Christian Pilgrim’s Progress
Cover Page: I’ve been told by the doctor that it’s good to keep a diary of the happenings in my life and a record of my feelings; I don’t believe her, but anything is worth a try when you’re on the brink of a maelstrom that you feel isolated and insular in, and one where you fear that you might not be understood by whomever you or I confide in, so here goes. The shrink said to write a little every day, but I don’t know that I have that many words in me; oh well, we can not but try. I’m not sure who is supposed to read this; perhaps me when I’m well or maybe it’s just for the exercise of expressing myself; I’m no dummy, you know. Anyway, she says to ‘get it out of me and onto some paper!’ I’m not sure what IT is.
Friday July 16th Okay, hello my name is Christian…. Oh Qwerty!!!! that’s not right, nonononononono let me think about this !@##$$%^%^&&
Monday July 19th Here goes: This is what I recall: from the pillowed nest, the blanketed womb, the coverlet warmth that I’ve constructed in my long overnight, my right eye emerges from the covers to view the clock and my environment. Not much sunlight, just a blue gray haze that signals the breaking of dawn. check. Ceiling fan’s spinning, lazily as an old negress in a sweltering country church, check. The dog is curled at my back as if I were her litter mate and the rest of the bed is empty, check. Twenty minutes until seven, check. Back for more winks, double check. Lost in the DMZ of my REM’s, if you catch my drift, down to mine more dream gems.
I’ll repeat this ritual at least twice more until the sky’s hue changes to Alice blue and the clock gives me no alternative but to rise; swing out to sitting position and there’s my coffee, right where it should be, right where she leaves it, right where she‘s left it. But that’s not the only thing that she’s left. Somewhere in my slumber and her wakening she has leaned into my ear with a kiss and a curse. “Here’s something for you to sleep on…” she whispers, “you know what the doctor says about your drinking, and you know the trouble that you’re having with your penis…
“six beers while we were out last night and another four before you went to bed and that whiskey bottle is down to less than half. Sometimes I think that you’re more interested in getting drunk than having sex.” The words pour acid on my otherwise
Okay, so when I get up nothing is mentioned and everything goes according to ritual; I’ll go shower, shave and shampoo and Daisy’ll make the bed while I let the dogs out the back door and put some fruit in the blender. A morning But there is a boulder that is between us as we pack lunches for work and I drive us into town. She’s has said something cutting, and it can never be taken back; see, that’s the thing about talking and saying things: you cannot take back something once it is said. Sure, I’ve been told that drinking may contribute to my ED and I’ve done nothing to curb my thirst.
I have no defense, at my age I should know better and the child in me decries: ‘I shoulda never told you what the doctor said!’ but, at my age I am aware that honesty is not only the best policy; it’s the only policy, and I’ve dug my own grave with this one: I honestly answer any question asked me.
“So, what did the doctor say?” she had asked. Oh well, at least my TB test came in negative.
Tuesday July 23rd Today After I told Daisy about my journal she said: “I want to play too!” So round and round we went, and round and round until I just said “go ahead but don’t expect me to read what you wrote, after all it is my journal and my illnesses and my recovery thoughts and use your own pages and just slip them into the journal and maybe I’ll look at them sometime later and she said “Jerk!”
(this is Daisy in a completely different font) Tuesday July 23rd Yes, ‘Jerk’ is what I called him! And a silly man as well! He is glued to the computer night and day and is he looking at sports? No. Is he gambling or playing the stock market? No. Is he watching pornography or in some imaginary parallel world? NO! and NO again! He is on the medical sites finding cures for imaginary afflictions! He’s a dear man but his compulsion for complaints physical and mental could try the patience of the frigging Pope! He really thinks there are real doctors that can prescribe and send medication for every little irritation is somehow beyond belief but he keeps getting stuff in the mail to take; powders, pills, ointment, unction and advice. I’d say Lord help the woman that lives with him, but THAT’S ME!!
(Back to Christian)Friday July 30th: Let me tell you about my doctors. On the advice of my MDs and GPs I take a pill for high cholesterol, one to slow my urinary visits to the bathroom, one for my prostate and two for calcium. I wear a knee length support stocking on my right leg to help circulation and at home I have prescription Claritin and nasal spray from the time that I mentioned that I had a sore throat and a cough (both that went away on their own). All of the teeth that I smile with are not my own. I talk to the shrink once every two weeks, not that I can see the good of it; I’ll probably die before I’m cured of whatever I have.
At the MD’s I complained about a sore back and was sent prescription strength Aleve and muscle relaxers; I was issued a blood pressure machine to check my blood pressure twice daily (which I’m lax about) and I’ve been told to soak my big toes in vinegar water to rejuvenate their nails. I’m also told to exercise at least three times a week (I try to), to stay off smoking and to cut my drinking down to no more than two drinks a day if I have to drink at all; no caffeine after twelve noon.
I’m told that I will have to keep up this regimen for the rest of my life. My doctor told me also that I could pass for a man half my age if it weren’t for the lack of hair on my head and if I dropped about fifteen or twenty pounds, at least he never mentions my nervous tic. My indestructible youth has gone with the wind and the passage of time, sometimes I feel that I’m fighting to stay alive and young; and, that being young is the only proof one has of really being alive.
Thursday August 12th: I know that I’m not writing as often as I should. My neuroses seem to be repetitive in nature and I try to keep them in check. I was in a conversation at dinner the other night when I brought up the fact that according to television, back aches are now so commonplace that I believe that they’re actually being sanctioned-- there are literally thousands of sites on the computer that will recommend remedies-- as in “sure you’ve got a backache, it’s perfectly normal but take this and you won’t feel it!!” and so my doctor sends me pills so that I won’t feel my back hurting and they never questions the cause of my discomfort. Go home. Take a pill. Take more pills. Ignorance (and medication) is bliss.
Did I also mention that cholesterol pill that I am taking? At my last visit my cholesterol level was perfect and I mentioned to the doctor that I was watching my diet (mostly vegan now) and exercising and wouldn’t it be about time that I stopped taking that pill? I was told that the reason that my blood pressure was so great was because I was taking the pill and that I would be taking the pill for the rest of my life. I whined to my dinner companions that I should be able to lead a life free of the medications that I feel are being foisted upon me as long as I watched what I put into my body and how I treated it.
Well, you guessed it; silence around the table until one of my companions (a man older than I) put it in a nutshell, and succinctly as well: “you’ll be able to do that as soon as you’re able to grow younger instead of older.”
Monday August 23rd It appears to me that nowadays man and beast are bombarded by the media with maladies that are unknown to them and that they may have, and that they’d better take remedies for before it becomes too late to go on that biking/hiking/camping trip with their grandchildren, balloons and all. They’re told very explicitly that they have this one life, this one body and your next heart attack (the one that you’re sure to have if you didn’t take this medicine) is lurking around the corner unless you take this medication. The ills that we are contracting appear as fast as the medications to assuage them are presented; their names are so long that they are relayed to us by their abbreviations. COPD, TTP, OTC, STD, CTS, MSD, IBS etc. And quietly (Shhh) at the close of any television commercial for relief of your three or four letter abbreviated lurking demon illness, you’re told the side effects: runny nose, thoughts of suicide, constipation, headache, dizziness, vomiting and/or shortness of breath! My favorite is: “seek immediate medical attention if you experience blurred vision, nausea or an erection lasting more than four hours”. They are trying to make me dependent on the medications hoping to get me hooked on taking stuff like a hypochondriac but I’m looking for a way out before they find more stuff wrong with me.
Which doesn’t take away from my current situation: the curse of the cat people. Note: conundrum number one: nothing that I used to do has done me any good and stopping doing what I did has done me no good either; the one supporting brick in the edifice of my immortal fortress remains to be dismantled and all of my instincts resist. For peace and happiness I have to take the first step to curb my alcohol intake. I guess it’s like the man says: nothing to lose.
But first, naturally, a few days of petulance and pouting; refusing solace as well as my usual excesses of alcohol. Daisy asks me if there is anything wrong, did she do something, did she say something? Of course I know that answering those questions is just what she wants; she wants to talk about this and I’m smart and experienced enough to know that that path is a one-way ticket to ‘It’s All My FaultVille’. No, it’s not my inner child, it’s my inner twenty-five year old reacting: I want to get drunk AND get laid!!!
Instead I beg off with the ‘a lot on my mind’ gambit, which is the lame stall tactic that gives me time to adjust and digest my predicament.
And so, I’ve gone kicking and protesting into post middle age; the one where one feels like they’re seventeen, acts like they’re twenty-five and is treated like an octogenarian. It’s a ‘tween’ stage where reality, philosophy and wisdom conflict with compulsiveness, spontaneity and vigor; and you’re not safe until you embrace an ignored inevitability of there are more days behind me and fewer days ahead and I’m going down slow.
It goes beyond the flip “I never knew I would live this long” excuses. I am now that old. I’m now old enough to know better, I’m old enough to realize that I’ll never be young ever again and that my body is going through the great recession. It can lead to the Great Depression if I let it. Coming to terms with degeneration opens up a whole new can of worms. Is the world conspiring to usher me into decrepitude? There was never any need for this much medical attention until I asked a doctor if there was anything wrong with me. Daisy says that I spend too much time at the SuperDoctor.com and she questions the advice that I’m getting; I tell her not to knock it until she tries it.
At sixty-seven years old with unimpaired mental facilities, I’m stuck in a
typical male dilemma:
Sunday August 30, This morning I arose from the dead; that is, I awoke and she made love to me and it was good. And so we entered into the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell of my drinking. One thing that has never been in question is the love that we have for eachother; we are eachother, we are friends, lovers and romantics. We share a home and family, we are more or less happy with eachother and the life that we have carved out of this crazy world, and except for the fact that we both are having backaches now, our lives have an established rhythm. Oh, the hospital called to set up chest x-rays and a lower GI; I wonder what that’s about.
September 1st For whoever is reading this in the future: Daisy and I have a small bookshop in the center of town, which to say two miles away. We live in a spacious flat, half a shotgun it is called, and we’re away from the madding crowd that we used to run with. Peace and quiet in the country; alone… together.
We also have a yard for her to tend with flowers, fern and herbs; in this torrid climate it’s all she can do to keep up with the pandemonium. I’m more at home in the kitchen, a reversal of roles if one would look at us as a traditional couple; but our backgrounds have put us in a different kind of harmony: she a country mouse and I a city mouse with rituals and habits exclusive to our backgrounds. We also have critters: two felines and two canines. One big happy family. The doctors say I need a colonoscopy and a CT to measure bone density also I’ve noticed a ringing in my ears that they call tinnitus which they won’t give me anything for and I’m distracted by that noise in my head that make every thing sound static.
I let go of youth in a state of angst, I am betrayed by my body, I ceased looking in mirrors because I don’t like what I see. I take my medicines religiously and I am insulted at my age and the things that I can and cannot do. Daisy is ten years younger than I and has been nothing but patient with me and my whininess, and yet I’m hiding from her. I’m hiding my weakness and preoccupation with aging and death. She follows me around like she thinks I’m up to something
September 7th and I want to ask someone; anyone: “what would you say, what did you say, what can you say when fleeting youth is treated with pills and powders but never cured? Would you sell the soul that you denied in your past that you possessed to go back to being young? Do you rail against the finalities and weakenings of your strength and agilities? Do you start conversations with your young friends with “when I was your age… or I remember when…?” Oh well, just a thought.
When I go to SuperDoc.com I can ask any question and it only costs $19.95 and sometimes there’s a special offer with the time that I spend and heck, they give some great advice; like yesterday, I was on SuperDoc.com/psychiatry and I asked why all the obituary photos that I see are of smiling people? It’s almost as if they are happy to be dead. Well, my psychiatrist on the Super Doc site told me plenty, I can tell you. Pages and pages! I’m glad that my every medical question can be answered so readily and that my medications will come in the mail and just be directly withdrawn from my bank account.
September 9th: Our shop is a quiet and whimsical bookshop; it makes enough money to support itself but not enough to contribute to our money situations. For this reason we have alternative employment for our living expenses, I spend two nights away from home and she works three days at the same establishment where the rest of the staff is pretty much younger than my grown children. I’m the oldest employee with my foibles and fantasies of immortality and basically the children that work around me are going through conflicts and challenges that I met lifetimes ago. I wonder what they would say if they knew how trivial their youth will all seem in twenty years; thirty?
I’m really sensitive about the dust in the shop, it seems to be everywhere and pervasive. I spend a lot of time dusting things but the dust seems to reappear the next day. I think that people look at me funny, which is why, if I’m not dusting, I sit at the keyboard on the computer and only look up when someone wants to pay for something.
September 16th: They took more blood tests this week at the Super Doc pharmacy up the street, it was as simple as sticking my arm in a hole and it was over real quick as well; and the screen said that perhaps if I add some antidepressants to my regimen that I might feel like my old self. I tell her/it that my old self is a stranger to me. I felt better when I was drinking. She asked me if I knew what serotonin is. Does she think I’m nuts? She also wants to know if I’ve tried Cialis or Viagra. I told her that I have but I don’t like them because I still finish too quickly and then all I do is feel pain when my erection won’t go down. She wants me to have chest x-rays and an eye examination. I think that I have a lot of thinking to do but I can’t seem to concentrate. The words seem to flow out on the paper without me thinking about them. Maybe they’ll want to read this, but I don’t think I’ll let them; I mean, they’ve got all of my history anyway some where in their computer banks. Oops! I forgot that I’m not supposed to think of them as computers, that that is counterproductive; they tell me that I can only get well if I think of my help as coming from a real person doctor.
I wonder what they would say if I told them that sometimes, a lot of times, when they talk to me I can’t make out what they’re saying and that I can only stare at the computer screen as so much gibberish comes out of their mouths and I don’t understand a word of it? I wonder what they would say if I told them that that happens to me with a lot of people that talk to me, ask questions of me or try to reel me into a conversation?
September 20th Daisy wants us to take a week off before it gets too cool out and go to the cabin by the lake where we can laze about, yippee! I’m all for it and we’re even taking the dogs! The doctors want me in again next week for a spinal tap to check my bone marrow (again) and fluid, it sounds like it’ll hurt. I guess I’ll log in and ask them.
I asked about the numbness that I get in my upper left thigh and they told me that it might be fibro neuralgia or something and that I should spend ten minutes a day sticking a pin in different parts of my body to find out where I might be numb. They warned me that I should not stay away from them for more than a day if I want to get well; mercy me, I told them that I forgot what was wrong with me in the first place. Boy THAT didn’t go over well. Almost immediately my shrink came on and started talking real loud and fast. I told him that I couldn’t concentrate and that I would log on later when the fog in my brain clears. Then it sounded like thirty voices were talking at the same time and boy, that really freaked me out so I pulled the plug on the computer. I can’t think… I can’t tell what is real and what I imagine any more. I’ll be glad to get out of here.
October 1st: Up at the lake