Exit Points

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

I’m a person whose life has been happiest in my car, on the road, listening to music… Drifting. I’ve always said the most appropriate burial for me in my life, would be to throw me out a car window randomly on a road trip because when I think of my life, that’s the happiest I’ve been. I love being on the open road. I love getting off at random exits to get gas or go to the bathroom and breathing in the air of somewhere new, somewhere I’ve never been. This post isn’t really about the joys of road trips though, although I’d prefer it to be. I’ve not posted in a bit because of a different kind of ‘exit point,’ that I believe in. At 25, my appendix burst and it got into my blood and I encountered sepsis. I was drenched in a fever for a few days. I have no memory from the time of the operation until a fight began in my head. The voice in my head was forceful. It was demanding. It just kept on telling me, “Open your eyes.” I have never been great at being told what to do and, at that point, opening my eyes was not what I wanted. I knew opening my eyes would bring me back into pain, fevers, struggle. I was content where I was. The voice got louder and louder and one night when a nurse came in to give me a sponge bath, I heard her talking to me. I did not open my eyes that night, but I knew it was coming. The next day I did give in and open my eyes. For a period of time, I was somewhat angry. I didn’t really understand the whole thing. I was not sure why I had to open my eyes. It was a period where life was kind of ‘kicking me when I was down,’ and I did not see much of a future. I had loved my life up until that point and reflected several times that ‘it would have been nice to go out on a high note.’ Looking back, I had no idea what was coming good or bad. As I got older and I came into my own spirituality and identified my own belief systems, I really identified that there are times in our lives that are pre-determined. They are opportunities for the soul to leave the body and move on if we’ve accomplished what we came here for and we’re ready. I wrote a whole poem about it a year ago, which I will post below. Over a week ago, during meditation, I started to always see myself by a brook. I always sat on the same rock. I even text a friend and noted, ‘I’m always on the same rock, wearing this outfit that I loved to wear, when I was twenty-five years old.” Sometimes I was alone on the rock. Other times, I would see loved ones that passed. Other times, I would see individuals who are alive and still in my life. Many of the times I would see individuals who were still alive, I would be helping them with something they were struggling with. Sometimes it would be individuals who passed through my life and were important but we lost touch over the years, and we’d laugh and catch up. The way they looked often reflected a period in their life when they were very happy with themselves. It was an amazing meditation. At times it would flow into my dreams. Last week Wednesday, the day started off wonderful. I felt better than I have in months. I went into work. I saw my patients. It was a little after lunch and I started to not feel well. I brushed it off as ‘an upset stomach,’ despite not having an appetite or eating anything that day. As the afternoon progressed, I became increasingly sick. I left work thinking I had food poisoning. By five o’clock, I was being admitted to the ER and my blood pressure was dropping fast. They told me my blood pressure was very low. I didn’t look at the screen to see how low and told them, ‘it’s always kind of low,’ not realizing it was crashing. Around 1 AM, I was admitted to the hospital. I was septic and there were a lot of concerns regarding my heart and it affecting my kidneys. I was wheeled up into the hospital room where I’d spend the next week or so. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but as I was wheeled onto the unit there was nothing else going on. Behind the desk was this sprightly young nurse who was over-zealous about paperwork. The way he looked at me, his interactions, he was a dead-ringer for a friend who passed away. He looked exactly like my friend. My friend also loved paperwork and this guy’s mannerisms, looks, etc. were my friend. I answered the questions as he got me acquainted with my hospital room and just kept thinking, ‘this is what my friend would look like now if he’d had a few more years to grow older.’ He then brought in an older doctor with a beard. He had an accent. He sat in the chair and in the most casual manner said, ‘I’m concerned that your heart could stop tonight. If it does, do you want to just allow you to pass?’ It was an odd question, but there was a language difference. I was aware he was asking me if I wanted to be resuscitated if need be. I couldn’t answer. I looked at him and said, ‘Well, not if I’m going to be brain dead or it will impair my quality of life to a significant degree.’ He looked at me and said, ‘It’s a yes or no thing. Some people want to pass, so we have to let them pass. Others choose to be saved and want to live. It’s a choice. There’s no in-between.’ I got it. There was no way to know for certain. There was just an odd mannerism about him. The way he phrased things. His nonchalant way of asking me these questions. The added urgency of his concern that my heart ‘might stop tonight.’ I was not thinking about exit points at that time. I just said, ‘I guess I would want you to try if you had no idea whether there would be brain damage or not.’ With that, he talked about how I had made the choice not to pass, which he noted, ‘some people just want to pass and we let them.’ Again, I was very unaware at this point of what was going on. The language seemed strong, but I chalked it up to a language barrier. After he left, I looked at the young nurse who resembled my friend and asked casually, ‘how long am I going to be here?” The young nurse looked back at me and just said, ‘I think it’s possible you might be here for a while. You’re a pretty sick guy.’ I never saw the nurse or the doctor over the course of my hospital stay. Every other person that was there returned, but those two never did. I eventually came to realize how sick I was. In thinking about all the strange things that happened, I believe 100% it was an exit point. The strange thing was it was different than the first one I told my friend after I returned home. The first time, I was pushed strongly to open my eyes. I eventually did. “This time,” I told my friend, “I feel like I didn’t make a choice.’ My friend pointed out to me, but you did. You told the old doctor you wanted to be saved. It was true. I did make the choice and the way it was presented was ‘yes or no.’ I said, ‘yes.’ Over the next few days, I wondered if I was seeing people in my dreams, why didn’t anyone tell me this was coming? I was talking to a friend and something came over me, a realization. In all those dreams, I even said, “I look like I did when I was 25.’ I even wore an outfit I often wore when I was twenty five. As I was talking to my friend, I realized I was 25 years old when my appendix burst and I was in the hospital for sepsis and the voice in my head told me to ‘open my eyes.’ Was my dream telling me something? I don’t know. I do know that I do believe I had an exit point and I said ‘no.’ I guess only time will tell why I decided to say no. There’s a line in a Tori Amos song that says, “Exit 75, I’m still alive… I’m still alive..’ I keep hearing it in my head. I haven’t posted because I took a detour and my body needs some recovery time. Another strange encounter is while I was in the hospital, they had a special on TV, which I would never have seen otherwise. It was on the life of Toni Morrison. Toni Morrison is probably one of the reasons I began writing. I could go on and on about the magic of Toni Morrison. I was feeling detached from writing prior to the hospital; however, as I watched that special, it gave me goosebumps, remembering being young, reading all her work, and how excited her work made me about writing. The special brought it all back to me, so while I’m recovering, I’m working on new writing. I’ll continue to post pieces. Today, I’m going to post a piece a wrote about a year ago called “Exit Points.’

Exit Points

I’m told there are several exit points throughout our lives.
My cousin is dying of diabetes. Is this her exit point?

I remember being wrapped in a warm wool Scottish sweater,
Trampling through the Highlands underneath the revealing ink skies peppered with light.

Never and Forever touched there.
Bearing witness to such beauty could’ve been

an exit point. Still people would argue,
The New Years Eve, sepsis, after my appendix burst

Like a supernova in galaxy contained within me
Was my exit point. I did argue inside my head

With an unknown voice pushing
You must open your eyes. I finally did.

I never told anyone how angry I was for a while after.
I didn’t want my eyes to open. Life was good

right there, and it would have been a perfect exit point.
I’d never go on to know loss, deep heartbreak, a day

When my legs would give out, and I’d have to stop starving myself,
and feel what it was like to be ‘fat’ again.

I’ve had so many potential ‘exit points,’
I feel like the most heinous highway.

Exit points off highways aren’t pretty.
A McDonalds, Subway, gas station…

I don’t want to see it coming
like a late summer day scattered in autumn.

I’d like it to feel like a breeze coming through an open window,
that touches my skin softly, then lifts my soul out of my body

and carries me like a groom does a bride into
The razzle dazzle and jazz of a collection

Of images from all the poems I’ve read in my life
That have been exit points, carrying me off into an escape

From the harsh realities of the pulls of gravity,
Into peaceful spoonfuls of feral beauty.

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