Thursday, December 15, 2016

healing


I'm actually starting to feel like myself again, and like I'm inhabiting my own life.

It's hard to describe, or even to understand, how much energy the body takes to heal, including mental energy. For nearly four weeks, I've put aside the details of moving and work. Without consciously realizing it, I kept my life as stress- and worry-free as possible. No compulsive on-line furniture viewing. No worrying about who's going to be where to accept packages, or a move date, or anything about work (except for the friendly co-counselors whom I miss).

But in the last couple of days, my pain and discomfort have been really minimal, and I haven't had a shot of muscle relaxant since Monday. I may even be able to stop using the painkillers before the prescription runs out; I'm certainly no longer having noticeable pain as the dose wears off. The doctor said I can start physical therapy next week, and I think he's close to giving me a back-to-work date. I'll see him later today,for the first time since Monday.

To backtrack some days...soon after the injury, I was concerned about possible internal organ damage. I was less worried as time went on, but I still wanted a test to know for sure. So I had a sonogram. When the doctor got the results, he said there were two small masses on my left kidney. They could have been anything, even cancer, so I went for a CT scan. Fortunately, they were something called angiolipomas, which are entirely benign and nothing has to be done for them. All organs are fine.

Yesterday, I went ahead and ordered a dining table and chairs for the new apartment, which are pretty much the only essential pieces of furniture I hadn't ordered yet. I'd actually seen the ones I wanted some weeks back, and had pretty much decided on them, but I just couldn't wrap my head around actually placing the order. But now it's done.

While I was on a roll, I also bought a new phone, which I've been dithering about for weeks. My current phone isn't totally shot, but it has a couple of small cracks, so anew phone wasn't an absolute necessity. But then I started coming up against insufficient memory; it only has 8GB, so I found myself having to delete things when apps needed updating. Plus, I've actually never had a brand-new smartphone. I started with a used one, and since I have insurance through my carrier, all of my phones have been refurbished replacements, and never the newest model. So now I'll have the newest model.

I certainly didn't expect recovering from a serious injury to be the prologue to my new life, but maybe it's provided me with a cool-down period (as painful and frightening as it was).

Thursday, December 8, 2016

moving and falling, and maybe more

My husband and I are separating, in an entirely amicable manner. I had never really given it that much thought because it was entirely unaffordable, though I know that I craved to live alone. Once I inherited money from my aunt, the thoughts started to come to the surface, and I realized I no longer wanted to be married to my husband. We went to three counseling sessions. The most interesting thing that came out is that he was not willing to do the work to keep the marriage together. I guess it wasn't a surprise, but it was a surprise to hear him say it, to have it acknowledged.

So I found an apartment, which would have been impossible without having some money to put behind it, since my credit is only fair and my salary is low. I made a cash-based deal to rent a very lovely one-bedroom apartment near Kings Highway. Good neighborhood, very good building (including an elevator, laundry room, and super).

However, a few days before I was supposed to move, I was going through some cartons stacked outside the doorway of my old apartment, stepped back a little too far, and began to fall down the stairs backward.

As best I can reconstruct this, I fell down several stairs, grabbed the banister to try to stop, and the momentum flung me over the banister and I fell to the next floor, face down. I believe the banister caught me very hard on my left hip and groin. I had my hand in front of my face, so I only had a tiny bump on my head (did not lose consciousness), and a bit of a bloody nose. But I did not move in case I had a back injury. I yelled to Barry to call Hatzolah (a very good volunteer ambulance service), and went to Community Hospital, where I was examined and x-rayed. The x-ray showed I had fractured my first lumbar vertebra, L-1.

So Barry and L-1 and I went home in a car service, and the next day, went to my doctor, who is thankful only a block away. I was in a lot of pain and couldn't walk more than a shuffle. He immediately put me on Cipro (some of the color and raised quality of the bruising indicated an infection) and a strong ibuprofen. The following day, I told him that the ibuprofen was doing nothing, and he put me on oxycontin instead. My left butt cheek turned almost entirely purple, as well as my groin, and part of my mons.

I went, and continue to go, to the doctor every day, where I was getting daily shots of an anti-inflammatory and a muscle relaxant. Had an MRI of my lumbar area and two of my hip/pelvis (one with contrast and one without), and another x-ray, which showed my T-12 vertebra was also fractured and the fractures were causing the discs below to bulge.

I missed Thanksgiving with my family.

My hip really hurt more than my back, and I spent a lot of time sleeping/resting on my right side. Slowly, the pain began to abate, and the bruise started to vanish, The doctor stopped the shots, I finished the course of Cipro, and got a back brace.

By a few days ago, I was having a lot less hip pain, but I asked the doctor to have a test done to make sure there had been no damage to my organs. So I had a sonogram done a few days ago.

The sonogram showed two masses on my left kidney, which may or may not be related to the fall; it may be residual blood clots from the internal bleeding. It may also be cancer. I am supposed to have a CT scan today for a better look.

So this took place over the past week and a half. Barry has been a champion. He took the first week off from work, and has accompanied to every doctor visit and test, while taking care of all household things and all shopping. He arranged to have whatever was already packed moved to my new apartment. (My move was scheduled for three days after my accident.) He has been amazing.

I have updated friends and family daily, as well as notifying my job. My best work friends, Charles and Jonathan, have texted pretty much every day, This apartment is too small and grungy to have visitors. I've also been publishing updates on Facebook daily. I have a lot of good support.

After I got the sonogram results, I told everyone the sonogram was "inconclusive" and that I had to have a CT scan. No reason to worry my 86-year-old father until there was actually something to worry about. I did tell the true story to my brother and to my bestie, Robin.

So I am mostly out of pain and thoroughly panicked. The doctor said that if it is cancer, it is easily treatable. And I do have a second kidney.

This has been, to say the least, an ordeal. My walking improved pretty quickly. My appetite was really poor, and although we initially ordered a lot of take-out, we've been relying pretty heavily on the new gourmet shop attached to the excellent greengrocer right next to the doctor. I needed food that would tempt me, so I've been eating a lot of goat cheese and crackers, fresh-press juices, and gelato. Barry brings lattes a couple of times a day. I recently discovered the shop's pre-packed salads, which are fancy and excellent. He also buys chocolates for the office staff at the doctor's; the "girls," as the doctor calls them, are endlessly hardworking and pleasant. They have performed admirably in wrestling with my insurance company to get my tests approved and scheduled.

I have basically paid nearly nothing this whole time. I paid a $20 co-pay this first time I saw the doctor, and everything else has been a follow-up at no charge. We've paid co-pays for my meds, and for car services to and from the labs. But that's about it. My insurance has proved to be very good. I have weekly Skype sessions with my therapist.

I'm going on disability from my job, and the move is on hold. In my new apartment, I have one rug laid and the other is there but not yet laid. I have my mattress (the bed will arrive December 17), all my linens, a microwave, a TV, a blender, dishes, flatware, and a vintage Danish teak dresser. (I did give Barry a bunch of money, and he's landed a share at a friend of a friend's). I haven't been able to think much about the move and furnishings; I have nothing yet for the living room and no dining table and no kitchen island (the kitchen is low on counter space, which is basically the only flaw in the apartment), and no shades. I have chosen styles and colors for the various rooms. The bedroom is blue, the living room is various warm colors, the bathroom is green, and the kitchen will be highlighted in bright red. For some sense of my design ideas, you can visit my rather large Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/jennlevy1). I spent a chokingly large amount of money on my bed and mattress.

Furnishing from scratch is exciting and scary. I'm mixing real and faux mid-century modern pieces. Buying the small stuff was easy; buying the big/expensive pieces is scary (except for the dresser, which was so enchanting that I bought it immediately).

But this all seems very far away now. My real life seems very far away. I will be doing a lot of physical therapy for my back, and of course there may or may not be extensive treatments for my poor kidney.

I thought this was all drawing to an end once the pain was pretty much gone. Once the pelvic/hip pain abated and I got the back brace, I've felt a lot better, though I'm still taking oxy and resting a lot. I only found out about the kidney yesterday, and I've done a good deal of crying since then. This has perhaps been the scariest part of the whole ordeal: scarier than the ER, the fractured back, the ceaseless pain in my hip and groin. Last night, I wanted my mother like nobody's business. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

can't do it

I'm staying home from work today because I can't stop crying.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

the long honeymoon

I saw Elvis Costello last night, and when he played this:


tears ran down my face. It happens to be a very sad song, and one of my favorites from "Imperial Bedroom," but I guess what got to me was the topic of a broken relationship. Since mine is.

It was my decision to separate, but instead of my saying so, we went to three sessions of marriage counseling, at my suggestion. I guess maybe I wanted someone neutral present. The first two sessions with one counselor were hopeless; he was not a very good counselor. The next counselor really helped us nail it down.

So I'm moving out at the end of this month. I have a lovely one-bedroom apartment which I can't afford on my salary. And never would have gotten given my salary and my credit report. I used a portion of my inheritance from my aunt, and I am also banking on earning more within two years.

My husband and I are very good friends. We've both cried a lot over this. But we agreed that certain things are not what they should be, and I think we've both known that I am better-suited to living alone.

I am furnishing my apartment from scratch, which I've never done before, and it's costly and scary. My therapist reminds me that nothing is permanent. If I hate the rug once it's on the floor, I can always get another rug (but sell the other, natch).

I'm sure I'm dealing with my fear and anxiety by obsessing over details of my new home. I actually set up a page on Pinterest and have been obsessively "pinning" rugs, sofas, beds, chairs, duvet covers, vases, china, flatware, mugs, glasses, kitchen islands, throw pillows, ottomans...pretty crazy. But, however, it has permitted me to think about what I want my apartment to look like, and I've already chosen the living room and bedroom rugs, I've picked a mattress and I'm very close to picking a bed (platform or captain's). Oh, and I bought a laptop.

I have the keys now, but my target move date is November 30. But first I have to put in at least the rugs and the bed.

I find myself starting to write obsessively about the apartment stuff.

Instead, I will say, I'm separating about 19 years together, married almost 16, and it's scary and exciting, a very new and different life.

Oh, and there's a horrible election today. Or rather, the end of a really horrible campaign. In just a matter of months, I have more bad things to say than I have to say about Walmart (and don't get me started on Walmart, because I've been at that for years). I'm astonished by the classlessness at this level of political race. That scary orange guy has a wild imagination and absolutely no filter. He's dragged down the dignity of a presidential campaign. And people support this guy, despite his proven lack of character, bigotry, untruthfulness, and ugly tactics. Saying "crooked Hillary," apparently, is enough to turn a lot of people against her. Someone told me today that they were voting for Trump, "because Hillary is crooked." I'm pretty sure he doesn't exactly know what "crooked" means, or what "crooked" acts he's being accused of - but he's a Trump guy.

Also, I love that the topic of one of Hillary's emails to Huma Abadin, was, "What was the name of that older Indian actor we met a few years ago?" If forgetting Amitabh Bachchan's name is a crime, I guess she is crooked.

Monday, October 3, 2016

who decides?

Last night, I watched this documentary, about political correctness (particularly on college campuses) vs. free speech, as pertains to stand-up comedy. I found it very thought-provoking. I come down pretty hard on the side of free speech. I've listened to some pretty extreme stand-up, and even if something rubbed me the wrong way, I never felt it didn't have the right to be spoken or broadcasted (and that I always had the right to turn the channel, walk out of the club, etc.). Lenny Bruce, after all, died for our sins,

Then I read this in the New York Times, about hate speech on Twitter, which was even more thought-provoking. I have to ask the question, who gets to decide what constitutes "hate speech"? This is a pretty tricky one, especially since Twitter presents itself as a free-speech medium. But Twitter also does not permit what it calls "abusive behavior" (see guidelines here). Should verbal/written abuse be set apart from "free speech"? And who gets to decide what constitutes "abusive"? If someone on Twitter attacks a person or race or viewpoint, and some number of people think it's correct or OK, and others are offended, is it permissible or not under these guidelines? And how extreme does the "attack" have to be? 

From the Times article: Just take a gander at @Bridget62945958, who published a series of anti-Semitic posts against my colleague Binyamin Appelbaum. One message showed a series of lampshades. Its caption read: “This is your family when Trump wins. Get your Israeli passport ready.”

Do I like this? Nope. Would I be upset if it were directed at me? Sure. Are there Twitter users who think it's OK? I'm sure there are, just as there are readers who think it's horrible. But should it be censored from a "free speech" medium?

And what we're talking about is censorship. One of the free speech advocates in the documentary I watched said that it is absolutely necessary to permit speech that offends any number of people in order to begin a meaningful dialogue and understanding about the issue. I can get behind this, I'm pretty sure. And I'm not certain that there's not all that much difference between a stand-up comic on a college campus or a racist demagogue on Twitter (if Twitter is indeed "free speech"). I can hate it, I can change the channel, I can walk out, I can block the poster or quit Twitter. I've unfriended quite a few people on Facebook who have repeatedly expressed views that I disagreed with or found offensive; now they can post what they want, and I don't have to read it. (I don't really use Twitter much these days, so I haven't come up against that kind of situation in that venue.)

Lenny Bruce got thrown in jail for saying "cocksucker" in a nightclub. Let me repeat that: Lenny Bruce got thrown in jail for saying "cocksucker" in a nightclub. Some people were offended by that word. Maybe some still are. Does anyone think it was OK for him to be jailed for saying it? It was considered an illegal act at that time. Do we consider it illegal now? He was convicted in 1964. He died before his conviction was overturned, in 1966. New York State pardoned him in 2003. No one since has ever been arrested for anything said in a nightclub. 

I am not OK with censorship. I am not OK with "hate speech" (as it is commonly understood, such as the above example), I am not OK with prejudice, I am not OK with soliciting terrorist activity...but those are things that offend me personally. I can change the channel. Maybe I'm being naive, but I think censorship is scarier than any words can be.

That being said...let me share my own experience of being attacked online and being accused of censorship.

Many years ago, I started a "listserv," which was an email discussion group, that eventually became an online chat group. The group was founded to bring together fans of an incredibly minor musical genre (basically defined as three specific musicians and their cohorts). It started with six people I found in a newsgroup (rec.music.folk), back in the 90s, and grew, over about ten years, to (as best I can remember) around 500. I was the founder and the moderator. 

There started to be instances where members assumed that if the others shared their musical tastes, they were sure to share other interests; what I remember specifically was a bunch of posts about astrology. I gently reminded people what the group was about, and asked them to stay on topic. Wasn't a big deal.

Then a guy joined the group - let's call him "Gene." Gene seemed to have a very short fuse and would go off on people for seemingly no reason and in very extreme way. Most of the group members were more or less love-and-peace hippies, and Gene's behavior was jarring to a lot of people. And he was scaring off newcomers, which bothered me a lot. For instance, a newcomer might post something like, "Hi, I'm new to this group. Has so-and-so played in the Chicago area recently?" And Gene would reply along these lines: "IF YOU SHUT UP AND READ THE POSTS BEFORE ASKING STUPID QUESTIONS MAYBE I WOULDN'T HAVE TO TELL YOU TO SHUT YOUR IGNORANT IDIOT MOUTH!!!" So, the newcomer would quit the group. This didn't sit too well with me. I tried asking Gene to try to play nicely with others. No dice.

I should also disclose that Gene went after me, a lot. Example: I had read a book where one of the characters was a fictionalized version of one of our topic musicians, and I said something along the lines of "I thought the female characters were too simplistic and trivialized." The part of Gene's ensuing rant that I remember best was that he called me a "LESBIAN NAZI." (PS, Gene and I were, and are, both Jews.) 

Some of the people in the group liked Gene. (Amazingly, to me, one even married him.) Some found him offensive. Some brushed it off. Some left the group. Some thought he was funny. (Gene did have a credential relevant to the group: he owned a record label that had released one album by one of the artists.) Needless to say, I didn't care for the guy, didn't like his tone, and didn't like his presence in the group. And no one else behaved like him. 

Here's the difference: it wasn't a free speech forum. It was my wheelhouse, my playpen, my topic. The gentle nudges-back-to-topic that worked on astrology did not work on Gene. Here's what I did, which I hated having to do: I wrote guidelines. (Just like Twitter, which does represent itself as free speech.) They were pretty simple: keep on topic, don't attack other people. I was the moderator; I got to judge what "attack" meant. Among our twinkly little music fans, it wasn't hard to distinguish "Is anyone going to so-and-so's show next week?" from "UGLY LITTLE WORMS LIKE YOU SHOULDN'T BE ALLOWED TO BREATHE THE SAME AIR AS THE REST OF US!!!" 

The guidelines further said that the first and second times I judged someone's posting inappropriate based on the above, I would email them privately. After a third time, their posts would be subject to moderation, which meant I would change a setting to read and approve their posts before forwarding them to the group.

It killed me that I had to do this, or felt I had to. It killed me that anything like this became an issue. I had never imagined such a thing would happen, that someone like Gene would join and participate in the group. I was trying to grow and enhance the group, and people were leaving because of Gene. This was not OK in my group. 

This started a lot of yelling about censorship. This started a lot of chaotic behavior within the group. This started a lot of attacks on me. This led to more and more people being moderated. I do not exaggerate when I say that I lost sleep. I do not exaggerate when I say that my husband begged me to quit the group. Although he blessedly lived in another city, Gene did show up to a club show in New York, where he waved a finger in my face and yelled, "I KNOW WHO YOU ARE, AND I'LL DEAL WITH YOU LATER!!!" 

It ended very badly. I eventually banned Gene from the group, and he started his own "rival" group (with a very slight spelling difference from mine), in which people were allowed to post anything they wanted. Gene's pals who belonged both groups started reposting his nasty rants in his group to my group. His group had about 30 members and mine was in the hundreds (and mine eventually included two of the musicians who had become sufficiently internet-savvy), but after ten years, I gave up. I turned the moderation and ownership over to someone who maybe had a more even temperament or cooler head or thicker skin than mine. 

For unrelated reasons, I broke off my friendship with one of the musicians and lost my interest in the mini-genre, lost touch with most of the group members, took my life in another direction. The lost group and friendship felt like losing a family, felt like a divorce. I have no doubt that it was the right thing to do. But I'm still scratching my head over the business of directing/limiting/controlling the discussion in the group. Was I trying to keep the group as I had created it and intended it to be, or was I just a no-good censor?

I think the group still exists, though I have no interest in looking into it. I'm still Facebook friends with a couple of the early members. One of them recently referred to me on FB by the affectionate name a lot of the members used, "Our Jen," and I was touched and happy and sad. It was nice to be "Our Jen" for a while. Bringing the scattered fans together was a good thing. It actually raised the profile of our musicians and led to real-life connections and more gigs for them. We had a member in Ireland and one in Denmark and one in Aruba; the man in Aruba met Barry and me at the airport when we traveled there for our honeymoon, and drove us to our hotel. It was actually pretty amazing. 

Did Gene wreck it, or did I?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

politics and the test

If you've read a selection of my posts, you probably know that I'm not a very political person. I always vote, but to be honest, I don't do much research about the local candidates. I do browse their newsletters when they come in, read the campaign material, but I tend to make decisions on whether they're doing things I like. (When I say "local candidates," I don't include the mayor. Mayor of New York City is a very important office to anyone who lives here.)

But the presidential election this year really has me very interested and attentive. We have one candidate who is really liberal and awesome and amazing, and one who is a wealthy, lying racist using deplorable tactics against his opponents. (I'm kind of sorry that Ben Carson is out of it, because he was entertainingly crazy.)

I'm a liberal and a Democrat, and most of the people I know and like, and the ones I'm related to, are one or both. It's what I'm used to; I don't think twice about commenting on some idiotic thing Donald Trump said.

But...it turns out that I work with some really conservative people! Just about 3/4 or them are orthodox Jews of varying stripe, and for some reason, those folks are kind of right-wingy. I'm told that most orthodox Jews are, but I really don't know why. (I learned that this is also true of many hispanic people - when my Dominican then-boyfriend told me he was...a Republican!)

Don't get me wrong - I adore almost all of the co-workers. And the few I don't adore, I still admire for doing this work. As one of my best friends there said to me the other day, "This is not a workplace - this is a family." This might be the best group I've ever worked with.

But man...early in the Trump campaign, one of the guys said to me casually, "I think Trump has some really interesting ideas." I shuddered. I mean, I knew what a piece of shit Trump was before he was running for president, and pretty much everything he had to say, from the beginning of the campaign was pretty dreadful, and got worse.

For a while, I kept my mouth shut at work. It's really natural for me to comment on some piece of news about the candidates, but "Did you hear that horrible thing about Trump not wanting to let any Muslims into the country!" would probably be met with looks reading "...and your point is?"

But we also have a WhatsApp discussion group, and a couple of people posted "funny" political jokes with themes like "we shouldn't pay for lazy people on welfare," anti-Obama stuff, like that. The first one that was posted, I did hold my tongue and simply suggested, a few days later, that we keep politics out of the group.

That worked for a while, until the same person posted a joke - I couldn't remember it well enough so I looked up the post, and here it is: "Breaking News: The Muslim Brotherhood has officially warned the United States that if the United States continues meddling in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Iran and Afghanistan, they intended to cut off America's supply of 7-11 and Motel 6 managers. If this action does not yield sufficient results, cab drivers will be next, followed by Dell, AT&T, and AOL customer service reps. Finally, if all else fails, they have threatened not to send us any more presidents. It's gonna get ugly, folks."

This is a huge steaming pile of prejudice and idiocy. It's kind of all the ugly right-wing nonsense all put together. (Well, except for the Gun Lobby.)

This post got some nods of agreement. Then I posted (this is not verbatim), "I think the people who are thinking about are Indians and Pakistanis, not Arabs. Most Pakistanis are Muslims, but most Indians are Hindu."

Then someone asked me, "But don't you think it's a big problem to get those people coming over here?"

I said, "That's what they said about the Jews." He actually apologized to me. And I said, "It kind of upsets me to see this kind of sentiment in a group called 'Where We Help Everyone.'"

So everyone kind of shut about it since. I think they don't want to offend the "house liberal" just as much as I don't want to offend the conservatives. I'm not even sure how many are seriously conservative - but yesterday, senior counselor had a pile of magazines he'd brought from home, and said, "This one's for Jennifer!" It was Rolling Stone with a picture of Bernie Sanders on the cover. I've never told anyone there that I support Sanders, but I guess they figured it out. (And I actually found it kind of funny, when he gave me the magazine. It wasn't disparaging at all.)


I got drug tested today. We heard a few weeks ago that there was going to be a round of random drug tests, and that someone in the organization had tested positive and was immediately fired.

Of course, Little Miss Liberal does not approve of drug testing at all, nor does her spouse, Mister Liberal. But I kept my mouth shut. I let the young-hippie-guy step up to the area coordinator and ask a few hostile questions and say, "I'm not changing my lifestyle for...this! And what if someone is taking something that's prescribed by a doctor?" This guy is pretty bold because he's mid-twenties and not looking to make a career of this at all. It wouldn't break his heart to get fired. But I need my job, and have made a point of being able to submit a clean test. When I first heard about it, I mentioned it to a few other people I felt might find it useful to know. Drug testing is a huge denial of civil liberties, and embraces that hypocritical line between alcohol and non-alcohol mood-changing drugs (the latter generally known as "drugs").

So I took care of business and anticipate no  problem. But it's also true that when I was looking for work, I consciously avoided the kinds of large companies that would test. I would never consider working for a bank or for a big finance form of any sort, for other reasons; but the stand against testing also blocked me from things like entertainment networks and hospitals and a host of other places where it's not OK to smoke some pot on your own time, but is OK to get as drunk as you want when you're not at work.

The laws concerning marijuana are inching along toward a more liberal consideration, but it's kind of haphazard and fuzzy; things like it being legal to sell medical marijuana but not to grow it for legal sale, and suchlike. Marijuana laws right now are where they should have been 20 years ago. The Nixon administration commissioned a study on marijuana, and when the findings that it was not in any way harmful were presented to President Nixon, he glanced at it and threw it in the trash. (You could look it up. I'm getting kind of hungry.)

Go, Bernie!

P.S. One of my co-workers said to me today, "You used to be a writer, right?" That "used to" should not be correct and I am taking measures.