forced perspective.

D recently posted a pic on FB of him and Joe sharing a drink.

Joe's just one of the guys, having a drink with his buddy.

This led to some back-and-forth banter about how giant Joe looks and the fact that it probably boiled down to forced perspective (to which I retorted, “sounds like me and D’s first date.” hiyo!)

Forced perspective has been affecting my life a lot the past few days, although not necessarily by way of photographs of friends pretending to hold the Statue of Liberty’s torch or push the Leaning Tower of Pisa back into place. The prospective I speak of comes from situations that have forced me to see beyond my often tunneled vision to see the realities around me I’ve been neglecting to acknowledge. I wish I could say this didn’t happen often, but my mind if a deep and cavernous tomb, where I often find myself trapped. (I recognize the wrist-to-the-forehead implications of that statement. It’s actually not all that bad in there…). But yes, the truth is I am often lost in my own thoughts, my own worries, solving whatever current problems are plaguing me, and some that haven’t cropped up yet, “just in case.”

Yesterday I spent a lot of time deep into “it”–into the thinking, the worrying, internal debate. I thought about the strange events of Sunday, the shock from the reminder that things can happen and change very suddenly, and then mixed all that with my own feelings of personal frustration for where I am, where I want to be, and my confoundment on how to get there.

So let’s start with Sunday.

There are moments you experience that seem incredibly surreal to you while you’re in them, and still seem unbelievable, even when they are over.

Sunday, I was in my glory at the Greene Street Consignment in Princeton, pretty certain I found a new winter coat, along with  a couple skirts worth trying. I had barely started to browse the dresses, when I thought I overheard my name.

“I’m looking for a customer named Sara M…”

I didn’t think they could be talking about me. How could they be talking about me? I remembered thinking maybe I had won something, or maybe someone in the area was looking for me because they spotted me while I was walking (it’s always amazing how the brain chooses to process things). I continued watching as the girl working the front counter shouted on the top of her lungs.

“Excuse me–Is there a Sara M in the store??”  I still wasn’t sure if they meant me. Although I’ve been married for 2 years, being called by my married name is still unusual to me and with my last name being so common, I figured it quite possible there was another Sara M browsing around…

“I am Sara M…” I said, almost questioningly,  still trying to understand who this man was who was asking for me and how he knew my name, or even if it was my name he knew.

“Hi. Your husband fell at the bookstore. He’s OK, but he’s bleeding a lot. There’s an ambulance. He gave me your keys.”

All of these sentences confused me, and strung together they were complete belligerence.

“Oh, OK… let me just give them these clothes…” throwing the crumbled pile onto the counter, still unsure what was going on.

We walked back to the bookstore together and I didn’t know what to say. I was still confused.

“But he’s not even supposed to be at the bookstore. At this point, he was supposed to be at the record store,” I explained to the man, who was polite enough to let me babble random explanations for why he was mistaken. I hadn’t even taken my keys back from the guy yet. As we walked up the street, I saw the ambulance and cop car parked on the street, lights flashing, crowds gathering.

We walked through the store to where my husband was, strapped to a stretcher,  bleeding through the bandage wrapped around his head, with EMTs who looked no older than 20 standing around him.

I didn’t almost start to cry until we had made our way into the ambulance. Donnie had been cracking jokes while we were still in the bookstore, making light of the fact he was strapped to the stretcher, and they all joked about the state of the bathroom, where he fell. When I went to peek inside and see how bad it was, they pulled me away and said it was better I didn’t see.

I still wasn’t upset though, still just confused–displaced and unsure how to feel, except for odd. So it wasn’t until after we debated how I would get to the ER, after they put him in the back of the ambulance, after I climbed into the passenger’s seat of the ambulance, and until I saw them put the oxygen mask on D while the driver asked me if he had a heart condition (apparently his blood pressure was about double what it was supposed to be once they  found him). I think the driver, who was seriously no more than 20, sensed the panic and saw that I was about to cry because he quickly added, “That is normal though, especially after someone’s had something happen…”

But while I turned back to watch D and watch these barely legal EMTs check his vitals, my mind began to cue the dramatic, slow music that often plays on TV shows when the lead character is in peril and suddenly it felt like everything was happening in cinematic slow motion.

I stood by as they took Donnie out of the back of the ambulance, unsure where I should stand or what I should be doing and walked in behind D’s new entourage into the hallway of the ER. The EMT was beginning to wheel him to the room he had just figured out with one of the nurses when the head nurse (or who I’m guessing was the head nurse, based on the way she wearily, but sternly, barked orders) snapped that he could not be moved there, that he was to stay where he was. The EMT explained whatever conversation he just had with whoever else, but based on the way the other workers hunched down and pretended to be working again, it was obvious Whoever’s word did not trump Head Nurse’s. God bless that barely 20-something EMT though because he persisted to the point where Head Nurse stomped over angrily to someone before winning the battle of Where D’s Bed Would be Parked.

And so we stayed in that hallway for about 2 hours, give or take. We did our usual joking banter for the physician attendant and nurses who came to check on him, examined his injury, stapled his head together, and administered his tetanus shot, and I watched closely to just about everything that was done, (except for the actual stapling) and did my best to not feel helpless or useless.

“I’m surprised you’re OK watching this,” the physician’s assistant remarked.

“Well, I work on a lot of medical journals… after seeing a lot of knee surgery photos, I’ve become desensitized.”

“Yeah, but isn’t that different? You’re not emotionally connected to those people.”

That initially made me feel a bit sociopathic– was I not properly reacting to this? Should I have been turning away in horror? Should I have been hysterical? I’ve thought about that a lot in the past 24 hours and I have resolved, no, I shouldn’t have.  To me, it was important to see these thing, important to watch. If anything, it mattered more that it was my husband’s skull and not some faceless, nameless patient being photographed for an academic journal. I wanted to see what was happening so I could understand, so I could make sure that his injury was being handled properly. I was staying calm so D would be calm. Except for the stapling part. I politely turned away for that.

In the grand scheme of things, D was very lucky and his injury was not so bad, but that does not take away from the scariness of it. The fact that D was alone when he fell and that he could have potentially passed out in his own blood in the bookstore’s bathroom has freaked both of us out considerably. The idea that a nice afternoon, an unassuming roadtrip to a relatively safe little place could have caused such a chaotic, scary situation is a little jarring. The idea of everything being able to change in an instant is a reality that we all that for granted until that instant happens, until your name gets spoken by a stranger and you are escorted to the flashing lights that are flashing for your loved one.

These thoughts, mixed with the exhaustion of not enough sleep and a very busy day at the office had me mentally reeling today. There wasn’t much opportunity to not be focused on the work I had to do today, but there were so many different thoughts weaving through my head: the memory of yesterday’s incident, the frustration of various other things that had already been swimming in my head, the sporadic thoughts of all the things I needed to accomplish before the week’s end, personally and professionally…). I left work today feeling down and out and still had about an hour or 2 before I’d actually make it home.

On a happier note, I picked up my dress for Jill & Tim’s wedding tonight! I was nervous about this for 2 reasons: 1) In my yoga hiatus, I’ve taken up a less flattering hobby: consuming “fun size” candy. This wouldn’t be so bad if my brain/shotty will power did not equate smaller to equal “OK to eat large quantities of.” Although I haven’t seen too much of a weight different (yet), I was downright fearful of how my body has potentially shifted in the weeks without working out, coupled with the many pieces of mini Reese’s Cups, Milky Ways, and Mint 3 Musketeer Bar bits I have ingested. To my surprised and delight, the dress fit just about perfect, aside from needed to be hemmed (a first) and needing to be taken in at the bust (shocking to no one). The 2nd welcomed surprised was that I incorrectly estimated my final payment to be about $30 more than it actually was. I felt like I hit the jackpot when she told me my remaining balance for the dress.

Knowing that D made banuffins (he stayed home today since they said he couldn’t drive for 24 hours) and that we needed some ingredients for dinner, I decided to make my way to the ACME next door to the bridal shop (God Bless NJ and their strip mall conveniences!). I stumbled through the aisles, exhausted and feeling drained by the fluorescent lighting that cast everything in a filmy haze, and began to once again feel sorry for myself. I was hungry, tired, and off my game.

I made my way to the check out and was rung up by a girl who looked my age, give or take a few years. I was so struck by how tired she seemed–her entire being just seemed completely run down and worn out. I could only imagine that working the night shift at the grocery was not ideal, and in the few moments I spent with her, I began to feel guilty for thinking my problems were so unique or all that great in the grand scheme of things.

I often forget how fortunate I am, on so many levels. I often complain with friends about “not being where I thought I’d be,” and feeling like life should be rewarding me with more for all my hard work. But what hard work have I actually done? Going to college was a privilege, and one that I didn’t even pay for. I have a job, benefits, and weekends off. Although bills and debt can sometimes be stressful, I do not worry about if I have enough to eat or enough to make rent. I’ve never had to sleep in my car (well, not for serious reasons), never had to worry about whether or not I could seek medical treatment if I was sick. There has always been food, always been support, always been a way to fix a problem. Sure, I do not make a lot of money, but I make enough money. I do not want for the things I need, only for the things I want.  And meanwhile, there are millions of Americans, billions of world citizens who get by each day with a prayer and a hope that they can keep on keeping on. And a lot of them can’t.

So I’m trying to get off my pity party and recognize the fact that a) I’m not special, at least not in the regards of what I deserve from life; b) the only way I’m going to be successful is if I stop trying to measure myself up to these ridiculous material standards for what it means to have success; c) I might need to spend more time in the grocery store after the late shift clocks in.

2 thoughts on “forced perspective.

  1. I love sharing my drinks with my kitties, and little bits of food when they’ll take it. Mostly, they just like to sniff.

    On the desensitized thing, what a weird question to ask someone. I don’t think it’s sociopathic at all. I find it fascinating! When Matt had his butt surgery last year, I would have watched if they’d let me!

    TMI, sorry.

  2. Butt surgery?? Tell me more!!

    I thought it was a weird question to ask, too. I find it hard to believe there is a “right” reaction vs. a “wrong” one. I mean, c’mon, Jackie O. instinctively reached out to grab bits of JFK’s skull when he was shot. Isn’t it protection and preservation? Once again, I know that’s a brutal and dramatic example, but it fits in to that fight-or-flight that kicks in, not just when something is happening ourselves, but when our loved ones are being affected.

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