The Kindness of Others

It is easy to be angry. Anger doesn't require a whole lot of bandwidth or thought to conjure up feelings of frustration, hurt, even fury at a situation or person. Anger is the forward motion of an 18 wheeler, the backfiring smog of a car, the ringing of a phone during a Broadway show. It can boil up in a moment and burst without much warning. But what am I saying? You're (presumably) human dear reader; you know this. Anger is easy. It is fulfilling until it is exhausting and it is almost always regrettable.

It is difficult to have joy.

Joy takes reflection in the moment; a loop of happening and hindsight that spin and maintain velocity. It can be a sub-current or it can be a mainline, but it requires humility and self-reflection simultaneously. Sometimes, it too is exhausting, but it is rarely regrettable.

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Sonoma for a three day weekend to mark the passing of my one-year transplant anniversary. Some might say, "A [insert holiday here] is just a date on a calendar" and sometimes that's true. But you can't un-ascribe meaning from Christmas, you can't delete the thousands of years of history that lead to Passover, and you can't ignore indigenous rights on Thanksgiving.

So even though all I truthfully felt like doing was opening a bottle of wine alone in my room as February 2nd turned into February 3rd, I opted to spend the time in the Napa valley with my family.

We had an amazing dinner at The French Laundry for plebeians followed by an evening of night caps and (for me) a private soak in my very own room's en-suite Jacuzzi tub. Not too shabby for Leilani.

The next morning is breakfast and sleeping in, relaxing and watching tv, passing out and calling 911...

It's creepy sometimes just how ironic my life can be. On the exact date of my One Year Anniversary (bet if you checked the time stamp it's likely also when I went bradycardic one year ago to the hour) I lost consciousness and wound up back where I started back at Stanford admitting: though this time, it would take a few collect-hundreds-of-dollars-in-hospital-fees-THEN-ok-you-can-go's before we got back to basecamp.

All in all, unbelievable timing.

It would have been easy, shockingly easy, to be angry. This was a celebration I had to work myself up for. I felt stressed and anxious the entire ride up, not realizing that sitting in the passenger seat of mom's Highlander at 3:40pm would feel eerily similar (read: exactly-the-fucking-same) to having done so a year ago en route to transplant. After an evening that followed of good food and wine I was just beginning to relax, enjoy the things I treasure in the world, and destress. I was about to leave for a massage for Peet's sake when it happened.

Sitting on the couch, legs extended onto the coffee table I felt it. The narrowing of vision: like when a your car approaches a poorly lit tunnel and you haven't adjusted your brights. The urge to take a deep breath: like when you've dived down to the bottom of the pool and are rising back up, about to break the surface of the water. The fear, the disbelief, the memories of when this had happened before - but this couldn't be happening with the new heart. It was a logical fallacy.

I was out for maybe 5-10 seconds, but I knew I had gone under the moment I resurfaced. Coming to feels very much like waking up from dosing in class or a meeting. You feel awfully strange; as if your dream was interrupted by an out-of-place noise and now you are unsure if you really should have been asleep. It's a high sometimes: coming-to. While I'd certainly not recommend nor encourage it I can see why there was a spate of teens choking each other to try to elicit pleasurable (I really hate that word. It's like "panties" or "moist" to me) asphyxiation. Never having been permitted to take a psychedelic, I imagine this is what a "good trip" must feel like.

But very soon the dream vanishes; Alice has to come up from the rabbit hole at some point.

And there I was, back into patient mode; dialing Stanford transplant, explaining to the EMTs where my allergy card lives in my wallet, screenshotting my expositional medication list on my phone, and confirming with the EKG that I did NOT seize: only shake. Back in crisis mode grasping at straws held by people I didn't know.

Short story condensed: I met eighteen new people*that day.

*People = medical personnel. I'm not including the resort staff, waiters, sommeliers, and spa receptionists whom I would have otherwise encountered that day.

I digress for a moment to go back to the easiness of anger.

It would have been all too simple to rail against the Sonoma ER for keeping me there for over 4 hours (of the 5) with no additional tests being run or fluids being dripped. It would have been effortless to bemoan the additional two nights of private suite with ensuite Jacuzzi now lost to circumstance. It was even tempting to play the blame game with the Stanford cardiology fellow for his insisting that "well, we all would feel a lot more comfortable if we could keep you overnight in the ER for observation."

But gladness is harder. Gladness is remembering where I was exactly one year ago, tied to a bed and unable to move more than my head and toes. Gladness is thanking your nurses when they stick you, not just because you'll get better treatment (which, for better or worse, you will), but because they are not only working on with you, but are also trying to convince the elderly man next door that he can't go for a walk with a bowel obstruction.

Then there's an even more difficult emotion: Joy.

Joy is a choice. Joy takes effort to look past doubt, fear, and tediousness to see that the Sonoma staff members are as kind as can be. Joy takes forgiving yourself for having unwashed hair and instead being flattered that the highly attractive EMT came back to your room to check on you.

Joy takes forgiving the Stanford ER nurse for blowing the vein in your left hand because you know you'll find one eventually. Joy takes knowing that you should literally be anywhere but here and still joking with the transplant fellow that the portable echo takes fairly crap images of the atrial wall.

Joy is relishing in the physical ability to sit cross-legged unassisted and hunched over your iPhone. Joy is standing up for yourself by politely refusing the hospital gown and staying in the clothes you chose to wear here. Joy is seeing your very favorite Echo tech, cardiology fellow, and therapist and laughing about the ridiculousness that is your life.

Because, you see, joy doesn't exist in a vacuum. The catalyst of joy is the kindness of others. Together they create the recognition that, though this is absolute shit, at some point today you'll get to go home.

So, though this was absolute shit, for now: I chose joy.


Currently Listening To: "Blue" by Rob Simonsen, from Photos Every Day 

You get another solo piano track today! You may remember, oh in 2012 or so, when a series of exceptionally shot 30 second spots appeared all over mainstream TV. They featured children, grandparents, black, white, asian, hispanic, dancers, writers, dreamers, doers: you name it. Each spot was copiously crafted to represent the vastly diverse market and users of a particularly shiny technology company...guessed it yet?

If you didn't guess Apple, I'm genuinely concerned for your spacial relation to the outside world. Put down that book and get on an electronic device, young lady!

"Blue" is one of three pieces written by Rob Simonsen for these Apple spots. The resulting piece is simple yet the premise is excruciatingly complex. Create a work that describes many possible cultures and people, is both universal and personal, and unearths something so chakraic* and innate that, in thirty seconds, it can bring someone to tears.

*not a word. should be a word.

To me, the imagery of this piece is exponential. It is a palindrome; beginning and ending with the same pulsing note. It could easily be played as a baby is pressed into a mother's first swaddling embrace. It could be the gentlest of down-the-aisle tunes as the bride makes her way pew to pew: eyes drifting from onlooker to floor, onlooker to father, floor to fiancé. It could also be a bittersweet farewell for a family whose loved one finally lost their battle to cancer. Just like the chocolate, their death is almost entirely dark and bitter, but also, to know that they are finally at rest, the slightest bit sweet.

This is one of those pieces for which the "repeat" button was created. In listening unendingly to Simonsen's nearly mathematically crafted melody, one grows increasingly impressed by its structure. You could nearly graph the space away from and back to the center of this piece. The interplay between his repeating motif and it's grounding overtones is like watching a ballet dancer grow and softly tap her way across the floor. The effort to stay on pointe is enormous, but the visual is silk. Then throw in purely blissful upper notes that continue to dance upon the ear like pop rocks on the tongue; if music has a visceral ability to calm and collect, this is it.

Also, not to completely and totally objectify an artist based on appearance but COME. ON.