Wednesday, May 8

22 Staples And The State Of Two Internets

The first thing I saw when I woke in the recovery room were the curtains drawn around my bed. They were pale blue, I think. But I can't be certain because that memory is fleeting and already fading.

I only saw them for a few seconds before someone started to guide me out of the haze created by an anesthetic cocktail. It was one of two cocktails that the anesthesiologist let me call a few hours before.

"What's your favorite cocktail?" he asked.

"My favorite safe drink is gin and tonic," I said, because I wanted to be safe.

"That's what this is," he smiled, tapping the syringe. "Gin and tonic. Safe and good. I'll keep you safe."

There aren't any memories as much as fragments after that. I've sorted a couple that make me smile, but most begin in the recovery room. Someone started to ask me questions. She asked me the easy ones first and then worked up to something complex. It's a test to make sure my cognitive functions rebooted.

But I didn't want a test as much as a conversation. So I started asking her questions instead. I wanted to know how was her day was going, how long had she worked there, and why she chose medicine.

They were easy questions, but we eventually worked up to something complex. She was especially interested in my case because the chart made note of this surgery starting with an incidental finding. They found my cancer by accident.

Her husband wasn't so fortunate. His cancer wasn't discovered until he had blood in his urine. He was diagnosed with irreversible bladder cancer. The funeral was a few months ago, and it had deepened her resolve to help people.

"I'm sorry for your loss," I said, consoling her and asking more questions.

"Look at you, worried about me," she smiled. "It was meant to be, you know. It was meant to be that they found yours early."

It wasn't the first time nor was it the last that I would hear those words during my expedited hospital stay. I was scheduled for three nights. I only stayed one. And yet, within those 48 hours when you reflect on and remeasure life, some things make immediate sense like the duality of social connections.

There are two Internets, which is why marketers can't reconcile the space. 

In case you haven't noticed, there are two Internets. There is the one my friend Geoff Livingston wrote about yesterday, with marketers seeing the totality of social media like a very big fish pond and the goal to catch as much fish as possible. Hook, reel, and release. Some companies have teams that do it daily.

Most of them aren't even good fishermen because the only strategy they've come up with to catch more fish is to put out more bait. There is already so much of it floating in the water, untouched, it's a wonder anyone can breathe. And still they add more, daily. It has become so dense that it smacks of pollution.

I was nowhere near it in the first few hours of recovery. I was on the other Internet, which is the one that kept me breathing. I didn't see all the clutter because content surrenders to a shared experience.

Since my wife and I have two children, she couldn't stay in the hospital full time like many people recommended. So I sometimes turned to blog comments and social networks to read and reread the words left by family, friends, and colleagues. Their good thoughts, well wishes, and prayers gave me some added strength while I recovered. I can't thank them enough. Every one of them mattered.

Of course, I didn't just read the words they left for me. I read everything else they shared too. And even though my loosely connected groups of family and friends could be delineated by degree of relation, proximity, or whether we've met in person, not one of them looked like fish nor did any of them ask for bait. This was the Internet where every connection was important and every message mutual.

The intimacy is unmistakeable. The relationships are as real as the one forged between myself and the nurse in the recovery room (and many others along the way). We never met each other before that moment and may never meet again, but we made a connection without any coercion, conjecture, or content creation. By the end of it, I made several more connections too. We went through all of it together, something that even the best connection round ups forget.

Maybe those staples will come out this week, all 22 of them. 

Sometimes we're fortunate and find miracles in faith and modern medicine. While there is plenty more to be done, from my follow up and pending pathology to my recovery schedule and post-recovery rebuild strategy, I feel remarkably blessed to be sitting at my desktop writing something, anything. A week ago, even under the most optimistic scenario, no one could imagine an outcome this good.

Sure, there is some pain here and there and I do get tired as the day presses on, but such challenges seem like nothing compared to those in the first few hours of recovery. It was only a few days ago, my major goals were the kind we all take for granted — breathe without oxygen, drink water without issues, get out of bed with assistance. Nowadays, I'm more likely thinking about work, play, and life changes.

As I alluded to last week, I might be blessed with more time but there is none to waste. There are plans to be made and the more plans the better. But at the same time, I never want to lose sight of the fact that everyone has a journey too. They are all equally grand and challenging, hilarious and heartbreaking.

If you want to change the world you see, you have to start by changing the way you see it. Life is meant to be a shared experience because when we discover more about the people who cross our paths then our own experiences are enriched by them. In other words, my hospital stay is less significant than the hospital experience I took away with a few interesting and inspiring doctors, nurses, and medical technicians. This is how life works.

Online or offline, it hardly matters. But in sticking to the headline thread, suffice to say that this is the side of the Internet where I'd like to invest more time. The state of it is great. It feels good to be back. Nice to meet you, again. How great it would be to catch a movie this weekend. It's a little too soon, maybe.
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