When it Seems There is only One Empty Chamber

Wearing my Luther Hoodie

Hello from my office or study on the Acre,

Let me begin with an incredible word of thanks. I am humbled beyond measure at the kindness shown during the past three days in response to my previous blog. I am honored that somehow my willingness to share my private, difficult, and atypical health struggles were helpful. That is a bit unbelievable to me, but, again in my piety, that is what the Holy Spirit does when we cannot find the ability to make sense of our lives. Indeed, I wrote the words, but those words were inspired by something larger than me. In this COVID world, finding our way to doctor’s appointments has been a bit different. Fortunately, through both our online patient portal and because of COVID (ironically), there were cancelations with my ophthalmologist. I wrote her a message on Tuesday evening, as I was working on the blog, and she responded within hours. I called on Wednesday, and was able to get in today. I will talk more about the appointment, and there are some issues with my vision, but nothing that cannot be managed. Not surprisingly, it appears my eyes, like everything else, are dehydrated too. In addition, I have to get prescription reading glasses rather than simple readers any longer. That is the simple explanation for the moment.

All of the other issues that were noted in the last blog are just simply how my body manages and the way I have to go about daily life. The constantly moving target of hydration will never go away. That is not a good thing nor it is an easily managed thing, but it is manageable. It takes constant supervision on my part; it requires me to monitor (not in terms of some sort of process like my Diabetes), and requires me to pay attention. There is little room for ignoring or pretending there are no issue. It is a lifestyle, but I work diligently to act like I am much like any other person. I have been told, even by my doctors, or by those I now lecture in my position as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Medical Education at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, that I look healthy. I guess that is a good thing, but it too has some consequences. In fact, some of my latest scholarly writing considers things rather unexpected because of the appearance versus reality discontinuity. It is not by accident that I have noted (as indicated in the title) that I often feel I am playing Russian roulette with one empty chamber rather than one bullet. It is not how I like to play the odds, but somehow it seems I have been rather fortunate each time it has been my turn to spin that magazine. Somehow, scenes of The Deer Hunter come to mind, and that was tense enough watching the movie. It is not something I planned to live.

And yet, as I write this, I have some important friends who are in the process of one losing the other to cancer. In fact, as I spoke on the phone earlier this evening, the one cried at the stark reality of losing a partner. They had to hang up the phone because the hospital was calling (and they are not allowed to be there because of COVID). This is beyond traumatic to me. Even earlier, I spoke with a spouse of a former colleague and they spoke of the range of emotions felt during the past holiday season as they continue life alone. And yet, again, still this evening, I reached out to a high school classmate who has lost a spouse and a father during this past year. It is in those conversations, I am pushed to remember how incredibly lucky I am. I have options and, even though I have hurdles (and short legs), somehow I get over them and keep trucking along. In addition to the prescription readers, I have been placed on a prescription eye drop, Fortunately, I have health insurance. The cost of these amazing little drops without insurance would be almost 850.00. Yes, you read that correctly. Holy Buckets . . . make sure every drop gets into your eyes and you do not miss. That is incredible. There is more than once I have stated, “If I have known what the last thirty years would bring, I might have asked what is behind door number two?” However, I am not convinced that door would have been better. It is easy to wonder what if . . . it is undeniable that we wonder how things might have been different from time to time, but, for me, those conversations, with God or myself , are rather pointless. They are subjunctive mood conversations, conditions contrary to reality. I have generally been the person who simply says, “Tell me what the situation is and let me deal with it.” Some who know me well will shake their collective heads, but life is a process. There is no recipe card; there are no promises; and I am owed nothing. The last blog was my humanness in all its frailty coming to the fore. I do have those moments, and I guess, gauging the responses I received, it was a good thing to reveal that. That it was helpful for anyone, I am, again, humbled, but as I noted God will work through me and in spite of me.

It would be easy to turn inward when I have those days, but that is not really the best way for me to manage things. Reaching out and paying attention to others is an infinitely more helpful way for me to manage life. It is not difficult to see we have a hurting world. The divisions among us and some of the things I have read not only in the last week or beyond, but really for some time seem to have us running our world in much the same way that my blog title states. And yet with more extreme repercussions. As I think about the words of unity, fairness, justice, hope, kindness, or decency, they seem like things impressed upon us as children, but as concepts or ideals we somehow have lost as adults. One of the things I have learned as a patient is to advocate for myself and believe in my own agency, but I need to see my doctor, a nurse, those who have knowledge I need as advocates and allies, not as someone to mistrust. As I consider that, I am struck by something it seems we have forgotten. We elect people to represent us and is that what is happening? It seems with what is happening in our streets and in the halls of Congress, we are being represented. They are as divided and disrespectful as we are. Why are we surprised? I do not want to make this blog a political blog, but I am thinking about the COVID situation right now. With all of my issues, I describe myself as a blue-light special for germs. Fortunately, I get my first COVID vaccination on Saturday. I realize this is not some get-out-of-jail-free card. However, I do believe I will feel at least a bit less stress about leaving the house than I have. I know not everyone agrees, but we need to get this virus stuff managed. Herd immunity achieved by mass casualty does not seem like the best plan. I know of more people than I have fingers at this point who have lost their lives to this. Some in their 40s, and they did not have a boatload of co-morbidities. I know former students who are nurses and are running themselves emotionally and physically to exhaustion because of the COVID cases they face every day. This does more than alarm me. There are times it infuriates me because we are so incredibly self-centered, all based on the argument of individual freedom. That individual freedom is again leaving one empty chamber.

As humans, we do not live an a vacuum. We are not hermits, though COVID has worked hard to push us there. What this past week has reminded me yet again, is how apparent our past is part of our present and preparing us for our futures. We are a tapestry, a fine amazing coat of incredible thread, woven by experience and the singular stitching is not always evident, but each stitch is profound, important, and relevant. So many people have blessed me with the stitches they have contributed to my my tapestry or my coat. It has kept me safe or warm through so many elements. It has made it possible for me to weather many storms. It has taught me to be open and honest with my strengths and my frailties. Yes, again this week, the blessings heaped upon my table were beyond anything expected or deserved. It is incredible how each of you have helped mend the coat of the threadbare places and lifted my spirits to heights I have not felt for some time. There is so much for me to do in the next days and I was frightened because I felt physically incapable. My eyes are essential to my work, especially now. I was overwhelmed and defeated, at least for a bit, but to each of you for your thoughts, prayers, posts, acknowledgements, you have lifted me beyond anything I deserve. Bless you all and I wish you a safe, sound, healthy, and blessed 2021. I am humbled. Perhaps, I have a couple of empty chambers or hopefully even more.

Thank you again and bless you all.


Published by thewritingprofessor55

As I move toward the end of a teaching career in the academy, I find myself questioning the value and worth of so many things in our changing world. My blog is the place I am able to ponder, question, and share my thoughts about a variety of topics. It is the place I make sense of our sometimes senseless world. I believe in a caring and compassionate creator, but struggle to know how to be faithful to the same. I hope you find what is shared here something that might resonate with you and give you hope.

2 thoughts on “When it Seems There is only One Empty Chamber

  1. Michael, you are in my thoughts & prayers. If I lived closer, I could bring you some food or flowers. But you do prepare delicious looking food & you already have the most beautiful acre in Pennsylvania. God bless you !!πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»πŸŒΊπŸ™πŸ»β€οΈ

  2. My dear friend, I am in awe of your resilience and loving heart. We miss you, and pray for your well-being. Sending so much love.

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