Trying Out: Skydiving (Week 31)

Trying Out: Plummeting thousands of feet and not dying (Week Thirty-One)

It is silly to suggest that I am brave enough to jump out of a plane.  It courts death, is sheer lunacy, and involves a risky nature that I do not possess.

Being pushed out of a plane, however, is doable.

I have no kids, no great debts that someone else would have to take up.  This year I learned that two friends, both highly intelligent, had engaged in the risky sport.  If they were capable of such feats, surely it was not that foolish.

Again, with my life soon to be up in the air, I used the vast wisdom that was the internet.  (There has to be some sort of thesis on how we literally put our lives in Yelp’s hands.)  The first thing I looked up was the number of people that die from skydiving each year.  Apparently, out of the select millions of folks that partake each year, only about twenty-four die from it.  I can handle those odds.

Apparently there was a pretty great skydiving place about twenty minutes from me.  It had some astonishingly high Yelp reviews.  I did not know it was possible for the internet to have this many kind things to say about a company.  All you have to do is not-kill people and they love you.

I looked at their prices, poked around, and booked an appointment.

The day of, I continually offered God opportunities to get me out of it.  Want there to be too much traffic?  No?  How about if my car breaks down?  Or runs out of gas?  No?  I am here… are we doing this?  Okay then.

The only one “sign” I saw from God was an actual one.  It seemed to encourage my recklessness.  A billboard with a line of scripture proclaimed, “I am with you always.”  I took “always” to mean “during freefall”.

If I have learned anything this year, it is that there is paperwork for everything.  This is never truer than when people do not want to be sued for shoving you out of a plane.

I get it.  I do.  I expected as much.  The eight to eleven pages would have scared off the meeker folks.  I have no great fear of death, but I had a concern about my legs and my back.  I could think of several scenarios where I would end up with broken legs, a fractured spine, a dislocated vertebrae; my imagination pulls its weight.  Yet, I signed and signed and signed.

As I was registering and paying my fees, I asked the guy behind the desk how many deaths they had had.  I was not too worried about one or two, since they have several flights a day, five days a week.

He informed me that in the sixteen years they had been in business, they had not had one fatality.

That is a pretty impressive safety record.  In the last six years, they have only had one rolled ankle.  Whatever concern I had at that point was more or less removed.

I went to wait with my other pushovers.  We watched a ten minute video, practiced our “arches” and “leg lifts” on carpet, and were constantly reminded that this was a fun moment in our lives, not a somber one.

The staff was all rather friendly.  I suspect that they have to maintain a calming and cheery presence to put the rest of us at ease.  “Just another day folks, why not smile?”

There was a small child who must have just turned eighteen.  There was a gal celebrating her birthday.  There was a fellow who had come straight from work, complete with cowboy boots.  I believe only one of our ten or so had skydived before.  Clearly we were all a little nutso in the head.

We went outside, put on some flight suits, and met our instructors.  I think most people had paid a little extra for the video package.  Maybe if you are a repeat customer, you should start removing extravagancies.  However if this is a once in a lifetime occurrence?  Go for broke.

The jovial instructors harnessed us up, pausing here and there to address the GoPro cameras, and then we walked to a little plane.  It was probably the equivalent of a Cessna.  They had ripped out the chairs and bolted seatbelts to the floor.  (We had been warned that we were all going to be nestled between the legs of the person behind us.  There was mingling of crotches and butts.  Oh well.)  A portion of the side of the plane had been removed and replaced with a roll-up plastic.  Imagine a garage door, but transparent and slightly sketchy-looking.  Not as suspicious as the fact that part of the cabin interior was pulling off the ceiling; yet it was a hair suspicious.

The plane took off slowly with nineteen people inside.  The fumes gave an odor to the plane rather quickly.  Also, the fires in Canada were starting to get bad when I did this, so the air quality was beginning to decline.  We kept getting higher and higher, gaining altitude, and the instructors kept acting like it was just another day.  (Apparently, everyone that dove out of a plane in 2011 called out, “YOLO!” as they jumped.  Yes, You Only Live Once.  Do not yell it though.)

I wished the woman beside me happy birthday.  I saw the plane finally break through the clouds.  The very top of Mt. Baker greeted me.  I felt calm the whole time.  There was sun.  There was a snow-capped mountain.  The plane had not crashed.  Everything was fine.

The staff showed off their lack of high-tech communicators by yelling back and forth across the cabin.  “Altitude!”  “Ten thousand!”  “Got it!  Nineteen on board!”  “Copy!”

The door got closer and closer.  They had opened it early because two individuals were skydiving on their own.  They jumped out of their own free will.  Kooks.  After them, the plane hit 13,500 feet.  I felt myself being unbuckled.  Adjustments were made to my harness, and a disturbingly thin helmet was placed on my head.  Still I was pushed closer to the door.  People in front of me were disappearing from the view.  My turn was coming closer and closer.

Before I knew it, there I was, sitting at the edge of a plane.  My feet were dangling out into the air.  Land was waaaaay below me.  Half of my brain yelled out, “What are you doing!?!?!?”  The other calmly replied, “Well, too late to back out now.  If you die, you die.”  (I will be honest; the trip to Newberg scared me more than this did.)

And that is when I was shoved out of a plane.

Now, in the instructions, they tell you had to brace your arms and legs.  How to face the horizon and not the ground.  How to have fun.  The part that they skim over?  The part that they mention for five seconds?

How to breathe.  I could have used some help on that part.

We were either instructed to breathe through our mouths or breathe through our nose.  I could not remember which.  So I did both.  I forced air out and in as much as I could, but I still had a hard time getting air into my system.  (I think that is why, if you watch the video, my cheeks fluttered so much while others’ do not.  I was fighting for air.  And losing.)

I suppose I could have panicked.  It would have been rather ironic to run out of air in my lungs when surrounded by nothing but air.  Yet I was getting small amounts here or there.  I told myself to enjoy the rush.  When falling at one hundred and eighty to one hundred and twenty miles per hour, there is only so long a problem can last.  I only had to hang in there a little bit longer.

Then the parachute opened.

It was uplifting.  Really.  We spend so much time with our feet on solid ground.  Weightlessness is a hard feat to come by.  This was a parachute pulling me up in the air with no limbs or gravity being felt.  That sensation of feeling yourself fly up was euphoric.  It only lasted a few seconds, but it was absolutely fantastic while it happened.

Plus, you know, I could breathe.  The instructor checked in with me.  He answered my questions about his favorite places to skydive.  (He had done this for thirteen or so years; jumping in Europe, across America, and in thunderstorms.)  He offered me the controls.  I held them just long enough to seem polite.  I could feel myself getting airsick as it quickly careened this was and that.  Let the professionals control the one device that is slowing our descent.  (I maintain that you do not put a toddler behind the wheel their first time in a car.)

As I slowly descended onto the city below, a little phrase entered my mind.  It repeated itself a few times.  “I’m freakin’ Batman.”  Even nerds like their outdoor activities.

The technique they used to soften our landing was a legs-up approach.  They like to slide into the land, not fall straight down.  I lifted my legs to be perpendicular to my body.  This let the instructor’s legs touch down first and he slid us onto firm ground.

Voila.  They got me out of their gear, they gave me water bottle, and we all went back to our routine.

It is amazing how not-dying makes you feel around people.  “Hope you had fun” and “See you next time” phrases were called out to my fellow skydivers.  You survived falling to your almost-death.  Why not be happy?

The first thing I did when I got home was to call my parents.  I had not told anyone that I was skydiving.  I pictured the scene when my emergency contacts got a phone call.  “Yes, this is Philip’s brother.  What?  Where?  He would never….  Where is this airfield?”  Yeah, better not to worry folks in advance.  I was reasonably sure I would be fine; no need to stress people out.

So I called Lady and Poppers and informed them of what I had just done.  I expected a lecture.  I expected outrage.  I thought they would be upset.  Nope.  They laughed.  They were somewhere between astonished and delighted.   Go figure.

I received a text message from my sister the next day.  She lives a few miles from my parents.  “You did WHAT yesterday?”  Nice to know I can still catch my family off guard.

Part of me wishes I was not so even-keeled.  As you will soon see, there was no great reaction from me.  No screaming, no cursing, no elation.  I took in my current state, analyzed it, and tried to go with it.  I get more excited watching The LEGO Batman Movie.  I am typically glad I do not freak out much in life.  Yet this was a time when it would have been nice to have some more gut-reactions.

Regardless, I was crazy enough to do something risky, something nuts; and nobody can take that away from me.  Screw you logic!  Take that, safety!

Normally I do not embed videos.  It clogs up loading speeds.  However, I think you will understand why I made an exception.  And yeah, I would do it again.  After all, nothing with horribly awry.

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Trying Out: Catching Up (Weeks 29, 30, and 32)

I know it is time to catch up.  And not every event deserves its own entry.  Thus, we shall attack the last month or so on three fronts.

Actively Listening (Week Twenty-Nine)

I tend to socialize as little as possible on Sundays.  There may be a person or two I want to hear more from, and I care about folks, but Sunday is my day to recharge.  This week though, I made the effort.  I was at church early enough that I was able to catch up with two gals.  One spoke of her ailment, how it brought her closer to her family, and how she was able to keep a joyful spirit about her.  Another informed me of her past as a gymnast, how it had done a number on her, and how things were going with her parents.

After church, I drove out to my brother’s to deliver a comic book.  And the family invited me in.  And I declined.  And then they insisted.  So I joined in, watched videos that my nieces had created and took in a slideshow of the recent trek out into the wilderness.

My default is to run back home and couch-out.  A little human contact now and then, especially with those I care about, is good for me.

Volunteering (Week Thirty)

I can be a rather lazy volunteer.  One organization that I help with asks that I contribute thirty hours a year.  I barely do ten.  So, for their annual fundraiser, I stood around for a whopping four hours.  I helped set up portable sinks.  (Those pumps inside that power the water flow?  Yeah, sometimes they do not work.  Silly health code; why cannot we have stagnant water?)  I walked vendors back and forth so they would not get lost on the six-acre complex.  In short, I fulfilled a small quota of what I was normally too lazy to do.

Long walk/ Netflix (Week Thirty-Two)

Everyone is on Netflix.  Everyone.  Except me.  The library DVDs tend to work well enough for me.  (Hint:  If you lick a DVD and then dry it off, you can make almost any smudged disc perform.  Gross, but true.  However if someone cracks the dang thing; well, then you are stuck.)

That week I was also donating platelets for the second time.  (Success!  No constant sinus pressure!  No headache!  Yay!)  And this time I used the iPad that they offered me.  Good thing too, since I was in that chair for about two hours.

And on that iPad?  Netflix.  (Shrugs)  It was fine.  Much like Amazon Prime, I think you could spend a lot of time watching things that you do not really care about.  Having the option to stream a multitude of choices is simply too great a temptation for me.  I could sit there watching random videos until my eyeballs fall out.  But for this small usage,  I only watched one episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  Now I can say I have used Netflix.  No mailing red envelopes though.  Sigh.

Also, the next day I took a long walk.  If I walk to work and home, it is a total of eleven miles.  I used to do this every week.  That was years ago when my knees were younger.  Buses have gotten me complacent.

I felt it was time to log some miles.  So, in temperatures that were hovering around the mid-eighties, and with my body flirting with dehydration thanks to the previous day’s blood-letting, I made the excursion.  I was thoroughly pooped and just this side of dizzy when I arrived home, but I did, as many ads suggest I do, beat the heat.


“But wait!  What about week thirty-one?  Or did you forget how to count?”

I promise, thirty-one deserves its own entry.  Thirty-one was the oddest, craziest, (dumbest?) thing I will probably do this year.  So hang in there.

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Trying Out: Decorating (Week 28)

Trying Out: Poster Time (Week Twenty-Eight)

I am not a great decorator.  I have no plants sprucing things up, I really do not dust, and the dresser I have is the same one I had in elementary school.  If it works, I use it.

As a guy who cares about mass media, I do have a certain fondness for movies and comics.  And working for a long time in a movie theater means that one has their pick of promotional posters.

That is how I have ended up with three or four Batman posters.  I thoroughly enjoy the Nolan trilogy.  I have fond memories of watching all three at work.  And I always thought I should hang them up next to each other.  You know, show the progression and have them in order.

But laziness has always won out.  “Hanging posters?  Then they would have to be even!  And I cannot have crooked posters.  If I do not measure right, then the nails would create lots of holes in the wall.  What would my landlord say?  And the frames I have already have posters in them.  What if I crease a poster?  Or even worse… tear one?  No, I had better leave the chore for another day.”

Enough.  You know those fancy LASER levels that they sell?  You stick them ono a wall and they project a beam of light that is level across the room.  That sounds expensive to me.  I prefer to take a piece of thread, measure and place it a set distance from the ceiling, and scotch-tape a base line across the wall.  Leveling problem solved.  When all was said and done, I only had to adjust one of the nails I hammered into the wall.  I call that a victory.


Now, hanging over a bunch of comics that are not worth much to anyone but me, are a nicely spaced wall of posters and sketches that I got for free but mean plenty to me.  I get a constant view of the two hobbies I care about most and all the memories that go with them.

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Trying Out: Nuthin’ (Week 27)

Trying Out: Doin’ zilch.  (Week Twenty-Seven)

What did I do different this week?


I had a cat I had very little affection for.  I had a job that was being a little stressful.  I missed Mylar.  I was moody.

So yeah, I took a week off. 

I worked, came home, watched television, went to bed, and went to work.  Riveting stuff.

I gave myself permission to miss my cat, be in a funk, and just go through the motions.

So I did nuthin’.


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Trying Out: Cat Adoption (Week 26)

Trying Out: New Cat Time (Week Twenty-Six)

As I have told several people in the last few weeks, I am a cataholic.  And I refuse to seek treatment.

So, a week after Mylar’s end, I went searching for another cat.  One can only come home to an empty apartment so many times.

The shelters put the kittens up front.  They sit there, all nuzzled up against their siblings, complete with a window so that passersby get their heartstrings pulled.  However, these folks believe that kittens under the age of six to eight months should be adopted in pairs.  Apparently they behave better that way.

Two felines mewling for food at four a.m.?  Two sets of litter boxes to clean up?  Twice the vet bills?  Maybe if I had a spouse.  Then we could each “have” a cat.  Yet I do not.  So no.

I told the staff that I was looking for a cat that was still young, but that they did not need to be a kitten.  I have nothing against older cats.  However I would like to spend as much time with them as possible.  Taking in a six year-old who gets a mystery disease a year later and is gone just like that?  I at least need a fighting chance.

IMG_2236 (1024x646)There was the part of me that felt the need to adopt the older cats.  Someone has to give them a home.  What if that someone was me?  Why should I withhold a warm home, free of dog barking, tail-pulling, and traveling owners?

The staff person told me that the animals there had a quick turnaround.  That absolved me of much of my mercy-guilt.  Besides, I wanted a cat that I could get along with, not put up with.  (Also, I have spent several months of handling peeing/pooping problems.  I was ready for a break.)

So I petted, but passed up, the four year-old fluff-ball with sleepy eyes.  I kept my distance from the three year-old that had notes on her file about needing help acclimating to her environment.  And I maintained my family’s stance against male cats.  That left Nala.

Nala is currently one year and ten months.  She is young.  She acts like it.  If not for the shaved belly and protruding nipples full of milk that she had when I first saw her, you would never know that she had already birthed six kittens.  She is a fighter.  She has a scratching post now.  She uses it.  If any scrap piece of paper is left on the ground, she will shred it.  (Which is just great for someone who collects comics.  Yikes.)

She hissed more at me in the first weekend than Mylar did in our entire time together.  Nala has very strong opinions.  She expresses them in attacking her chew toy, in her anger, and in her purring.  There is no façade with this cat.  No pretense.  No polite disapproval; simply rage.

For the most part, the adoption people were rather helpful.  I am sure I took at least thirty minutes going back and forth between the cats.  Nala would not have been my first choice.  I do not know how to handle a mother cat.  I like to think cats never have a reason to hiss at me.  So I took some time to think it over.  I had to decide if I wanted this cat around for the next fifteen years.

That is where the catch-part of adoption kicks in.  They have you sign this piece of paper saying that you will keep the cat for the entirety of their lifespan.  “Adopting a cat is a serious obligation and we will not let them play outside and we will be responsible for all their blahblahblah.”

It was hardly a legal contract.  They sure wanted it to be, though.  I felt like telling them, “If a person does not want to take care of a cat, this piece of paper is not going to change that.”  Their critique of the box I brought was a little vexing too.  However, Nala ended up peeing in the cardboard carrier they “strongly suggested” I buy, so nobody was happy with the situation.  (Shrug)

Yeah, she peed in the box.  The box was on the car seat.  (I am still trying to get the smell out.)  And some hissing.  Yes.  Clearly I made a wise acquisition.  “Peaceful transition” is not quite the right phrase.

IMG_2237 (1024x778)You know puppy love?  We do not have that.  Almost a month later and we are still adjusting to each other.  I do not want to chase her back and forth.  I prefer not to have blood dripping from my hand when we do play.  And boy, this gal is heavy.

Yet there is cause for hope.  When she purrs, she is not afraid to rub up against me.  She stops eating when she is full; a lesson Mylar never learned.  The only papers that she shreds are the scraps of mail that I leave strewn about the floor.  Her rather cute way of giving me attention is that she will lick my hair.  (And then sometimes try to bite my scalp.  Sigh.)

Clearly, Nala is not quite the Mylar that I said good-bye to.  But seventeen years ago, neither was Mylar.  These things take time.  It feels like when someone breaks up with you and you expect the next relationship to start off as great as you remember the last one being.  I figure we have some work to put in.  Maybe Nala will stop having berserker rages.  Maybe my skin will toughen up to claw-resistant levels.  Or maybe I will just keep trying to find our groove.

(Yet, at this very moment, a piece of paper is being bitten and clawed to pieces right beside me.  Oh Nala…)

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Trying Out: The Long Catnap (Week 25b)

Trying Out: Putting Mylar Down (Week Twenty-Five-b)

This was hardly something I wanted on my to-do list.  It was certainly on my, “I do not feel like doing this” list.  But darn it, she was ready to check out.

There were puddles of urine.  There was perpetual lethargy.  There was a cat so worn out by life , no matter how many fluids I gave her.  Mylar did not move a lot in her last few weeks.  The two photos here were taken on Tuesday.  I called out sick, told them that something had come up, had a family emergency, and could not get there.

IMG_2217 (893x1024)(Some higher-ups argue that a cat does not count as a death in the family.  Some higher-ups have not lived with a cat that was loyal to them for over seventeen years.  Some higher-ups do not need to know details and can, if they press further, bite me.)

Honestly, she could have called it quits before.  It was almost two years to the day when she had her last episode and spent four days in an emergency vet.  Mylar gave me two more years of friendship.  Two more years to say good-bye.  Two more years to relish in her companionship.

I spent thirty-six hours watching over her.  I kept wondering if that was going to be the day that I let her check out.  But she started to improve.  She would eat and hop up on the couch with me.  She lacked vim and vigor, yet she held up pretty well for an eighteen year old.  (With something like one hundred and twenty-six in people years?  She held up just fine.)

Wednesday she was eating some and I let her be.  Thursday she declined to eat.  I kept giving her fluids.  She never fully rebounded from our mutual day off.

Friday, when I came home from work, I knew.  She would flop into whatever position I put her in and lay there.  Her default spot was the litter box.  Granules stuck in her already-sunken eyes and around her nose.  We had paid the vet a visit on Tuesday.  It had been a wait-and-see visit.  Well, I waited.  And I saw.  And we went back to the vet on Friday.

I told myself, and her, that she was not going to die alone.  Mylar had been there for all the hard times in my life.  The least I could do was stay with her for as long as I could.

The vet was kind enough to help us out between patients.  They had a towel laid out on the counter.  It was a practical reminder that death can be hard and messy, in more ways than one.  I laid her down, and she slowly blinked.  The vet came in and injected a sedative.  He said it would take about three to five minutes, so I took her back and hugged her in my arms.

I sat down in the chair, letting her head rest against my chest.  I hugged her as my hand lightly petted her head.  At least a few times I told her the same thing I always did when she was stressed or sick or tired.  “It’s okay.  It’s okay.”

I wish her eyes would have fully closed when the sedative kicked in.  There would have been some permanence to it.  A notion of, “I am checked out”, would have helped.  Death is apparently not out to be convenient.  So I simply take comfort in knowing that whatever consciousness she had at the end was spent with me.  (No sidekick gets left behind.  Ever.)

IMG_2219 (800x630)The vet returned, injected the final drug, and he felt her vein for her pulse.  A minute or two later and she was gone.

I took her in my arms a last time.  How can you not hug your best friend good-bye?  Even then, I could feel how lightweight she had become.  There was no resistance.  As I set her down back on the counter, she felt more like a pelt than a pet.  I felt like a trapper, laying a furry product out for inspection.

They offered to cremate her privately.  I chose the public/ do-not-return option.  I had my cat.  I have photos of her.  I have memories that take up half a lifetime.  I do not need some fancy jar sitting around my apartment to remind me of that.

There were tears during the process.  There were tears in the car.  There were tears at home.  Weeks later, I still do not feel that I cried enough.  I guess that those two years we had at the end helped me.  I knew it was coming.  That softened the blow.  The little bleed-valve on my heart let out a little bit of grief each day.

Weeks later, I still miss Mylar.  I could not have loved her any more than I did.  We did not do everything perfect, but we did it our way.  I would not have traded any of it.

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Trying Out: Acupuncture (Week 25)

Trying Out: Getting Poked by Dozens of Tiny Needles (Week Twenty-Five)

I was raised in a rather meat and potatoes world.  You want to be healthy?  Go for a run.  Want muscles?  Do push-ups and sit-ups.  Brush your teeth.  That is it.  The end.  Health will follow.

In high school and college, the importance of deep breathing was introduced to me, mostly through theatre.  There was at least one year before all that where I was essentially popping Advil every day.  Oh, to be a teenager.

It was not until after college that I ever heard the word “holistic”.  “Herbal” was something I associated with marijuana and hippies.  I might go to my doctor for a check-up, but only when my work-provided insurance company required it.

Thus, I was one of the last people who would seek out acupuncture.  Whatever fear of needles I ever had was drained out of me after years of giving blood.  And an elderly man at church would sigh and tell how wonderful it felt after his last acupuncture appointment.  So, in the interest of doing something I had always thought was mysterious and possibly bloody, I gave it a shot.

Like most of my “Trying Out” activities, I approached in the wisest manner possible.  I typed a few words into a search engine and I looked at the top results.   One place offered me a twenty-one dollar initial appointment.  They had nice things said about them.  I was a bit leery because they were located right in the heart of downtown Seattle.  (See also:  Pricey.  They have to pay rent somehow.)  Still, it was close to my bus stop so I gave them a call.

Before I go any further, I should comment that the staff was remarkable.  Everyone I encountered was friendly, helpful, and pleasant.  When the boss encountered other patients, he would treat them as old friends; shaking their hands, meeting relatives, and examining scars from recent surgeries.  Highest marks were given to the staff.

But yeah.  There were some hippy/Eastern Medicine feelings going on.  They had clothes draped over each and every florescent light.  They were like little linens parachuting towards me, upside down.  There was bamboo leaning against the wall behind the chairs in the waiting room.  (One could tell that sometimes the bamboo acted out.  There were obvious scuffs and discoloration on the walls.)

The desk was surrounded by fake bamboo paneling.  Herbs and supplements were offered by the shelf-full.  There were posters and brochures explaining and proclaiming the virtues of Whole Body Vibration, Repetitive Cervical Correction, and Chinese Herbal Medicine.

Then there was the music.

It was exactly what I expected to be.  One would think there was someone, sitting out in the woods, near a quiet stream that was fed by a trickling waterfall, surrounded by smooth stones, with a bird perched on their knee, as they played quiet chords on their flute.  It drove me nuts.  I do not relax to breathy, wispy, ephemeral music.  I relax to silence.  Give me a quiet room and I am a fine.  I do not need faux-environments to transport me to my happy place.  However, I realize that some people do.  Perhaps others find the tunes to be healing.  I tend to feel that we all buy into the studio-produced woodsy music.  To each their own.

Oh, and the sweaters.  I cannot believe I almost forgot the sweaters.  Based entirely on my uninformed observations, it seemed like the frontline staff had a dress code.  That uniform was made up of loosely-fitting, light-density, wool sweaters.  The boss did not wear any, but the boss often put themselves above dress code.  (The perks of being boss.)  The acupuncturist did not wear any, but maybe they were too easy to get caught on needles?  Regardless, three women at work were wearing the same sweater-apparel.

The woman I spent the most time with had some rather nice features; including nice shoulders.  I could tell, because the sweater kept slipping down her arms and every five minutes she was absentmindedly have to pull up back up.  What it lacked in functionality and practicality it more than made up for in subtle humor and people watching.  Amusing work conditions aside, she was tremendous.  She spent about an hour going over all the paperwork.

deepworkAh yes, the paperwork.  Before I even saw a member on staff, I faced down the paperwork.  I figured, ancient medical technology; how much paperwork could there be just to be a few treatments.  Seven pages.  Seven, medical insurance, over-descriptive, symptom-questioning pages.  I almost gave up when they e-mailed the file to me.  However, it did save me half an hour of forms in their waiting room, so I did appreciate the advance homework.  It has to be said though.  Seven.  Pages.

Happily, my medical history is boring.  My knees hurt from years of jogging.  My neck has lots of muscles because when I have a difficult time, I clench my jaw.  Just like every other person in the workforce, I could probably use a back and shoulder massage.  That was it.  Despite their numerous questions on the forms, my poop, sexual performance, and breathing are all just fine.  Really?  Poop?

Despite my diligence with my assignment, the woman with the constantly sliding sweater went over all the questions with me.  She was thorough.  She was informative.  She knew all about the different procedures they had to offer but was content to start me off with acupuncture; that was her sole focus unless pressed for more information.  Despite my skepticism, at no point was I asked to stand on one leg, chant, and shove a root up my nose.

No needles were ever seen on the first appointment.  (Only after being there for an hour did they ask if I had any fear of needles.  Ah, timing.)  The woman suggested that I keep the first few appointments close together so that my body would not have time to forget what the needles were trying to do.  And that is an important point (unintentional pun) which I will go into later.

Next Monday I went in.  My insurance paid for twenty percent of the visit.  I paid for the rest.  I went into a room, took off my shoes and socks, and lay down on their bed.  The bed was electronically heated.  I dislike electric blankets.  I loathe heated-seats in cars.  But I could see how it would be helpful in winter months.  And they were the professionals, not me, so I kept quiet.

The acupuncturist came in and kindly informed me that I was laying the wrong side down.  Apparently massages and acupunctures are not the same thing.  Gads!  So I obligingly rolled over and faced up towards the ceiling.

My understanding is that I underwent distal acupuncture.  Apparently the knees are controlled by the elbows.  Picture everything as diagonal.  Legs equal wrists.  Do not quote me on your medical exams.  That is how I think it works.  More importantly for some, the needles were tiny.  As in, she had to pick them up in magazines of ten or twenty.  Those puppies were smaller than sewing needles (they were closer in width to thread).  And at no point did I see any blood.

She put about a half dozen needles in each limb, tapping them ever so gently.  Yeah, there was a sensation.  Someone was forcing a sharp implement into pristine skin.  Did it hurt?  Not really.  I compared it to getting stitches when the skin is numb.  You can feel them messing around, but you are never in agony.  Again, no blood.  (However she did dispose of the used needles in a biohazard box.  No human tissue lying around.)

Needles in place, she asked if I was okay, turned off the lights, and told me to, “Enjoy your nap”.  …  Really?  Lying there, pieces of metal protruding from much of my body; you think I will fall asleep?  Oh, and yes, let us not forget the omnipresent music.  I never actually heard a whale call, but I am sure it bellowed after I left.  When I take a nap, I curl up into the fetal position.  She just told me not to move.  Yet she also told me to enjoy.  Kind of a conflict; or so I would offer.  No moving around, but relax.  No getting up, but relax.  No way to turn off the music, but relax.

I get it.  It is part of the process.  Had there been no music, it would have been easier.  Us Quakers do well with being still and silent.  (We just need there to be silence.)  However I was not in pain.  Nobody was popping in and bothering me.  They simply let me lie there and be for thirty minutes.

When time was up, she pulled the needles out, asked how I was, and sent me on my way.

I came back two days later and went through the needle-fun again.  Once more the week after.  Before each session, the boss would check on me and see how I was doing.

I did, in fact, feel a difference.  My knees are less talkative than they once were.  Oh, my knees still crack and pop.  I still clench my jaw.  But running was much kinder the Sunday after.  I could feel an increase of blood flow to my cheeks and my knees.  So it really did work.

The conflict I had revolved around the time and financial commitment.  Remember when we talked about scheduling all the appointments close together?  The boss wanted to do three months of appointments.  And he wanted me to come in twice a week, every week, for those three months.  With, I am assuming, weekly or every-other-week appointments after that.

Now, my insurance is nice.  It allows me acupuncture, “as long as medically necessary”.  I can go as long as I please.  However, I do not have an extra six hundred dollars a month to invest.  I live a simple life and that is expensive enough.  Finding two thousand dollars to cover three months’ worth of poking that I do not technically need?  Nope.

Again, they were all quite nice and the treatments do seem to work.  I would like to undergo less pain.  However the finances do not line up for me.  It is like poor people that cannot afford to eat anything except cheap junk food.  You want to address the problem and be healthier, but there is no easy way to do so.

Perhaps my body will be in enough pain that I will have to revisit the process one day.  (It really did work.  I would make time to continue if I could afford it.)  However, I am not suffering terribly.  I rated my neck and shoulders as twos and my knees as fours.  They are pains that I can manage on my own.   When it comes to acupuncture, it is the cost that truly hits a nerve.

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