My Right Foot

For those of you who read my last post, I have an update. For those of you that didn’t, I had purchased a defective component for my stereo system and had been trying to get some sort of resolution of my problem through the Customer Support team at Best Buy®.

I had talked to a couple of the support people on the phone early in March, and while they were polite and friendly, they weren’t able to do anything to rectify my problem. So I sent several emails to the executive members of the Customer Support team. And nothing happened until March 10th when I received an email from one member of the Executive Resolution Team assuring me that I was a revered and extremely valuable customer. And then nothing happened. Again.

Yesterday, I sent another email to Best Buy®, and I finally contacted the one person I had initially resisted contacting.

Mr. Herbert Joly, the CEO.

I outlined all of my conversations with the Customer Support team, verbal and written, and asked Mr. Joly if he’d be kind enough to, you know, kind of light a small to medium sized fire under a few asses and get someone to do something to resolve my problem in a bit more timely manner, like, this year.

I told Mr. Joly that I had been a nurse, so I had a very basic understanding of customer service. I likened my experience with his company to having one of my patients ask me for a couple of Tylenol for pain, then me responding, “I’m sorry, revered and extremely valuable customer. If you could check back with me in six to eight months, I might be able to help you.”

This morning, I received a telephone call from Mr. Eleazar Kovalov, the guy who had assured me that I was revered and extremely valuable. He said that he was going to send me a refund check in the amount of $81.96. In his mind, it was the easiest, quickest resolution, and this thing had clearly been stretched out too long already. And he informed me that I would receive my check in ten days.

But wait, there’s more. My lovely supermodel wife’s boyfriend is coming here to visit at the end of April, and he’s going to bring me a new wireless rear speaker unit.

You can breathe easily once more, Jane. Balance has been restored to The Force, at least as far as this situation goes.

And one last thing. I sent another email to Mr. Joly thanking him for his assistance.

However, there always has to be something else that gets messed up, creating a different imbalance, otherwise my life would be perfect. It would appear there’s a plan in place to make sure that never happens.

* * * *

I’ve mentioned my affection for movies and music in previous posts. Little Known Fact About My Blog: many of the titles of the posts I write are also song or movie titles. Or at the very least, a play on words that reflects a song or movie title.

Coming up with a catchy title is the most critical part of the writing process. Well, it is for me. Suppose that Erich Maria Remarque wanted to write a sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front. He’d need another catchy title to grab his readers’ attention.

I’d suggest this: Still Pretty Quiet on the Western Front. 

Mr. Remarque will have to figure out the rest…

* * * *

Perhaps you’ve seen the movie, My Left Foot, 1989, Daniel Day-Lewis. It’s the story of Christy Brown. He was an Irishman born with cerebral palsy, and the only part of his body he could control was his left foot. About a week ago, my right foot started bothering me and it steadily got worse until it became the only part of my body that I couldn’t control.

I’m fairly used to having at least one part of my body bother me on a daily basis, so I wasn’t too concerned about my newest pain issue. It wasn’t too bad. Most of the time. Unless I was golfing.

Until yesterday.

I went to my weekly golf lesson with my buddy, Tom. By the way, my golf coaches are reasonably satisfied with the mechanical improvement in my swing. I still have a bunch of stuff to figure out, but as they say, it’s job security for them.

My golf lesson is a group lesson. A bunch of old, white gringos gather on the driving range and hit golf balls while Romero and Cesar critique our swings and stuff. Yesterday, I hit golf balls for about an hour. And that’s all I did. I didn’t practice putting. I didn’t run laps around the golf course, or do any push ups. To be honest, none of us do any of those things. Most of the old gringos hit golf balls, then go drink beer in the club house afterwards.

My right foot was aching on a medium-ish scale when I arrived at the golf course, but by the time I got home I could hardly place any weight on my wildly throbbing foot. On a scale of one to ten, my pain was a nine. It climbed to thirteen if I tried to walk.

I’m not a doctor. I’ve never even played one on TV, but I once was a very good nurse. So I decided to diagnose myself.

Okay. I need to document a couple of disclaimers. First, and foremost, do not try this at home. I am a highly trained healthcare professional with decades of experience at speaking very complex medical terminology.

Second, and secondmost, do not, under any circumstances, ever ask me to diagnose you. I’ll tell you that you have cancer.

Okay. Let us begin.

* * * *

Little Known Fact About Nurses: whenever something goes wrong with our bodies, we automatically assume the worst. We know all of the terrible things that can go wrong. Therefore, I immediately came to the conclusion that I had somehow stepped on a landmine.

Little Known Fact About Medical Diagnoses: finding the correct diagnosis can be a very complicated and tricksy thing. It’s basically a process of ruling out shit until only one thing can be ruled in. Unless there’s more than one thing…  Seeing how I hadn’t actually stepped on a landmine, it was easy to rule this out. The only thing about this diagnosis that was remotely accurate was it conveyed the level of pain I was in.

So I moved on to the next most probable scenario. I had stepped in a bear trap. Again, fairly easy to rule out because there aren’t any wild bears in Mexico, and even if there are, there aren’t any living in the Lakeside area, so there aren’t any bear traps to accidentally step in.

Trauma would certainly be a good cause of the pain I’ve been experiencing. But I’m pretty sure I’d remember injuring myself, and I have no recollection of doing anything to fold, spindle or otherwise mutilate my right foot.

Back when I was drinking myself to death, I would wake up in the morning with multiple areas that ached with pain. And the first thing that popped into my head was, Did I jump out of a car on the highway again?

Once I got through the impossible possibilities it was on to the less improbable possibilities.

* * * *

Gout.

Gout is a complex form of arthritis that can affect anyone, but is more common in older males. Like, well, me. It’s characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, swelling, redness and tenderness in the joints, often the joint at the base of the big toe.

It is precisely that part of my right foot that has been screaming in something like unto agony.

Gout occurs when urate crystals accumulate in your joints, causing inflammation and intense pain. Urate crystals can form when you have high levels of uric acid in your blood.

Okay. I just had a bunch of labs done last week, and none of my lab values were abnormal. While gout isn’t as ridiculous of a diagnosis as landmines or bear traps, it still doesn’t appear to be very probable.

If you’re experiencing a gout flare up, urate crystals accumulate in all of your joints, not just your big toe. I have varying degrees of arthritis in my back, shoulders and knees. And also in my hips, ankles and hands. Yet none of those joints are screaming in pain. The only thing that is gout-ish about my symptoms is the point of origin of my pain.

I might not be able to completely rule out gout, but neither can I completely rule it in. There’s a couple of more possibilities.

* * * *

Bunions.

A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe. It forms when your big toe pushes against your next toe, forcing the joint of your big toe to get bigger and stick out. Bunions can also hurt like hell.

Little Known Fact About My Right Foot: it has a bunion. It’s not a big bunion, and as far as I know it has never caused me this much discomfort before. So whatever it is that has gone wrong with my foot, it probably isn’t the bunion’s fault.

My right foot hurts almost as bad as my first kidney stone did, which made me think that maybe I was passing another kidney stone, except this one is leaving my body via the big toe on my right foot. As intriguing as this idea is, I drink a lots of water now, mostly because I never want to have another kidney stone. Even in my foot.

I’m pretty sure I can rule out my bunion. And a pedal/plantar renal calculus.

See? I told you I knew a lots of fancy-sounding words. And then I remembered something that sounds uber-fancy.

* * * *

Plantar Fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of foot pain. It involves an inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes, the plantar fascia. Hence, the name. Plantar fasciitis typically causes a stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot near the heel.

However, my heel is the only part of my right foot that doesn’t hurt. The rest of it fucking hurts like unto two goddamn hells. It feels like I’m walking on razor blades while dropping a bowling ball on my foot.

I have a very high pain tolerance, but this has been beyond my ability to effectively cope with, so I did what any logical guy in my position would do. I begged my lovely supermodel wife to amputate my right foot with my power miter saw. She said no, which wasn’t all that surprising. She would probably tell you that she spends one-third of her time saying no to things I suggest.

Perhaps A Little Known Fact About Plantar Fasciitis And Nurses: nurses are at a high risk level of developing plantar fasciitis because they spend long hours on their feet walking on hard surfaces. Several nurses I know have had it. Their descriptions of their symptoms are what made me think PF was the root cause of my aching foot.

Like unto almost every disease process, there are multiple factors involved in contracting and/or developing PF, and I have almost none of them. I don’t exercise. I sure as hell don’t run. I’m not obese. I’m not working as a nurse anymore. Still, there’s one possible indication that applies to me.

Shoes.

Wearing ill-fitting shoes can cause PF. I recently bought a new pair of Skechers® golf shoes. I absolutely love Skechers®. I have five pairs of their shoes. They’re the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. That said, I’m not sure why I bought new golf shoes. I didn’t need them. I already have two pairs of golf shoes. My new shoes are a bright neon green. You need sunglasses just to look at them. I never buy stuff like unto that.

My new golf shoes are the most expensive shoes I’ve ever purchased, but they’re just a bit too big for my feets. My feets slip and slide, just a little, inside my new shoes when I’m walking downhill. Otherwise, I don’t really notice any issues with my golf shoes. Maybe, just maybe, they might have some culpability in the current status of my right foot.

And then there’s this: the recommended treatments for PF have made my right foot feel better. Rest. Ice packs. Motrin. Stretching exercises. Elevation.

Something I found interesting is one of treatments for plantar fasciitis is ESWT.  Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy. It’s what my urologist did to break up two of my kidney stones.

I’ll probably spend the next few days doing those things, minus the ESWT, and not much else. My right foot actually feels pretty decent right now. I hope it works. I’m going golfing on Sunday.

If the shoe fits…  In my case, it’s the opposite. At this point, I’m not sure I’ll ever wear my amazing Technicolor golf shoes again.

Perhaps A Little Known Fact About Me And Shoes: I rarely wear shoes around the house. I prefer being barefoot. So this makes the case against my flamboyant golf shoes that much stronger. My feet have been seen associating with them more than any of my other shoes.

* * * *

And there you have it. We have explored several possibilities. Some of them even made sense. What we ended up with is Non-traumatic Non-traditional Delayed Onset Pseudo-Goutal Plantar-Facio Bunionitis with Possible Idiopathic Displaced Renal Calculus Syndrome.

Ta-da!!!

If I had gone to see my doctor back in the States, that diagnosis would probably have cost me a few hundred dollars. In Mexico, it would’ve been seiscientos pesos. Roughly thirty bucks.

I love Mexico.

Does anyone want a pair of Technicolor golf shoes? Sunglasses not included.

Becoming…

I started thinking about the word becoming yesterday. It can mean something flattering, especially in regard to appearance.

That’s a very becoming outfit!

That’s not the definition I’m thinking of. It’s mostly used by women and spoken to other women, and if it were directed to me, it would indicate I’m wearing something that probably makes me look very ladylike, and that’s not at all something I’m trying to achieve.

It can also be the process of coming to be something different, or of passing into a another state.

That’s the definition I’ve been contemplating.

We’re all becoming something, and hopefully, something better. I think what I was becoming was a pathetic sissifated sniffle-snaffle whining crybaby, wandering in the dark. And that’s not what I want for my life. It’s not even what I wanted when it was the only truth of my life.

I’ve been blessed with a lots of friends that took care of me when I was incapable of doing so myself. In retrospect, that’s what Raoul and Nadina did for me back when they welcomed me into their home and fed me. And there were a lots of others through the years. I doubt I’d still be alive if not for them, so to all of you, named and unnamed, thank you.

Last night my lovely supermodel wife made spaghetti, and there’s nothing that will fill the emptiness of of one’s soul as deliciously as Italian food.

And then I did the dishes. I don’t cook, so I clean up.

There’s something therapeutic about cleaning up. It doesn’t require much thought, just repetitive scrubbing and rinsing until everything is clean once more. And that’s when my epiphany hit me.

Some things need to be cleaned. Some things do not.

It would appear I started cleaning out my closet, the place I chose to store the darker memories of my life. But as I was cleaning up after dinner last night I asked myself this question: Why?

And I asked myself that because of a question a friend of mine asked after she read one of my very dark posts. Who the hell is your Muse?

Just in cases you were wondering, there are nine Muses, and it took me a moment to realize she wasn’t asking me to identify which daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne was fucking up my life, and hers.

If that had been her real question, I’d pick Melpomene.

Her real question was, What in the hell do you think you’re doing?!?

And my internal response was, What have I done lately that would indicate I have any idea what I’m doing! And that’s when things started coming into focus.

As another friend of mine observed, I have lived a crazy life. And while some of that stuff is funny, a lots of it is not.

Thank you, Maureen. Thank you, Lorrie. I’m better now. I slept something like unto the sleep of bronze last night, and sleep is one of the most restorative things ever invented.

You know what else is very restorative? A hot shower. I feel better today than I have in over a month. Today, life is good again, and I’d like to keep it that way.

* * * *

So, back to my metaphysical closet of horrors. I can’t undo what I’ve done. Unfortunately. I may have originally thought I’d be doing something therapeutic by trying to clean out that space of fifty thousand shades of black, but I’m thinking now that I may do more harm than good in the attempt.

I mean, do I really need to clean that closet out?

In terms of physical closets, why does one clean a closet? Well, to get rid of stuff one doesn’t use anymore, and to make room for stuff one does use.

I’m not planning on putting more mean-icky-nasty stuff into that closet, so I don’t really need to create more storage space, do I?

No, I do not.

One of the things I learned as a psych nurse was not to take on other people’s burdens. For one thing, they weren’t my burdens, and even if I were willing to carry them, it’s not an effective intervention. Personal burdens cannot be transferred from one person to another.

Another thing I learned was more isn’t always better. One of the things psych nurses do is dispense medications, and sometimes nurses can develop a very narrowly focused field of vision.

For example, confusion can be a common reason for someone to be admitted to a psych facility, especially if the person in question isn’t normally confused.

I think confused is my natural state.

Confusion can be caused by a lots of things, and a very narrowly focused nurse might think the only reasonable treatment is to medicate the piss out of a confused patient. But what if it was a medication that caused the confusion in the first place? More meds would only make it worse.

I’m sure there were times when I fell into that trap, but there were also times I did not, and would advocate for what is called a medication holiday. Stop everything. If it’s the meds, the patient will start improving very quickly.

It was worth a try. More often than not, it worked.

There’s another thing I learned as a psych nurse. When you find yourself at the bottom of an hole, stop digging.

* * * *

Mental illness is a tricksy beast to battle, mostly because Psychiatry is such an imprecise science. We can’t pop open the skull and replace the worn out or damaged parts of the brain. If we could, I would’ve replaced mine a long time ago.

We used medications, and talk therapy, and refocusing and redirecting. And we did a lots of reminding about boundaries because that’s an area a lots of psych patients have problems with. And sometimes psych nurses do, too.

As a psych nurse, you have to have boundaries, lest ye be pulled into darkness and lose yourself. It’s like saving a drowning person. You have to be careful or might got dead yourself in the process.

It gets even tricksier when the person you’re trying to save is yourself. Until I inadvertently fucked up my life, I wasn’t even aware I needed saving.

Life is all about choices, and I can control the choices I make. I’m sure I made a mistake when I decided to do some metaphysical cleaning, but I don’t have to compound it by continuing to do something that isn’t beneficial to myself to anyone else. I’ve already done enough damage to myself and others to last a couple of lifetimes.

When I started my blog, I did so as an avocation. It’s become more of a vocation, and that has to stop. And it most definitely has to stop going in the direction it’s been heading. The last thing I need to create is a written record of all my crimes and misdemeanors.

As I recall, I spent most of my life trying to avoid that outcome. I really need to follow the very good advice many people have given me over the years and get my head out of my ass.

I need to refocus. I need to redirect myself. I really don’t need to revisit the darkness hidden in my metaphysical closet of horrors. I put all that crap in there for a reason, and I need to respect that.

I choose a different path today. I choose the Light. I’m sure I still have plenty of available storage space for good memories, and if I don’t, I know how to make more.

I have a lots of power tools in the old tool box now, and I know how to use them.

The Kingdom of Heaven

It would appear God has my Muse by the short hairs. Maybe that means something. That would be nice. It’s not the most comfortable position for my Muse to be in, for sure. But, as in all things, it could be far worse, she could have a bad back…  On the bright side, once I get this out of my system, I’ll be freed to write about other things, unless God starts speaking to me.

Now that I think about that prospect, I’m not sure if I’m excited or terrified. I guess it would depend on what He has to say.

* * * *

Back when I was a psych nurse, I would occasionally engage my co-workers in religious discussions. As I said, I spent a lots of time thinking about the subject, and it was probably safer than talking about their tits.

Except with my ex-work wife, former Wonder Twin, Tara Grant Molden. She could talk about either subject with the same amount of ease. What a gal!

But one of my colleagues said something like unto this one day, “I go to church, but it’s a bunch of Biblical stuff, and who can understand that?” I know, right! And she was smart! Nice tits too, by the way. And one of the most confusing Biblical things was the Kingdom of Heaven.

When Jesus started his ministry, he did so by announcing, “The Kingdom of Heaven is upon you.” That’s what the Good News was. I guess it’s still the Good News.

Okay, class. What do you need to have a kingdom?

A king!

Yes. And what else?

A queen?

Maybe. What else?

A castle, with a throne?

Sure, why not. What else?

Um, subjects?

And that’s pretty much it. A kingdom is a group of people united under, and ruled by, a king. And that, was the purpose of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was sent by God to create a divine government.

Somehow, that message has been diluted down over the years, and I think we can thank the Romans for that. The early Christians certainly had to be careful not to step on the toes of the Romans, or Rome would have stomped back, with both feet.

The Roman emperors were, well, jealous of anyone trying to usurp their status and power. Some of them were actually paranoid about it. The last thing the emperor wanted was a rival to his throne, even if that rival was a dead guy who became a god.

So, Jesus the King, was replaced by Jesus the Savior, and only a few-ish early Christians became martyrs, instead of all of them. And even though Christianity no longer has to worry about getting exterminated the Roman Empire, that message persists to this day. Jesus is mostly viewed as a savior first, and a king second, if at all.

But let’s review God’s purpose–what does God want? As near as I’ve been able to tell, what God wants, He tends to get.

“I have sworn by my own name; I have spoken the truth, and I will never go back on my word: Every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess allegiance to me.”

That is the Book of Isaiah. This phrase is repeated and reaffirmed in the New Testament in Romans 14: 11. It is repeated again in Philippians, Chapter 2. 9, but this time, the focus is on Jesus. “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Think of any novel or movie that has a king in it. Whenever any of his subjects are brought before the king, they drop to one knee in respect/allegiance and say, “My Lord.”  

Let’s go back to the vision of John in the Book of Revelation. Jesus Christ is about to return. He rides a white horse. On his head are many crowns. On his robe is written King of all kings and Lord of all Lords. It doesn’t say Savior of all saviors or Redeemer of all redeemers or Deliverer of all deliverers.

King of all kings. Lord of all lords.

When he returns, he comes to reclaim his kingdom.

This, I think, is the message the Holy Spirit will deliver. This is why you must listen to him. The King is coming. Everyone knee shall bow, every tongue proclaim; Jesus Christ is my sovereign lord.

There’s a word for failure to obey a king. It’s called treason. And treason is punishable by death.

* * * *

Most of the pastors I knew back in Arizona loved to talk about God, and Jesus, and faith, and stuff. After all, it was their job. But there was one topic none of them were wild about discussing, and that was the End of Times.

The end of the world has been predicted countless times down through the centuries, and there’s one thing that all of the predictions have in common.

They’ve all been wrong.

So, my questions to the pastors about the end were mostly deflected or ignored, and that was probably a pretty smart thing for them to do. I sent several pastors copies of my theory about the Holy Spirit and his role at the End of Times. The most complementary thing I heard back from them was my ideas appeared to have a strong Biblical and Scriptural foundation, but none of them had ever seen or heard anything like my idea before.

“Yes, I know. I’ve looked. I can’t find anything like it either.” was my response. And because it was something not seen or heard before, it was impossible for them to accept it as something that could be true.

I don’t choose to feel disappointed in them. I don’t know if my idea is correct. If I knew I was right about this, my reaction would probably be different.

So, I pray, and I think, and pray some more. And all I hear is a ringing noise in my left ear. Not exactly a ringing endorsement from God in my mind. And even if God did speak to me, that would hardly make my idea more acceptable to anyone else, even a pastor. Actually, especially a pastor.

They think they know more God than anyone.

* * * *

Jesus said, “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail.”

So, how does one get into the Kingdom of Heaven? How else? You have to work for it. Jesus explained it like this: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him,  ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’

“And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’

“But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. 

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

If I am nothing else, I am persistent. I’m not sure where it’s gotten me…

The most obvious question is, What am I supposed to ask for? Ask to be shown the Way. What am I supposed to seek? Seek the Truth. Well, why do I have to look? Because the Way and the Truth are hidden.

Jesus explained it this way: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.”

I’m not sure about the childlike part, but I have been described as ladylike. Maybe that will suffice.

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you have seen. I tell you, many prophets and kings longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.”

And what did they hear? They heard his voice.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”

The most beautiful illustration of this comes from the Gospel of John, of course.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

And that was the precise moment she realized who he was. It was the way he said her name. I love that story.

* * * *

Jesus knows his sheep, and his sheep know him. And sometime prior to the end, Jesus will send the Holy Spirit to gather the sheep that can hear his call. This idea came to me back in 2010. I was convinced at the time that the Holy Spirit would appear any minute! And, then he didn’t.

See? Not a prophet.

Nonetheless, I’m convinced he’ll show up someday. I hope I’ll be around to see it. And when he comes, he will gather together all of the sheep that hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, and they will come to him when he calls. And those people will be the first subjects in the Kingdom of Heaven.

So, how does one get into the Kingdom of Heaven? For that, I think you have to be able to hear the invitation.

Jesus used the parable of the Great Feast to explain: “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited.

“But they all refused to come. So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business.”

When the Holy Spirit comes, I think he will invite those with ears to hear to the mother of all wedding feasts—the marriage of Jesus Christ to his Church. You may be invited to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Clearly, you can choose not to attend. But not only will you be invited to the great feast that has been so long in preparing, you will have a seat of honor at the groom’s table.

You will be seated right next to the King. From where he sits, Jesus Christ can lean over, take you by the hand, look you in the eye and say, “Thank you for coming. It means a lot to me that you are here.”

Pretty cool, huh?

* * * *

Jesus warned us repeatedly, “I will come as unexpectedly as a thief.” I’ve talked to many people about this passage, including several pastors. Most people assume Jesus means he will come when we least expect it. That is true, but Jesus almost always has multiple meanings whenever he speaks. So let’s break this down.

What does a thief do?

Well, thieves steal stuff, is that it?

If everything on earth already belongs to God, why would he need to steal his own possessions? What do we own, what quality do we possess that God does not already have in abundance? Jesus probably didn’t mean this.

So, what does a thief look like?

Who knows? Don’t they wear a disguise?

Now you’re on to something.

Keep your eyes, and your mind, open. Listen. And try to be ready.

What Was I Thinking?

Anyone that has been in more than one serious relationship probably has a story about that time they got involved with someone that was totally wrong for them. If you have more than one story, you should probably consider not dating for maybe a decade. If you have more than five, you should consider becoming a priest or a nun.

For me, that person was Cynthia Jamieson. I met her right around the time I was having my final showdown with Sister Mary Hitler, so she initially presented herself as a very welcome distraction in my already troubled life.

Cynthia was roughly my age and height, and thin–almost too thin. I asked her out. She agreed. We met at a restaurant/bar that had live music on the weekends. We ate, had a few drinks, and danced a lot. She was attractive with short, kind of platinum blonde hair–I don’t know what her natural hair color was. She was smart, witty, funny, and she was a good dancer. She could also sing. She could sing arias from Puccini and Mozart and classical guys like that. And she was good! I was totally impressed.

Cynthia was divorced, she was the first previously married woman I seriously dated. She had two boys, Bert and Pete. I think Bert was maybe ten years old, and Pete was around eight. They were good kids, we all got along.

Cynthia had some vague GI problem that she was seeing three doctors for treatment–two in St Cloud, one in Minneapolis. And she was getting at least one prescription medication from all three of them. She saw each of her doctors about every two or three weeks on a rotating basis. Her vague problem didn’t seem to be serious, and the medication, whatever it was, seemed to be managing her illness, whatever it was…

Things were going mostly smoothly with Cynthia and the boys. I moved into Cynthia’s’s apartment after a couple months of dating her. Things were getting kinda serious. It was only after I moved in with Cynthia I got my first inkling there was something not quite right.

Cynthia was…moody. And sometimes she was darkly moody. And when it got really bad, she always played one special song on the stereo: Harden My Heart by Quarterflash.

“Oh, God,” Bert said, the first time Cynthia played that song after I moved in. “Mom’s in a bad mood. She always plays this song when she’s in a bad mood.”

“What’s that all about?”

“I don’t know, maybe cuz dad divorced her.”

“Yeah, but that was, like, two or three years ago, wasn’t it?”

“All I know is she plays this song, and then she starts yelling.”

I had to investigate this phenomena, and what Bert said was absolutely true. Cynthia went off on me like she was the Witch Queen of New Orleans. I grabbed the boys and fled. We went to my old apartment and hung out with my brother until it was safe to return.

This was not a frequent occurrence, but it wasn’t a singular event either. If Cynthia was upset with her ex-husband, I could understand that, but when Cynthia got into one of these moods, her ire wasn’t focused toward her ex-husband. It was seemingly directed toward anyone/everyone with a penis.

Cynthia’s ex’s name was also Bert. Cynthia’s son was actually Bert II. Bert the First was a semi-wealthy guy, and he had derailed Cynthia’s very comfortable lifestyle by divorcing her. Cynthia had very nice, very expensive tastes. Everything she owned was designed by a Somebody. Cynthia was my first high maintenance woman, and she would become my first serious fashion consultant.

I think it was around this time that my youngest sister got married. Cynthia sang ‘Ave Maria’ a cappella at Julie and Curt’s wedding and brought the house down. She really did have an amazing voice. I think that was the moment I fell in love with her.

Weddings. Never make any serious life decisions immediately after going to a wedding. I bought a ring. I proposed, all that stuff. And then things went all to hell.

Cynthia not only had an ex-husband, she also had an ex-boyfriend. I can’t remember his name, but he couldn’t get over the fact that Cynthia had dumped him. He used to call frequently. I hung up on him whenever I answered the phone. He wrote letters. He sent cards. He followed us around sometimes. And one time he even kidnapped her.

Okay, maybe he didn’t actually kidnap her, but that’s what it felt like. I can’t remember all the details… Cynthia’s ex-husband had the boys, so it must’ve been the weekend. We were out at a park, maybe playing Frisbee. My brother Tom was there. Mr XBF walked up, said he needed to talk to Cynthia. I kind of lost it, and told him to walk away before I killed him to death. But Cynthia agreed to talk to him! Privately!! They went over to his car. Tom and I followed them, and immediately lost them in traffic after Mr XBF drove off with her. I was sure he was going to kill her, then kill himself.

Okay, maybe he didn’t actually kill her. My brother thought I was being a drama llama and told me to get a fucking grip already. He dropped me off at my apartment where I waited for a call from the police, informing me my fiancée had been brutally murdered. By her psychotic ex-boyfriend. Who then committed suicide…

The phone rang, but it wasn’t the police. Or Mr XBF, outlining his perverted ransom demands. Or even Cynthia, calling to say goodbye to me before she got dead at the hands of the psycho guy she never should’ve dated. It was Cynthia’s best friend, Patricia. I told her what had happened in a rush. We talked for at least an hour, and she filled in a whole lots of blanks in Cynthia’s storyline.

Mr XBF was bad news. Patricia had never liked that creepy bastard, and had been telling Cynthia to dump him from Day One. I had met Patricia couple times, and I thought she was okay, but now I thought Patricia was brilliant and I loved her. And then came the bombshells. Cynthia didn’t have anything wrong with her stomach or any other portion of her GI tract. And the medication she was getting to treat her malady was phenobarbital. I couldn’t believe it! My darling opera singer, fashion plate fiancée was a drug addict!!

My head was spinning after I hung up the phone. Cynthia walked in the door a short time, or maybe a long time later. I really can’t remember how long I waited. All I know is, I should’ve been playing Quarterflash when she walked through the door.

I confronted my then fiancée. She countered with any number of reasonable sounding explanations. I called Patricia. She wanted to talk to Cynthia. I handed the phone to my fiancée. She had the shortest conversation she would have with her best friend, ever, but about half an hour later Patricia walked in the door and we ended up doing a tag team intervention on Cynthia that lasted until the wee hours of the morning. I doubt any of the people living in the vicinity of our apartment got any sleep that night. Thinking back on it now, I’m surprised no one called the police.

Cynthia fought us tooth and nail, but Patricia was beyond amazing that night. When Cynthia finally broke down and admitted she had a problem and needed help, it was because of Patricia, not me. Cynthia packed a bag, and we drove her to the St Cloud Hospital ER to get her admitted into the Chemical Dependency Treatment Program.

I talked to Cynthia’s ex-husband the next day to let him know what had happened. He wasn’t as surprised as I was, but agreed he should keep his sons until their mother got out of drug rehab.

I supported Cynthia while she was in treatment. I visited her every day. I went to Family Night. I participated in her program whenever my presence was required. Cynthia’s parents and siblings even got involved, and they started mending their relationships, but I knew I was done.

Given my history, her drug abuse wasn’t the issue. I probably made her look like a grade school kid in terms of drug and alcohol use. It wasn’t the drugs, it was her crazy behavior–the yelling and screaming, the diffuse rage that rained down pell-mell and helter skelter. And there was also Mr XBF. The fact that she had voluntarily disappeared for several hours with him…

I told Cynthia we were through near the end of her hospitalization. She took it better than I thought she would, and gave me my ring back. I didn’t ask for it, she simply took it off her finger and placed it in my hand. I packed up my stuff and moved out of her place just before she was released.

The last thing I did before I left her apartment was break her Quarterflash album in two.

I ran into Cynthia about a month after she completed rehab. She was smiling and relaxed. I just about had a heart attack. Cynthia looked about the same, except for one surprising physical anomaly. Her ass had become huge! She looked to be about the same otherwise, but(t)…

And that was when she became Cynthia ‘Fatass’ Jamieson to me.

I know. It doesn’t say much about me, does it. I make no excuses, nor do I apologize. I’m a guy. I’m not always sensitive to the pain of others, despite my training and my inherent compassion. I rarely care what others think or feel about me and my words or actions.

I’ve done a lot of work fixing the broken parts of me. I’ve come to the conclusion that life is essentially an endless recovery program. Recovery never ends, you simply move on to the next issue. We all have areas that need some work and tuning up.

I hope Cynthia’s life turned out great. I hope she conquered her demons and is prospering at whatever it is she’s doing now. I hope her sons grew up to be decent men, and that they married nice girls, and gave their mother grandchildren to spoil.

But I really wish I had never seen Cynthia’s gigantic ass. It’s an image I’ve never been able to erase from my brain. And I can’t listen to Quarterflash without damn near having a panic attack.

In some ways, that’s the biggest tragedy of this story. I love music, and Quarterflash had a few decent songs back in the 80’s. And I love the 80’s.

I Solemnly Swear I Am Up To No Good

Attitude. What is attitude?  To paraphrase that great American philosopher, Yogi Berra, half of attitude is ninety percent mental.

In an earlier post, I talked about at least one instance that I needed to adjust my attitude. When it comes to adjusting your attitude, you have to take a long, hard, unflinching look at yourself. This is in no way as easy as it sounds.

To illustrate this, when someone orders black coffee in Mexico, they do it this way: ‘Negro, negro como mi alma.’

Black, black as my soul.

There is a darkness that lives inside all of us. But there is also light. The question is, where do you want to reside? I think it’s a safe bet that most of us would choose the light. But life is not fair, and sometimes you can get all judgmental on yourself. The next thing you know, you’re so depressed you can hardly get out of bed. Or more likely, you turn your judgemental eye on others and become something abominable.

Attitudes are fluid constructs, and your attitude depends entirely on what you make it. If you don’t like how you’re feeling, change the way you feel. Radical advice, I know. Learning to control your thoughts and emotions, rather than letting them control you, is part of the process I like to call growing up.

It all comes down to directing your energy flow. Have you ever heard the story of The Two Wolves? You can look it up if you like. It’s an adequate metaphor for this topic, but I’d like to use another one.

Back in the 1960’s, there was a meteorologist and mathematician named Edward Lorenz. He was trying to create a computer program that would accurately predict weather for an extended period of time. What his data revealed was that weather couldn’t be predicted on a long term basis because there were just too damn many variables.

Dr Lorenz published all his findings in a scientific journal and he called it ‘SDIC–Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions.’ And I think the story goes something like this: another smarty-pants scientist guy read his article and said, ‘If what this guy says is true, then a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa can produce an hurricane that will destroy Florida a month later.’

That’s how Chaos Theory was born, and its first child was the Butterfly Effect.

Let’s examine this: What’s an hurricane called before it becomes an hurricane? A tropical storm. What’s a tropical storm called before it’s a tropical storm? A tropical depression.

So, a butterfly flaps its ethereal wings, and a small gust of air is moved out over the Atlantic Ocean. Because of the existing atmospheric conditions, an immense amount of energy starts getting generated around it, then more and more energy gets funneled into it. And it does the only thing it can do under those circumstances. It grows. And grows. And grows.

Say hello to my little friend…

And finally, what happens to an hurricane when it makes landfall? Sure, it destroys Florida, and anything else in its path, but then what? It dies. And why does it die? Yes, it’s cut off from its energy source.

There’s a saying: Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.

I don’t know if character is everything. From my perspective, there’s something far more critical. Attitude–your attitude is one of the things that defines your character. Your attitude is going to determine if you seek the Light, or descend into Darkness.

There’s nothing good that can come out of a bad attitude. Keep that sucker tuned up. Avoid future disappointment and regret. Seek balance. Live in the light, but know what lurks in the shadows. And make wise choices. Mischief managed.

If you can do all those things, you will be a successful adult.

Rehabilitation

I was totally looking forward to this rotation in nursing school. My classmates that had gone through it already said it was a piece of cake. The only rotation I’d gone through to this point in my education that fit that description was OR. But I had been a surgical technician prior to nursing school…

Rehabilitation means working with people that had had stokes or heart attacks, or maybe they were in a motor vehicle accident. It requires an equal amount of patience/compassion mixed with the hard-assed approach of a drill sergeant.

Rehab was just about the last clinical rotation I had left to complete before graduating. It’s safe to say my attitude was not the best when I started my run into the home stretch, and it didn’t get any better when I discovered my classmates had deceived me. Rehab wasn’t a piece of cake, it was a pain in the ass. As a result, my performance was less than stellar, and my grades were equally lackluster.

My scholastic performance in the classroom was proportionally linked to how much I liked my instructor. If I had an instructor that delivered an engaging lesson, I was an A student. If not, I was a C student. All of my instructors were aware of this. Even Sister Mary Jude knew this. She once described me as being lackadaisically intense.

Barb Hansmeier was our Rehab instructor. She had also taught various aspects of nursing theory to us. Barb was a nurse; all of our nursing practice instructors were. Most of them were older gals, and they stood behind the podium, reading from the Big Book of Nursing, and, I got a C.

Barb was different. For one thing, she was young. She was in her early thirties. And she was attractive, always a plus for me. Well, almost always. She was a dynamic teacher. I loved her. I had been an A student in her previous classes. I was barely a C student in Rehab.

We were about halfway through this rotation, and it was a clinical day, so we were at the hospital, practicing to be nurses. Barb was usually very supportive to her students, but on this day she seemed a little agitated. She rather curtly gave everyone their orders for the day, then said, “Mark, I want to speak to you. Privately.” And my mind went, Oh shit. Here it comes. And it did.

“I am so pissed off at you right now I could slap you!” she hissed.

Of all the things I was expecting her to say, this wasn’t one of them.

“If I could, I’d kick you out of school right now!” That, I was expecting. “But I can’t because you’re so goddamn smart. You could sleep through half the classes and still get an A. And you’re so good that you can put in half an effort and do okay in clinicals, but that’s not the kind of nurse I want taking care of me, and it’s not the kind of student I want to teach. Your problem is your attitude.”

You can’t argue with the truth. Barb had correctly assessed me and had come up with the correct diagnosis. Now the only thing we needed was a cure, and she had already provided that.

Fear can be a great motivator.

I agreed with her assessment. I apologized profusely to her. And I promised her I would have a long, hard talk to my attitude and get that sucker fixed immediately.

“I think the heart of the matter is this, I’m tired of being a nursing student.”

Anyone that has been in nursing school can relate to this. Barb understood. And then she went back into the perfectly supporting preceptor role.

I did what I said I would. I regrouped and ended up with a B in Rehab.

I’ve had to have several conversations with my attitude throughout my nursing career. If you’re not passionate about this job, it will eat you alive. And just like your car, your attitude needs maintenance and tune ups on regular basis.

You get out of life what you put into it, and what you put into it depends solely on your attitude. When it comes to determining how successful you’re going to be at the end of the day, attitude is everything.