This week, I got sick. and I'm not talking sniffle sniffle cough cough oy-my-achin-head. I'm talking SICK sick. as in, while I knew rationally that I wasn't actually going to die, my body was having all the natural visceral reactions of a body within mere moments of perishing: uncontrollable chills and shaking, 103F fever, vomiting (including the kind where your friend has to stop the car dead in the middle of a four lane divided highway while cars whizz by honking and you drape out over the side and retch and wet your pants. Yeah, that kind), pain over every conceivable part of my skin, abdominal and lower back pain, a headache that felt like someone tightening a rope around my head with all their might, dizziness, inability to think clearly or form coherent sentences without major effort...
It was Epic.
I had/have a kidney infection. A kidney infection. It just doesn't sound all that dramatic. I mean, I'm an empathetic person and I have had friends with kidney infections and I've said (and honestly felt) "that must have been AWFUL", but dude, that is the MOST Donna Reed milquetoast namby-pamby way to talk about what this was. I mean, I did my homework online, and left untreated, I COULD have died. Thankfully (for me), I live in one of the wealthiest cities of the wealthiest nation on Earth and I have medical insurance that is significantly subsidized by my employer. Which means that I should be smacked if I ever, ever complain about anything ever again. Well, not really, cuz I'd get smacked a lot and honestly that would be a REAL interruption to life, and I wouldn't get much work done.
Honestly though, before I descended into the worst of the symptoms and I really couldn't think much more than "Jesus Jesus Jesus" and "Please (whichever person/doctor/nurse I was waiting on) Please Please", I pondered over the thought that my as-yet-undiagnosed kidney infection very likely WOULD kill or at least permanently damage the health of someone in many other countries... even in my own country in the poorer areas. In fact, the majority of the world, faced with what I was, would be totally effed.
Let that sink in for a sec. I said "kidney infection" and you thought, huh, sucks for you. and of COURSE you did, because I'm sitting up in bed now, two days after I felt like I was gonna friggin DIE, listening to Radiohead and blathering on about my life on the internet, having taken my very cheap antibiotics and my very cheap ibuprofen and drinking lots of water that I don't actually pay for from a tap in my kitchen, and aaaaargh you get my point. I'm glad for me, but this removed the blinders I normally keep on for sanity's sake, the blinders that block out the suffering of most of the rest of the world, and how comparatively rich I am. I know this is a tired old WASPy thing to ramble on about, but whatever... it's still the truth.
So, I have all this privilege, and all this access, but I don't have a CAR... and I'm not married, and the closest family member is 4 hours away. So the moment came that revealed the Typical Weakness we have here in the Land O' Plenty... you know, the one Mother Teresa called us on... and that's the Oh-Shit-Who-Have-I-Invested-Enough-In-To-Warrant-Calling-In-The-Middle-Of-The-Day-And-Puking-In-Their-Car-On-The-Way-To-The-Hospital dilemma... otherwise known as our massive love/relationship deficit.
Now, I know some FANTASTIC people, and a lot of them would have done everything they could to help me, but a lot of them simply COULDN'T have left work in the middle of the day at the last minute... and most of them live over an hour away due to traffic. I'm not friends with my neighbors beyond saying a friendly "hi" to them because I don't want to invade their privacy. The expectation in our culture/country is that a) I should have a car, b) failing that, there are ambulances and taxis, use them, and c) I should have a husband-boyfriend-personIhavesexwithonaregularbasis person that I can call in cases like this. Which I don't. And I had 3 bucks in my checking account, so there was no taxi in my future. I wasn't actually dying, so an ambulance would have been a little extreme.
As it so happens, I have a wonderful wonderful friend, Allie, who has patiently explained to me on multiple occasions that I can actually, truly, really call her if I need ANYTHING at all. Honestly, we've talked about this almost every time we've seen each other. Allie also has a job that allows her to more or less set her own schedule, and also has her out and about in her company car quite a lot. So I called her, and she was utterly utterly fantastic, bearing with me through
- a doctor's appointment that ballooned into 1 1/2 hours (complete with receiving a shot of anti-nausea med to the buttocks while being regaled with the story of how the nurses make shots for gonorrhea patients even more painful than they have to be if they don't like the patient), picking up my meds and food for me at CVS while she waited;
- a hair-raising 10 minute ride home (featuring my continous, uncontrollable shaking and her having to stop the car 3 times on a quarter mile stretch of Lee Highway so I could vomit);
- the subsequent trip to the ER with me wretching into a CVS bag and then a bucket forked at me by an annoyed ER staffperson, and then recovering from my nausea in the 3 hours that we waited in the waiting room, only to be told by the ER staff that I couldn't leave without having my recovery verified by the doctor,
- for which we waited another hour, 5 minutes of which was face time with a total of one (1) doctor and one (1) nurse;
- and then checking up on me twice, that night and the next morning.
So, you have probably lost the thread. I know I have. Oh, my point was vulnerability. I know an amazing person named Allie who is not only amazing but who was also willing and able to drop everything in the middle of the day and give me the rest of it. The day, that is. I haven't always been in that position, and I don't think I'm the sort of person that someone would call in that situation. For one thing, I don't have a car, and that places me in this sort of strange murky handicapped status w/r/t access to services in our culture. But I also seriously wonder if I am that kind of person. I'd like to think I am. I know I used to be someone that folks would call if they needed something, but I was also a lot needier then and projected that outwards by a need to be needed (plus, I had a car). I don't really want to return to that, but I do want to be part of a healthy, working social web. I want to be a giving part of community, broadly speaking.
My "community" has always been church in the broader sense. Not usually a particular congregation, but more a cluster of associations with "church" people. I know Allie because I met her at a dinner at a Christian group house where my friend Israel was living at the time. I know Israel through... well through Yahoo Personals, but I seriously wouldn't recommend that as a way of meeting people. Although there is a point to be made there... I met him online, and people make real connections online, but Israel is not the kind of person to keep it online and that is unusual, I think. My friendship with him has stuck because he IMMEDIATELY took it out of online space by calling, inviting me over, etc., etc. and a lot of the friendships I now count as my best and most valuable have no more than three degrees of separation from him. and they're ALL Church People. or at least Ex-Church-People-Who-Are-Still-Christians-Of-One-Form-Or-Another.
Ok, this is a STUPID long post. Let's sum up:
1) I got REALLY sick this week, and I have no problem posting every last detail about it on the internet.
2) I was again knocked upside the head by the reality that most of the world only dreams about the access I have to all sorts of privilege.
3) but I don't want you to smack me when I complain, even though this would be a rational, and perhaps useful, response.
4) Our social norms and networks in the culture where I live, and I guess in "American" culture broadly (at least middle and upper class culture) assume Access. If one or more of the Expected Pieces is missing (car, Significant Other, sufficient money in the bank account), then you don't really have much recourse,
5) unless you know Allie. or are blessed enough to know someone like her.
6) I am blessed to know Allie and call her a friend, but I'm not sure I'm the kind of person I'd call in a crisis, and that's a real issue because I want to be that kind of person.
7) Online networking does provide authentic community, but only if you rip it out of the online context quickly. It can go back and forth, but you have to resist it assuming the online "shape" too quickly or you won't push out of it and you will miss out on the connections that come from life out in the Real World. Or at least that's my hypothesis as of right now. When I really need to end this blog post.
Ok, if you've made it this far, thanks, you're a good friend. Maybe I'll call YOU next time I'm really really sick. :^)