Email TechnoMonk
Twitter Musings
Subscribe to Musings

Email Notification

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Powered by Squarespace
Search Musings
TM Recommends…
  • Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
    Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
    by Atul Gawande
  • Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs
    Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs
    by Johann Hari
  • Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
    Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
    by Robert M. Sapolsky
Notably Quoted

It’s good for an artist to try things. It’s good for an artist to be ridiculous.
Sheila Heti in How Should a Person Be?: A Novel from Life (p. 18)

« Chasing Intimacy | Main | On Being Thankful in Hard Times »

Magic Happens

One Friday evening, during the summer of 1998 in Corvallis, Oregon, I was just starting a personal-growth weekend. I had not been feeling well all day, especially as the afternoon and early evening progressed, but I decided I would participate in the workshop anyway. About an hour into the evening, I left the group and went to the restroom...and experienced a very big surprise when I began to pee pure blood. (Hang with me here, the story will get better. I promise.)


I’ll skip the really gory details, but I did end up spending the entire night in the emergency room of Good Samaritan Hospital. I was probed, tested, monitored and examined by not only the ER doc (who looked like he was in junior high school) but by the on-call urologist. Even before the consultation with the urologist, however, Doogie Howser had a diagnosis for me: bladder cancer. He informed me of his diagnosis while standing on the other side of the room, slipping the word “carcinoma” into the conversation as if I wouldn’t notice, while he was visibly backing away from me toward the door. What a piece of work this guy was!


When I clarified that he was actually telling me I had CANCER, I informed him... “well, it’s at times like these that I tend to experience high anxiety. A good, strong sedative would really be appropriate right now.” He obliged. And, a little while after it kicked in, I was a lot more relaxed...even good humored and tending toward the philosophical. I remarked to “C” – who was with me at the workshop and had taken me to the hospital – “well, see, this is why I get up every just never know what’s going to happen on any given day.”


Now, at this point, I had just been diagnosed with cancer. A little while later, the urologist would agree with Doogie’s diagnosis. Here I was, my life about to take a dramatic downward turn, and I was joking. Actually, the drug was simply allowing me to be relaxed enough to act as a truth serum. I really was espousing my philosophy of life: you never know what the coming day will bring. You might as well embrace it when it comes.


Shit really does happen, though...and sometimes it is just terribly difficult to be all that happy about it. Thankfully, for me, that night the doctors were wrong. I did not have bladder cancer, as a procedure in an urologist’s office two days later would confirm. (Apparently, I had merely passed a kidney stone.)


Sometimes, of course, totally delightful things happen when you least expect them to. I had an example of that yesterday when I went to a local Starbucks to do some writing. My “usual spot” in the store was taken, so I put my computer bag down at the next table. I went to the counter to order my tea, then returned to my seat and set up my machine. As I was settling in, the woman sitting at “my” table remarked on the Apple logo I had placed on my Dell PC, and started asking me some questions about the relative merits of PC laptops vs. Macs. (She is going to buy a new computer soon.)


Well, one thing led to another. I learned she was a blogger, so I asked for her web address and I looked it up while we talked (across tables). We continued talking like that for a bit, but then, as the conversation went on, I invited her to sit at my table. We eventually shared much of our personal biographies, including a number of stories of family and relationship issues -- topics that tend to really expose a lot about a person. She was (is) an exceptional listener, and didn’t back away from eye contact. She was non-judgmental in her I was feeling really listened to and totally accepted. We covered many other topics as well, such as inclusion and human touch and letting go. Our conversation rambled all over the place: for a total of three hours, during which time I didn’t look at my watch even once.


She eventually had to leave. She was meeting her father for dinner. And, then she had plans to drive back home to Los Angeles this morning. Which is what I’m assuming she’s doing right now as I write this.


You just never know, though...what any day is going to bring. Yesterday brought a little bit of magic into this otherwise drab life of mine.

Soundtrack Suggestion

If you believe in magic, come along with me
Well dance until morning ’til there’s just you and me
And maybe, if the music is right
I’ll meet you tomorrow, sort of late at night
And we’ll go dancing, baby, then you’ll see
How the magic’s in the music and the music’s in me

 (“Do You Believe in Magic” – The Lovin’ Spoonful)

Reader Comments (3)

Hi Jim,

Indeed I was driving (nine hours!) while you wrote. I just checked email/blog and saw your well thought out comment. I enjoyed our conversation, too. Not to mention your brilliant photos. I may take you up on your offer to use one, like maybe S.F. I haven't had a chance to check my photos out yet!
November 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDonna
I think that's a beautiful, sad, funny, and touching story. I can relate - on a variety of different levels (especially the kidney stone - with as much coffee as you drink! ;) )

Sometimes I think these 'chance' encounters aren't really chance at all, but the universe's way of reminding us to revere the moment we're in, appreciate the people we're with, and to be vigilant that we can find something special at any time!

In my most idealistic moments - too - I think of those encounters as being a glimpse of the parallel universe that I am not living in, as a reminder to me that perhaps one day I will find that intimate, well-matched connection with that someone out there who enhances my world and challenges me to be a better me. That whole 'soulmate' thing, for lack of better words.

Every day I wake up on the right side of the grass is a good day. Every day has surprises. Everything happens for a reason, and things work out they way they're meant to. Eventually.

December 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKai
Thanks for the comments, Kai!

Ah, but let me clarify something. I often refer to my visits to Starbucks. However, I don't drink coffee anymore. After that 1998 kidney-stone episode (and for other reasons), I quit drinking coffee in 1999. I order green tea at Starbucks now.

I could give up coffee. Just not coffee -shops-!
December 6, 2008 | Registered CommenterTechnoMonk

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.