Sunday, February 01, 2015

I've fallen and I can't get up

So I had a terrifying experience in the bathroom earlier today.

That opening sentence is the kind of thing I would have written as a prelude to some hilarious anecdote before (circa my first book of essays perhaps, which was full of idiot mishaps). Sadly, these days, I say it with a straight face. It really was terrifying, as it forced me to face how much my health has deteriorated, especially lately, with the added stresses and anxieties and inconveniences and self-doubt of the past few weeks.

Basically this is what happened. I was taking a shower. At some point, I went into a sort of squat, to check whether the drain was clogged with hair, as it did not seem to be draining properly. Immediately my weakened legs gave way from under me and I was forced into a kneeling position on the wet slippery floor. I tried to get up -- to prop myself up on my left leg and then push myself into a standing position -- and realized that I could not. In order to push my body up I needed to use both weakened legs and in the position I was in, I could not.

Panic. I was stuck, and my knees were beginning to hurt. Every effort to push myself up failed. There was nothing solid enough to grab onto that I could use to bring my arms into the equation -- nothing that would bear my weight anyway. I could not even reach my phone to call for help. And even if I could, I might have an attack of hypoglycemia before anyone broke in to find me damp and naked on the floor.

I uttered desperate prayers and tried again. This time my other foot slid to the side and managed to wedge itself against the wall, so with this added leverage I barely -- barely -- was able to push myself up until I was standing, at last, shaking from the effort. Never have I been more grateful that I don't have an enormous bathroom.

My doctor saw me later the same day. I told her about it. She is still confident we can beat this. She gave me twice the usual amount of injections, we did some PT-type stuff, she berated me for some minor slip-ups in my regimen over the past two weeks, and we set another appointment for next week.

Mick says we can install a bar into the wall of my shower area, for me to hold on to and to help me in case anything like this happens again. I think it's a good idea.

I would call this a wake-up call except that I've known for some time that my health is crap. Just the fact that I can barely make it up the stairs in front of my own office building tells me that. (Time to start taking the disabled ramp.)

I need to get better. Or, you know, die quickly and peacefully and soon, in my sleep. Either way. I can't handle a slow decline.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Last night I dreamt...

Last night I was with my family again, and we were moving house, again. It was, of course, a dream -- much the same one I've been having almost every night now for a long time. It's not exactly a recurring dream I suppose, since it's never quite the exact same events, but there is a definite pattern to the events.

Basically what the dreams have in common is that we are moving as a family to a refurbished version of a place we've already lived in -- Paranaque, UP, once even the old Katigbak family house in Lipa. And of course, my mother is with us. In fact, that's how I woke up from this last one -- while deep in the dream, while talking to Mom about who would get which room, I thought, "But aren't you dead? Why didn't anyone tell me you weren't actually dead? That you're back?" And that snapped me awake.

Sometimes I feel like I'm cracking up, a little.

On the health front, I've managed to drag myself to the treadmill in the gym a bit more often, and I think that's helping. (Two things I'm grateful for: the third treadmill they installed in there -- no more waiting -- and the iPod Shuffle I got for Christmas from Mookie and Sarge.) I'm getting a little sick of my diet, but even slight deviations from it have bad consequences -- coughing, vomiting, weakness, etc. Need to find more doctor-approved food and recipes. Luckily Mick makes this vegetable rice that is very good.

Still have trouble sleeping, getting around, going up stairs, and sometimes breathing. Must be careful to eat regularly, as I've had a couple of mild hypoglycemia attacks this week alone. And my vision is not very good right now (mainly due to the coughing and vomiting and not sleeping enough). Once my situation at work settles I imagine things will be a little calmer. Or not. It depends.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Sitting in His Nowhere Land

Well, it looks like 2014 isn't done with royally fucking me over quite yet. I will be pleasantly surprised if, before this new year is through, I have not killed myself and/or a number of other people. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts.

Friday, January 02, 2015

The New Year

Let me entertain the notion, for a moment, that life and its circumstances can be broken down neatly into one-year units, because maybe then I can say with some conviction: 2014 was the worst year ever, and I'm glad to see it gone. Maybe then I can believe that things will be different in 2015, that the grief and pain and sheer damn aggravation from so many things will not carry over into the next twelve months. Let me believe that for a while.

I won't lie: When I think about it, what I really want from 2015 is a natural, quick, and painless death. I honestly don't know what I want more than that any more; I'm even having second thoughts about another book. But I know that that very specific kind of death is hard to come by. If I can't have that, then maybe I can have a year with less health problems and personal issues to deal with. Less discomfort. Less frustration. More things to look forward to, even if I don't know what those things might be. Oh, and prosperity and happiness for Mick, my family, and friends, if the universe can manage it. That would be nice.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Soul's Domain

So I come across articles like this quite often these days. Given my circumstances, and those of certain family members and friends, I am much more inclined to give them my attention than I was before.

"The lesson here is simple yet profound: Wholesome, seasonal food prepared with love is potent medicine, spending time connecting with mother nature’s life force can help rekindle an individual’s will to live, having a reason or purpose to continue living is essential for healing, and last but far from least sharing quality time with loved ones when sick and recuperating, can transform the depressed mind back to a state of innocence, gratitude and awe of the mystery called life. In the end, real healing is the soul’s domain."

I find myself believing pretty much everything in that paragraph, these days. I believe such a life would certainly yield better benefits than regular and expensive trips to typical doctors, a method I tried for two years with very disappointing results.

The diet I've been put on by my current doctor is helping. The rest of the recommended lifestyle is going to be harder to come by. I'm not moving to a Greek island any time soon (and even if I did, I wouldn't have a community and childhood friends waiting there for me). All I have is Facebook, which sucks. There are days when I hate everyone on my Facebook feed, whether they're posting about how happy or how miserable they are. I hate it all. I know it's unfair but I'm not exactly being rational all the time.

I miss the days when I saw real friends on a regular basis, days of talking for hours. I find myself wondering now whether those days happened just because we were young and had nothing better to do. Everyone is quite busy these days, and unwilling to inconvenience themselves. Of course I am the most unwilling of all, and I can barely make it across the street, so everything is an inconvenience, so I have no right to expect anything. I should be grateful for the occasional Messenger exchange, or an hour or so of face time.

Of course there are exceptions. The ones closest to me. I don't know why I sometimes find myself wanting or expecting more. I have more in terms of companionship than most at my age, I should say. We can't maintain the web of relationships we had n our teens and twenties indefinitely. And it's not as if I don't value my solitude as well. This is all just perhaps frustration with my circumstances finding expression in different ways.

I find myself thinking of the phrase "sick and tired," It is often used to mean "frustrated" or "exasperated," and not to denote actual illness, though perhaps it should be. I am sick and tired of my circumstances. I am sick and tired of expectations I cannot meet. I am sick and tired of other people's agendas. I am sick and tired of losing my enthusiasm and abilities for the few things that are still important to me. I am sick and tired of this life.

I have to find some way to that island. Metaphorically speaking.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Short List of Short Novels

So I've been reading (and rereading) short novels. This is partially because sustained feats of reading are harder for my deteriorated eyes, and partially because I always preferred short works anyway, as opposed to generation-spanning brick-thick books to wallow in.

While I decide which book to tackle next (probably High-Rise by JG Ballard or a Stanislaw Lem), I present to you a list, off the top pf my head and in roughly alphabetical order, of some of my favorite short novels.

Abel's Island by William Steig
Considered a children's book, it has more depth and charm than many a grown-up classic.

Being There by Jerzy Kosinski
Sharply satirical and probably more relevant today than ever.

Bones of the Moon by Jonathan Carroll
A dreamlike book about dreaming and the worlds within us.

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Truman Capote is the best.

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
A sentimental favorite. Perhaps it doesn't hold up after the 80s, but I still love it anyway, because I read it at the right time.

The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan
Made quite an impression on me over twenty years ago. Probably due for a reread.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Do not read this just before watching Blade Runner if you do not want to be disappointed by the latter.

From the Mixed-Up Files... by EL Konigsburg
Again, a children's book that is better than most grown-up books.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Apologies for being so obvious.

The Hand of the Enemy by Kerima Polotan
We need more books like this, and more writers like her.

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
Although it's actually the second "backup" story in the book that I love.

The Locked Room by Paul Auster
Probably the most mind-bending installment of the New York Trilogy.

Loser Takes All by Graham Greene
See previous post on Graham Greene and this book.

The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
Found on my grandmother's shelf and enjoyed in a state of amused near-disbelief.

The Paradise Motel by Eric McCormack
Stories within  a larger story, fascinating and horrifying and wondrous.

Here's Where the Story Ends

And the short-novel reading streak continues, with The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. Funny how a book given to philosophical digressions and something very much like nostalgia should be such a page-turner, and even take on a suspenseful grip in its latter half. The book starts off seemingly aimless, but it all comes together as it speeds to its conclusion (I read the last 40 pages or so on the edge of my seat, as it were, raring for revelations).

The ending is something I am unwilling to write about here, just in case anyone reading this (spambots excluded) should have it spoiled for them, but let's just say it will make you go "I see," and then afterwards, "Wait. did I really see?" I eventually found myself on some comment threads, looking for people who had similar theories about what was said and unsaid, and the reliability of narrators. 

I've always liked but never quite loved Julian Barnes' books, though I do love the last chapter of A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters. And I loved reading Talking It Over, but did not love the book itself, if that makes sense. Despite some issues, this one is probably my favorite, for now. 

I might not have enjoyed this book as much, earlier in my life, but now, reading about someone near the end of theirs is almost comforting. My health continues to seesaw, though not from utter wellness to utter helplessness. Just minor tilts from slighter to greater difficulty getting through a day. I am starting to forget what it was like to get through an entire 24 hours without once thinking of how I might get around, without feeling any pain doing simple things like standing up or climbing stairs. (Although let's face it, I never had a great time with stairs even at the peak of my so-called health.) It is almost strange to be grateful for such things as still having the ability to read and write and bathe and dress myself, though really, these are things we should all be grateful for, every day.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Wheel Spins

I reread Graham Greene's Loser Takes All yesterday. It was the very first Greene book I ever read; I remember finding a copy in a sale bin in a Makati NBS and taking a chance. The gamble paid off; reading it was sheer pleasure. It might still be the Greene book that I love the most (though of course Brighton Rock is brilliant). Of course that is probably more nostalgia for the grade-school boy that I was at the time I first read it than anything else.

But it doesn't matter. I am grateful for this little book's existence. Dismissed as a frivolity by its own author (it took me a while to understand how a writer could divide his output into "entertainments" and -- one presumes -- "real" books), it is nevertheless wonderfully written and engaging and even gives one some sort of hope -- for benevolence, for luck, for love -- false though that hope might be, ultimately. It is lightweight, no doubt, both literally and figuratively, but I will reread it again someday just for the pleasure of rereading it, which is more than I can say for The End of the Affair.

Later today I will see my doctor again. To extend the gambling metaphor, I have lost a lot, I feel, by seeing the wrong doctors. They have lasered my eyes and injected me with drugs and made me worse and worse in the process. It has taken me a long time to hit on a "system" that might work. It remains to be seen whether it actually will work, however. There are wins and losses. Everyone has to walk away from the table at some point.