I promise to stop wriitng about "my trip to the hospital" soon. Very soon! But apparently, I'm a classic case of a writer who doesn't get out much. It's not that I don't see lots of people every day. Family, friends, and friends of the kids flow in and out in a wonderful stream. They bless my life--all of them--even when I bellow, (most often internally) "Hey, I'm trying to get some work done here!"
But what I've missed from my waitressing days, and what the hospital provided was interaction with the wider world. People I didn't know. Stories I hadn't heard. Catalysts to insights and thoughts that stretched far beyond myself and my beloved few. The stream that becomes a vast, transformative river. In the hospital, I walked into that river again.
For my second surgery, I only had one request: I wanted to go back to the same floor, White 7, where I already knew the nurses and the aides, the dietary and housekeeping staff. I loved them all. But it was probably the intimacy of sharing a room with various strangers, all enduring their own crises, that affected me most.
I've written before about the Chinese roommate who had been hit by a car while crossing a street. I've written about how we banished our night terrors and pain by speaking them out loud in the dark. What I haven't written about is the other kind of pain we discussed late in the night. The pain of injustice and invisibility.
Though she had several broken bones, a badly shattered ankle and a dislocated shoulder, what seemed to bother my roommate most was that other kind of pain. After we'd gone through the list of our physical suffering, she would re-tell the story of the woman who'd hit her with a BMW. The woman whose only concern seemed to have been spinning the story to avoid responsibity...
"I was in the crosswalk, but she told the police I walked in front of her car..She never looked at me....I was lying in the street, my whole life changed, and she never even asked if I was all right..."
It seemed incredible to me that anyone could be so callous, so blind. But of course, every day in our world, people make decisions about who we will look at deeply and who we will refuse to see. Every day, we turn away and deny responsibility just like the woman in the BMW did.
"They won't believe her," I said in the dark.
But my roommate's experience caused her to doubt. "She was rich, and I'm an office worker...my English, it's not so good...maybe they believe me and maybe they don't."
As our week together went on, our families got to know each other, and a genuine bond formed. One of her nephews wanted to become a writer, but the family worried that it wasn't a practical choice. (I couldn't disagree, but I also couldn't help telling him to keep writing!) A niece was a talented artist. I admired the caring and closeness of her extended family, and envied the wonderfully fragrant home cooked dinners they brought to her every evening.
One of the more baffling (and entirely subjective) questions a hospital patient is asked regularly is to rate your pain from one to ten. In my reference point, ten was childbirth, and seven was a throbbing tooth in need of a root canal. I wondered where the pain of invisibility fell on the scale.
No one ever asked me to rate my bliss, but I did anyway. Bliss was the gorgeous, concerned faces of my roommate's nieces and nephews and my children as they entered our room in the evening, their coats glistening with snow, cheeks bright with the cold. Bliss was seeing and being seen by the people in front of us, and by each other.
Though we talked about our suffering in the night, during the day, we joked with the aides, and told stories about our very different childhoods. In a cramped hospital room, looking out on the snow, I traveled far. We sipped our tea together, and talked about how good, how very good, it tasted. My roommate had a wonderful, tinkling laugh, which I'd heard--amazingly--on the first night when they brought her in on a stretcher.
That laughter is still with me. On the bliss scale, it's a ten.
Oh my goodness, Patry, this is breathtakingly beautiful. So moving. I feel like I am seeing a book come to life on this blog....
I love it--and you, Patry, more with every post I read.
I always hate that bit about rating your pain (either physical or emotional, shrinks ask the same question). My scale is just like yours--ten is childbirth. Nothing ever comes close to that.
But rating bliss--now that's an idea!
Susan: Thank you so much for such a lovely comment--and for all your support. It's good to see a friend from R'ville here.
maryanne: Your words are always so affirmative and wonderful. I don't think you have to rate your bliss. It's already soaring.
Coming here and finding a new post to read definitely scores a bliss level of 10, Patry. Your words are real, yet remarkably soothing.
And, being most curious, I must ask if you know whether or not the police believed your roommate? Fingers crossed.
Hi, Patry, it's me. I'm glad to have these insights into your days (and nights) in the hospital. Thank you. No need to put an end to them. Your public wants to know.
I am a waitress/ secret writer. I found you through LitPark. I am joining on the 29th to blog for you. But I just had to leave a comment because I adore your stories and insight. You are like a little bright spot in my day!
Another great post, don't stop!
This was a great article! I've always been a 'glass half full' kind of person (though I have my moments, don't we all!). Without the bad things in life, how could we ever understand how truly blessed we are when things are good?
I would rate my bliss right now at about a ten. The kids are all doing well, including Caleb. Just a quick update, his bone marrow test came back, and the leukemia cells were only at 5%, which is much better than what the doctor's were hoping. In addition, two of our other children are potential bone marrow donors. We certainly hope we never have to go through the transplant ordeal, but if it becomes a necessity, at least we know we have options.
Really, in our little world, some things could be better, but most things could be a heck of a lot worse. That's life, and how you look at it can have a huge impact on how you feel.
Bliss rating is definitely the way to go!
Pain intrudes and forces us to acknowledge it, but bliss is something we have to learn to recognize, or we often miss it. Thank you for the continued inspiration and the reminder to recognize and rate our bliss.
Lovely post, Patry.
what a positive and moving post
i agree too that there can be a positive side to hospitalisation
(keep talking/writing about it for as long as you wish :)
it is uplifting rather than depressing)
oh my. my bliss level is quite low these days. i must drink tea and speak my thoughts into the dark. maybe through that i will find some tinkling laughter?
Oh my, Patry. I love the idea of rating my bliss. What a powerful perspective. And the question of how to rank invisible pain . . . and the need to do so . . . what lovely insight.
The fact that you're in such a good place as you work your way back towards health is bliss for me.
Thinking of you.
larramie: My roommate with the wonderful laugh and I didn't exchange contact information. I think we both knew that once we left the hospital, we would not see each other again. When her sister and I said goodbye, we both cried. But I wonder about your question often...
susan: Since I have another surgery coming up in early March, these might never end. Thanks for being open to "listening..."
aimee: Another waitress, writer! I love it. Thanks so much for participating on the 29th. This has become something so much bigger than me and my book.
litpark: wow back at ya!
r: Be careful about encouraging me. I'll keep writing about this for weeks!
kenna: Thanks for the wonderful update on Caleb. I'm so happy for all of you, and I love the way you keep us informed.
lisa: There's so much wisdom in your comment. It confirms my most hard-won beliefs.
dale: Thank you, friend. I've been enjoying your recent posts on massage and the wisdom of the body.
floots: It's not the kind of positive experience any of us would want to have, but yes, there is that element.
kyra: Oh yes, drink tea and talk in the dark. Then ask for your bliss. Ask for it loudly. Ask so loudly you can't be denied.
Judy: Thanks so much for your (always) affirming words. I'm so glad we met (well, sort of...)
devon: Your deep kindness to me thorughout this illness is much appreciated. xo
Last night we went over to the kids' for dinner. It was supposed to be Sleepover Satureday, but Babycakes had been a bit sick, and wanted the comfort of home. So, over we went, hugs and stuff, and I told Babycakes I missed her when I didn't see her for a bit (those bits are seldom more than 4 or 5 days). She said (I ain't making this up), "Poppi, I miss you when you just go in another room."
Thanks for the post.
Gerry: Now THAT'S bliss. I love hearing about you and your beautiful babycakes.
Patry, here's what I love about you--you have this innate ability to sniff out bliss in the most unlikely places. And then you come back and write about it, reminding the rest of us to pay attention because bliss is all around us.
I've been reading your hospital stories and have been blessed by your noticings. You are a sensei of bliss.
I can't wait until Tuesday's blog-a-thon. It's going to be an electric day.
Blessings + kisses = blisses.
oh this post made me cry...in that take a deep breath and pay attention sort of way.
rating your bliss...as i sit here annoyed at my husband for an interchange that happened a bit ago...goodness...it really is so silly isn't it.
thank you for this post...for your words...
The state of invisibility reminds me of how surprised I was to learn I lived quite close to an area in Atlanta's northern suburbs where east Indians lived and shopped. After I met my husband I suddenly begin to "see" people I had never noticed before: Indians beside me in line, Indians walking down the street or waiting at bus stops, Indian restaurants scattered among the more familiar ones, Indian shops where gorgeous silks are sold. All these things I had missed for several years. How could I have looked past them so long and never noticed? How could I have been so blind?
We all benefit from heightening our conscious awareness, from exploring cultural diversity and our awareness of and reaction to it. When we do increase our awareness of each other and make it part of our everday lives we become rich in ways that make us whole and healthy. We miss so much when we don't "see" each other and ache so much when we are not "seen."
I hope your friend is well and that she was believed.
This post reminds me of why on that damp, chilly Seattle day I sensed how special you are and how you might enhance my life with your words. I hope you write so many posts we can't keep up with them all! These you have written during/about your hospital stays have been especially poignant. Your insight is so valuable and your stories so fine.
Patry, I've not really been in the blog world for a while, and I've spent the past half hour catching up on what I've missed, and I'm lost for words.
Your posts have made me worry for you, they've brought me to tears for the honesty of emotion in them, but most of all I'm awed by your positive attitude. You are in inspiration.
Sometimes I think of my life as a snow globe and every now and then I have to shake it up by going out and immersing myself in the bigger scene. My stagnant thought fly up and land in new places.
This was a very rich read and a wake up call for us all to stay awake to the ways that language barriers and other differences separate us and make us see people as "others." In the last few years I've been working on seeing the people I usually don't see. Some are so used to not being seeing they keep their heads down.
I hope your back to bellowing "I'm trying to get some work done here."
So much to take in here, Patry, as usual! Another gem for your collection, and I see that readingwritingliving agrees. "A book come to life," beginning way back when. Already praying toward March, K.
Write about your trip to the hospital, grocery store or through the local phone book. I'll want to read it!
What a beautiful post, Patry. After reading your other post about the other, less pleasant roommate, and how you even managed to be enriched and enlightened by that experience, I am convinced you can turn any situation and any new experience into a moving and fascinating one! And I know what you mean about how the writer's life has a way of taking you out of that vital flow of stories -- so much alone time; it's important to get out there and refill with stories and interactions. I would say that most people, though, are nearly as open to them -- in such a wonderful way -- as you are! You make even the small things so rich! Blessings, Patry!
(Above, should read:. . . aren't nearly as open to them . . .
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful...a reminder I truly needed, Patry. I hope all is well with you!
may god's grace be with you...even more than it seems to be.
Beautiful! I love how bonds can be made, even in hard times. How wonderful for both of you!
Your posts are beautiful, Patry. You brought some bliss to my life today! I'll be passing it along to my friends, too; thank you for letting us into your life.
Tish: One of these days I'm going to blog about two writers with their laptops seeking out green little nooks and parks and coffee shops in New York and Boston and how you always inspire me to new heights. That's one of the things I love about YOU.
carolyn: Your have a wonderful warm presence both in person and in the real world. Thanks so much for being part of this--
liz: So happy to see you here again. I know well how easy it is to forget to see the bliss when you're in a squabble with the spouse.
Sky: Thanks for sharing the unique insights you've gained from your marvelous relationship. I could see the silk (it was red) and smell the spices in the grocery store. Your friendship has enriched us as well.
mom: I KNOW she was telling the truth. She was such a thoughtful, meticulous person. There was no way she would have stepped in front of a car or lied about it. A distracted writer, like me on the other hand?
Debra: Glad to see you here--one of my first blog friends. But I don't ant anyone to worry! I am strong and getting stronger with an excellent prognosis, and even more excellent friends.
colleen: Hear me bellow! (p.s. I love your snow globe image. Perfect for a snowy day along the coast...)
k: Thanks for the prayers, and for always believing I can do things I"ve only begun to imagine.
carleen: LOL. Sometimes that's about as far as I get--a walk through the phone book! (I promise not to write about it though.)
Laini: Isn't it amazing that even when we don't get out into the workplace, we can hear stories--both large and small, and connect with people from Cape Cod to Portland to all over the world? As writers, we're living in a wonderful time.
Delia: I've missed your beautiful writing. Will have to see if you've been posting again.
patti: Thank you for your lovely words.
amber: Maybe especially in hard times...Thank you--
claire: It's free and abundant. Glad you're sharing it--and of course, leaving a little bit behind here, too.
Through the blog world of fellow writers, I've come by to send my thoughts and prayers your way as you go through your fight.
May God bless you!
Stephanie Elliot aka Manic Mommy
Stephanie: Always happy to meet another writer! Thanks for your support. Blessings to you, too--
Rate your bliss --- I love it! :)
I would say that injustice and invisibility rate as an 11, yes, this one goes to 11.
my thoughts are with you friend.
your beauty through all of this inspires.
all my best. all my heart.
Simply beautiful - your writing is special. Thank you Patry.
So beautiful and moving - this brought tears to my eyes, especially the young woman's tale of being invisible to the rich woman who'd hit her. So many invisible people in this world, who suffer in silence. As for rating bliss - that's a wonderful scale! xo
I'm always the last to drag my sorry ass to the party, Patry. I just don't get out much. But know that I am with you in my heart and wish you health and bliss to the mega-maximum.
Your day is huge! This whole thing gives me such bliss! I'm going to be smiling and reading blogs all day!
Here's a toast from one not just a waitress to another!
Oh, Patry, this post brought tears. So beautiful...and beautifully put. Thank you.
Oh, this is so beautiful, Patry. To rate your bliss, that is just a fantastic idea.
i'm just finding you through a couple of lovely blogging friends, how fortunate i feel. your words and writing are so very lovely, thank you.
now i'm off to find your book...
Thank you for this, Patry. Yes, we should most definitely rate our bliss and your post is wonderful, thoughtful, elegant.
What a beautiful post! A great reminder to measure our bliss and to think of what's truly important. Although the characters inside my head demand attention, this was a great reminder to pay attention to those around me too.
You find beauty and bliss in the most unexpected and random places. It's wonderful and inspirational. Thank you for another beautiful post.
So beautiful and encouraging post!
I will come bac to read it several times...
Thank you for writting this!
patry, just wanted to send some love and hugs today on the day of your paperback release! congratulations!!
Hi, Patry. I'm the freelance copyeditor who worked on the manuscript of your friend Therese Fowler's book, Souvenir. I read about you at her blog. I wanted to let you know that there's a story on Liar's Diary in the online version of Publishers Weekly!
Patry, you are amazing. Know that today, January 29 -- the launch of your paperback -- is a day very much on my mind. I've posted an article on it on my Gather page. www.beryl.Gather.com
Keep recuperating. Keep writing these wonderful blogs. Keep knowing how much you are treasured both as a writer and a friend.
I join the others in thanking you for your honesty and clarity. I'm a psychologist just entering the blog world last week. What a wonderful resource.
I doing a blog on what we can learn about people and relationships through the movies. Not that anyone has to actually see the movies to learn as I don't expect anyone else to spend as much time as I do eating popcorn in the dark with strangers.
Coming by from Tara's blog about your book. I hope you are doing better and I hope your book sells very well.
Happy THE LIAR'S DIARY Blog Day, Patry, this is our bliss!
You are bliss Patry. A ten.
I am freaking out! Right now The Liar's Diary is #3 on Amazon's best seller list in Mysteries and Suspense.
Thoughts and prayers. All the best with the book. :-)
Bliss is a word I need to hear more often. I need a bliss meter too. :-D
I just stumbled upon a cd by one of my favourite bands in a random pile of unwanted stuff at work.
I will take some time out of my day to just listen to them and be happy that I found them.
Little things like this does wonders for my mood.
Thanks for the inspiration!
I have wandered over from Patricia Wood's Blog and just wanted to say that I wish you a heartfelt and very speedy recovery. Your blog is beautfiul and something we can all relate to and learn from. Thank you.
I stopped by after another writer, wrote about yours storms. I wanted to help promote your book too. That’s my calling.
Reading your words reminded me so much of the days we spent at the hospital with my mother. She’s on dialysis and had a lot of complications. We also became friends with her roommates and the families in the waiting room. As you wait, you find yourself sharing things with these strangers who become new friends.
I always hate the rate your pain. We are a family who laughs even in pain, so we always find it funny when they ask this question as if you can put your pain on a scale. My mother would say 10 and the doctor would say you don’t look like you’re in pain. I just heard you laugh. We always tell them, just because someone doesn’t look like they’re in pain doesn’t mean they aren’t in pain.
Keep your positive attitude and this too shall pass.
A friend online,
Wow. I'm so grateful I found you. You write beautifully. After reading this post I feel very peaceful, as well as educated. I'll visit often.
Patry, I hope your day is filled with bliss. I read this and was moved to tears. For you today: http://deowriter.blogspot.com/2008/01/liars-diary-by-patry-francis.html
Incredible, you are incredible. Full of compassion with a clear and deep understanding of people and life and the amazing ability to write about it all with such eloquence.
And I do believe you've earned the right to speak of the hospital for as long and as often as you like. I and many others will be here to read about it.
In my haste to tell you how much I love your writing I forgot to wish you well. Please get well.
Wonder if Patry knows she's loved?
Hello Patry, I found you through LitPark and mentioned you on my blog as well. I just thought I'd say "Hello" to you directly, and let you know that your powerful words and inspiring story really touch me.
I'd like to wish you all the best. Thinking of you - and hoping that you continue to find bliss.
I have to admit, before a few minutes ago, I'd never heard of you. But after clicking a link on Jennifer Weiner's site and reading your most recent entry, my eyes welled up, my heart soared, and I knew I'd arrived at a very special place.
Warm, well, blissful wishes to you, Patry. I look forward to getting to know you better!
Woooo Hooooo! What a day in blogland.....Patry Francis Day!
Just a love note here, girlie.
Hope the day was a good one.
Love the picture that goes with this post. And your story about the woman hit by a car brought to mind an unpleasant incident at my job last week. A group of students were angry about a decision I'd made about splitting the class. Two of the women were very angry and with pinched, livid faces they spun around in their seats and pointed at the other students and they shouted, "They're new! Send them!"
It was an ugly scene, and I couldn't help but think you wouldn't want these women the only thing between you and fascist police. Amazing how people can be.
At the same time, all the people commenting here, all your friends supporting you, all of that, shows we don't all spend our time pointing fingers.
Have a beautiful day.
My hospital stays due to a football sized uterine tumor and five years later two stays for ovarian cancer surgeries, yielded no bliss. I do recall my one cell, er, roommate (the other roms were private) in great detail and there was no bliss for her either. An elderly patient across the hall I will never forget, as she cried out while buzzing for a nurse, "WATER PLEASE." For over an hour she cried out, becoming hoarse like a dog that has barked nonstop, and in the morning when her family came to visit...she was dead. I could not move or cry out, though I wanted to so badly.
"How could she have died?! She was fine yesterday," the daughter weeped. There is no scale for the feeling of helplessness I felt then, and was that night seared into my soul.
With 72 comments before me, I'm sure you won't notice mine, but that can't stop me. What a beautiful post.
Hi Patry, Congrats on your book! I came by way of Leah (creative everyday) and once I got here I thought to myself...I know her! Well not in real life, but I read your blog when I first started blogging years ago. Any way, as usual I love your writing and I love the idea of a "Bliss Scale". My rough and tumble boys who have been in the ER more times than I care to remember and were given a chart with faces rating pain 1-10. From a yellow smiley to a red angry, lol. I instantly thought of what an animated bliss scale would look like.
This is what I miss about chaplaincy work, Patry -- the sense of stepping in to that river, and finding grace in the most surprising of places. Thank you for this post.
WOW, this is an incredibly moving blog. Your words have brought back memory's of the many hours I spent with my son and his roommate during his recovery.
You are a very courageous lady for sharing your story with us. I pray that all will go well for you in the upcoming days and months.
You have gained a new reader and I look forward to reading your continuing story.
God bless you.
I was just pointed to your blog by a wonderful commenter on my own and I'm so happy to have landed here. This post is amazing! I look forward to reading back through your writing.
Take care and best wishes---
Thank you. Those are the words that came to my mind as I read your post. Normally when I read a post that is great, that is what I say, "Great post.", and trust me this is one of those. But for me, reading this drew me into your world if for a few moments. Your words led to both tearful eyes and smiling lips. So Thank you, you are amazing and have given me much today.
Bliss rating: 10 :)
I come to you via Becca's Bookstack. This is a lovely and deeply moving post and I'm so very grateful I came by -- I'll return often. You offer much to ponder and so eloquently.
Bliss -- isn't that the best word? Right now, mine's pretty darned high!
Best wishes with "The Liar's Diary" -- I'm looking forward to reading it.
I just found your blog and what a blessing you are. I found you through another blog that I read most every day. I wish for you pain free days that you may share with the many people that must cherish you. Thank you so much for sharing yourself. I will keep reading.
What a wonderful post. I agree that people rarely ask how happy someone is; maybe we're afraid of our own answer.
Well, this post, and your great outlook, definitely added some more bliss to the world. Sending best wishes to you.
Just saw the trailer. Congratulations!
Patry, thanks for these thoughts on bliss. Your recent posts about hospital experiences are rich. Write all of them you can.
Hello, Patry. I think you should write and talk about the hospital as much as you want to. Doing so, here or any other place of your choosing, might bring you the same feelings of 'being seen' that you experienced in the hospital. I would imagine that this is a healthy thing. Everyone needs to be heard. I am so happy that your prognosis is good and you seem to be a very courageous person!
I like the comment that wondered whether or not your hospital roommate was believed by the police. I hope she was. I understand about the 'other kind of pain'. How tragic that she was run over and then someone said she had run out in front of the car, as if she herself is to be blamed for being injured. And this while already suffering!
You say that you wonder about what happened with her. This made me wonder, too. I wonder what would happen to her if you wrote the story of what happened next. What if... someone was injured in some way and then blamed for it while they were helpless. How could this person, who was really just the victim of some event, find a way to communicate the truth of what has happened to them? Surely someone, somewhere would believe? I think you would do it justice, Patry.
Wishing you much wellness, health and a VERY high bliss rating,
A Fellow Writer
Another new reader: thank you for the great writing that is taking me away from my own...
I thought childbirth without painkillers was my reference for maximal pain, too, although I realized at the time I could get through it because of a mountain-climbing experience I had had.
Then I had peritonitis from a ruptured appendix and had to move childbirth down a notch to 9.
Just like it is possible to feel more pain and expand your scale in that horizon, so is it possible to feel more happiness - bliss, if you like - than you have known to date and alter the other scale accordingly.
Isn't human sensation something wonderful! Always something new to live for that you have not experienced yet.
I'm going to link now to your blog and look forward to your future posts (and current book, on order).
I discovered your book from reading Neail Gaiman's blog. I can't wait to read it.
Lovely post - I wish you much joy.
Patry, I shared a labor room with a Chinese woman, but she spoke only one or two words of English and the hospital had no interpreters back then, so when her husband wasn't there she could say little than beautiful baby or thank you. We did not have a true bonding experience, really, but I always think of her, our sons were both born on the Chinese New Year that year - within hours of each other.
I enjoy your writing style in your blog, your words have a flow and it is obvious you have an awareness. Congratulations on your novel and I wish you more than you dare dream.
I think we'd need a new reference point for emotional pain. Invisibility, for me, would sit somewhere above loneliness (because it is loneliness imposed) and somewhere below betrayal.
That picture, by the way, and the story on the other end of the link, as just beautiful.
Your words and obvious strength are beauty and empowerment combined. It is amazing how much courage we can find in daily living, if we are open and available to it. Best of luck and I know it was no accident I found your blog today. Elaine
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