How it all started...
I was driving my husband to an appointment in Silverdale. He’d been home for about six days after spending over a week in the hospital. Ten inches of his colon had been removed, along with a tumor the size of a tangerine and a small portion of his bladder. He’d lost twenty eight pounds.
The morning after his surgery he was sporting five different tubes. One draining the wound. One releasing his waste. One pumping his stomach. One draining his bladder. And the final tube pumping medicine and liquid nutrients into his arm. He was conscious when I arrived.
What do you do the morning after a long evening of surgery? Well if you’re my husband Lloyd and it’s a Sunday in October you’re watching the Seahawks in a hospital gown hooked up to a bunch of machines. Looking back it seems a little comical given the fact we were waiting for a cancer diagnosis.
Despite the fact I could only manage my life in twenty minute increments, the week progressed in fits and starts leaving me befuddled and exhausted. By Tuesday evening we were given the surprise news that Lloyd’s tangerine was an infected diverticula. Now all he had to do was get better.
After some slow progress involving a lot of vomit, his body finally started digesting the non-hospital food I brought him and Lloyd was allowed to go home to recover. So there we were nearly a week later headed to another appointment. The drive was an hour away so we employed his favorite way to pass time in the car: a podcast. Lloyd’s favorite podcast is The Art of Manliness. I’ve grown fond of it too after many road trips.
We made our way westward along Highway 16 and my eyes relaxed, soothed by the sudden appearance of more trees than traffic. The podcast got under way and our conversation ended. The author of Dark Horse, Todd Rose was being interviewed by the host Brett McKay and I listened intently to the research behind the book, fascinated by the premise, agreeing with the critique of American public education and thoroughly enjoying the conversation.
As the conversation progressed Todd explained the need to honestly answer the question “what motivates you?” I hardly heard anything else after that except for snippets as I drove along peeling back every action in my life to find moments of true satisication. It took a while. All the obvious things that a person should identify weren’t cutting it.
And there it was. Just there, just beyond my ego. The moment in my day when I can absorb the mosaic of another human life, when my curiosity can be sated by what it’s like to be you.
We left the appointment and started the car ride back. Time for the next podcast. Brett McKay introduced Gillian Sandstrom and she began to explain her research about how some people are uncomfortable talking to complete strangers and others are not. I glanced over at Lloyd who was staring at the road ahead and began laughing. He gave me a look.
It’s well known in my family that I will talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime, any place without reservation. My daughter and husband treat this as some kind of unfortunate personality quirk that they suffer through to be part of my life.
I was a shy child. My family moved around a lot because my dad was in the Air Force and I had to reinvent myself more often than most children. I think it really gained momentum when I left college and I was around kids most of the day. I craved adult conversation so perhaps in my desperation I began random conversations with anyone. It’s all too jumbled for me to pinpoint an exact moment. All I know is weather, socks, football, gluten free recipes, restaurant recommendations, gardening tips, births, deaths, the state or condition of the nation or the restroom, and countless other topics have passed my lips on a daily basis and it never occurs to me that’s odd to talk with about them with complete strangers.
Somewhere just before the toll booth on Highway 16 these two seemingly unrelated podcasts merged and my subconscious yelled “hey you!”
I don’t particularly seek out linear feel good stories though I do enjoy them. Their formula is comfortably familiar. Part one… my life is unfulfilling. Part two… a crisis occurs and I must find a new reaction… Part three… I react. Part four… Now my life is better than ever. Then part five… I am an inspiration to others. But most human experience isn’t like that.
The life of a human being is marvelously complex and sometimes from afar deceptively mundane, which is why I like any story. I’m carried along with it while I listen, ask questions, imagine what it’s been like and filter through someone else’s reality.
My life has been unsettled lately. My daughter left for college. My husband’s health scare took him to unchartered places and I was whisked along too, trapped in the side car. I’ve been working on the second novel in my Pacific Northwest YA time travel adventure series while I try to find a publisher for the first and damned if nothing else matters some days except the books. My professional job is starting to feel rote, lacking in spontaneity. So it suddenly felt like time to shift how I see the world, which is why I decided to become a curator of what’s it’s been like to be you.