Category: About Love

Finding gratefulness can be damn tricky. The thought comes not from despair or from some illusionary dream busted from a lack of effort. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that one should cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes and give thanks continuously for all things that contributed to your advancement. Phooey to that. Several weeks past cold-turkey of pain medications, listening to persistent tinnitus, and walking like an extra on the set of some zombie episode leaves me sick of it all.

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Throughout my years of wandering the hospital as an unknown IT guy, elders would strike up conversations. In nearly identical ways, each lived with loss and disability, yet they remain undefined by them. Almost to a person, they awoke each morning, serenaded the day, ate breakfast, and set out to seize the day or ‘get in trouble’ as one nurse phrased it. Sure, their knees hurt, and some couldn’t perform exercises like they used to. But, old age did not hit them suddenly. Instead, they got used to it, one day at a time. 

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The first time ‘If you don’t complete this, there will be changes’ was spoken was last week. Then, seven days later, the exact phrase was uttered again. So, in essence, my new boss threatened me. And even though I excelled at every performance review since starting with the company, working onsite through COVID, through my father’s death, two days post-tumor surgery, through Parkinson’s, through significant arthritis pain, that God-forbid that this one project, should it not be performed to perfection could end it all. So I wouldn’t say I like theoretical, but that’s what I think about.

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Medical professionals have identified a relationship between hearing loss and dementia. Let’s review some basic facts first. The impact of audiology and memory care will exacerbate with an aging population. By 2050, the number of people older than 60 years will double, comprising 21 percent of the global population. As a result, those living with dementia will triple and cost nearly $2 trillion. 

Though the exact association between the two conditions has not been identified, recent studies have proposed several theories. First, there is a possibility that hearing loss and dementia share a common cause. Thus, hearing loss and cognitive decline occur in parallel. As the brain degrades, so does hearing. But statistically, that’s not proven true. A second theory proposes that hearing loss places an increased demand on cognitive resources. Thus, information degradation occurs as resources are removed from cognitive tasks to support hearing. In such a scenario, listening causes the brain to work harder, burning out. The last theory proposes that a person with hearing impairment withdraws from social engagement and, therefore, experiences less cognitive function to interact with their environment. 

The theory gaining the most traction is the second: that hearing loss places an increased demand on cognitive resources. Individuals who have untreated hearing loss (even mild untreated hearing loss) find social participation requires more brainpower, which drains mental effort. This process makes the brain more likely to develop dementia.

So, why am I posting this information on a blog? Well, I am one of those impacted by hearing loss. Additionally, I am 62 years old. Combining those two statistics with watching my father suffer from hearing loss made me want to get and use hearing aids. Yet, the years-long search for the perfect hearing aid was frustrating.

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Getting Through It

If one has cancer, anemia is a common side effect (or cancer treatment). As a result, your body’s level of red blood cells dips below average, you don’t have enough red blood cells, and your body cannot effectively circulate oxygen. After another $4,000 of blood tests, my body can’t either create enough red blood cells or destroys them.

Feeling like a fancy geologist, the ‘anemic period’ (i.e., my anemia) was first noticed after blood labs in October 2021. (Of course, no one called to discuss the results or recommend treatment. So, I was left being proactive.) After research, I immediately started taking iron tablets. In January (after informing the clinicians they missed the anemia), the second round of tests showed improvement (likely from the iron supplements). But again, no follow-through.

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My body is tired of being alive. My body, mind you, is not dying yet. It’s just tired. Of all the daily aches and pains and the seemingly few restful flu periods this past year, my body is saying, “This sucks.” A May 2021 NPR article noted the irony of living in a pandemic, “If your brain feels foggy and you’re tired all the time, you’re not alone.” A moment of reflection produced, ‘Good. Now I have an excuse.’ I never put a great deal of weight into courage and bravery. Hell, most are clueless about what I am going through. Daily battles of pain, excessive blood loss with every bowel movement, hip, lower back, and knee pain seem to be my ever-present companions. I don’t care about being remembered as a courageous person. I don’t. There’s just an incredible emotional and physical toll in just getting up and heading off to work at this point in life.

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About The Fog

In the film My Life, Bob Jones begins making videotapes of himself after receiving a terminal diagnosis. In the tapes, he outlines his life, beliefs, and life lessons. However, at one point, Jones whispers to his son, “Dying is a really hard way to learn about life.” The ending scene is touching: At the time of death, he is shown on a metaphysical roller coaster with his hands releasing the railing, raising his arms freely in the air. Metaphorically, he lets go of life and finally enjoys the ride. In a way, the film’s director provides viewers the opportunity to contemplate what in their life requires healing.

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Comedian Steve Martin used to do a routine in which he envisioned his post-death conversation with God.

“Mr. Martin,” the Lord began. “Do you know how many times you took my name in vain?”

Of course, Martin indicated no.

“19,465 times.”

Martin paused, titled his head, and replied, “Jesus Christ.”

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I’ve seen many a hurricane in my day. First, super Typhoon Pamela (No, not an ex-girlfriend) produced typhoon-force winds for 18 hours and left 80% of the buildings in its wake. Then was Hurricane Andrew (No, not Gov. Cuomo). Hurricane’s Rita and Katrina, whose one-two punch devastated parts of the southern coast. Last was the remnants of Hurricane Sandy. Sandy flooded everything it touched, but mostly the shores of New Jersey and New York. The flooding was so bad that then-Governor Christie won the ‘I just wanna hug you award’ with then-President Barack Obama. Other not-so-large hurricanes spattered in and out of my life, but none produced lasting memories of those previously mentioned. If there’s one thing I regretted the most from my participation, it was thinking that unless I was strong, I was weak.

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“Excited?” Maria asked as she placed a slice of cake in front of me and sat to my left. “I mean, it’s here. It’s finally here.”  Then, leaning in, “It’s here.”

“Weird. It just feels weird,” I responded while typing ‘execution commands’ on my laptop. I momentarily glanced at the memo taped over the cake, candy, chips, assorted snacks, bottles of sparkling juice, party streamers, ribbons, and helium-filled balloons. 

“COVID Tiger Task Force Deactivation.” the internal memo broadcasted to staffers. The shutdown comes as the pandemic continues. The U.S. will eclipse 610,000 deaths by Summers’ end, while the global death toll currently exceeds 4.1 million. As we approach deactivation, the entire team was focused on ensuring a smooth transition of key members back to normal business operations. Yet, I am unsure what ‘normal’ was anymore.

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