Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Monthly Archives: February 2019

Moments Of Perfection

Search for your own examples of perfection and use these to set the bar by which to measure your own work.

Important note: You are never going to meet that standard, and that’s ok. This isn’t a competition.

These examples of perfection show you what is possible.

The point is to shoot for transcendence.

Writing (Part 1)

I’m about halfway through my third short story in as many months, and what’s really weird and interesting about how this is happening is how little thought I am putting into it. Let’s be clear at the outset: I have no idea whether any of this is really any good, but for the moment I don’t think this is an important question to ask – in fact I don’t think it is a relevant question at all.

First of all, I didn’t plan on doing this, it just happened. What I mean by that is this: I started writing this blog, and after doing that daily for two years I suddenly and spontaneously wrote a short story, having never written fiction before. I have no idea where it came from, and I am not questioning it, because the act of doing it makes me feel like I am growing, which is pretty cool when you’re 62.

It’s a strangely satisfying feeling, almost as if I am not the one writing this stuff – more like I am a conduit. I should note that the creative process is nothing new to me – I have written and played music my whole life. But creating music is an extremely complex endeavor, at least to do it on a high level. There are so many disciplines to master before you can even start working – it can be daunting to say the least. Writing is clean and simple – you sit down, put your ideas into words, and you’re done. Writing and recording music is more like making a movie – it’s a big, BIG production, almost like going to war.

After doing it for so many years, I kind of hit a wall. So the process of writing almost feels like I’m purging myself of a backlog of pent-up creative energy that I couldn’t get out by writing and creating music. The only people that have read any of this stuff that I am aware of is my wife and my therapist, both of whom seem to think I have something going on, whatever that means. They are encouraging, but maybe most importantly, when I finish a piece, I think it’s good. I used to feel this way about music I wrote…

All I know is that I’m having fun. I sit down to write, and it just comes out. I will edit sentences as I write them, but not too much. I just start and go, letting the story and characters take me where they will. The only pre-planning is that I will have a one sentence idea in my head of what the story will be about, but I’ll even change that if the thing wants to go somewhere else. Then I look at it kind of like recording – the first takes are usually the best, so I don’t really rewrite. I might get to that point in the future, but right now I don’t want to question it. I’m kind of on fire to write, so I’m just going with it.

The only question I wrestle with is this: Is it OK for me to go wherever my imagination takes me? “Cuz trust me – my imagination can go to some very dark and disturbing places. Places that would certainly be too uncomfortable for most readers. In fact, the story I am working on now is based on a idea that is very, very wrong. I, however, find it really compelling. I think it’s safe to say that it won’t ever be published anywhere beyond this blog. Even here, I feel the need to point out what to me seems obvious: nothing should be off limits in art.

Consider yourself warned.

Making A Difference (Part 1)

One of the most gratifying and personally fulfilling experiences in life is teaching someone who wants to learn. These feelings become even more satisfying as you age if for no other reason than it makes you feel as if you are passing on knowledge that this person will in turn build and improve on. In some small way you are contributing to the collective human experience. This desire seems to be a uniquely human imperative, and it’s part of what has allowed us as a species to become who we are.

Inherent to this process is the act of watching the student grow beyond the point at which the teacher can continue teaching. In many ways, this is the most rewarding part of all.

Today I got to experience this, and it felt really, really good.

All In A Days Work

Cardiac arrest, GI bleed, stroke, respiratory distress, STEMI, overdose and sepsis.

Also, giving a 74 year old with back pain $1.50 for bus fare and instructions on how to take the #12 to the Bronx.

Just another day in the ER.

Don’t Keep Everything To Yourself

If something has a profoundly positive impact on your life, share it.

Everyone won’t want to hear it, but it may be exactly what one person needs to hear.

They may never be exposed to it if you don’t speak up.

It Wasn’t His Day To Die

All ER’s have their resident alcoholics, it’s just a weird phenomenon endemic to this very peculiar environment. When we triage them their chief complaint will be “EtOH intox,” which is medical-speak for “drunk.”

The odd thing for outsiders to understand is that, even though these people are abusing the system, over time they evolve to being viewed as sort of your dysfunctional uncle – you know, the one that can’t stop drinking. Sometimes they actually come in more than once a day (yes, you heard that right), by ambulance no less.

We check their vital signs, listen to the EMS report, give them the once over to make sure we didn’t miss anything, and then we give them some food, a urinal, and a blanket. They eat a little, maybe yell a few inappropriate (and often incomprehensible) things, spill their food and juice on themselves and the floor, try to hit the urinal when they pee (often missing), then go to sleep. I won’t say we actually tuck them in, but we make sure they are sleeping safely and don’t choke on their own vomit. If they are particularly worked up and won’t stay on the stretcher, we have a security guard “watch them” until they are asleep. When they sober up, they are usually a little sheepish, often actually saying “thank you for taking care of me.” Nothing gets to the heart of a battle-tested ER nurse like that line.

Remarkably, maybe because they are always there, the staff begins to treat them as if they were family. I know this makes no sense, it’s just the way it is. If you work in the ER long enough, they will eventually die, only to be replaced by another one, and the whole cycle repeats itself.

So yesterday we got a notification of a cardiac arrest, ETA 5 minutes. I go into the trauma room to make sure everything is set up, and the ambulance bay doors open to reveal the all-too-familiar sight of two medics performing CPR while quickly wheeling the stretcher into the trauma room. I look down at the patient and my heart sinks – it’s him! Not just any homeless alcoholic, no, he’s our goddamn homeless alcoholic. I immediately think the same thing everyone else is thinking – fuck no, please don’t die.

So we all go into our cardiac arrest dance, the one we’ve all done so many times before. But then something miraculous happens – we get him back! No pulse when he comes in, but he’s got a motherfucking pulse now! It’s ROSC baby! I remember feeling a sigh of relief when the doc says “We’ve got a pulse!”

Suddenly, I hear a loud round of what sounds like a sizable crowd cheering and applauding! WTF? I think, knowing he has no family.

It was the rest of the staff, standing just outside the trauma room doors. The only family he has, the workers in this constantly overwhelmed inner city ER. Clapping and smiling. We’d snatched our homeless drunk back from the jaws of death!

It was, at least for a moment, a good day. Other people would die that day in the ER, just not him.

In an environment that that seldom gives you anything to celebrate, it’s important to take a moment and savor life’s little victories.

ER Apocalypse

Nobody’s more ready for the complete breakdown of society than ER nurses and docs.

For us, there’s nothing to get excited about – it’s just another shift.

Why Blog? (Part 1)

This is my 739th consecutive blog post, and recently I’ve been feeling like I’m hitting a wall. I really don’t want to repeat myself, and yet recently there have been days where I am struggling to find something meaningful to say that I haven’t already said.

Because it’s getting difficult, it’s even more important to do it.

Why? To find out what happens when you’re not sure if you’re done but you force yourself to keep going anyway. Kind of like those ultra-marathoners who run 200+ miles just to see what happens when their bodies start breaking down and they begin getting close to death.

Courtney Dauwalter once ran a race where she began hallucinating, developed corneal edema and temporarily went blind, became disoriented and fell (giving herself a concussion), and yet still kept running. She wanted to see what would happen if she pushed herself to what any normal person would think is the brink of death, and then kept going. She wanted to hit the ultimate wall and see if she could push past it. Turns out she could…

So I am going to see what happens when I think I might have run out of things to say, yet still keep going. Things might get a little incoherent while I figure this out, but that’s the beauty of a personal blog. Realizing no one is reading this shit anyway gives me the exhilarating freedom to take whatever chances I feel are necessary to grow.

I want to break through to the really good shit – or fail trying.

I don’t think I’m going to fail.

ER Tips (Part 1)

When ruling out a heroin overdose on your somnolent patient who was found down in the street and is not responding, say (in a loud voice), “I’ll get the Narcan.” If they immediately open their eyes and say “No!,” there’s your answer.

Differential done.

Let’s Get This Over With

Sometimes in emergency nursing you have to hurt the patient in order to help them. No one likes to do this, but we are here to save your life, not to be your friend.

I try to be as compassionate and caring as possible, but I have a job to do, and I will do it.

My goal is for you to live another day.


A Question Of Perception

For the most part, you have no control over what happens to you in life, but you have complete control over how you perceive and interpret it.

In other words, whether your life sucks or not is entirely up to you.

The Ability To Understand Opposing Viewpoints

You simply can’t understand the world by being an absolutist, and yet this sort of “thinking” is everywhere today. The irony, of course, is that this isn’t really thinking at all – it is the manifestation of the inability to hold two opposing viewpoints in one’s mind at the same time.

I touched on this idea in an earlier post, but I keep seeing this play out in public platforms, sometimes by people who clearly aren’t stupid, with often dire results. I just don’t get it. Nowhere is this more depressingly obvious than in politics, a cultural battlefield I try to avoid at all costs, and yet, try as I might, I can’t help but be bludgeoned by this toxic poison simply by being alive.

Let’s take the sentence “X is bad, Y is good” and insert pretty much anything to illustrate how narrow minded and self-limiting this kind of thinking is. Here are some random examples:

  • White people are bad, black people are good.
  • Cats are bad, dogs are good.
  • Democrats are bad, Republicans are good.
  • Poor people are bad, rich people are good.
  • Men are bad, women are good.
  • Christians are bad, Muslims are good.
  • Microsoft is bad, Apple is good.
  • Northerners are bad, Southerners are good.
  • Science is bad, Creationism is good.
  • Vanilla is bad, chocolate is good.

I could go on and on here, but you get the idea. Each one of these statements is patently ridiculous, yet people build their whole identities around this shit. The ubiquity of social media just exacerbates the whole thing, providing the perfect nourishing environment for hatred, xenophobia, tribalism and confirmation bias to flourish.

You are really depriving yourself from enjoying the full range of what this brief life has to offer with this kind of thinking. How about holding both opposing viewpoints in your mind at the same time when you’re examining any given problem?

It’s really not that difficult.

Everybody Hurts

To be alive is to experience pain, sometimes physically, other times psychically.

Remember this the next time someone lashes out at you with no provocation. It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but realizing it’s not about you can make it a lot easier to deal with.

Often people just want someone to listen and treat them with respect. As simple as this sounds, these kind of interactions are apparently in short supply.

Be the kind of person who exhibits these traits and see what happens. Other people will watch you and emulate your behavior.

You can change the world one human interaction at a time.

I’m Tryin’ Real Hard To Be A Shepherd

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.”

I been sayin’ that shit for years. And if you ever heard it, it meant your ass. I never really questioned what it meant. I thought it was just a coldblooded thing to say to a motherfucker ‘fore you popped a cap in his ass. But I saw some shit this mornin’ made me think twice. Now I’m thinkin’, it could mean you’re the evil man. And I’m the righteous man. And Mr. .45 here, he’s the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could by you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. I’d like that. But that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is you’re the weak. And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’. I’m tryin’ real hard to be a shepherd.

Written by Quentin Tarantino & Roger Avary
Delivered by Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction

Happy Birthday To Me (Part 2)

Made it to 62 years – got banged up a little on the way, but hey – I’m not dead. I’m truly grateful for everything I have but I definitely don’t feel like I’m even close to being done.

I’m on the countdown to destiny, and I’m traveling light. I dropped fear off quite a few stops back.

The Human Experience (Part 1)

Humans are infinitely complex creatures, what you see is most definitely not what you get. The inner dialogue is known only to the one experiencing it.

How much they choose to reveal is the choice of the individual.

Being In The Moment

Whenever I start to think “What’s the meaning of it all?” this is really the answer I should be looking for. Don’t worry about the meaning, you’ll never figure it out anyway. No, the answer is to stop thinking and just be. Like literally stop thinking and just be in the moment of whatever it is you’re doing.

But I made this great thing and now what am I supposed to do with it?” Nothing is probably the correct answer – you already had a shit-ton of fun just making it. Isn’t that enough? Does everything have to be validated by other people before it can be good?

Henry Darger made a lifetimes worth of bizarre, highly idiosyncratic art that he apparently never showed to anyone. After he died, his landlord found it and within a few years art galleries were selling it for obscene amounts of money. He was a hospital custodian who lived alone, with no family or children. Just him and his art.

You could look at this one of two ways: 1) How sad, tragic and lonely poor old Henry was, or 2) Imagine how much fun Henry had making all that cool shit.

I’m going with number two. I think Henry just lived in the moment – he created the world he wanted to live in.

For What It’s Worth

“Something’s happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.”

Steven Stills

So I just finished my second short story, and I have to say this whole process is both quite interesting and more than a little mystifying. I’m not exactly sure where this is coming from, or why I feel compelled to do it, but I’m not questioning it.

I’m just going where it wants to take me.

I keep thinking of this other great quote from Judy Blume that I can never get out of my mind. She was, in fact, talking about her own writing.

I didn’t know what I was doing but I wasn’t afraid to do it.”

Judy Blume