Friday, November 4, 2011
I'm spending days in a hospital where my father is recovering from surgery, and am struck by the intensity of the place. A kinetic, bustling high-stakes hive where people are being kind to each other because they are on emotional edges. I don't think hospitals always feel like this, or even this hospital always feels like this - but right now I'm seeing soft, tender threads connecting everyone.
Spent a day in the surgery waiting room watching movies on silent - Clash of the Titans, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Harry Potter - feeling grateful for the visuals, the running jumping dancing fighting dying bodies flashing on and offscreen - distracting attention from one beloved body behind closed doors going through a gauntlet. The waiting room was filled with people distracting themselves from anxiousness. But the empathy filling the room, I could have cut it with a knife. Some people praying, some reading, some sleeping, some having gruff or joking conversations. Most, at some moment, smiling across the room at a stranger, or talking on a cell phone, voice quavering.
The web of concern spread beyond the room, out in the world - so much attention coming in, from far away, whirling and twining into thick strands and converging in glittering arrays over, under, and upon the operating rooms.
The high-and-low live-or-die of it made me understand why surgeons and doctors and nurses want to work there, drink up this intensity, live off of it. I was drinking too - this moment with humanity tasted like being ecstatically alone, like being at a really good party, like being in a really good church, like saying hello to God.
My sister Monica was my backstage curtain wrangler in this week's rite.