three little birds

Until the age of 32, I wasn’t an anxious person at all. I didn’t worry about anything other than the things anyone worries about — will I fall in love, will I be able to pay my credit card bill, will work suck tomorrow. Normal every day things. Then my mother died suddenly, and I was left with a legacy of anxiety — will something happen to me, too, something I don’t see coming. It’s turned me into a minor hypochondriac, unfortunately. I’m always worried. I’m frequently scared. Sometimes — a lot of the time — over nothing. Unfortunately, not always. Once my gall bladder nearly burst. They fixed that. And then my back pretty much broke. They sort of fixed that.

I had a spinal fusion of the L4-L5 vertebrae in the fall of 2012, after injuring my back in October 2011. In that preceding year I’d tried everything — PT, drugs, a chiropractor, cortisone — and none of it did any good. An MRI showed plain as day that surgery was the only other option. The day the neurosurgeon told me about the surgery, describing the hardware they’d install in my spine, I went out in the car and cried, totally terrified. But we went ahead, and a few months and some insurance hassles later, it was time.

The morning of my surgery, I was terrified. No one likes general anesthesia but each time I’ve had it I’m convinced I won’t wake up again. This time, I tried hard to stay calm that morning, even as I feared the worst. And as we got ready to go to the hospital, I thought of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”. The song ran through my head on the ride there, and as I was admitted and waited to be taken in. Over and over I heard it, and it must have helped because when they took my blood pressure it was surprisingly normal, given my agitated state, and I stayed calm through it all. As they wheeled me to pre-op, and as they put me on the table, I heard those lines —

Rise up this morning
Smile with the rising sun
Three little birds
Each by my doorstep
Singing sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true
Saying, “This is my message to you”
Singing “Don’t worry ’bout a thing
Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
Singing “Don’t worry ’bout a thing
Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

A few hours later I woke up and it was over.  The surgery was harder than I’d imagined it would be, and, in the long run, while not quite as entirely successful as I wanted it to be, enough so that I got my life back. My surgeon’s nurse, a kind and tireless person who never turned my calls away no matter how often I asked her the same questions over and over, told me once, “The goal of this surgery is not to fix your back. Nothing can fix it. The goal is to make it better, and to make you feel better.” And it did, and I do. I just don’t feel *completely* better, and that’s just the way it has to be. Sometimes I’m angry about that.

But that’s not what this post is about.

Since the day Dave asked me to marry him, and before, even, he’s always been there for me, taking care of me, and telling me not to worry. When he does that, I don’t stop worrying, of course — it’s not that simple — but he says it all the same, and each time something new scares me or makes me anxious, hearing him tell me it’s going to be okay helps a little bit more.

so, today I got this:


on my shoulder, to always have that reminder with me, to remember the times Dave’s told me it’ll be okay and that it always is. Whatever happens, he says, we’ll work it out, and we always do. Maybe a time will come that I’ll remember that right away before the worry starts. But until then, and even after then, this will always be with me

Body art, or one way to never go without reading material

I have a tattoo. It’s on my back, and it’s that most cheesy and cliched of tattoos, a Chinese symbol.  For what it’s worth, though, what that symbol means and represents to me was a very specific and personal choice, as all tattoos should be. As most anyone who’s ever gotten a tattoo will tell you, the experience of getting one tends to make you want to get another. I haven’t yet — haven’t found the right tattoo, the right place for it, the right time. I’ll know when I’m there. But one thing I never really thought of before was words — literature to be exact. From The New Yorker:

Check out Contrariwise, a site devoted to pictures of bookish tattoos. The sources for the tats run the gamut, from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Social Contract” to Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park.” Harry Potter-inspired tattoos are popular, as are lines from “The Giving Tree” and “Where the Wild Things Are.” In terms of more grownup reading material, an astonishing number of people have chosen to engrave Kurt Vonnegut’s quip “So it goes” on various body parts. The tattoos mostly consist of just a line or two, but some braver souls have inked on entire passages (at least the guy with the opening of “A Tale of Two Cities” on his inner forearms will never be without reading material while waiting in line at the post office).

I wish there were more pics in the database, but it’s a good start. I like the idea. I’d have to wonder if, no matter how much I liked a certain quote, I’d always want it on my body. Remember signature lines on emails? All the rage for awhile there. But you could change that whenever you wanted. I’ve got a couple of favorite literary quotes, but narrowing it down to just one for the rest of my life would be awfully difficult. The only quote that’s stayed with me my entire adult life is from Douglas Adams: “So long and thanks for all the fish.” I still smirk at it just the same as I did when I first read it, but I’m not sure I want to be that snarky all the time.

If you had to choose one literary quote to tattoo on your body, what would it be?