Sit And Spin

So, on a lark, since I’ve got literally nothing better to do than lay here on my back and never, ever move my head, lest I go into a vomitous heaving frenzy into the polished chrome bowl beside me, I will sit upright and tap out a rant on my smartphone. (Oh, the future…) Seriously though, I have no idea how bulimic people can do it so often.

It started this morning when I woke and sat up to a spinning room that sent a creeping feeling into my guts. Initially chalking it up to sitting up too fast, I got up with intentions of taking care of your standard morning bathroom duties  (Right?!) and instead ended up puking up the remains of the previous night’s meal. After voiding the contents of my stomach, I sat up, expecting the relief that usually comes with a good barf sesh, before the room started spinning off its axis again and sent me back into another fit of heaves. I ended up laying on the cool floor of the bathroom for a good 20 minutes, fully intended on staying there until I sweated this whole thing out, but eventually, laying on a hard tile floor start to take a toll on the neck, back, and ass and I made my way back to the bed with the bowl and a big bottle of water in tow to sleep it off.

I woke up again around 4 PM feeling refreshed and rather level-headed. I also hadn’t been to the bathroom since last night, so I decided to risk a venture across the 10 feet of room space from my bed to the toilet. The second I got up was the second things got all “fun house mirror” again. I luckily had the foresight to bring my phone and my trusty metal purging bowl, which I used 3 times along my journey. After puking a few more times, I finally managed to pass out, being mindful to lay myself on my side, lest I go out like the late Jimi Hendricks. I’ve woke up several times in between, and after getting far more sleep than I need, I’ve found a position where I can comfortably prop myself up to type out this rant.

I really hate politics. It’s just absolutely fucking disgusting to feel the need to sit and wait it out in bed next to this reeking bowl, wanting desperately to go down stairs and eat all three of the daily meals I’ve missed at once, since being an American citizen with a pre-existing medical condition can deem me “uninsurable”. I’ve spent seven years of my life praying that nothing too bad would go wrong with my health in the time before I could get a career up and running. Working as a freelance writer, fun as it is, does not come with health and dental.

Seven years. Now with the passage and now constant contention surrounding healthcare reform and the Affordable Care Act, I feel more on edge about this crap than usual. Laying here as I spin inside my own head makes it even worse. A man shouldn’t have to wait until the worst case scenario before he goes to a doctor. He shouldn’t have to feel overwhelmingly compelled not to seek treatment due to the possibility of financial strife, even when feeling his worst. The fact that this is common place is horrendous. The fact that so many people who don’t have to worry about these problems have the authority to try and contest giving it to those who need it is deplorable.Of course, I have a whole long argument that I’d like to throw in here, but instead, I think I’m going to go pass out again.

The moral of the story: Don’t get sick.

Like, EVER!

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The Weight Of A Story

The process of researching my past that’s gone into The Long Odds has provided me a measure of catharsis. In the last month, I’ve spent time researching the whereabouts of my own grave, contacting the doctor who first diagnosed my heart defect (who thought I might have died years ago) , and getting all sorts of emails from old friends I hadn’t heard from in years when that Courier Journal article hit. It’s come to put into perspective the weight of my personal story, which is something I’ve been telling so often over the last 26 years of my life that the story had just become words to me. Something that I would tell people who were just getting to know me, or telling to government officials that I might be talking to on behalf of the American Heart Association. You know how a powerful word or set of words can lose it’s meaning upon too many repetitions?  That’s how my story had begun to feel to me, and for a guy who’s been working to become a career storyteller, that’s not the best thing in the world. The experience of writing all of it out has begun to bring back the power and gravity of everything that I’ve always known, but I guess, somewhat forgotten.

I started learning the importance and the weight that a story can hold at the age of four years old, when my mother, who was desperate to find some way to save my young life and only had a matter of years to do so, began working for the AHA as a volunteer and advocate. She used to be a very nervous public speaker until she began getting out there on the stump on my behalf.  Slowly, after a number of times with telling my story to crowds of people through a stream of tears, she became more confident in the story she told and the power of what she’d had to say. Not long after that, with my mom’s permission, began using me as their poster child for CHD research. I thought it was pretty cool, even if I only had a limited understanding of what exactly was going on.

Now that I’m spending time in my old hometown for a little while, I went to our storage locker a few blocks away from my brother’s apartment to go through some of my old things and see if I could find any old things that could be used to enrich what I’m doing here and I found a whole box full of old AHA campaign fliers from over 20 years ago which centered on my mom and myself. I brought a couple home and scanned them to share here.

What was interesting about finding a huge box full of these cards and fliers was how four year old me, in the world full of medical uncertainty I was born into, and then to see it juxtaposed against the image and words of this flier from four years later…

(The learning to ride a bicycle part? Never really took to that. Still can’t stay balanced on one of those damn things, no matter how I try.)

My time with AHA has continued and increased in the time since both of these pieces were printed. After spending my years growing up letting my mom tell her version of our story and ultimately being the champion of everything that got me where I am today. I got my sense of never giving up from her, no question. I couldn’t be more grateful for the lessons that she, and by extension my work for the AHA has afforded me. In the years since I started out as a poster child for AHA, I’ve gone on trips with them to Washington DC on numerous occasions where I have spoken to members of US Senate, Congress, as well as loads of other government officials on heart related issues for the states of Kentucky and Connecticut where I have held residence. Last year, I actually helped get a law signed in Connecticut that made Pulse Oxymetry screenings mandatory for all newborns in the state. All of that happened on the back of stories like my own and the stories of parents like my mother who spoke on behalf of their small children who would likely have passed away if not for Pulse Ox screenings.

I’m here to tell stories. Whether they are works of slice-of-life fiction like Love Buzz and The Zipper Club, biographical stuff like The Long Odds, or some of the more floaty, weird shit that I’ve been pitching lately with my agent (More on that soon, hopefully).

That my friends, is the importance of story. Everybody has one. Some of us might think they’re more boring or uneventful than others, but I don’t buy that. Unless you’ve lived tied to a chair in a dark room all your life, you have to have done something interesting with your life. Sure, life is boring about 95% of the time. I spend the majority of my time sitting on my ass in front of a computer screen all day. It’s that other 5% of the time that gives us something to talk about. You have to have the awareness to spot the “stories” in your life when they unfold.

Odds are, you’re more interesting than you might think.