Sunday, November 30, 2008

false (re)starts and stuff

For anybody who has bothered to come over and check me out here at partly broken, I just wanted to let you all know that I decided to start blogging again at the place it all began, Stony Planet. Please come see me there.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

not a bad thing at all

Lest you think this "partly broken" thing is morbid or defeatest, let me remind you what Chogyam Trungpa said in "Shambhala, Sacred Path of the Warrior." He said that the warrior should have a broken heart so that he can feel the suffering of others and have compassion.

I'm pretty sure that's what he said. That's what stuck with me after all these years. I remember imagining that broken heart and recognizing my own desire to strengthen my defenses, to become more rigid and to reinforce the walls of my protective (figurative) fortress. I thought about how we're probably all broken-hearted already, we just don't like to admit it. Or feel it. Or live it.

So I guess I looked inside my fortress walls and found my broken heart and figured what Trungpa was saying was that I should let myself feel it a little more because it would maybe make me a better person. I mean, we could argue about what a "better person" is, but let's not squabble over petty details.

Monday, November 24, 2008

sometimes the effects are dramatic

When I was in high-school, I had a best friend I called Sunshine. She was sweet and quirky and scrawny and her dad was abusive and horrible. He was like some cartoon monster -- diabolical and selfish, paranoid and mean -- he beat her up, called her a whore, read all her journals and letters, crammed all her stuff in garbage bags and told her she had to leave, then changed his mind and told her she could never leave, etc, etc.

He was awful.

Then he had a stroke.

After the stroke he became this big sweet teddy bear. He was a little dopey, he was kind, he was friendly and warm. He was like a completely different person. Or perhaps the stroke knocked out one part of him so that another part could shine through. Maybe the teddy bear had been there all along, just smothered all his life by the big horrible monster. Who knows.

Either way, he was partly broken and it worked out pretty well for everybody, including him.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

the wounded well

Yesterday I looked at my throat in the mirror and saw a big lump, full of puss. I decided it was strep, so instead of loading up the car with dirty clothes and heading to the laundromat, I loaded up the car with dirty clothes and headed to Kaiser urgent care.

When it was all said and done at Kaiser, I was told I didn't have strep, I had an aphthous ulcer. From stress. I was also told my blood pressure was slightly elevated (131/75). The urgent care doctor and the assistant who gave me my discharge paperwork both looked at me in a sad sort of way and told me to take it easy, to get some rest.

I felt sorry for myself for about three hours while I did the laundry and perseverated on the state of my failing health. An ulcer. From stress. I felt, understandably, stressed out by the news and I called my girlfriend and told her I wasn't going to be able to make chili for dinner.

This was a small problem because I'd promised to make chili for a dinner guest, an old friend of my girlfriend's who was in town after a 15 month absence. I'd promised to make chili before I realized I would spend a chunk of my day sitting in the waiting room of Kaiser's urgent care finding out I had a stress-related ulcer in my mouth.

My inability to make chili threw an extra burden on my girlfriend who is in grad school and is trying to do homework this weekend. She tried not to let it show, she said "It's no big deal, I'll order pizza, don't worry about the chili, it'll be fine," because she was worried that I'd be worried, etc. etc., and perhaps I'd develop a few more apthous ulcers. These ulcers were sounding pretty horrible, really, and I could swear I felt my blood pressure rising even higher just thinking about them.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I finally got home and looked up "aphthous ulcer" online: canker sore. If the guy in urgent care had just said "canker sore" I wouldn't have taken it all so seriously. Canker sore sounds much more manageable than apthous ulcer, much less dire.

Unfortunately, finding out I had a canker sore, not some kind of rare, stress-induced ulcer, did not provide the relief you might imagine. I came home to find my girlfriend frantically cleaning the kitchen and cooking twice-baked potatoes because, it turns out, she barely has enough money to cover rent this month, much less to buy us a pizza for supper. I was supposed to clean the kitchen, but she didn't want to add to my stress, so she cleaned while she cooked. Meanwhile, she probably developed a few apthous ulcers of her own while cooking twice-baked potatoes and worrying about the homework she wasn't able to do.

So I decided I hated myself for being so ridiculously incapable of doing a little laundry and making a little chili. These things aren't so difficult. If I hadn't spent the day worrying about my "apthous ulcers" -- if I'd, instead, known from the beginning they were just canker sores...

Now, the next day, the disgusting lump in my throat (for which there are no medications, no antibiotics, no doctors orders besides "eat well, take a multivitamin, get plenty of rest") is still there, still hurts. My chest still feels constricted and I still feel like screaming. My life isn't that hard, I'm not sure how I started down this path. I've had full-time jobs for most of my adult life, I've been incredibly poor, I've had money problems, I've had relationship problems, I've been a full-time law student, I studied for the bar -- I've never developed stress-related ulcers before, even if they *are* just canker sores.

Why am I melting down right now?

I like the idea of being partly broken. I think we're all partly broken, we just don't always realize it. Or we don't like other people to know. I wish I could wear a patch on one eye or walk with a cane so everyone will know, I'm partly broken. Maybe they would cut me some slack.

My boss is definitley partly broken, but she never cuts herself any slack and I think my proximity to her and her obliviousness is what's making this the most stressful time of my life (when this moment in time has good competition in the general scope of my life events). She is brutal to herself and she's slowly becoming brutal to me. And even where she isn't directly brutal to me, her self-inflicted brutality rubs off on me.

A good example: lately I really feel like hurting myself. I mean, I feel like a coiled spring is about to explode deep in my body and I often imagine that if I could just smash a glass bottle over my head, or ram my head through a window, or crush a can against my forehead -- I often imagine that these things would somehow help relieve the pressure or relax that coiled spring. It's brutal. I have the desire to be brutal to myself.

I blame my boss, but that's just the first step. I can't do anything about her. I've got to figure out how to manage my life as a partly broken individual. Partly broken means I'm not a robot, I can't just charge ahead at all costs, I can't ignore my body symptoms, I can't forget to eat or sleep, I can't pretend my feelings don't matter. Being partly broken means I can't look at other people and say "if they can do it, why can't I do it?" I can't look at my boss, who will come in to work a thousand hours extra even when she's really sick, even when she's in pain, even when she's having life crises, she'll come to work no matter what. I can't look at her and say "that's what she does and that's what I'm supposed to do."

Nope. I'm partly broken and I need to take better care of myself. Maybe you've got a better word for it. Maybe you don't like "partly broken." I don't know what to tell you. I'm all ears if you have suggestions.