my nursing career was pretty ho-hum. Mischief was managed. Shit got done. No one died. And that was that. But there were a lots of snippets and moments and oneliners, and if I could patchwork a lots of them together, I might be able to spin a tale or two…

* * * *

I’ve discovered that time management is still necessary once you retire. I certainly have more time to do things I enjoy now, like reading. And because other bloggers sometimes read my posts, I feel a certain obligation to read some of their posts, too. My favorite blogger is a young woman in New York who writes about her struggle to overcome her eating disorder. Her blog is called Beauty Beyond Bones. And while I love her now, I probably would’ve hated her as a patient.

Back when I was a psych nurse in Arizona, there were a couple of eating disorder treatment facilities in the little town of Wickenburg, about thirty miles northwest of Surprise. Remuda Ranch and Rosewood Ranch. She’s never come out and said if she was a patient at either of them, but I’m going to guess she was at Remuda. I hope she doesn’t mind me saying that. I interviewed at both facilities, but decided not to take a position at either one of them. I absolutely sucked at working with eating disorder patients.

Remuda is a Christian based treatment facility. One of the questions they asked me in the interview was did I think the Bible was the sole source of truth. I said no, it wasn’t, and I wasn’t even sure all of the things written in the Bible were true. After my interview, they told me I wasn’t Christian enough to meet their criteria. I told them that was okay. They weren’t the first Christians to tell me that.

A few weeks later they called me back and told me that they had changed their mind about me, and asked if I was still interested in working there. I wanted to say something like, God, you guys must be fucking desperate! But instead I thanked them for thinking of me, and told them I had found another position and I wasn’t available anymore.

Well, it was the truth…

Like most every psychological/psychiatric disorder, eating disorders are caused by a multitude of complex factors, and as with every psychological/psychiatric disorder–except dementia–the successful treatment of anorexia or bulimia depends completely on the patient. If they don’t want to change their behavior, there ain’t nothin’ anyone can do for them once they’re discharged from the hospital.

It’s like alcoholism or drug addiction, only worse. Just as the drinking and chemical use are usually a symptom of a deeper, darker pathology, eating disorders are about far more than food.

Eating disorders are incredibly difficult to treat, mostly because eating disorder patients are the spawn of Satan. I mean that in a Christian way. They are sneakier than a ninja. They can vomit silently so they can purge without anyone knowing. They stockpile food so they can binge feed when no one is looking. And if their lips are moving, they’re probably lying.

The other thing I remember most clearly about most of these women, and they were all females, is the majority of them were gorgeous. And that is truly one of the great mysteries that used to keep me awake at night when I was learning how to be a psych nurse. How could someone so beautiful be so fucking miserable?

One of my first posts was about one of my patients at the MVAMC. I called him the Piano Man because he liked to play the piano. About the time he walked onto the unit for one of his many admissions, we had just discharged a gal with anorexia. She had been on our unit for a couple of weeks, and none of the staff were sad to see her go.

After we got the Piano Man admitted, he sat down at the piano and started playing, and the piano sounded like a wounded moose. We opened the top to find the eating disorder girl had hid enough food inside of the piano to feed Hannibal’s entire army when he crossed the Alps to attack Rome. Including the elephants.

For someone who has never worked in a psychiatric setting, it would be easy to say that we, as staff members, totally sucked at our job, and I really don’t have much of anything to say in our defense. We were hardly specialists at treating eating disorders, and the fact we were so happy to see that particular patient leave speaks volumes to the level of struggle we all had with her.

* * * *

To be sure, it’s very easy to be an armchair quarterback or a wheelchair general, and criticize someone doing a job you’ve never attempted. And when you’re in a service oriented occupation like Nursing, you are never going to be able to make everybody happy. No one is that good, and people can be incredibly demanding/entitled. And it is generally the people who were making the least positive contribution to anything who were the most demanding and entitled.

You guys have to be the worst fucking nurses I’ve ever seen! I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that one. And it was usually a guy that you and your team had spent a month busting your asses trying to arrange housing and follow up for, who had been discharged from your unit forty-eight hours earlier, and was already back because he chose to drink as much alcohol and smoke as much meth as he possibly could before he came crawling back to the hospital.

Most of the time it’s better to just agree with someone like that, and walk away. But there were times when I couldn’t.

“Maybe you should get out more…  That means a lots coming from you…”

I said something like unto that to one of my unhappy frequent flyer guys at the MVAMC who probably spent as much time in the hospital as I did. His name was Ray. I’m going to guess that the total bill for the many, many times we detoxed him off of alcohol, sobered him up and set him up to succeed was in excess of one million dollars, and he had this response, “You used to be a good guy, but you need a new job. You’ve been inpatient too long.”

“So have you.” I replied.

He froze to death one cold December night in Minneapolis. He had gotten drunk and was walking to the hospital so he could be admitted again. His body was found propped up against a tree across the street from the hospital in the morning. He had stopped to rest before making his final stumbling trek to the ED, and had fallen asleep.

You meet a lots of guys like unto that when you’re a psych nurse. There was Charles. He was another MVAMC guy who spent an inordinate amount of time getting drunker than fifty guys combined, and the rest of his time detoxing on my unit.

We had safely detoxed Charles for the umpteenth time, and discharged him at 9:00 AM on a Friday morning. At 2:30 PM that same day, I answered the phone. It was Charles.

“Hey, I don’t think this discharge thing is going to work, man. I’ve been out of the hospital for about six hours, and I’m pretty fuckin’ wasted, man.” he slurred.

“Hey, Charles. Has it ever occurred to you that you need to quit drinking?” I decided to ask. There was a long silence, and then Charles said this,

“Is there anyone else there I can talk to?”

For one of the few times in my life, I had no response. I handed the phone to one of my co-workers. Charles would also die to death as a result of his alcohol abuse.

Sometimes the disease wins.

* * * *

You never know what you’ll see or hear as a psych nurse, and there’s a reason for that. People are capable of an infinite amount of kooky stuff, not that you have to be a psych nurse to experience the full spectrum of kookiness available out there.

All you really need to see that is a family.

But one thing you may not experience unless you’re a psych nurse is the dreaded Dissociative Identity Disorder, or more commonly, Multiple Personality Disorder. In my thirty year career, I met a lots of people who claimed to have multiple personalities, but none of them ever seemed to be legitimate to me, or anyone else I worked with.

Multiple Personality Disorder was virtually unheard of until the 1970’s. That’s when the book Sybil was published, 1973 to be exact. Three years later, the TV movie of the same name was broadcast on NBC, starring Sally Field and Joanne Woodward, and like magic, suddenly everyone had multiple personalities.

For my money, all of the people I met who claimed to have multiple personalities were just assholes looking for an easy excuse for their behavior.

* * * *

I was working nights at the MVAMC fairly early in my career. I was the Med nurse that night, so anyone needing any medications had to see me. Enter Sam. It was around 2:00 AM. We had detoxed Sam off of alcohol with a Valium protocol. Once someone had been safely detoxed, the protocol was discontinued.

Sam had been off the protocol for a day or two, but he wanted more Valium. I explained to him how the protocol worked, and Sam had a five star meltdown. He screamed at me, waking up everyone on the unit. One of the other nurses called the POD and got a one time order of Valium for Sam, and he went back to bed.

At 6:00 AM, Sam came up to the nursing station to get his morning meds. He was quite pleasant, and I remarked that he was much nicer than he had been at 2:00 AM.

“Oh, that. That wasn’t me. That was Samuel.”

“No kidding. He looks just like you.” I said.

Sam gave me, and anyone else willing to listen, a detailed description of his three personalities: Sam, Samuel and Sheryl. A line of patients had formed behind Sam. They were waiting to get their meds so they could go smoke. According to Sam, Samuel was the troublemaker. Sheryl was the lover, and Sam was the drunk. I listened to Sam, and gave him his meds.

“Well, the next time you talk to Samuel, give him a message.” I said. “If he ever talks to me like that again, I’m gonna punch you in the fuckin’ mouth.”

Sam’s jaw dropped. He turned to the guys standing behind him, “Did you hear that! He threatened me!”

“Hey! Take your goddamn meds and get the hell out of the way! And if you ever pull that shit again, if he doesn’t punch you in the fuckin’ mouth, I will.” one of the Nam vets growled.

Yeah, not one of my better moments, but Samuel never made another appearance.

* * * *

I think the last time I met anyone who claimed to have multiple personalities was at Aurora. I walked onto the Canyon Unit, and Nikki was on a 1:1. She was a frequent flyer, and I was usually her nurse.

A 1:1 is a special precaution, usually reserved for patients that are acutely suicidal. In essence, one staff person is assigned to one patient, and that patient is never more than an arm’s length away from the person assigned to watch over them.

Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work, but it’s rarely played out that way.

I went over to talk to Nikki. She had scratched her wrist with a plastic spoon on the evening shift. She didn’t even break the integrity of her skin, and her nurse had placed her on the 1:1.

I’m shaking my head while I write this. I don’t usually like to criticize the actions of other nurses, but that was a lazy-ass intervention. If the evening nurse had taken even five minutes to talk to Nikki, that ridiculous waste of manpower and resources wouldn’t have been needed. We barely had enough staff to cover the units, let alone have one staff assigned to watch someone for no good reason.

I asked Nikki to tell me what happened.

“I didn’t do anything! It was Alexandra!”

“And whom might that be?”

“She’s one of my three personalities! She–”

“Stop. Cut the crap, Nikki. You’re on a 1:1. You can’t smoke if you’re on a 1:1.” I said.

“But they let me smoke last night, and this morning!”

“I don’t care what they did last night. This is my unit, my rules. If I can’t trust you to be safe on the unit, I’m sure as hell not going to trust you to be safe off the unit, with a lit cigarette in your hand. What if you decide to burn yourself?”

“It wasn’t me! It was Alexandra!”

“I don’t care who did it. None of you get to smoke.”

“I’ll be safe, I promise! Please!!”

Less than five minutes. Mischief managed. And I never heard another word about Alexandra again. Ever.

* * * *

There was a fairly consistent response whenever I told someone that I had just met that I was a psychiatric nurse. Their eyes would widen, and they would say something like unto, “I bet you’ve seen it all, huh.”

I would reply, “No. I’ve seen a lots of strange stuff, but the kookiness of humans is infinite.”

And that is the fucking truth.

Every time I thought I had seen it all, something I didn’t think was humanly possible walked through the door. I eventually made peace with the fact that I would never see it all, and I was okay with that. My two other personalities are still sulking about that a bit, but they’ll get over it.

Or I’ll punch them in the mouth.

Paperback Writer

When I started writing my Reflections posts on Facebook, many of the people that read them said, You should write a book!

My response was something like unto, Forgive them. They know not what they say.

Writing, like cunnilingus, is dark and lonely work. If you don’t believe me, try doing either one of them exclusively for a year or two. A writer spends hours, days, weeks and months doing nothing but writing. On the Fun Scale, it doesn’t even register.

For starters, no one writes everything perfectly the first time. I sure as hell don’t. I have to edit and rewrite almost everything I write, even grocery lists, and that includes these posts. When I was trying to become a published author, I spent eight to ten hours a day or more parked in front of my computer monitor almost every day for two years. My only companion was a glass and a bottle of scotch.

I’m probably not a very good writer. I doubt I could tell you the difference between an adverb and an adjective. I mix past, present and future tenses. I leave participles dangling all the time. The only reason I know what a conjunction is is because I watched Schoolhouse Rock when I was a kid. I wrote what popped into my creative mind, irregardless of its grammatical correctness. And yes, I know irregardless isn’t a real word.

I’ve written a book before. It was a monster; over 1500 pages. After a lots of discussion with other hopeful authors and people in the publishing business, I broke my magnum opus into three smaller books. If you’ve never heard of me, or any of my books, there’s a simple reason. None of them were ever published.

I titled my book Seven Trumpets. It was a fictional interpretation of the Book of Revelation, the Two Witnesses, and the End of Times. And you have never seen a more pissed off person than I was when Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins came out with their Left Behind series.

still hate those two fucking fucks.

I wanted to be a rich and famous author back in the 1990’s. And a prophet–I really wanted to be a prophet, too. Granted, the publishing business has changed a lots since then, but what hasn’t. Would I have a better chance of successfully being published now?

Possibly. But the publishing business isn’t the only thing that’s changed since then. I no longer have the desire to be a rich. I no longer desire to be famous. Okay, I still want to be a prophet. That part hasn’t changed much.

And I still like writing–writing is a creative process, and I’m a fairly creative guy. But I have no desire to write another book. And that’s all because of the publishing process. Publishing is a business. Publishers aren’t interested in creativity. Publishers are interested in making money.

Back in the 1990’s, once you wrote something you wanted to see in your local bookstore, you needed a publisher. To procure a publisher, you wrote a query letter that briefly described your book and why it should be published, and sent it out to every publishing company you could find an address for. I’m going to take a wild guess here, but publishing companies probably received hundreds of query letters from guys and gals like me every day. I don’t know the statistics of novels published based on a query letter, but I’m going to take another guess here and say not very damn many.

There were actual published books that were little more than lists of publishing companies and their addresses, and you could find them in bookstores. Publishers probably loved them because potential authors bought them by the ton.

I know this because I bought a few/several of them. I wrote query letters by the dozen and mailed them out every week. And I received a lots of letters in return. I can still remember the excitement I felt when I saw my first response from a publishing company I had queried in my mailbox. My hands were shaking so badly I could hardly open it. Good thing it wasn’t an engagement ring!

Alas, the first letter I received from a publishing company was a what authors referred to as a rejection letter. Come to think of it, the last letter I received was a rejection letter, as well as all the letters in between. I had a stack of them over a foot high.

I’m not the only author that has experienced this. Norman Vincent Peale received so many rejection letters he threw his manuscript in the garbage. His wife pulled it out of the trash and convinced him to try, one more time. You might have heard of his book, The Power of Positive Thinking.

Robert M. Pirsig received over one hundred rejection letters before his manuscript was published. Maybe you’ve heard of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. If you haven’t, read it. It’s one of my favorite books.

Rejection is part of the publishing process. My experience certainly wasn’t/isn’t/will be unique. As I was to learn from the mountain of rejection letters I received, publishing is a very subjective business, and just because Random House wasn’t interested in publishing my manuscript didn’t mean another company wouldn’t be. Good luck with your career…

After two years of writing, and editing, and rewriting almost every sentence I wrote, thanks in part to double vision from the scotch I was drinking. After another three years of writing query letters, and attending seminars on getting published, and making follow up calls to any publishing company that would talk to me, I finally decided I’d had enough and quit. I threw every copy of my manuscript I had in the garbage. I trashed every note of research I had done. Any scrap of paper even remotely related to my writing got tossed. Even my pile of rejection letters.

I have no desire to go back down that road again. I like to think that all of you who encouraged me to write a book did so because you enjoyed reading my stories, and I appreciate that more than I can say. A writer lives to have his or her work read. A comedian lives to make people laugh. I have at least two reasons to live right now. Writing a few humorous and perhaps poignant short stories every week has fit into my new lifestyle very well so far.

Lea would never tell me, but I think she was overjoyed when I finally gave up trying to be a rich and famous author. And a prophet, though I’m still holding on to the slight possibility it could still happen. I look upon it as my last chance at redemption and recompense. I’m sure I ignored my lovely wife terribly during my writing days. She was one of the few people that actually read my monster manuscript from start to finish, and I know I didn’t take anything that sounded like criticism or correction from her gracefully. I don’t know how she put up with me. I could be a real bastard to live with back then.

Thanks for not divorcing me, honey.