So I thought about the story of Snow White, how her mom pricks her finger on a sewing needle, and when she sees a drop of blood upon the white cloth she is sewing, she thinks of naming a daughter Snow White. So she gives birth, and then dies.
What a lovely story.
Then again, there’s the story of Sleeping Beauty, who pricks her finger on a spinning wheel, and ends up in metabolic stasis for a century or so.
So as I rifled through the remains of my move from Chicago to L.A. back in aught-four, I pricked my finger on a needle from a curtain. Don’t ask me how. Just know that it did happen. The first thing that popped through my head was, when was the last time I had a tetanus shot. I’m pretty sure it must’ve been within the past 10 years because I had to get boosted in order to get into med school. The second thing was that it would really suck to get lockjaw. Luckily, my brother is an RN, so theoretically he should be able to keep me alive with CPR until the ambulance shows up.
Naturally, this leads to a reverie on mortality. Now it’s been a while since I’ve watched someone literally die (oh, maybe a couple of months now) There is something almost absurd about being woken up at 2:30 a.m. to come watch someone die, and not be able to do a damn thing about it. You pound on their chest, you crack their ribs, you inject extraordinarily toxic chemicals into their blood stream in the hope of flogging the heart some more, even though you knew that they were going to die even before you went to sleep.
The sad thing is that a good part of the time, when the patient comes in, it’s pretty much too damn late. Oh, sure, they may be walking/talking, they may be completely with it, with stable vital signs, but you look at them and you know they’re dying. Not just like in some Zen sort of way, the way we’re all dying as soon as we’re born, or some similar sort of poetic mumbo-jumbo coming out of the mouths of sages and seers, but really, actively, rapidly dying, as in, I’m not sure they’re going to last the week. Maybe three days, tops.
What to do, what to do? If you’re lucky (like I have been this past weeks), you hand them off to somebody else, head home, and sleep easy with your conscience, come back to work, and find the patient dragged off to the morgue. C’est la vie. Or perhaps, more appropriately, c’est la mort.
Otherwise, you wait. You come in every so often, checking the monitors pointlessly, as numbers that are supposed to stay high start drifting down and numbers that are supposed to stay low start shooting up. Oh, maybe you can add a pressor or two, or some fluids and what not, maybe even stack on yet another antibiotics, but the game is over, friends. Death is the ultimate casino. The house always, always wins, and it doesn’t look like anyone has even come close to beating those odds. (No one reliable, at least, resurrections and reincarnations notwithstanding.)
But enough about work.
Still, I couldn’t get the idea of death out of my head. One of the sucky things about being mortal, I think, is that there’s not possible way to do everything you want to do. You are literally living on borrowed time, so you gotta squeeze out as much as you can and prioritize.
How important is it for you to get married, have kids, buy a house, and yadda-yadda-yadda through the American Dream?
Personally, I haven’t figured out anything I want yet. Maybe one day it’ll come to me like an epiphany, like a train barrelling down the tracks with me tied to the rail. You can’t escape your destiny. But until then, everything is behind the curtain, covered in a very opaque veil.
I think one of the important lessons I’ve learned on this sojourn of three years going on four is that there’s no point in thinking too far ahead. As Tyler Durden says, extend the timeline long enough and the survival rate always drops to zero. So I’m content to live in the moment, taking things day-to-day, hour-by-hour. Planning for the future seems like such a fucking waste of time these days. There is a niggling sensation in the back of my head that it’s probably a mistake to not think about the future at all, but if death is coming like a thief in the night, and there’s no possible way to no the appointed hour, then what’s the point, really?
Not that I expect an easy answer. It’ll be something that I’ll have to mull over for a while. Maybe another decade or two, and I’ll have the sketchy beginnings of an answer.
I suppose what brought this on (besides the fact that it’s the end of yet another academic year. My twenty-fifth year of education. Lordy, lordy, lordy) is the fact that the summer solstice has come and gone, and from here on out, the days are once again getting shorter.
Nothing lasts forever.
And I suppose the older you get, the harder it is to ignore that fact.