Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hours in the Day

As I sit here at nine thirty three in the evening wondering where my night of diligent study went, I find myself writing based on a title that just seemed to fit: "Hours in the Day." I have no idea what this means,

but I can guess.

Looking back at the week, hours turn into seconds - snowflakes in a globe - flitting by like weeks in a year.

Think back to last year: to March. Now think about where you were sometime near the beginning of that month. At the time that week - that second, that moment - was paramount in its importance. It was

The Emperor of Oranges.

And now?

Like anandamide - from the Sanskrit word for "inner bliss" (thanks Michael Pollan) - time is the great hypnotist, "Now,

sleep. And when you awake you shall remember nothing of this-"

But where does it go? The time? The hours in the day? Why this relativity?

As I sat across from Santa Clause this afternoon in the clinic, his timing was off. Like many older folks - especially those who've just had an episode or two of unbreathing - their social is slower than ours. There are just more steps.

It starts with careful listening. Then thinking back on what was said. Translation. Interpretation. And response.

Our brains work so fast, this only takes a second or two but damned if those seconds don't take forever. In those seconds my mind wanders to lunchtime lectures, later ventures and past experiences of grace wh-

He's Back

"And, Mr. Clause, how much prednisone did they give you when you left the hospital?" Arteries are important this block. Gotta draw some out and work on mneumonics, no, too much info. Maybe pictographs for-

"Bout twenty-four. Gone ta run-out on Wednesday."
"Okay, great, and how about your albuterol?" Speaking of arteries, I wonder how my heart is doing - no palpitations since that last- and what's going on with the truck today? I know I'm supposed to help- Shit and Kai, I meant to send Matt with a letter today. Two weeks is a long time for a third grader to-

"Ya know I can't remember what they said'bout that."
"That's okay. Do you remember anything else the doctors said?" Driving North tomorrow feels great. Fellows'll be in the lab Sunday, but class can wait. Amazing how good you get at cramming in med school. Cracking Matt's rib was cool. Must do more of that. And get Someone to teach me cranial. How weird when that lecture went over time and Hartman-

"That's okay, I'm sure we can find the records. How do you spend your days, Mr. Clause?" Mmm and sweet, soft-

"Smoking Cigaaas an' Junkin' Up Ma Lungs. HA! *cough-hack-couch ugh* Ha ha."
"Right. Ha. Indeed. I was kind of in the middle of something. Tell me, how many cigars do you smoke?" It's like this medium has out lived its purpose. I mean, it's obvious I'm creating a visual for how I cram a lot of thoughts into mere seconds of space, but isn't this overdoing it? Come-on, right? These are intelligent folks; they 'got it' ten lines ago. Is it really worth-

In those short moments between natural pauses in conversation (and elongated ones), I captured more from my recent history - the past week, the past day, the past hour - than I could of any random day in the past year, any week in the past two years, or any month in the past five years. Hell, go back a decade and I struggle to come up with that much vivid and focused memory for an entire year.

We remember glimpses - pictures - to be sure. And, yes, hard pressed I could remember all manner of things from those times given a specific event, a place, a story or postcard. I can remember mini golf with sixth graders and orange hair because I saw a photo of me playing mini golf with sixth graders and orange hair. I can localize that one fuzzy event to the springtime - or Fall - no. Summertime - because I was wearing shorts. I could've sworn it was Fall. Sometime when I was working with fith'n'sixth graders - must be about a decade ago - I would've been 16ish. What year was that?

I wonder if this is why older people always give you the year to go with a story. Like a fine Cabernet, they value the vintage. Is this because that's how we reorganize our brains when we get older, or is it just the fancy of another generation? I'd like to think it's because there are so many memories crammed into a few short years that timestamping stories is a way to solidify depth in a life that can only comprehend slivers. More likely than not it just helps with filing the stories away for easy access later. Still, there's something to that- that finite lens.

It's almost an hour since I started typing, and I'm far too sleepy to proofread before posting. If you're skimming to the end after a shameful beginning, forgive me now and come back later. I'll fix it by then. Otherwise, the moral of the story is we see life in slivers and the depth we have today will be flat and beige tomorrow. The only way to sustain Meaningful is to renew it as often as it takes to keep fresh glimpses of it accessible at moment's notice: in the time it takes Santa Clause to remember his prescriptions.


  1. I remember when your hair was orange... you and Kate were the epitome of cool to me, the little fifth'n'sixth grader.

    I've been poking around a little, and I'm impressed you have time to write anything so deep while you're going through medical school... nursing school is hard enough :)

    Thanks for sharing!