As I sit 2,000 miles away and watch my hometown and my home state recover from the walloping Hurricane Harvey unleashed on them, I am less riveted by the facts of it (though the graphic below does blow me away a bit) and more drawn to the stories of humans helping humans (and animals, for that matter). The story of the Mexican bakers trapped inside their bakery for two days making hundreds upon hundreds of loaves of bread for the community, which were then waiting for shelters when the bakers were finally rescued. The people forming a human chain to rescue an elderly man caught in rapid waters. The tales of people just getting in their boats and starting to rescue people trapped in their homes. Mattress Mack opening his furniture showrooms so evacuees could sleep there. This disaster is terrible, for sure, and will have horrible long-term consequences for the region, but I’m trying hard to focus on community and human kindness.
I’m in the mind of community these days because something amazing happened to me since I wrote that last entry about dealing with my chronic pain. A couple of friends set up a crowdfunding site in my name to ease the financial burden of these ketamine treatments, which are hella expensive. (Because god forbid experimental treatments be covered by insurance.)
When you are sick or in pain, freaking out about money is the last thing you want to be doing. You’re supposed to be focused on getting better not trying to figure out if you’re going to pay for your meds or pay the electric bill. That my friends realized this and wanted to do something about it is overwhelming enough. That the campaign raised $5,000 in three days is an emotional monsoon. That The Wife and I have such a quality community is in and of itself a gift.
Look, I’ve always been lucky in friendships. My entire life I have known some amazing people---from high school to college to post-college in Houston to all of the people I’ve met in the 21 years I’ve been in the Bay Area---I have been lucky enough to call some of the funniest, wittiest, smartest, weirdest, most compassionate people my friends. But this goes above and beyond. The Wife and I watched in amazement as the money kept coming in, knowing that this would be one less thing we’d have to worry about. The relief and gratitude we both felt is indescribable. Our community gave us a gift of security that is, literally, priceless.
I’m going to try and document my experiences as I go through a variety of experimental treatments to try and tame my angry feet. The first is the ketamine, but I’ll also be seeing a guy in the North Bay who is having great success with the new science of neural plasticity, which is essentially retraining your brain to think of pain in a completely different way. I’m excited about the latter as I really have no idea what to expect.
The ketamine though. I’m currently in my second round of treatments now. It hasn’t been as effective as I expected given all the miraculous tales of people with neuropathy finding relief. I’ve gotten about 20% relief, but we’re talking about FEET. I’m grateful for any relief, of course, but if the end result is that I still can’t do much without being in pain, then it’s not really a success. I am grateful that my day-to-day pain is assuaged a bit, but I still can’t walk six blocks without being in agony.
The trips I go on when the ketamine is administered are a little insane. I do love me some party drugs, but having taken seven trips now, I can honestly say, this is not the drug I’d choose for a night on the town. I mean, I’m guessing environment has a lot to do with it. I’m not with friends at a club, drinking and smoking and having a good time. I’m in a clinic in a recliner attached to an IV pole. I do try and make the most of these trips though---I bring an eye mask and put it and my Beats on. I listen to crazy music while the drugs are coursing through me---lots of chanting, didgeridoos, tinkling bells, you know...total hippie shit. Songs with words would be distracting, and I find the nature of this kind of music pairs well with the kind of experiences I have while under.
The thoughts I have are pretty indescribable. Literally, I don’t have words to express the experiences I’m having. There is a feeling of light and love and oneness with the universe---all the stereotypical party drug experiences. I feel like I’m just floating through the universe on my little recliner taking everything in, wide-eyed and open-minded, as I should be even when I’m not under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. There’s lots of bird’s-eye views of things, lots of floating above cities, forests, oceans, planets, rooms. And I feel warm and happy, nothing is scary, and I’m eager for what I’ll see next.
It’s then pretty surreal to come down from love, light, bliss, and oneness back to the real world where everyone hates one another and we are all screaming at each other in real life and online. Where people are angry about parking tickets and the stupid lady at the gym and the car that just cut us off. In addition to helping me with my pain, I’m hoping these treatments seep over into my brain enough to hold onto the peace-love-harmony perspective in real life. But if me screaming at the crazy lady who almost sideswiped me while I was driving down the street---who then started screeching at ME and calling me a “fat dyke” as though she didn’t just nearly take out the entire driver’s side of my car---is any indication, I still have a long way to go. As is evidenced by the fact that when at the light, I rolled down my window and gave her some choice words and some even choicer finger gestures, laughing at her while all the veins popped in her forehead. You could safely say I’m still a work in progress in this department.
But aren’t we all? We all spend so much time thinking about the next thing we need to do to either improve ourselves or our lives that we never pause, look around, and say “Fuck man, life is good right now.” And this crowdfunding thing? Another gift my friends gave me was a very tangible reason to pause, take a deep breath, smile, and count my lucky stars for my community.
And I know Texans on the Gulf Coast are doing the same right now. Because without community, we are nothing. There is nothing to keep us tethered here; nothing to make us accountable; nothing to lift us up when the waters are racing around us, threatening to whisk us away. Community is the shelter in the storm, y’all.
And it’s good to be reminded of that every now and then.
California is my soul, but Texas is my heart..