Notes After Surgery (Life Is Not a Given)

Shortly before leaving for the hospital yesterday, I took Chalupa out to pee. As we walked back up the driveway, I spotted first one then a second infinity shape, a rubber band and a twig. Was it a sign? Was the Universe reminding me about the fluid and unending nature of time? Maybe.

Apparently I had a coughing fit after surgery. Apparently I was sitting up on the edge of the bed in the OR, the dregs of my cold coming home to roost. I don't remember any of it.

"Were there any surprises?" and "Can my wife come in?"

Those were the questions I asked as I emerged from the anesthesia-induced depths. No and yes, respectively, the most wished-for answers imaginable.

My mom brought turkey loaf and green beans and baked potatoes. I fell on the food, then said "Most excellent" when I saw the clock and realized Pearl and I would still catch Jeopardy! "You are still a little loopy," Mani ribbed.

Up every three hours up during the night; she set alarms and made a little chart, alternating acetaminophen and ibuprofen. I slept on my left side and back, lightly, careful not to roll over onto my left arm. I dreamed the surgeon was encouraging me to join a mosque as a gesture of solidarity and to learn more about this cousin religion. We talked about where the nearest mosques are. Eventually, I said to her, "I hope this is ok to ask -- are you Muslim?" She said yes, it was ok, and yes, she was. And suddenly we shared a bond that ran deep and felt filled with affection and mutual respect.

Coffee never tasted so good.

I woke to news of heartbreak from a beautiful writer who was in some of my earliest groups, a woman I adore and admire. Life goes on and life ends and we suffer and reach out and witness each other's grief.

Employees at Wayfair walking out after the company refused to stop manufacturing beds for "detention centers." My gut says this is what it must come down to -- applying pressure to the only place that seems to hurt: Profits.

Our country is so massive; I've been thinking about the Titanic lately, i.e. a ship so huge that slowing it down is a lengthy proposition and maybe it's simply too late, though I don't like to hang out in that flavor of hopeless. White supremacy and greed are the water; is Trump the iceberg? The metaphor, at the end of the day, doesn't matter one bit. What matters is that we are actively destroying the lives of thousands of humans based on their skin color and plight. The premise of our country as a haven for those fleeing violence and persecution has always been full of holes, and now it's nothing but a tattered quilt in a heap of lies.

We have to keep fighting.

I don't have cancer.

I keep repeating this to myself, prayer-like, and deeply aware that for many, this is not the case. During services, I speak the names of those who are suffering from illness. We pray for complete healing, and if healing will not occur in the physical body, then "for days free from suffering and nights full of peace."

I take this to heart. This is the heart of life, this knife-edge between life and death, between apathy and action, between presence and checking out. Being here is always the space between this and that, all of the false choices and black and white binaries blown open by the complexity and reality of life happening.

Words like "melanoma" are acutely clarifying. Our time here in these bodies is not infinite. We wait and wait, we deliberate and postpone, we hem and haw, we talk ourselves out of our own knowing. It's too easy to believe that life is a given. But you can't have your eyes open and truly believe this.

Life is not a given. Life is a gift, and it's a gift that should not be protected and cherished more so for children with white skin and U.S. passports and parents with degrees than for those who have trekked thousands of miles holding their parents' hands, for the hope of some place safer, not this hell on earth they're encountering.

The personal is political.

I stand on the shoulders of those who embodied this most; I can only hope my actions align with my innermost heart, the blood of my ancestors, those whose minds may have been filled with doubt but kept walking anyway, those whose names are found on the train manifests to Auschwitz, those who braided the bread and lit the candles and buried the dead and praised the living.