Panic Room

The third symptom was fear.

I thought I was taking things pretty well when the ER doc told me, “Your CT scan revealed a large mass on your right kidney.” Which, when you think about it, is not a something anyone is supposed to take well.

A short time earlier, my assigned ER nurse, another 59 year old man in seemingly perfect health, was joking with me about how what I was experiencing was probably the early stages of kidney stones. About how he knew a guy when he was in the navy who shot kidney stones, pain free, into the metal latrine urinals, and still remembered the sound of the stones going “PING” whenever his buddy passed another one.

Now, the time for jokes was over. I was being gurneyed by that same nurse, who decided that I shouldn’t have to wait for the technician to come get me. Because that same doctor who told me how large “large” was, also explained to me that this second CT scan would include a contrast dye, injected into my existing forearm IV, which would illuminate the mass three-dimensionally, on the second film.

While somehow, from the time my wheeling through the halls commenced, to when I arrived in the imaging suite, I began to notice that my body was shaking. Shivering, actually, as if the hospital temperature had dropped 20 degrees in the two minutes it took to go from one room to the other. Then, as I moved myself from the gurney to the table, the technician explained what would happen when the dye was injected… to expect a sudden, cold feeling in my pelvic region, followed by a sensation of urinating all over myself… and that was when the shivering became panic.

When I first thought, “This is…”

Back in high school, I was in the drama club. After getting cast in a couple of key supporting roles in the 9th and 10th grades when, from out of nowhere, I started to develop what I thought was stage fright. It made for a very short acting career. After high school, it followed me to college, and any public speaking I would have to do in a class. This stage fright continued into my early professional life. Any time I had to be in a meeting with management, any time I had to address clients, any time I had to record a message on an answering machine without a full written script, just to say the words, “Please leave a message at the beep”. And even though this intense fear of public speaking disappeared when I was in my mid-thirties, mysteriously… miraculously… in front of a roomful of sweet, older ladies at a radio advertiser luncheon, and never EVER returned, I still remember what out of control panic feels like.

After the shivering moved from my limbs to my lungs, and my breathing became shallow while my chest began to quake, the technician noticed what was going on in my body just as I was about to, for the second time, be conveyor-belted into the machine that looks like… warning, sci-fi reference… a tiny, single-occupancy Stargate. She asked if I wanted a blanket, to which I said,

“No thanks. It’s just fear.”

(c) copyright 2020 William S. Friday

When an Empath has no Empathy

nano poblano photo 26

I undergo profound changes every November. 

Cataclysmic, visions-of-a-personal-apocalypse life changes.  It’s happened three Novembers in a row now.  Sure, it’s only a blog challenge, but I’m generally blog-challenged, being a poet and not really a blogger at all.  So when November rolls around, it seems like I’m just not allowed to ignore all the seismic emotional upheaval that something of this creative magnitude rips open for 30 days straight.

See, here’s the thing, because you knew there’d be a thing, right?  The thing is, I’m kind of an empath.  Not the ‘I shake your hand and know where you’ve buried the bodies’ kind of empath.  Just the ‘I feel things deeper than most people’ kind. 

My feelings. 

Your feelings. 

Friends’ feelings. 

Strangers’ feelings.

Hell, I even feel your dog’s feelings.

Did you ever see the movie “Species”?  The original, where the government assembled a team of previous strangers with varied skill-sets to capture and/or kill the Escaped Sexy Female Alien Hybrid, on the loose and looking to mate?  Then you remember the soft-spoken empath, played by Academy Award™ winning actor Forest Whitaker.  This version of the B-movie empath wasn’t a psychic, or in touch with the spirit world, or whatever other way B-movies portray the empath.  This version could simply feel what others around him were feeling, and tell you what those feeling meant

I liked that interpretation. 

Because at the roots, it’s the closet I’ve ever come to being introduced to mine. 

And then there’s the downside. 

The thing is, I’m kind of an empath.  Not the ‘I shake your hand and know where you’ve buried the bodies’ kind of empath.  Just the ‘I feel things deeper than most people’ kind. 

My feelings. 

Your feelings. 

Friends’ feelings. 

Strangers’ feelings.

Hell, I even feel your dog’s feelings.

Especially my feelings.

Which in the past, I could ignore for my own sanity’s sake.  But last November, after writing a super-concentrated month’s-worth of feelings, I lost the ability to bury mine.  No more clearly-marked boxes for emotions.  No more handy compartments for feelings to go.  No more mindless default ways to ignore them.  They were, for the first time, all on the same great big plate like a 64-box of crayons melted together in a microwave oven, and it was a fucking mess. 

My fucking mess. 

And I had to choose my path before it killed me.

The title of this post is, “When an Empath has no Empathy”.  It comes from a random thought that popped into my empath head a couple of days ago, about someone from my past, equally gifted with the ability to ‘feel all the feels’ like I do.  A random thought that goes, “What if you were an empath with no empathy?  Wouldn’t that just make you a sociopath?” 

And after reading everything… okay, a few things on Reddit… my non-clinical, non-scientific answer is, “Yeah… I think it would.”

But is that how I want to live the rest of my life?  Just surviving like a spiritual grifter, living off the feelings of others instead of feeling all the feels and helping those who need whatever it is I can do with all the messed up feelings.

My feelings. 

Your feelings. 

Friends’ feelings. 

Strangers’ feelings.

Hell, I even feel your dog’s feelings.

Especially my feelings.

So this November, I was left with a choice.  Do I want to spend the rest of my life finding new ways to shut off all the feelings and face the consequences of knowing and not caring?  Or do I stay on the path, as I suppose was originally intended, and learn how to be who I am?  Feeling, and dealing with my choices.

Like I said, I undergo profound changes every November.

And I can’t wait until December.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

A Ghost Story

a ghost story

I am a ghost. *

I, in the beginning of my time here on this plane of existence, I could not understand what it was to be invisible to the world and those living in it, as I still thought myself a part of the world that I still saw before me.  I moved, I thought, I felt everything as I did before my transformation.  Little seemed to change from one moment to the next.  I was me, and the world was the world, and neither of us looked much different as far as I could tell.  But it was different.  I was different.  Because now, the world looked right through me. 

Because I am a ghost.

I am a ghost.

I know I am a ghost because, after what I’m guessing – since there is no clock or calendar in my world – many years of living.  I say “living” with some caution because, of course, ghosts aren’t alive.  At least not in the way all those around me who don’t see me are alive.  But they are alive, every one of them.  I can tell by the hurry and worry they carry with themselves everywhere they go.  Constantly in motion, even when that motion seems to take them nowhere in particular.  Just circles circling other circling circles, always in a rush to go everywhere, but never seeming to go anywhere.  Except that none of these concentric living circles ever seem to circle me.

Because I am a ghost.

I am a ghost.

I know I am a ghost because of something I saw in a movie once when I was still alive.  Those who still move in circles can hear me.  They hear the same sounds I hear when I make when I choose to make them.  They hear the groan, the belch, the occasional fart – although I don’t know where the belch and the fart come from, because as I learned from the same movie, ghosts don’t belch or fart – and also from the moving of objects that are, in my ghostly existence, important to me. 

I guess, because that’s what the movie taught me, that objects which were important to me in my previous life are still important to me in this life as well.  It makes me question my previous life’s life-choices as to why I didn’t place more importance on a nice car, or maybe a big house, or even on better clothes, because the only things that must have been important to me in that other life seem to be a raggedy overcoat, the morning newspaper, and a shopping cart that wobbles at the wheels and scrapes at the pavement as I walk.  Seriously, if I could give just one word of advice to those still living – but I can’t, because to my knowledge, none of them has ever heard a word I have said – it would be to acquire nice things for yourself in life, because one day you might be a ghost and need them. 

Yeah, the things you learn the hard way. 

Because you are a ghost.

I am a ghost.

I know I am a ghost because, after a lifetime of seeing no need at all for god or the church, I live behind a church, on the edge of a graveyard – how ironic on so many levels, being a ghost because… graveyard, and an atheist ghost because… church – but they let me stay as the church folk look right through me like the rest of the living do.  Oh, and they allow me to eat left-overs from the shiny dumpster next to the boarded-up back door.  I even sleep behind it when the wind blows extra cold some nights, and my overflowing morning newspapers can’t seem to keep the wind out of my ghost-self bones. 

Like on this night.

Because that’s what ghosts do.

And I am a ghost.   

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

 

*A Ghost Story first appeared on Day 30 of “31 Nightmares” at Card Castles in the Sky.  Thank you to the nice folks there.