This will be a surprise to no one, but one of my defenses is to make jokes. It’s also one of my hobbies and oftentimes part of my job and something which brings me joy. But it’s definitely a defense, too. Recently Marvin and I were at a support group for people with parakeets and they were talking about portacaths. For those who don’t know, a portacath is a catheter implanted under the skin for people who need to be given IV drugs frequently or whose veins need to be accessed often (as in chemo or apparently hemodialysis, thank you wikipedia) and it saves unnecesary wear and tear on the veins and skin and instead puts it in the chest. See, I just made a joke and it wasn’t even funny. The point is everyone recommends these portacath things even though Marvin was resisting but more on that later. So there’s also something called (or referred to) as a “power port” which is like a portacath but has two areas that needles can be inserted into, or something. There was some discussion in the group about the differences. “What else can you do with a power port?” asked someone. “You can plug a hair dryer into it!” I wanted to yell, time and time again. I’m pretty sure everyone appreciated my biting the inside of my cheek instead. Then later a woman was talking about how she’d had a whole bunch of stuff removed and if she needed surgery again she wasn’t sure what was left to take. “Your money!” I wanted to yell. I’m pretty sure that one would have been met with laughter and applause and quite possibly the entire support group (“for patients, caregives welcome”) would have fallen at my feet and asked if I’m a professional. Then they would have told Marvin how lucky he/she is to have me around since my effervescent outlook surely keeps the dread at bay. I tell myself and Marvin this all the time. But I didn’t say it on the off chance that instead of making me queen of the support group they might turn on me and wonder who let this person who doesn’t even have The Marvins speak.
Anyway, Marvin availed him/herself of the portacath mostly because he/she was being pressured into it and it turns out that it was not the big nothing kind of outpatient procedure we’d been hoping for but instead the doctor was right when he said it would feel like someone punched you in the chest. I mean, it was outpatient and on the scale of procedures at the hospital not a major one, but Marvin was in pain after and was also kind of angry and just not having any of it.
So then the day after, Marvin and I went to a meditation class a the hospital not because Marvin wanted to but because he/she though it would probably be a good idea since the class is to reduce stress and learn to manage anxiety.
Though I don’t regularly meditate I’m fairly open to all that airy hippie shit and read self-help books and have had my head shrunk on numerous occasions and think it’s important and so it wasn’t hard for me to get into the groove. To grok it. To dig it. To vibe with it. To feel it. I’m noticing that apparently the only phrases that are coming to me are ones I’d never use because I’m not an asshole. Or rather I’m not that kind of asshole. Language has turned on me! Anyway, you get my point. Marvin on the other hand is trying to be open to meditation but I’m pretty sure fell asleep and slept through the class. I meanwhile imagined myself in a tiny canoe made out of a peapod, like the kind a mouse would ride in a Disney storybook, and I was bobbing along peacefully in the gentle waters in my peapod boat, listening to myself breathe in and out. The sky was reddish and I’m pretty sure my friends, The Rescuers, were nearby.
But then the woman leading the class told us to imagine we were standing on a beach, either in the sun or in the moonlight, and I chuckled a little to myself because couldn’t she tell I was in a boat? I was really enjoying the boat, too, and I didn’t want to have to come in to shore. Bitch kept talking though and before long I had to drop anchor and stand on the beach, which is not a euphemism in this case.
Then I started thinking about little Marvin and how I’d walked in on Marvin wearing an old, faded oversized pajama top that buttons in a way that doesn’t irritate the portacath, eyes red and rimmed with tears beneath his/her glasses with a bereft look on his/her face that said, “I’m breaking, I don’t know how to do this anymore,” the daily bullshit suddenly stretching out into a path of discomfort so total it obliterated the ability to hold out hope, to cling to small pleasures, to imagine a time the calendar won’t hold a series of frightening and possibly painful appointments, to feel safe in his/her body again.
And suddenly I ached to hug Marvin, to protect Marvin with my own body. And I began crying, thinking about how I wished I could just pick Marvin up on my own back and carry him/her until he/she was strong again. I imagine this is how a parent feels when their child is in pain. And the fusing of me with Marvin was so complete it simply became a situation where I’m in pain because Marvin is in pain. And then I wasn’t really meditating anymore, I was just sobbing.