Category Archives: Optimism

1000 Words: The Body Shop

I went to the grocery store this morning. Stocked up for the week. A normal chore.

Except it wasn’t.

It was my first time out in public, walking, since I underwent my second total hip replacement surgery two weeks ago today.

A few years ago, after I’d completed treatment for cancer in my neck, I decided to embark on a program of fixing up all the things that resulted in me being, essentially, a cripple. Both my hips were diagnosed with Category 4 osteoarthritis, leading me to walk (or, try to walk) like a grizzled old tar on a pirate ship.

Surgery after surgery after surgery.

Standing up from a sitting position took long moments. Sitting down in the first place took even longer. I timed how long it took me to put on my socks and shoes once: six minutes. All this dilly-dallying was in service of me trying to dodge screaming pain. The cats and The Loved One countless times were scared out of their fur by me shrieking in agony because I’d moved one or the other hip joint just the merest fraction of a millimeter wrongly.

My first hip should have been done some time in early spring 2020, but you may recall what was going on in the world at that time. That surgery was delayed for some nine months before my surgeon felt the pandemic was controlled enough so he could resume elective operations. As he threw me out of the hospital after I woke from anesthesia, he said we’d have to wait at least six months before we could re-jigger the other hip.

Next thing I knew, one of my teeth started getting a little funky thanks to cancer radiation therapy, every weekday for six weeks, back in 2016. My oral surgeon said the blood flow through my jaw had been compromised by the daily linear X-ray beam zapping and he wouldn’t yank said tooth until I’d gone through another six weeks, every weekday, of lying in a hyperbaric chamber.

I wrote about the hyperbaric chamber back in the late fall of ’21. Trust me, if you’re claustrophobic, you won’t survive a minute in one of those tubes. The casing is clear, sure, but the space to move around in is only about 36 inches in diameter. The machine creates a high-pressure atmosphere of pure oxygen, forcing billions of Omolecules into me and engorging my arteries with supercharged, highly-oxygenated blood.

Along about the same time, I visited another surgeon to take care of the enormous hole I had in my abdominal wall. This hernia had led to what’s called an incarceration. No, I didn’t have to go to jail, but the pain caused by this medical incarceration was no less bearable than a nickel stint in Monroe County jail. I’d already decided to juggle the order of my surgeries to take care of the hernia first because, frankly, if the hernia and incarceration got any worse the fallout would be devastating. As in send flowers. He, too, said he wouldn’t touch me without me having been locked in the hyperbaric tube for a good long time.

So, I got my tooth excavated in February 2021 and my abdominal wall patched up ( and the incarcerated organ pushed back where it belongs that April.


Now I could have the orthopedic surgeon tackle my left hip. And, by the way, that left hip originally was diagnosed as the worse of the two. As far back as 2019, X-rays showed the left hip completely without any cartilage lining at all. The surgeon suggested we get on it without delay. I told him my right hip was the one that hurt worse, so he deferred to my wishes.

He sliced me open and sawed off the bone ends (ball head of the femur and the acetabulum, or hip socket), screwed and glued replacements for them made of titanium and plastic, and sent me on my way. After I woke up, of course.

Image from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Now that my first hip had been done, I started walking around like there was no tomorrow. Unfortunately, tomorrow came. Because I was gamboling about so much I wore down the bone ends in my right hip to the point that they were shrinking, much like the eraser on the tip of a pencil. The pain was insane.

I finally was able to get the left hip done on April 10th. Recovery from total hip replacement surgery is no picnic, I assure you, but no matter how much swelling and soreness there is, I feel 22 times better now than I did on April 9th.

At last my campaign of multiple surgeries is complete. When I started it, I didn’t even have confidence I’d live long enough to get them all done because, well, I have a couple of other medical issues that could, at any time, turn dire.

I recount all this not to elicit sympathy (although if you want to toss a little my way, I won’t fling it back in your face) but to remind you it’s almost always preferable to live and to get your body repaired quickly and properly.

There are exceptions, of course. People suffering with unbearable cancer pain and who’ve been told there’s no hope rightly would prefer to be wrapped in the arms of Mors, the Roman god of death. A dear friend of mine, who’s a citizen of another country, lost both her parents to cancer. Or, more accurately, suicide. The country they live in allows physician-assisted suicide for people who are suffering and for whom there’s no other way out. Her parents threw themselves a nice party, said goodbye to all their loved ones and friends, and then took the gas pipe or the pill or whatever they do in that country.

That’s an awfully good way to go. And their kids were thankful their parents didn’t have to endure the torture of pain and hopelessness.

Anyway, I’m a million miles away from wishing I could die (although there’ve been moments now and again). I’m all taped and sewed up. My hips don’t hurt. My hernia isn’t burning. My tooth isn’t threatening to turn infected.

The conclusion: Life’s pretty good even if it does kick the shit out of us every once in a while.

1000 Words: Hopelessly Hopeless

I’ve been touching on this, now and again, in recent posts here on this global communications colossus. The world, and especially this holy land, are in the deepest of funks.

Climate change is going to (pick one): burn us, flood us, starve us, drought us, or otherwise somehow whack the bejesus out of us until we and every other Earthly species, including Republicans, are wiped out.

Or, millions and millions of abortions are going to pare the population of Homo sapiens down to a scant few thousand.

Or, the Christian Taliban is poised to force every female human of reproductive age to bear as many children as possible.

Or, the war in Ukraine — or any spat between belligerents on this globe — will get out of hand and one side will resort to flinging nukes at the other, with the whole thing getting out of hand and engulfing the planet.

Or, a comet or asteroid surely will collide with the Earth, wiping us out ala the dinosaurs 165 million years ago. (See note at the end of the post.)

Or, either the Democrats or Republicans are engineering the End of Western Civilization.

Or…, or…, or…. See? There are countless dystopic scenarios the lot of us are fixating on in this year of somebody’s lord, 2022.

We’re all waiting for the next shoe to drop. We’re all — let’s face it — no better than that doomsday cult back in 1978, the Jim Jones gang, that was certain the Earth was about to be snuffed out so hundreds of its members sipped poison-laced Kool-Aid and beat the rest of us to oblivion. Or the Mayans, whose calendar technicians worked out the exact date of the end of the Earth: December 21, 2012. Or David Koresh’s Branch Davidians. Or that Heaven’s Gate bunch back in 1997 who committed mass suicide so they could escape this doomed globe.

Or…, or…, or…. See? There’ve been countless individuals and groups fixated on The End.

Humans are the only species, as far as we can determine, that has an awareness of finity. (Merriam-Webster and other authorities seem to disagree with me vis à vis the existence of the word finity.) Every once in a while, throughout history, large numbers of people have come to agree that our collective finiteness was just around the corner. The global human zeitgeist of this age is simply another manifestation of that bad habit.

Make no mistake, we face some mighty challenges over the next few years/decades/centuries. For all we know, our actions today or tomorrow, and those we’ve undertaken in the past, may well mean curtains for scads of us. Book it: our grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and all the rest of our progeny had better learn to breathe a fossil-fuel-fouled air and batten down the hatches against mega-hurricanes. Don’t even get me started on viruses, both extant and fixing to come into being.

So I’m not a Pollyanna.

But I’m not buying into the doom.

I can’t.

Having been raised a Roman Catholic (and quitting that gang as soon as I reached the age of reason) I can attest that one of the good things arising from that belief system was explicated during a sermon I heard back in the late 1990s when, in the depths of gloom I resorted to attending Sunday mass for a few weeks. The priest that Sunday said, “We’re here on this Earth to love and to hope.” It was an epiphany for me.

There’s no point in going on if we’re not hoping and loving. That simple line was so beautiful, so touching, so appropriate at that moment that I’ve never forgotten it. I remember what the weather was that Sunday, what I was wearing, how many people were in the church, how just hearing those words was a first step for me to begin climbing out of what had been a psychological and emotional hell.

We’re here on this Earth to love and to hope.

For all I know, that priest might by now have been defrocked for not rapping his parishioners over the knuckles for even thinking of the word abortion or not embracing the tenet that all that counts in this world is to praise and worship Jesus and all his bandmates.

That line sounds like something a Unitarian Universalist preacher might deliver. Or some other cleric of an equally subversive faith.

If the priests and nuns I’d grown up with had stressed that love and hope angle, I might have hung around longer. But when I hit the age of 12 and started figuring this whole god idea seemed awfully dubious, I bolted.

Anyway, hoping specifically seems today to be the most quaint of ideas. Nobody hopes anymore. How old fashioned. How 20th century!

But we have to hope. I have to hope.

If we don’t hope, our actions and behaviors will be tainted. We won’t take drastic actions to stave off the coming fires, floods, mega-hurricanes, millions of abortions, forced pregnancies, and other inconveniences everybody seems to be obsessed with now.

I want to turn on the news or flip open the paper and see a story about…, well, something good. Something like the deploying of the Webb Space Telescope, which over the last few months has inspired me and those who might tend to be open to inspiration. But too many of us are not and the news reflects that. All we hear about are racism, misogyny, war, fire, drought, mega-hurricanes and the rest.

There’s something more.

There’s hope.

[Note: While I was writing this, I was told by a friend that her mother, who was alive in 1910, remembers the newspapers of the day warning that Halley’s Comet, due that year, was going to crash into the Earth and kill us all. Again, doomsday-ing is nothing new.]