Media and Mania

My laptop perches on my warmly-wrapped lap. Sunshine covers the foot of the bed. Outside my window, sparrows twitter in the snow-dusted branches. Steve and I tap our separate keyboards, sending muffled punctuations from our two upstairs rooms into the tranquil space of our “treehouse” among the maples. It’s Monday morning, and we’re back at work, like so many others in this nation and unlike them at the same time.

 Last night, in a nod toward the culture around us, we watched half of the Super Bowl – not on a TV because we don’t own one. Oddly enough, we were able to view it on this screen. It’s been a while since I looked through that window. I recognized a lot of faces from my past encounters with the media, decades aged. (Mary Lou Retton, is that you? Kevins – Bacon and Costner, still recognizable, but changed.) The atmosphere seemed a lot more frenetic, more violent, and more stressful.

 Stress. It occurs quite naturally, of course, in physics, biology and chemistry as resistance and instability. Gravity and PMS are phenomena with which I’m quite familiar. They don’t surprise me much anymore, nor do my reactions to them. But stress occurs unnaturally in lifestyles as well, as Distress or Eustress. Philip Seymour Hoffman, found dead at 46 with a needle in his arm. Manufacturing stress, manufacturing responses – does this give us an edge? If we are “hardwired for struggle” (as Brene Brown says), can we maximize that adaptation and produce a super response? Will that response be healthy or unhealthy? Eustress, according to Wikipedia, “refers to a positive response one has to a stressor, which can depend on one’s current feelings of control, desirability, location, and timing of the stressor.” If it feels “good” to react with anger, aggression or violence to a stressor, is this healthy? If it feels “good” to respond to a stressor by self-medicating, numbing or repressing, is this healthy? If it feels “good” to elevate our molehills into mountains and complain about the weather, our weight and how busy we are, is this healthy? Are we doing ourselves a favor by pouring more stress into our system and developing collateral pathways that will make us more resilient? Or are we taxing our capacity to the point of rupture?

 My husband died from coronary artery disease, brought on by undiagnosed diabetes. Stress did help him develop a collateral artery system in his heart that made it possible for him to survive a heart attack at age 31, but he only lived 16 more years. Beware, America. Look closely at your stress levels. Make your choices wisely.

 That is all.

© 2014 essay by Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved.

Four Years Ago Today

I’m feeling rather gray and gloomy today, like the motionless monochrome sky.  I went out with wet hair, first to breakfast with Steve’s mom, then to do laundry at the laundromat, then to the grocery store.  I feel thoroughly chilled.  I think my hair is still wet.  Yet, there’s no snow on the ground, so I can’t really blame the weather.  It’s still far from wintry…not like it was, say, four years ago…

Four years ago, there was a snow storm.  Four years ago, the Super Bowl was on.  Four years ago, my husband was in the hospital.

I could give you the whole background history on his medical odyssey, but it would come out dry and clinical.  What I’m feeling now is more surreal.  Let’s just say that he was in the cardiac wing, waiting to be stabilized enough for surgery.  Waiting.  Like waiting for Godot.   There was no sense of time after a few days.  Doctors would come and go and offer conjectures and imagine scenarios.  I got the feeling that I should simply camp out with him and see what happened.  So I did.

My husband was a sports fan, and the Super Bowl game was a big party occasion on our calendar most years.   During the regular football season, we’d watch games together on Sunday afternoons and nap through a good chunk of them.  I can enjoy the game and root for the underdog or a sentimental favorite, and usually Jim would fill me in on some of the finer points of strategy or history.   I guess you could say we were companionable about it.  Jim watched a lot of TV in his later years, and in the hospital, there’s not much else to do.  “Camped out in the cardiac wing” meant that during visiting hours, you could find me squeezed in next to him on the bed, cranked up in sitting position, watching whatever was on the box suspended from the ceiling.   But I thought the Big Game should be more festive.  So I asked the nurses if we could watch it from the visitor’s lounge on the floor, on the big screen, and invite a friend or two.  They gave their permission.

It wasn’t a party.  It was just me, Jim and one of our church friends who stopped by for a while.  I brought a couple of coolers with snacks and drinks.  I got in trouble for bringing beer.  Not that Jim was drinking it, but I guess it was against some rule, because a nurse came by and told me I couldn’t have it there.  Jim was comfortably situated in one of the lounge chairs with his IV pole and beepy-thing beside him.  We were in clear view of the nurses’ station the whole time.  A few other hospital visitors peeked in periodically, but mostly, we were alone.  Our friend Dave told us that there was a huge snowstorm outside.  Toward the end of the game, we actually lost power for a while.  When it was over, it was past visiting hours, and I was concerned about digging my car out of the parking lot and driving home, so I packed up my coolers and kissed Jim good-bye pretty quickly.   Three days later, he had his surgery.  Ten days after that, he was dead.

I found out today that the two teams that are in the Super Bowl this year are the same two teams that played four years ago today.  They will play on Sunday.  And I won’t be watching.  I haven’t watched a football game in a long time.  We don’t even have a TV.

Life changes.  Waiting only lasts a while.  Those days, suspended in gray like a snowflake, drift down slowly, but eventually, they evaporate, and something else takes their place.

I’m okay with that…I think…  Yeah.  I’m okay.