Living Out Loud: : Life Interrupted

Coming to terms with foolish pride

Life interrupted. These are the words I wrote down on that Wednesday night after I sat at my desk sobbing for over an hour.

For seven weeks I've been dealing with a diabetic foot ulcer, making it difficult for me to walk, too unfocused to write good sentences and causing depression in my life. Why is this is happening to me?

The meltdown — the sobbing — had been awhile in coming. I've had a lot of anger lately. Anger with my friend and associate, Sara, who has the ability to be at work and make decisions without me. Anger with my son for being able to go to school and take care of my laundry. Anger with my friend, Greg, for showing a sense of humor about what's happening to me in some of his e-mails. Anger with Jan, who offered to pick up my groceries. Anger at everyone who passes me by on Ludlow Avenue as I slowly walk to CVS Pharmacy to pick up yet another goddamn prescription.

When the anger gets to a certain point, it's time to lash out.

I did with family and friends on that Wednesday. The strange thing is at the time it felt good. I felt like I was fighting back to be heard — but the fight came out sideways, was misguided by depression. The reality is that's what I'm fighting now, and it's better to face up to it and meet that emotion head on than to pretend like everything is fine.

Everything's not fine. I have always prided myself on my independence, to not really need anybody, to simply take care of myself. But when you become ill, you realize you do need other people, and pride somehow takes a beating, at least for me.

I've heard the term "foolish pride" for a long time, and I've never known what it really meant. I think I do now.

When friends want to help, it's foolish to think you don't need them, because you do. I've been there for others when they've needed me. Why am I so different — so fucking proud? It's all right to be human. I need my friends — especially now.

Sara dropped by the other night, bringing flowers and pizza and saying if she can do anything at all, to just ask. I know she means it. Margo always offers to give me a ride into the office, because it's difficult to hop on a bus. I know she's sincere when she says it. Greg dropped by the other night with a bottle, and we had a good old time sitting around my dining room table, drinking and catching up. I think he thought I could use the company. He was reading my mind.

Yesterday afternoon there was a knock on my door — a lady standing there with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. The card said, "You're in our thoughts, with love — your CityBeat family."

Now, foolish pride tells me the people I work with really aren't family. But when I strip that pride away and think about it, these people are probably closer to me than anybody. If you think working for an alternative newspaper is just that — alternative — you're right. There's a big sense of family here.

The flowers brought tears to my eyes. Foolish pride tells me to buck up — I'm a man, after all, and real men don't cry. That's bullshit. I let the tears flow.

Since that Wednesday night and the meltdown, I've let myself cry more than once. I don't give myself little pity parties. But when I've helped others going through a health crisis or any kind of personal hell, I've never once told them not to cry — I encourage them to let it out. Why the hell I impose such ridiculous expectations on myself is just that — ridiculous. It's time to wise up.

I'm writing this column on a Saturday afternoon. By the time you read this on Wednesday, I should be done with surgery, surgery that should begin to make my life normal again — or so I'm hoping.

I'm more than a little scared. This man is going to admit that. It's amazing the thoughts that run through your mind, ya know? Thoughts like: Will I truly be able to walk again after surgery? Will I actually get my life back? And, of course, the old dread: What if I don't wake up?

My son will take me to the hospital. Friends will send cards and flowers. Most will call to see how I'm doing. Some will drop by to see if there's anything they can do.

God bless 'em. Forget foolish pride. I need all the friends I can get.



Larry Gross' book, "Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Stories" is in or can be ordered at bookstores everywhere or at Amazon.com.

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