Fear, Loathing, Uncooked Rice, and the Sheehy-House Insufflator

I’m back in Provincetown, and again I’m miserable. Immediately before we left, things were looking up, and W.A.S.T.E. did deliver my powder from Sam the Pharmacist as scheduled. It comes in four capsules that I’m to disassemble one at a time and load into the accompanying Sheehy-House Powder Insufflator (yes, one of the doctors who invented it is named Dr. House) and puff or insufflate it into my ear. That’s worked fine, though I did have a bit of a scare on the second night. I thought it felt like an infection might be back, but I called the back-up doctor the next morning, a Saturday, and she called right back. She told me that it was very unlikely I had an infection, and that it was more likely that the powder was caking in my ear.

I wasn’t entirely surprised to hear that, given the astonishing humidity in the air ahead of tropical storm Hanna. It was as hot and sticky as I’ve ever felt it here. And as we waited, cooped up in our room with our dog (who was sick and having accidents on the rug, and my mother-in-law), I felt better about my ear, but still quite anxious. In the afternoon, when it looked like the worst of the rain had passed, I went out for a walk with my mother and some of her friends in the dunes near Herring Cove Beach, but the rains and wind returned in earnest, and I got soaked pretty much all the way through, despite the fact that I was wearing a heavy raincoat. My iPhone, which had been stored in the main pocket of the raincoat, got pretty wet, and wouldn’t respond when we returned to my mother’s hotel. Strangely, my wallet, which was in the pocket of an exposed pair of cotton shorts, stayed mostly dry.

I spent a good chunk of the weekend worrying about if and how I could revive the phone. There’s no Apple Store out this way, so I’d have to wait until I got home for professional assistance. I removed the SIM card and left everything to dry for a day. Then I put the SIM card back in the phone and put it in a Ziploc bag of uncooked rice for another day. When I plugged it in to recharge, it showed that the battery was emptied, but it claimed to be charging. After an hour it hadn’t made any progress charging, and it didn’t respond to attempts to wake it or turn it on. I tried resetting it, and the screen went blank, and that seems to be the end of that. I’m a disappointed it wasn’t more resilient. I certainly didn’t mean to get it wet, but it wasn’t immersed in water–it was just drops on the surfaces, but that seems to have been enough. I can easily enough get this corrected once I’m home (and others certainly lost a great deal more in this storm), but this has left me a little more out of touch than I had planned to be on this trip.

Then Monday afternoon, I rallied again. I let the problems with the phone go, and was starting to enjoy myself. We had some tasty, fresh sushi at a restaurant on a deck overlooking the center of town and a remarkably decadent dessert. We watched the season premier of Jeopardy whereon the New York blogoshpere’s own Greg Lindsay won. I continued processing and posting pictures that make Provincetown look like the most beautiful and peaceful place on earth. I even slept peacefully with all of the windows open that night.

The rain came again yesterday afternoon, and we were stuck inside a little longer. We decided to make dinner in our room, watch Jeopardy, and see if the local baseball team could claim first place. It seemed pleasant enough, but then our upstairs neighbors’ dogs (we’d never had upstairs neighbors in this room before) started barking while the neighbors were out. It wasn’t constant, and they stopped after fifteen or twenty minutes, and haven’t barked since. For some reason, that was it. I snapped into a state of anxiety that I haven’t returned from since.

I’ve been unable to comfort myself. The sun rose on a glorious late summer day, with no humidity and just a little breeze. I walked all the way out on the fire road along Hatches Harbor to the Race Point lighthouse, and picked up a lovely lunch on the way back. When I got back, our neighbors were having lunch on their deck, above our room, amid a great deal of scraping, thumping, and door slamming. I don’t want to portray them as inconsiderate. They’ve been generally quiet and polite, and I love their dogs, but I just don’t want them there. I want the stillness and silence that you tend to find in an inn that doesn’t welcome pets and children, the stillness and silence that we used to get at the Oxford. We walked by there on Monday afternoon, and it was everything we’d remembered. Aside from the breeze, the only thing stirring was Potter, their golden retriever, who welcomed us and begged us to stay. But now that we have a dog of our own, we can’t. Of course, our dog never makes a sound and wouldn’t disturb anyone who wasn’t allergic to or phobic about dogs. But inns can’t make those kinds of exceptions.

I was about to suggest that we’ve been ghettoized, but that would be absurd. I’m sitting in the otherwise completely empty common room of our inn (where I’d fled to escape our neighbors’ lunch), with the sun streaming in and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony playing over the satellite radio. There’s a slight breeze, and traffic slowly rolls past out front. This is about as close to an objective notion of heaven as I’m likely to find. Yet I’m deeply unhappy. This is obviously something subjective, something I’m seeing that no one else is, and gives the lie to any notion of ongoing progress in the realm of my emotional health. I’m fragile, and normally what people in such a fragile state do, if they’re incredibly lucky, is come to a place just like this to regain their sense of well-being. Somehow, it only undermines my sense of well-being. And perhaps most frustrating of all, if someone else described this problem to me as theirs, I would know what they should do. I’ve written this out in the hope that I might be able to externalize it enough to do that for myself, but it doesn’t seem to have worked. I’d appreciate comments from any and all who might have the perspective I’m lacking.

6 Replies to “Fear, Loathing, Uncooked Rice, and the Sheehy-House Insufflator”

  1. there seems to be a connection between the fragility of the physical state of things and the mental state. The physical state is fragile, the ear, so close to the mind, the dog barking, doors slamming, the rain, etc. If there are any questions about the ear, medically, that seems worth resolving. Are you able to get emotional support for your concerns, let yourself be taken care of, you’ve been through a lot with that ear. This may not be something you could figure out intellectually, right now at least. Recognize there’s something coming up about fragility, perhaps, and give it some space.

  2. Thanks. I think the physical is something I tend to ignore too much. One of the side effects of the prolonged ear healing process has been an inability to exercise so vigorously as to sweat. That’s not good for someone given to anxiety. I’ve been exercising more since I’ve been here (more on that later), and it really has helped the way I feel, as did yesterday afternoon’s massage, even if they’ve both left me achy.

    I believe the ear is on the right track at this point, and I think that will get resolved one way or another. I don’t think there’s anything more to do on that front for now. But like the noise, the threat lurks. Just as there could be noise, there could be a setback in my ear. And as I mentioned elsewhere, it’s the vulnerability to these things, not the things themselves, that are so upsetting.

    But really, there’s an aspect of this that’s just not cognitive. The anxiety is often a physical sensation, and there are enough physical issues just now that maybe I don’t need to go looking for stories. So yes, giving it space is what I probably need to do. I just can’t stress enough how unnatural that is for me. But I can change.

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