Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Author Archives: David Thomas Peacock

It’s Like You Never Even Existed

Trigger warning! Dark post ahead…

Seriously, I just did a search of your name followed by “obituary,” and even if I put in the year of your death, nothing comes up. WTF!?

I mean, you did live a life – I know, because I remember, and we shared part of it together. But here’s the reality: unless you left something behind, when you die you assume your rightful place in this seemingly endless parade of humanity – kind of a somewhat meaningless specimen of a life lived that really didn’t seem to amount to much. And if it was more than 25 years ago, much less 50, you may as well have lived in the age of the dinosaurs.

What seemed so grandly important at the time was a giant pile of nothing, and I guess it’ll be the same for me. Hi ho, well, let’s raise our glass to a quick fade to black in the endless halls of eternity.

Meet you there!

Four Surgeries In Seven Years

Whee! You know you’ve had too many surgeries when the whole thing starts to seem normal. First, there’s the psychological buildup to it, the mental preparation to keep your mind from spinning out of control imagining worst case scenarios. You know, the ones where you die on the table. The surgeon coming out and giving the “I’m sorry” speech to your loved ones (in my case that would be my wife). I’m an ER nurse so I see some version of this on a regular basis. So that’s the first hurdle.

Then comes the actual day of the surgery itself, with its usual call time of 5:30 am. It seems crazy early, and of course you’ve slept four hours if you’re lucky, but by the time you’ve checked in, stripped down and washed your body with the pre-packaged wipes they’ve given you while naked in a room that feels like it’s 50 degrees, it’s showtime.  You change into the gown, and presto, here comes the anesthesiologist to introduce himself and take yet another medication history. Finally the surgeon pops in for a brief, informal chat, and then, as Jackie Gleason used to say, and away we go!

Personally, I like walking into the OR on my own; no fucking gurney needed – as I stroll in I greet everyone there like a visiting dignitarie. The surgeon often introduces each one, like actors in a play. In this way, I am facing my face my fears head on. I’m owning this procedure, goddamnit (of course, all the while I’m thinking “I hope this isn’t the last thing I see”).

Then there’s the somewhat creepy moment when you’re looking into your surgeons face, and then, whammo, the next thing you remember is waking up in the recovery room. This moment should be party time, except you know what kind of pain you’re about to be in as soon as the anesthesia wears off. And oh, my friend, there will be pain.

There’s a reason it’s called trauma. Your body isn’t meant to be cut open and have things removed (or hardware put in, as the case may be).

I now have a total of 13 surgical wounds on my abdomen and lower torso, thank you very much. I wear them proudly, as if they were body modifications I chose to have, which I guess they are. I take great pride in working hard to put myself back together, and, to the best of my ability, I succeed. I mean, I know I’m never the same, but goddamnit, I’m not dead either.

You know what else?

After all’s said and done – I know what I can handle. When the shit hits the fan, I don’t have to wonder how I’m going to react.

So I guess there’s a plus side to everything.

Barking To Be Bitten

It was a cold, gray, early winter afternoon and we were just two musicians scrambling to make a buck delivering rental cars from Logan airport to various points around Boston. I had met you on this job and we hit it off right away – we recognized each other as two kindred spirits working on a crew of ex-convicts, townies, bikers, and the general flotsam caught in the last drain of humanity. We weren’t like them – we had a purpose: we were so focused on our music that we were blind to how bad our circumstances really were. Of course, unbeknownst to us at the time was the fact that both our respective childhoods had prepared us well to survive whatever shitstorm life threw at us. But I digress

The food truck had pulled into the airport parking lot, and that meant everyone piled out for food. We were right on the water and the wind was whipping in off the ocean so cold it might as well have been the arctic circle. Neither one of us was dressed warm enough, but we were used to it. As we stood in line to get a cup of coffee, the vendor opened a bin on the back of the truck filled with steaming gray water for the guy in front of us. In it were a few pale hot dogs, floating like dead bodies in the bay. As the driver reached in to grab one, you looked at me and mouthed a line so surreally funny, I still remember today, over 35 years later.

Look Dav – they’re barking to be bitten.”

You would have delivered it dryly, with just a hint of a smile. If I stop and think hard, I can still see your face: handsome, like a dark haired Irish working class rock star, just waiting for the inevitable moment that would never seem to come when the rest of the world would recognize it.

Rest In Peace my friend – you died 3 years ago today but you’ll always be alive in my heart.

Who’s Driving Who?

If it’s true that our microbiome outnumber our human cells 10:1, or even 2:1, it begs a question.

We already know that we are a host for them, but perhaps in our hubris we made the wrong assumption.

Maybe we aren’t the primary evolutionary organism at all.

Maybe they are. Maybe, just maybe, we evolved to serve them.

Just Fucking Get On With It

Crying and complaining aren’t going to change things – just grow some fucking balls and get on with it.

Nobody ever said life was easy, and if they did they were lying.

Loss And Redemption

When I was recovering from cancer treatment, I went through a couple of years obsessively working to regain physiological things I had lost. And when I say obsessed, I mean obsessed. After a certain point, I realized I wasn’t living – instead I was caught in a trap I had made myself, spending what little time I had left trying to get something back that was gone forever. Somewhere in this period I saw the Coen brothers great film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel “No Country For Old Men,” and one of the characters was reflecting on loss. He spoke the following line that was immediately burned into my brain, because I recognized the folly of what I was trying to do:

All the time you spend trying to get back what’s been took from you, more’s going out the door.”

I immediately changed my life.

Here’s Something I Learned

When I started this blog, I hoped it might be a way for me to grow and learn more about myself, that it might guide me on a path to a higher state of self-actualization and maybe become a better human.

Well, one somewhat surprising thing I’ve learned is that I can write. I’m not saying it’s all good, but I seem to be able to string sentences together that make some kind of sense, and it feels very natural to do so. I can express myself with words. Mind you, I barely graduated from high school, and had no real clue how intellectually capable I was until I went to nursing school at 45 and found myself at the top of all my classes. I remember thinking “WTF – this is kind of cool – who knew?

Now, I have no illusion about whether this will mean anything to anyone except me, but I’m quite okay with that. I sense that I’m actually growing and learning more about myself, which feels pretty good at 61.

I fully understand that none of this means anything in the grand scheme of things, but I never thought it would anyway. I’m just trying to keep growing and hopefully give something back at the same time. What I might be giving back and to who is a whole other question I’m not sure I can answer, at least not right now. For now the simple act of doing this in the moment is enough.

It’s fun to discover new things about yourself – I highly recommend it to everyone. You’ve got to push yourself to get there though – but once you do it’s worth the effort.

There’s No Going Back

There are choices we all make at some point in our lives that show our true character to everyone around us. We may not fully understand it at the time, but make no mistake, society does, and our reckoning will come sooner or later.

There are some things that just can’t be walked back.

Voting for a racist makes you a racist. You can attempt to explain it away however you want, but the stain will never come off.

It will forever be clear to those around you – and no justification you can come up with will cover your sorry ass. When the mob turns ugly, don’t try to turn away. You empowered them – you ARE them – so go ahead and assume your rightful place.

You made your choice, and you will be held accountable.

It’s too late to take it back.

Submit To The Experience

You were happily going about your life, smelling the roses and trying to live righteously, when suddenly you rudely felt a steel-toed boot up your ass. WTF!? you think, then it all comes rushing back at you. Ah yes, it’s our old friend life saying “Whoa, hold on there, not so fast buster.” Unfortunately, you know that particular voice well, because you’ve lived a while and had the chance to get up close and personal with life’s dark underbelly more than a few times.

You now realize you’ve got to call in a “fixer,” so you do your research on how to best handle this particular problem and who’s the best person you need to contact to make it go away. You make arrangements to meet and set up a date for when the “thing” will go down.

OK, so here’s the point of this post…

Once the plan is set in motion, getting all anxious and nervous about what you’ve decided to do is fucking pointless. You had a problem, you had to deal with it, so deal with it you did. Looking back and second guessing is for pussies. You know what to do.

Pull up your big boy pants, take a deep breath, and submit to the experience.

You’ve got this.

Bad Blood

This could be a metaphor for genetic expression gone horribly wrong, or just used in it’s common vernacular describing toxically bad intentions between two people. In our case, it was both. Something was never quite right between us, and it only got worse the older we got.

It wasn’t because of any specific thing, we just didn’t like each other – the feeling was mutual and we never tried to hide it. I’ll be the first to admit this says nothing good about me, but it doesn’t say anything good about you either. We just brought out the worst in each other. I saw the darkest parts of me in you – cold, hard, selfish, mean and capable of things best left unsaid – and I didn’t like it. I worked hard to become a different person, but in order to do so, I had to put as much distance between the two of us as possible.

It’s something I have no regrets about, though I’m not proud to say that. We all have things we’re ashamed of, it’s just a painful part of being human.

Sometimes you have to recognize when relationships are too toxic to continue without someone getting seriously hurt. Still, I occasionally reflect on it, if only to remind myself where I came from.

Bad blood indeed.

It’s Fun To Think

Seriously – question everything!

Wonder what the point of everything is.

Be amazed at the world and try to figure it out.

Seek out art and pay attention to what it triggers in your mind.

Read. Like, all the time.

If it’s not science, question what you are being told. Come to think of it – question science too, just don’t be stupid about it (e.g. thinking the earth is flat isn’t questioning science, it’s just being dumb). Before questioning, make sure you understand what science really is

Exercise your brain like a muscle. They both get stronger the more you use them.

Have fun with your mind – use it to generate your own unique world view. You never know what you might discover…

Maybe The Struggle Is The Whole Point

What if the day you “finally get everything under control” is the day you’re dead?

What If the chaos and stress of life are the whole point?

What if our ability to cope and maneuver and scheme and plan and love and work are when we are at our best?

Maybe, just maybe, the point at which the shit is hitting the proverbial fan is the moment when we are the most alive.

Maybe THAT’S the fucking point.

Maybe we should stop thinking about stress like it’s something to be avoided and realize that’s where the fun is.

Ms. Pat

Wow – where do I start? I just finished Patricia Williams book “Rabbit,” and to say it was a compelling read might be a bit of an understatement. But I guess my real question here is simply this: Why are some people able to not only survive hardship, they actually seem to thrive, using it as fuel to propel themselves to a better life?

In her case, how did a young black woman grow up in an environment where virtually everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, was stacked against her, yet she never succumbed to hopelessness. I would like to say she became successful, but the reality is she was always successful – in her own mind, she was going to find a way.

What about someone who was left abandoned as an infant in an unheated building in the middle of a cold Boston winter, found by the police and who subsequently grew up in an orphanage called “The New England Home for Little Wanderers” (I’m not making this shit up). After experiencing a few horrendous “adoptions,” he decided it was better to stay in the orphanage until he aged out at 14, at which time he was sent into the night with all his belongings in a paper sack with a stranger – no social services involved.

Neither of these people became substance abusers or sociopaths. What would have killed, or at least permanently crippled most other people, didn’t break them. They were able to form lasting, long term relationships with others, fully capable of empathy and compassion. They contributed something meaningful to the world – a world that certainly seemed to give them no incentive to do so. Or did it?

There’s a question in the study of psychology as to the relationship of stressors on human development. One line of thought is that stress, sometimes even duress, can act as a catalyst for growth – it can actually be a positive force for change rather than a negative. The idea is that humans are actually built to overcome adversity, it’s literally wired into our DNA. This is a provocative theory that resonates with me – there is, however, a breaking point – and it’s different for everyone.

But I also think a crucial element for all of us, particularly those disadvantaged by the circumstances of their upbringing, is this: At various points in their lives, someone was there to offer encouragement and some small measure of help – and they took that ember of hope and nourished it into a raging fire. It doesn’t take much, some act of help and encouragement that may seem inconsequential to you may have life changing consequences for the one receiving it.

So why not take a minute and help someone today?

Staying Centered

When the shit starts piling up (and for me, this would be right now), this can become quite a trick to pull off. The more things go south, the easier it becomes to lose focus – and this negative energy can just feed on itself, becoming stronger and more destabilizing as it grows.

This is exactly what you don’t want.

So how do we turn this around? Well, it’s not a panacea, but for me the single most important weapon I have to reorient myself is meditation.

Sometimes even that is no match for a tsunami of trouble, but it will definitely take things down a few notches.

How it does this is somewhat of a mystery to me, because when I’m meditating during times of extreme duress, it sure doesn’t feel like I’m reclaiming my center. I often feel like I’m not really meditating at all – my mind never seems to get “quiet.” My mantra gets tossed around by a deluge of worried thoughts like a cork in the ocean, or at least that’s how it feels.

But then, 20 minutes after I start, I open my eyes and I realize something happened.

I’m no longer perseverating on the worst case scenario, and I usually get back to feeling like “Okay, I’ve got this.”

Works for me – YMMV, but what do you really have to lose except 20 minutes?

Here’s A Hint

If you’re wearing a t-shirt that says “I’m the greatest,” you’re immediately, and with great urgency, telling everyone who sees it that you aren’t.

Just a heads up.

Is It Possible To Measure Human Intelligence?

This, to me, has always been a thorny question. I have always been somewhat skeptical of IQ tests, but I do understand that they are an instrument by which to measure basic cognitive ability (albeit a very blunt one.) It’s just that what we are trying to measure is so multifaceted and complex, with each variable effecting the others – and all of it is in a constant state of flux, either continually growing or withering into a state of atrophy…

Testing a human organism is never an exact process because the organism itself exists in a constantly evolving continuum. Now, I understand that there is a general “window” of parameters within which each life form functions, but already we are in a grey area. Add to this the realization that science now recognizes a certain amount of “plasticity” to neurological function that was once thought to be finite and the waters become muddier still.

I think a good argument could me made that we probably don’t yet even fully recognize all domains within which intelligence expresses itself. What is the folly of testing for something the tester can’t yet comprehend? I get that some way to measure intelligence is probably better than nothing, but only if it does no harm.

At the end of the day I love the elegant simplicity of physicist Max Tegmark’s definition of intelligence: he defines it as “The ability to achieve complex goals.”

So, to answer my question, I would say no, at least not in the sense of taking a test and getting a quantifiable graded score. I would say it is more accurately measured in a behavioral sense by observing what the organism is actually doing. And even that will change based on the health of the entity in question. A well fed organism will always score higher than one that is starving…

The Trouble With Twitter

Created in 2006 and launched in July of that year, Twitter helped create a new paradigm for global communication. There was no gatekeeper, and, at 140 characters, your thought didn’t have to be profound or even well written to post – hell, it didn’t even have to be coherent. Whatever might pop into your head you could publish to the world 24/7 instantly. Holy shit – this was a profoundly new way of expressing yourself to everyone in the world with a Twitter account, and you could do it in a few seconds! No pesky editors or publishers looking over your shoulder making judgments about whether any of this was good or not – just think something that can be stated in 140 characters, press “Tweet” and presto – send it out the entire goddamn planet. Instant global publishing!

Pretty heady stuff, especially if your judgement is chemically altered, or if you’re bipolar and in a manic phase, or even if you’re just an impulsive person with too much spare time on your hands. Of course, every action has a reaction…

Now, I’m not saying Twitter is a bad thing – I use it, I just don’t tweet. It’s a great resource to discover new things, all you have to do is follow some interesting people (or companies) and check out the links in their Tweets.

But here’s where it starts to get weird – when the President of the United States is Tweeting whatever pops into his Ambien riddled head at 3 AM, things can begin to seem a little out of control. It’s as if there is no filter, no deep thought put into it, and nobody’s running the ship – just click “Tweet” and let the repercussions be damned. I mean, I’m a nobody and I’d parse my words very carefully before throwing them out there for the whole world to see.

But I realize there is another element at play here. World leaders and visionary entrepreneurs don’t think like me – in fact, they probably don’t think like anyone else, that’s why they are where they are. And let me clear – I don’t want other people to think like me. But whether this instantly accessible ability to broadcast is good or not is kind of irrelevant – Twitter is here, and this model of global communication isn’t going away.

But boy, sometimes it sure can be more than a little unnerving.

Expert Schmexpert

One of the things about being an ER nurse is that you never know it all, and the minute you start to think you do, the job will take you down a peg or two real fast.

Understanding the human body and everything that can go wrong with it, and knowing how to respond, is a subject that is too vast to ever really master. This obvious truth implies a sobering reality that can be a rude awakening each time you run into it – especially when you are supposed to be an expert. What I’m talking about is this:

You are going to make mistakes.

I’m not talking about everyday garden variety mistakes, I’m talking about mistakes made caring for someone who is vulnerable and is trusting you to  know what to do. How you handle these mistakes defines who you are. This can be a painful process, but it’s absolutely critical to your growth.

You have to recognize the mistake and reflect carefully and thoroughly on what you did wrong, because only in doing so will you be able to learn from the experience. You must own it and document appropriately, alerting and talking about it with your peers, so that they may also learn from what you did wrong.

Once you have done these things, you can’t beat yourself up and perseverate on it. There are others to take care of who need your help.

Learn from it, then move the fuck on.