I see the world through doctor-colored glasses. Tragedy rules the day, and then I go home and run with my dog. As a medical student I once watched several surgical removals of acoustic neuromas. For a long while after that, this was my number one concern for anyone who presented with ringing in the ears. It was also around this time that I palpated my children's abdomens for Wilms' tumors while they took their baths. But this post is not about cancerous growths. And it has been a very long time since I have been allowed to palpate my children's tummies, or saw the world through acoustic neuroma glasses. That is one freaking long surgery, by the way.
I see the world through doctor-colored glasses. You may see the drunk on the corner and just make a wide berth, but I see his shrunken liver, gasping for its very last breath. And those kids on the plaza, smoking weed and in dire need of a bath are not just incredibly annoying, they are likely getting more than they bargained for in their weed. Plus the other drugs that they do on purpose. Like ecstasy, which is mostly methamphetamine these days. All those rotted teeth and pock-marked faces on Broadway, they are the site of civil war. People against their own best interest. People who are seduced by escape only to find themselves in the worst kind of jail they could ever imagine. It starts with getting high, it ends with just trying to not withdraw.
I see the world through doctor-colored glasses. I know the track marks that hide under those hoodies and the deep abscesses that have made my medical students turn green with their nausea of their not-yet-jaded humanity. My nausea center has been dulled. Ah, yes, another limb lost, another putrid smelling muscle with infection to the bone. Heroin must be pretty sweet to suffer the nightmarish pus balls that cling onto your heart valves, where your very life-blood pumps by and flows into your arteries and veins and sends satellites of death to every inch of your body, brain to toes. Can you blame those bacteria? They too need to live, and drug addicts are just so nice to provide a cozy and welcoming home.
I see the world through doctor-colored glasses. When I run, I know the power of my heart and my muscles and the clarity of my mind and the way the endorphins make me feel. Maybe without running, I would look elsewhere for those endorphins. Maybe in a bottle or a needle or a joint or some powdery shit I would sniff right up my tender nose without shame. Or maybe I would have shame, but not enough to keep me from stealing things from people I love just to get more of that feeling. If I had shame I would hide it in my complaints about how the world is so hard and it has caused me so much pain that my only choice is to hurt myself. Anyone I hurt around me? Well, in times of war, there has to be collateral damage.
I see the world through doctor-colored glasses. I have seen people saw off parts of their bodies while under the veil of drug psychosis. Good parts, like legs and penises. I have watched people smoke cigarettes through their tracheostomy. I have treated people for burns induced by smoking next to their oxygen tank. I have had people swear at me for denying them more cigarettes, more drugs, more alcohol, as if I took an oath to pull a pin out of a grenade and hand it to my patient just because they think it would be a good idea to cradle a grenade in their precious hands and watch themselves explode.
I see the world through doctor-colored glasses. Which means sometimes that I lose hope. It means, also, that sometimes I see miracles and sit back amazed once again at the machine called human being. It means that I studied hard to put people right even when they insist on fucking themselves right back up.
My doctor-colored glasses hold no super powers, as it turns out. I mean, I can diagnose your acoustic neuroma for sure. And I am as about as nerdy as they come. But it has not saved me from the deepest sadness I have ever known. One of these days, I may need to call one of my dear colleagues to treat my very own child, almost a man actually now, who has decided to walk down the favorite path of destruction of this ironically gorgeous, generous, life-affirming town of ours.
Doctors like to say: prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
Some days, all I can do is breathe, and that barely, for the paralysis of grief that possesses me.
Some days, I just reach for what is good in my life, and hold on.
I just hold on.