Sandra, a hospital chaplain, enters my room with a sparkling new holy bible.
“I heard you asked for a bible.”
“That’s what I heard.”
“Oh no I didn’t do that.”
She stands next to my bed and stares at me.
“Who said that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Would you like it?” She waves the bible in my face.
“No.” How about a Tao Te Ching? How about some Stephen King?
I’m watching “Goodfellas” and Billy Batts (Frank Vincent) is getting beaten to death on the floor of a bar while Donovan plays in the background.
Sandra leans back on the counter, in no hurry to leave, and asks if I am doing okay. She asks if I made the drawings on the wall and if I need anything and if I’m getting stir-crazy and if I like my lunch.
“Shooting people was a normal thing. It was no big deal,” says Henry Hill.
“Can I help you with anything at all?” asks Sandra, ignoring the movie.
“No, you really can’t.”
She finally gives me a pitying smile and leaves.
In Ultrasound twenty minutes later, the tech, Miss Beatty, is slathering my belly with warm, blue goo. She measures my placenta from all angles and talks about her Japanese fiancé, but she doesn’t know what the measurements mean and doesn’t show me any pictures of the baby. Dr. Carpenter comes in and re-goos my belly. There’s the butt, and the feet, and the back of Dakota’s head. She’s about 5-pounds, the fluid in my placenta is normal and everything is looking good.
It’s September 19th, 4:05 pm. Charley’s dad and stepmom sent 20 bucks and I might go buy myself flowers in the gift shop. I mean what is a room without flowers? Charley can’t afford to send me flowers. I know he is buying beer though. Will he ever be grown-up enough to put someone else before himself? His wife? His mom? His daughters?
What is it to be a grown-up? Some say it’s simply having your finances in order or a mortgage. Some say it’s wearing comfortable shoes and going to bed at a reasonable time. Some say it’s getting married, cleaning your house, recycling or owning a lawnmower.
Personally, I think being a grown-up is learning to put others before yourself; it’s a balance of respect and empathy; it’s learning to listen and learning to love. It’s learning that love isn’t pleasure but rather something you willingly give to another person without expectation or conditions.
Being grown-up is having opinions. Being a grown-up is cooking healthy meals and having a savings account that you don’t continually keep taking money out of to put back into your checking account. I’m not fully there yet. Being a grown-up is hard work.
On an evening walk an old man looks at my belly and says, “Keepin things movin along?”
“No I’m just taking a walk.” I glare at him. I don’t know why this upsets me so much. Everyone is annoying.
An old lady in a wheelchair takes off through the parking lot. She looks like she’s trying to escape the hospital or make a train.
I pass a row of lit doctor’s offices. No paintings. No flowers. They’re all empty and void of decoration except for a few books and walls covered in framed certificates. It appears the majority of doctors are incapable of decoration unless it showcases their academic and professional achievements.
Finally I waddle back to my room and call mom. She’s just returned from her 50-year high school reunion in Tennessee. Forty-four out of 118 students had died- some from Agent Orange and Vietnam.
“Please buy me some fucking flowers, mom.”
I watch some news. Trump Jr. compared Syrian refugees to poisoned skittles: “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”
It wasn’t even grammatically correct. Fucking asshole.
Ahh. Stress everywhere. It’s probably the reason I have PIH in the first place.
“You’ve always been a stressed out person,” mom says, as if enlightening me to a new realization about my soul. Okay, maybe I’m a little on the anxious side. It’s what made me throw up before track meets and sweat to death at piano recitals.
“Yeah but I’m mostly healthy.”
“You smoked and drank a lot.”
“Yeah okay, but I also ran and did yoga a lot. Come on, I’m not Ozzy Osbourne.”
I had a little protein in my urine to suggest mild preeclampsia but my health was still looking pretty good outside of the blood pressures, which even with medicine every four hours were over the 140/90 mark.
The top number is the systolic number, measuring the pressure of my blood against the walls of my arteries when my heart pumps blood. The bottom number is my diastolic pressure, measuring the pressure when my heart relaxes and fills with blood. The top number is more influenced by my external environment whereas the bottom number is a truer reflection of my heart’s condition.
Lately my pressures have remained around 140-160/85-100. That means they’re being controlled but they’re not ideal. With PIH (Pregnancy Induced Hypertension) there is always the risk of fluctuations from low to high to low to high, and high could lead to strokes or seizures or worse, so that was why I was here still. My labs and ultrasounds said I was healthy and my heart said slow down and be patient.
Developing PIH after 20 weeks of pregnancy without prior his prey of high blood pressure means a mom-to-be is likely headed toward preeclampsia and eclampsia, so the doctors are constantly monitoring protein levels in my urine, liver or kidney abnormalities, headaches, and vision changes.
I read somewhere that Martin Luther King Jr.’s heart was equal to that of a 60-year old man even though he was only 39 when he was assassinated. Was that true? And HOW OLD IS MY HEART?
WebMD says stress is “normal”. It can motivate us to push ourselves and run a marathon or get a promotion at work. It can also, if left to run amok, seriously interfere with jobs, family, life and health. Like, perhaps, a pregnancy?
Emily Dean, M.D., calls stress a “killer disease”. She explains in “Psychology Today” that inflammatory cytokines are chemicals released by the immune system activating armies of cells to attack viruses, pathogenic bacteria, or cancer. The problem is that the immune system can be over-activated and lead to autoimmune disease. Most modern chronic disease, including atherosclerosis and depressive disorders are associated with elevations in cytokines, elevations in autoimmunity, and diseases that linger and are difficult to eradicate and treat. Yikes, so my cytokines-something I’ve never even fucking heard of- were exploding.
She says stress is linked to bad cytokines (IL-6, TNF alpha, C reactive protein, etc.). Stress is linked to PTSD, cardiovascular disease, Major Depressive Disorder, and anxiety disorders which are also linked to bad cytokines. She then says substance abuse and smoking increase inflammatory cytokines, while exercise, meditation and sleep decrease them. Well, that makes sense. That’s why I’ll be busting myself with yoga and transcendental meditation and running when I get to Taos. I’m so stressed over being stressed I can’t even remember what it is that I’m stressed out about.
More than half of Americans say they fight with friends and loved ones because of stress, and more than 70% experience real physical and emotional symptoms from it.
Maybe I’m just sensitive. Maybe this is just pregnancy induced hypertension from being too sensitive and I’ll be perfect after labor. Maybe I’m just an introvert!
Introverts are intense, territorial, often reserved, pensive, heady and hyper-aware. When introverts open up it’s with a purpose.
According to science, the mind of an introvert is well-traveled and vividly colorful and the mind of an extrovert is beige and has tuberculosis. A lot of people like to say to me that they’re introverts but they’re probably just assholes.
As an introvert I’m wholly comprised of solitude, animals, museums, bookstores, online ordering and naps. When I found my true love I knew it would undoubtedly last forever because, as an introvert, I’m a treasure in a sea of shipwrecks.
As an introvert I can’t fake excitement, and I had to quit several jobs that made me miserable. But, the perk is that I’m working my way to my magnum opus. I may not be Dali, Chaplin or Einstein, but I am a special flower. And I need some flowers around me at all times.
My power to sleep in and daydream all day is actually what gets me, the quiet and aloof “space cadet” of grade school, the crazy beautiful blessed life I’ve achieved. And my ability to see the potential of a bright future solidifies my future fortunes.
Drive-thrus and self-checkouts are my saviors. Libraries and museums are my best friends. Online shopping is my sanctuary. Books are my medicine.
I may not know what to say in every moment, but I’ll have the perfect answer in five years. And this argument with my nemesis may not end well now but in five years I’ll know exactly what to say and hit her with it when she’s already deteriorating into a self-destructive trash can.
Anyway, how exactly do introverts respond to stress? We aren’t numeurotic or mentally ill lunatics. While extroverts express stress by acting out, (like smoking, drinking, getting in a fight, twerking to Nicki Minaj, being obnoxious), introverts usually withdraw. This isn’t neurosis, it’s battery recharge. Being around people- particularly controlling people- is exhausting as fuck. While we give energy through socializing, we also lose it in the process.
I don’t need a bible, but I do need time alone to bring order back into my inner world. And that’s exactly what I’m getting here- retreat and recharge- albeit with a bumpy helicopter ride and prodigious league of nosy nurses.