One of the many exciting parts of my recent run of days off was a visit with my frighteningly Teutonic primary care doctor. I actually like the guy – Not just because he’s instrumental in keeping me alive despite my best efforts to the contrary, but also because he’s not a pushover. I’ve had docs in the past who were probably a bit too willing to give way in the face of a strong personality. This guy, well, he’s not a pushover. Even when I’m blatantly ignoring his advice, I appreciate his frank and direct approach.
This most recent visit resulted in a few tweaks to the daily chemical cocktail that’s doing its best to keep me from dropping dead. Although I’m feeling fine, we added a fairly new drug to the mix because some of the underlying numbers were starting to creep off target. Yeah, it’s another hundred bucks a month out of pocket, but when weighed against the previously mentioned dropping dead option, I suppose it’s really a bargain.
As a responsible drug user, I try to be at least minimally informed about what I’m swallowing down with my morning coffee. Reading the list of potential side effects checked off most of the usual unpleasant check boxes: May cause runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, irritability, back pain, joint or muscle pain, nausea, stomach pain, or diarrhea. Basically what the helpful information packet told me is that the side effects are a subset of conditions I already expect to experience on a regular basis. Super.
Better living through chemistry, indeed.
Once upon a time I use to travel a lot for work. Useless hours in airports and tens of thousands of miles in the air wasn’t uncommon hopping between Memphis and DC, Chicago, Fort Worth, and Baltimore. This was almost a decade ago, but I can tell you from that experience, overbooking a flight isn’t exactly something that airlines just started doing this week. If you’re going to fly, overbooking is just one of the more obnoxious facts of life.
Finding out at the last minute that you aren’t getting where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there sucks. It happened to me on more than one occasion even when I was flying on full-fare tickets. I pocketed anywhere from $500-1000 for my trouble, stayed in the airport hotel, and got on the first flight out the next morning. Inconvenient, yes, but not life-alteringly terrible.
The thing I didn’t do in those circumstances was dig in my heels, make excuses for why I was a snowflake more important than any of the others and couldn’t be bumped, and then refused to give way. A lot has been made by the media about this guy being a doctor rushing home to get back to his practice. Fellow passengers were “outraged,” but I didn’t see any of them rushing to give up their seat so the good doctor could continue on his mission of mercy so their opinions, while interesting, are not relevant.
Look, I agree that United made a whole series of bad decisions, but their contract of carriage (which everyone agrees to when they purchase a ticket) pretty clearly spells out what happens when a flight is oversold and you’re bumped. Sitting in your seat and pretending that those rules don’t apply to you strikes me as the trigger that made the whole series of unpleasant events possible.
I have nothing but admiration for the people I see on Facebook and Twitter who seem to be desperately in love with your daily workout. Seriously, I’m jealous that you find it that deeply satisfying. By contrast I largely just end up sweaty and feeling like I’ve wasted 45 minutes that could have been better allocated to doing something I enjoy. After spending 8 hours largely doing things I don’t really want to do, another 45 minutes of the same when I get home is largely just adding insult to injury. It’s something I grudgingly do because my crazy Teutonic doctor says I have to. Nothing more, nothing less.
I know if I asked for recommendations, I’d be flooded with calls of try this program or that coach or this supplement and that shake. The best recommendations, well intentioned I’m sure, usually point me towards joining a gym and getting a trainer. Someone to hold me accountable. I’m sure that makes sense intellectually, but honestly if I’m going to pay someone by the hour to make me sweat, I think there are probably far more stimulating options than heading to a gym.
I’d mostly made my peace with always having one healthy dog and one sick one. Eternal sickness of one kind or another is just what you sign up for when you take on a bulldog. It’s as much part of the territory as their snoring and gas problems. The never ending care and attention was somewhat offset by the fact that the other was perennially healthy – generally only seeing the vet for a yearly checkup and vaccinations. It wasn’t an ideal arrangement of course, but it was manageable. It was manageable right up to the point that it wasn’t. And that’s where I’ve started getting twitchy.
I’ve gotten disturbingly accustomed to hearing my own doctor’s warnings of doom and gloom. Getting a “this could be an issue” from the vet, though, now that sends me into a completely unreasonable level of panic. Tonight we’re sitting just on the wrong side of a veil of ignorance. By this time tomorrow I expect to know a little more than I do now, but probably not yet enough to make anything approaching informed decisions. There’s a lot of white space between “unusual pigmentation” and “cancer,” but my brain obviously races off in the direction of all possible worst case scenarios. For the record, don’t let anyone ever tell you that living in my head is easy. It’s bloody well exhausting more days than its not.
I’m giving it my level best effort not to dwell on those things I can’t do a damned thing about. It’s one of those times having a curious mind is a damned nuisance.
First the good news: The doc seems to think that with continued exercises and stretching, my shoulder should remain serviceable into the foreseeable future. Unless something changes, I’ve managed to escape the need for an MRI and potential surgery. It’s hard not to like that kind of report.
The next bit of his spiel was less ideal – apparently there were some “anomalous” results from my last round of blood work. The minute a sawbones breaks out the phrase “it’s probably nothing to be concerned about”, I start getting twitchy. Having blood drawn for a retest of the ol’ liver was not part of today’s original agenda… but given the last decade of being kept alive by chemistry, I don’t I shouldn’t be awfully surprised when it throws a few anomalies here and there.
While he was finalizing my chart for the day, the last thing he offered was to “throw in an HIV test” if I wanted one. Apparently that’s something they’re offering to everyone this month thanks to a new CDC recommendation. I’m assuming he didn’t offer based on my looking like an IV drug user or some kind of “deviated prevert.” Nonetheless, I figured while they have a needle stuck in my arm, why not offer up the second vial.
Up until now I’ve never so much as pondered the possibility of HIV. Let’s be honest here, I’m a middle age, overweight, wanna-be hermit who spends his free time reading, writing, and making sure the lawn is cut “just so.” I’m not sure how much sex the good doctor thinks I’m having, but apparently he thinks it’s a lot and that I’m probably doing it unprotected with complete strangers. I’m not sure if I should be proud or offended. At any rate, even though the results are a foregone conclusion, the damned test has been drifting around the back of my mind all day even though it would do as much good to sit here and worry about a satellite falling out of orbit and landing on me.
This is one of those times when living inside my head is an awfully troublesome place to be.
1. Eye Exams. In the interest of accuracy, I should say it’s not really the exam that annoys me. It’s the fact that during the exam, the doctor dilates my eyes and then sends me out to the lobby to look at new frames. Have optometrists every really considered the irony of this? Is it, perhaps, their one big inside joke? I have to take my glasses off to try on new frames, so I already can’t see worth a tinker’s damn and then adding insult to injury your fancy drops have go and turn my vision from bad to worse. So anyway, I have new frames coming, but I really don’t have any idea how they look. As far as I could tell when I bought them, they were just dark smudges high center of my face. That’s a hell of a way to pick something you’re going to wear for a minimum of every one of the next 365 days.
2. Cancellations. I need to start keeping track of the number of hours I spend getting ready for things that end up being cancelled at the last minute. While I’m perfectly happy to not have to sit in a random one hour meeting, I’m never going to get back the three to five hours of prep time it takes to get ready for a meeting that’s cancelled. Worse yet, there’s every chance that same meeting will be rescheduled later in the week or the next and that means the prep time involved just doubled. Everyone is busy, but that doesn’t feel like it should be an excuse for piss poor planning.
3. Exercise. Take one look at me and you’ll know this body isn’t a temple, except maybe to Bacchus. With my back out of sorts most of the spring and a good part of the summer, there wasn’t much, if any exercise happening. Doing much more than sitting in a nice hard backed chair for more than 15 minutes at a clip left me pretty hobbled. Now, if only so I can get the doctor to stop scolding me, I’m back to spending time on the bike every night. Sure, I can stick my nose in a book and make it tolerable, but deep down I still think of it as a waste of 45 good minutes I could be using to blog, or work on the next short story, or any of the other things I try to cram into the few hours between getting home from work and collapsing at the end of the night. I envy you people out there who look forward in anticipation to your daily exercise. I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I see it as much more than another “must do” activity sucking time away from the things that I really want to spend my time doing.
I shouldn’t have mentioned to the doc this morning that I busted up my shoulder a few weeks ago. There was no yelling during the fist up until that point. Usually before he’s even in the room he’s raising three kinds of hell about some kind of test result, my weight, my diet, or whatever he’s decided to focus on that morning. Today was going swimmingly by comparison.
We could have wrapped up that way except I opened my big mouth… and which point the yanking and cranking on my arm started. Then there was shouting, except I was the point of origin instead of him. For the record, I like it better when he’s the one doing the yelling.
After the yelling part of the visit, I found myself with a tentative diagnosis of “something rotator cuff related” and referred for physical therapy and a recheck in a month. I should have kept my big mouth shut, because now I’m stuck shoehorning one more thing I don’t want to do into a schedule that’s already too full of that kind of jackassery.
You can’t see it out there in the blogiverse, but I’m rolling my eyes.
Most nights by the time I get home I have at least the kernel of an idea about what I’m going to write about that night. Usually it’s a few words dashed out on the back of a post it note, or a voice memo on my phone, but that’s enough to get me started. Tonight is one of those other nights – the nights when despite being busy from dawn until an hour before dusk, I don’t have a single decent thing on my mind.
You’ll have to trust me when I say that’s not a function of just having been bored today. The fact is today was probably one of the busiest days I’ve had in the last few years. None of it was particularly hard work, but everything I touched was time consuming – understanding the issue, talking to the right people, making sure the right answers go to the correct places; put another way, it was an all-star day of coordinating, integrating, and synchronizing. It lasted forty minutes longer than my usual day, could have lasted another fifty minutes past that, and when I left I still wasn’t close to finished.
Tomorrow looks like more of the same. Actually, tomorrow looks like more of a continuation of today because so much of the work will carry over or worse yet because people will have had the night to sleep on it and dream up some new and interesting wild-assed questions. That’s my long winded way of saying that since around 8AM it’s felt a lot like we’ve been trying to cram ten pounds of day into a five pound sack.
It occurred to me some time this morning that Friday is a day off for me. I’m going to get my yearly physical and eye exam. Getting my eyes dilated and being treated to the old “turn your head and cough” routine sounds better than the alternative at the moment. That should tell you all you need to know about the kind of week I’ve got lining up.
1. Being a ping pong ball. After many years of attending far more meetings than I want to recall. fortunately in that time I’ve cultivated a lead ass and a steel bladder, making it possible for me to endure just about any time suck thrown at me. What I don’t think I’ll ever get use to is the sheer volume of the damned things they throw at you while expecting you to get actual work done in the few minutes between them. Two before lunch, two after, and one blown off because it was scheduled after close of business. Add to that the slides, pre-meeting questions, general coordination, post-meeting minutes and that leaves about 45 minutes of the day in which real work might actually happen, except of course 30 of those minutes belong to lunch and even that gets interrupted a couple of times. It looks like I’m going to need to find a hidey-hole if I want to carve out a minute or two to have an actual uninterrupted thought for the foreseeable future.
2. Focus. Somewhere during my recently concluded vacation, I apparently lost my ability to focus. I’m sure it’s not helped by the ping pong routine referenced above, but it was brewing long before that. I can’t seem to string more than three sentences together without my brain running off in some other direction. I’m sure it’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s a damned annoyance when you get home, try to spend some time working your “second job” and can seem to squeeze a coherent thought out of the space between your ears.
3. My shoulder. I’ve been ignoring the nagging pain in my shoulder for a while now. For the last year or so it’s one of those things that comes and goes. Lately we seem to be in a mode of it coming more often than going. I’ll spare you the image of the face I make when I accidentally reach for something over my head. It’s probably one of those things that’s funny, just not to me. I’ve got a check up coming at the end of the month. Maybe I’ll remember to bring it up, if only because it might distract the German from yelling at me for packing on a few more pounds since he switched my meds and still loving red meat. Unfortunately, I suspect that kind of distraction would require some kind of major trauma in the head and chest region, but I’m willing to roll the dice on that.
I know a few of you out there are all gung ho about your exercise routines. You run marathons, lift six times your body weight, and participate in all manner of physical exertion. More than a few of you have commented about how the effort leaves you feeling energized and wanting to go harder and do more. See, right there is where you lose me. I’ve tried a lot of it over the years – free weights and machines, walking, jogging (aka my feeble attempt at breaking into a run), stair climbing, resistance training, etcetera and so on. Where these activities leave you feeling energized, they leave me feeling tired, achy, sweaty, and generally like there are a dozen other things I could have spent that hour doing that would have left me feeling more productive for the day. It’s not that I reject the obvious benefits of these activities so much as it is that I find them mostly dull, tedious, and often painful. Hard as it might be to believe, that’s not the exact recipe for keeping me interested in something.
However, my semi-annual visit coming up in January to my Teutonic doctor and he’s going to ask the inevitable question about doing a minimum of 30-45 minutes of cardio a day. I won’t lie to him, because lying to your doctor is just bad policy, so with the impending visit in mind, I’m back on the wagon. And by wagon, I mean the cursed stationary bicycle that lives in the basement and for the last three months has served as an improvised laundry drying station. So at least when he asks, I can tell him with a straight face that yes, I’m doing the requisite number of minutes per day. I’ll leave off the bit about hating every minute of it since I’m fairly certain that’s not medically relevant.
I envy you people who find your exercise regimen personally fulfilling. For me it feels an awful lot like three hours a week that I’ll never get back.