Saturday, December 13, 2014

Steady Nerves

    My pager went of at 21:25, unconscious older male. I threw on my basic black class C's and jacket, and flew out the door. Despite the fog I made good time getting to the station and was given the driver's seat in the Rescue Rig. It is no secret, I love driving Code 3. Just a minute into the drive dispatch said the family had started CPR, I knew what we were heading into. This was going to be my first CPR case. "They're doing CPR, so we grab the O2 bag, med bag, and start compressions as soon as we get on scene?" I asked Cap'n Eddie over my shoulder. He grunted affirmation and asked me what size gloves I needed. As I drove up the steep, winding road I did a quick mental/spiritual check: Everything okay? Yeah, I was calm and focused. There was a family member waiting for us at the end of the driveway with a flashlight, a great boon on a foggy night. I pulled up to the house, stomped the emergency break, and actually remembered to chock the tire before I opened the compartment and grabbed the O2 bag, Joe grabbed the med kit, and Eddie had the AED defibrillator. I was first in, calling out to the people in the house, quickly seeing a woman kneeling next to a very still man. "Let me take over," I said gently, dropping my bag and kneeling next to the man, my CPR training very clear in my mind. I started nice, solid, deep compressions while Joe and Eddie started getting out the rest of the gear. During class we were told that when you start compressions you will feel and hear the sternum and ribs pop and crack. I did. It was a little unnerving, but not unexpected. I know it is better to do continual compressions at 100 beats a minute with no break for oxygen if there is only one person with hands on the patient. I did it by the book, with the Bee Gees song "Staying Alive" playing in my head as the perfect speed and rhythm for compressions. I stopped briefly to feel for a pulse, there was nothing. I got right back to it. Our duty officer arrived just as Joe got oxygen on the patient, I heard his voice, registered that he was there, but my focus was narrowed down to the man under my hands, and the feel of his chest under my palms. 20 compressions then "Okay Joe, two quick breaths." 20 compressions, "Okay Joe." The paramedics arrived, speaking quietly to me, reaffirming my feeling that what I was doing was not going to make any difference to the patient, but was what the family was needing to see. "You're doing perfect," I heard several times. Then our other Rescue unit arrived, and I was relieved by one of my former classmates. Now I got to step back and be the observer. The paramedics ran an EKG strip, there was no pulse. He stepped over to talk quietly with the family. The decision to end resuscitation efforts was made and time of death was called. We quietly gathered our things and got out from under foot.
    Stepping out into the brisk night air, my mind was still clear and focused. I looked inward to see how I was feeling. I knew I was okay. A small, nervous Blue Heeler came up to me, her eyes worried, her body language showing her concern. The dogs always find me. I kneeled down and gave her scratches, murmuring my condolences, telling her it would be okay. Oddly, it is her worried, furry face that overshadows the ashen, slack face I had kneeled over for a few eternal moments. The dogs always find me and work their way into my heart.
    We finished packing up our gear, I backed out of the driveway, and drove back to the station. We talked about the case. Eddie showing his gruff concern for me. I knew I was all right with the incident, it was a good first call of this nature. I know there will be more, many more, over the years. I also know there will be some that will effect me deeply. This was a good opportunity to see just how I would react. All of this is new, and no one knows how they will react until they are already elbow deep into something. So far I have faced each situation calmly, with good focus, steady nerves, and no unnecessary adrenaline screwing with my mind. I really love this.
    Next month I get my first class in Fire Investigation, a whole new adventure. A fabulous way to start the New Year. I am excited.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


    It has begun. I felt it today, that shadow that lurks just over my shoulder, just beyond my peripheral vision. I could feel it riding my shoulder, whispering of cold, grey days ahead. Taunting me with the looming Winter. It is odd how it manifests, a queer kind of stir-crazy. A restlessness that will not settle. An itch deep in my skull that cannot be scratched. I reach the point where tension in my chest feels as if all my insides are pressing to get outside. As if the squishy bits won't stay in the skin. Brain becomes scrambled and unfocused. Body becomes twitchy and hyper-sensitive. I knew that if I did not burn off the manic energy that was building in response to the melancholy manifesting in my soul I would pace the house like a caged beast, snapping at anything that came too near, devouring everything in my path including pets and small children. I fled to the gym, the safest recourse under these circumstances. Not my normal Sunday afternoon routine, but it may need to be added to the arsenal. I headed directly for the weight room and lifted hard for a solid 45 minutes, focusing strictly on upper-body. I realized I am still sore from the punishment I meted out on Thursday. After the quick and brutal strength training I headed for the pool, which was my main destination. I do love the soothing caress of the cool water. I knew I would swim hard, needed to swim hard. I did a tough but smooth warmup; 20 laps with hand paddles and pull buoy. Then I kicked it up a few gears and did 30 non-stop laps of strength/speed work, which jacked my cardio up higher than I normally go when I swim. It felt great, heart pounding, breathing deep and fast, shoulders burning. I actually had to pause for a minute, only a minute, then swam a mellow lap of breast stroke, letting the water cool my face. I finished with 20 laps at my "I-can-do-this-for-miles" race pace to cool down. Then I slipped into the hot tub, floating on my back, hot water covering everything but my face, and let the tension drain out of Body and Brain. It was what had to happen, what was needed to fend off the demons for another day.
    This winter has the potential to be devastating, knowing that my job is ending in a few short weeks, and my future is not nearly as secure as I would wish. But at the same time, I am excited for the coming changes, even though they are being forced upon me. Forced upon me, yes, but how I choose to deal with them is all on me. I can curl into a sniveling, whining ball and rage against the unfairness of the world, or I can stand up to it and decide that now is my chance to step forward into new opportunity. I have plans. Honestly, I have "A Plan." But it is alarming, daring, challenging, frightening. I am on a rollercoaster that that is hurtling me from elated to scared shitless, often in a matter of minutes. This is part of the energy behind today's episode of melancholic mania. I will have to be ever vigilant, catch it before it catches me, sweat it out of my system before it can turn toxic in my heart. It will be a tough winter.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Prepping For Winter

    Heading into winter I always have a foreshadowing of dread, not knowing if it will be relatively smooth sailing, or tempestuous and brutal. By this time of year I try to have my ducks in a row, a plan of action, the ways and means to confront and manage the inevitable melancholy. This year brings a few added challenges. I have had house guests since August, my son and his family, and their two dogs. As you might imagine this adds a bit of strain, since my house is small, and I am an introvert who craves silence, order, and solitude. We are managing. I am having to readjust a lot of my carefully structured, slightly neurotic, OCD routine that has kept me relatively sane the last two years or so. Knowing how easily I tread the edge of the abyss, especially in the dark of winter, has forced me to adopt a regimen that to outside eyes probably seems every bit as crazy as the inner turmoil such a regimen helps manage. It is a fine line, balancing inner crazy with outward neurosis. Right now is rather challenging, but I have done well, for the most part, and nutrition, exercise, and trying to maintain some order have helped me stay upright and moving forward.
    Last winter was one of the easiest winters I have had in over a decade, due largely in part to finally having a job that makes me happy, working with people who are upbeat, and being surrounded by the gleaming chrome of hundreds of motorcycles. I love my job. Last week my office mate and I were called into the owner's office for a meeting with him and the GM. Knowing this is never good I had a million scenarios play through my head in the few minutes it took to walk from my work area to the boss' office. We were informed that they are closing our department, and we will be out of jobs by the end of the year. I can't say I didn't see this coming, but it is a brutal blow nonetheless. We were told, in no uncertain terms, that after having reviewed our resumes, and already having laid off a number of other folks, there was no other positions we were qualified for. None. I can't say we didn't see this coming. We have had a string of problems with internet feeds, website issues, changes in corporate regulations about internet sales, all of which have effected out bottom line. We had finally managed to get everything smoothed out, about 10 days before the announced closure of our department. Of course, we were not given any opportunity to defend our jobs, it was a done deal before we even walked into the office. All things being equal, I think I am allowed to be a little pissy about the fact that I finally get out of a seven year stint at a miserable job, working with miserable people, for a company that was always on the verge of closing their doors, and start a fun job, with fun people, for decent pay, with a company that should be rock solid, and I get laid off after a year and a half. I want to throw a tantrum and scream at the universe, "This is just NOT FAIR!!" It has been a rough ten days, as we work through the shell shock of feeling pole-axed, while having to keep up our level of customer service, and wear a facade of cheer. I can't even imagine the rollercoaster of stress and emotion that I will be riding for the next eight weeks as we approach the closure of a department we have worked so hard to keep viable. Honestly, I am fucking pissed. I don't want to job hunt. I don't want to risk ending up in another office job with miserable people. I love my job, and hate that it is being taken away from me.
     Being me, the eternal optimist, I am trying to put a good spin on this, especially going into winter when I know I am one mis-step away from finding myself in the fetal position on the floor, feeling as if my world is in absolute tatters. I will be job hunting, of course, but not with any real vigor for now. I am getting paid decently well, and have full medical benefits until Christmas, at least. I will take full advantage of this. I am grateful to have an eight week head's up so I can be budgeting now, instead of hitting the end of the year broke and with bills to pay, and suddenly being on unemployment. My next few paychecks will allow me to get ahead on bills, and stock up some essential supplies. I had already started paying down the few debts I have, even paying off one credit card the week before I found out I will soon be jobless. If I can get to the end of the year with a little money set aside to offset the 40% decrease in income I will have on unemployment I will allow myself the luxury of a little down-time. Time to get caught up on home projects, my writing, and maybe start working towards a sideline business that can supplement my income. I have a lot of ideas swirling around in my skull. I know that as long as I have "A Plan" I am more likely to stay positive. No, I don't want to have to job hunt, it is a self-esteem killing, soul-sucking endeavor that can make anyone feel unwanted and worthless. If I allow myself to take my time, search for a job that will be less soul-sucking than most, all the while working on creative avenues that will have either monetary or spiritual benefits, I may just survive the winter. But it will be tough. Very tough. All I can do at this point is try to be prepared for what may come. It is going to be a rough winter.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Apathy Will Be The Death Of Us All

    Some things are hard for me to put into words. Emotions and insanities are easy, they flow from me unimpeded at times, and at times I think the only thing that prevents me from spewing forth truths so raw and bare that they might see me landed in a ward under lock and key is the love and respect I have for my children and their well-being. Even in my deepest morass I still manage to put my children's safety above all else. It is not emotions or my state of mind that I have wanted to splay out in black and white, not this time. Lately what has preyed heavily on my mind is the emotions and state of the world. The insanities that have become so commonplace in the world we live in. That is the crux, that is what I have tried to come to grips with; just how commonplace insanity has become in our little corner of the Universe. I make no secret of the fact that I have been on a news blackout for the better part of a year and a half, every since the horrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. An event that left me emotionally reeling with the thought, "They were just babies," ricocheting around inside my skull, getting louder and more chaotic until the cacophony ringing in my brain nearly brought me to my knees. It brought me to tears, that is a fact. So I went on a news blackout. I was a news junkie, poring over crime reports, business news, world events, until I was near to overflow. Sandy Hook broke the levy. I made myself turn away. True, it is impossible to block out the comings and goings of the world, information leaked in like cold air around an old, double hung window. I absorbed just enough to keep my finger on the pulse of the world, barely.
    What is this backstory leading up to? Simple. The world is going to shit. it is in upheaval. True, it is always in some state of unrest, but like the proverbial snowball rolling down hill, it is picking up speed, and getting bigger, deadlier, and more out of control with each passing moment. Am I an alarmist? Yes. I want to beat the drums, light the signal fires in the watch towers, raise a hue and cry. Why? Why now? Why not now? All my life I have seen panic inducing world events. Over and over the world has watched with bated breath as one horrific scenario after another builds to what is surely the next world war, or environmental crisis, only to fizzle out and fade away with little or no lasting effect. But it seems as if each event is just a little larger than the last one. Now, what I see going on around the world seems so much more deadly and apocalyptic than anything in the past, and it covers the gamut of catastrophes on a number of stages. War in the Middle East, yes, there is always war in the Middle East, it seems to be a way of life, but events over the last few years have eclipsed the skirmishes of the past. The genocide in Africa is horrendous and yet barely makes the small print in the evening news. Current environmental disasters like GMOs, fracking, honey bee die-off, drought, dramatically severe weather around the globe, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster dumping radiation in an already over-taxed ocean make me look back at the environmental disasters of the past, like the Exxon Valdez oil spill with almost wistful nostalgia. In the Great US of A obesity, cancer, and auto-immune diseases are on the rise. Illiteracy is being helped along by easy access to the internet and its shameless abuse of gossip-rag headlines. Critical thinking and penmanship are going the way of the carrier pigeon; shot to death in vast droves. The rich are getting richer the poor are getting poorer. Oh, and by "rich" I don't mean millionaires with a little too much time and money on their hands, I mean gluttonous gazillionaires who are accumulating the world's wealth the way a hoarder accumulates piles of newspapers, and to the point where they are not only manipulating world governments, but in full control of the Powers That Be, and are not at all concerned that world knows it.
    Again, where am I going with this? Just this: Why is the world so apathetic about the shitstorm that is bearing down on us like a category 5 hurricane. Hell, we aren't even boarding up the windows. Why aren't we? What the hell is wrong with everyone? Why have we become so g'damned apathetic? I think we have become desensitized. First off, we have been getting slapped with news of gloom and doom as long as I can remember, and it has slowly escalated. Each disaster, each war, each end of the world event has managed to fade away, or get made into a pay per view movie. It is the Boy Crying Wolf, and it feels as if the entire world has now turned a deaf ear to the call to arms. Our world is under attack from virtually every angle, politics, religion, law, finance, greed, gluttony, apathy. We are constantly being fed a series of End of The World blockbuster hit movies and best selling novels that have an entire generation actually looking forward to the apocalypse as a viable alternative to the world we live in. Many are hoping and praying for an asteroid to hit, a plague to strike, aliens to land, or the current populist favorite; the Zombie Apocalypse. Now, instead of factions rising up against the travesties we are being assailed with, we have factions who are just hunkering down, stocking up supplies, and prepping to ride out the storm with the hope of being among a handful of survivors. When did we turn from activists to reactivists? The world has given up on the idea that we might be able to make changes, steer the world back on course, improve our chances, heal our planet. We are desensitized and apathetic. It is the worst tragedy of all. It is as if no one even cares anymore. In the end, I think that apathy will be the death of us all.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Social Anxiety

    Social anxiety is a strange beast. It is not one that it always by my side, but it does make frequent appearances. Tonight I should be at a party, an epic party, and it's just over my back fence. I was all primped, dressed up and ready to go and just could not make myself hop the fence to join the laughter. Instead I threw the ball for my young dog for a bit, then came inside, took off the epic boots, slipped into sandals, and spent the evening working on my bicycle. I have gotten considerably better with my anxiety over the last few years. I know racing has helped immeasurably, forcing me to travel alone to strange places, surrounding myself with strangers, and attempting something I know will be difficult. That is part of the allure of triathlons and trail runs, as well as part of the challenge.
    On the one hand, I really did need to work on my bike. I have had the sexy, new Vittorio Rubino tires for almost two weeks and needed to get them put on before my long ride tomorrow. I also needed to clean and oil the chain and derailleur. It was calming, Zen-like work. On the other hand, I can hear the live music and laughter drifting through the cool night air and wish I had been able to join the crowd. When I am in the mood I can jump into the chaos of a party and enjoy myself immensely. When I am in reclusive, anxiety mood I know I would feel the outcast, and have to force any interactions. I made the right choice for the evening, even if it makes me just a little sad to wonder at the might-have-beens.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pleasant Diversion

    It has been a strange week, a difficult week. I keep finding myself skirting the rim of melancholy, and diving into my bag of tricks to try and maintain my equilibrium. So far it is working, barely. Triggers keep getting bumped, and I have to struggle to keep from falling.
    It is not often that I talk specifics, but let me indulge myself just a bit. Lately I have been surrounded by people getting married. I kid you not, they are everywhere. This is making my subconscious launch an attack on my psyche, sending me a barrage of happily-ever-after dreams, which dredge up middle of the night woe-is-me loneliness. Between my subconscious, and in your face Facebook posts it has been thought provoking, and a bit dismal. This week I came to the conclusion that where relationships go, especially the last 15 years or so, I think that I am just a pleasant diversion. I seem to attract people who are hung up on their past relationship, to the point of near obsession. Is it because I am a good listener, and willing to openly discuss their marital woes? Or do I just seem to stumble upon people who can't seem to let go of destructive, toxic relationships? I am not sure. But as I listen to tales of damaged histories, epic battles, raging bitches, and current interactions, I do my best to keep an open mind, analyzing and arbitrating as is my nature. Eventually I reach that point of critical mass when I realize that once again I am just a pleasant diversion, a safe haven for a brief respite from the battle. It is a curious position I find myself in. Oddly, I can look far back in time to my very first boyfriend and see that even then I was in the same role, as I heard him on the phone to his ex, Anita, on his 17th birthday, he was crying. He did admit that Anita was his best friend's wife. Four years later, yes, it took me four years to extricate myself from that particularly toxic relationship, and I hook up with my older brother's best friend, who, not surprisingly, is still hung up on his ex who he just called The Girl. Yes, I got to overhear phone conversations in that relationship too. And so it goes. My marriage was the one exception to the rule. My most recent breakup, well, it was 6 months ago, was no different. He is back with his "Psychobitch" ex-wife, no surprise there, though I had pissed him off when I told him I knew he was still hung up on her.
    So, here is the question, or questions: Are damaged, broken men, still hung up on their ex-wives attracted to me for some unknown reason? Or, am I attracted to that type of broken person, hoping that the power of my love will heal them? Or, are most men hung up on raving, psychobitch exes? I am beginning to think that men are attracted to women who mistreat them, and that they get a perverse enjoyment out of the abuse. I am also convinced that one of my fatal flaws is that I am too nice, too nurturing, too easy to live with. Maybe I just don't present enough of a challenge? But, the point is moot. I am in as much of a relationship as I care to be in. We see each other rarely, have a great time when we do, part ways on good terms, there is no guilt over conflicting schedules or cancelled dates. It is almost as if we have a verbal contract to enjoy as much as the other has to offer, and expect no more than can be freely and easily given. And, I don't have to compromise my easy, giving nature.
    So, there it is, one of this week's trigger points, the sore spot that is like a fresh bruise waiting to be bumped. Now I will move on, I don't have the time or energy for prolonged pity parties, preferring to analyze, criticize, and move on. And once in a while it is nice to vent, air my dirty laundry, and then get back to the business of living a chaotic, active life that leaves me so very little time for such petty nonsense.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Full Speed Ahead

    I have had so little time to sit and catch my breath, much less jot down a few scrambled sentences> Life is propelling me at a breakneck pace, and even as it wears me down, I love every minute. Not long ago I was asked, "What do you do for fun?" I was stymied. There really isn't anything specific that I do "for fun." I don't play games, I don't go to movies, I don't dine out, I don't go to concerts, or dancing, or sightseeing, or, or or... For a moment I felt a bit tragic, and then I realized, I don't do anything "for fun" because my life is so entertaining and fun that I have no need to seek it out in another form. I enjoy my life so thoroughly that there is no need for outside stimulation. And my days are filled with pleasure whether I am washing my fire engine, drilling with my station, on a 60 mile training ride or a 2-1/2 mile swim, painting my house, planting my garden, visiting my grandson, or playing fetch with my dogs. Simple pleasures abound and fill my life.
    Case in point, today was a training day with the fire district, a Burn to Learn. Yes, we burned down a house. Room by room, we set fires, made entry in full gear, played with water, let the fire build and then knocked it down, watched as the fire crept up the wall and sent demonic fingers across the ceiling. Watching the smoke build into a black mass so dense it seemed as if I should have been able to grab a handful, like cotton candy. I did reach into it with my gloved hand, feeling the heat, and watching the vapors eddy around my hand. Feeling the heat, almost painful even through our gear, and knowing that if we let the fire get out of control that we were totally surrounded by easily combustible materials. We controlled the fire, kept it in check, managed, almost tame, but it wanted to escape and run wild. It was essential training. And it was more fun than anyone should be able to have and still call it "training." After we had lit and extinguished fires all through the house, and the structure was becoming dangerous, it was time to let it go. The speed at which the house became fully engulfed was astonishing. The heat radiating from the inferno was nearly unbearable even 100 feet away. I was glad of my protective gear, even outside watching the blaze consume the old house. Returning to the station we washed down the Engine and Tender, and even that is fun for me.
    What do I do for fun? I live my life. Full speed ahead.