Facebook Statuses

Monday, August 22, 2011, at 1:28 AM: 

“in pain. :-(”


Monday, August 22, 2011, at 8:31 PM: 

“tylenol pm means i’ll be out in 3-2-zzzzzzZZzzzzZzzzzzzz...seeyall tomorrow…lol”


Tuesday, August 23, 2011, at 2:19 AM:

“tylenol pm did NOT work…i am wide awake in all kinds of discomfort”


Wednesday, August 24, 2011, at 3:33 AM:

“a good night’s sleep eludes me...aleve, tylenol pm and icing ain’t working either…i’ll never again take for granted simple things like standing up, sitting down or sleeping with no pain.”


Wednesday, August 24, 2011, at 10:48 AM:

“i really just want a diet coke from mcdonald’s and a vitamin water…”


Wednesday, August 24, 2011, at 2:22 PM:


*throws hands up - hella weak - from exhaustion*”


Wednesday, August 24, 2011, at 11:49 PM:

“let’s just say that the trip to the doctor this morning turned into a CT scan, which turned into emergency surgery. i’ll be spending a week here…yay!”

And there’s really no rhyme or reason to it. I am alive. August 24, 2011, is a day I can never forget. The day began with a visit to Duke University’s Student Health Services, arriving at approximately 8:30 in the morning. The day ended with my posting a Facebook status about how I’d just awakened from having had an emergency surgery. The post went up at 11:49 p.m. I was groggy with whatever drugs were in my system.

Until August 22, 2011, I had never felt physical pain like the kind I’d been experiencing sharply. Each day the pain grew in intensity. I arrived to Student Health two days later thinking I’d be prescribed a painkiller combination so I could sleep. Instead, I was sent to Duke Hospital’s CT Scan clinic for a same-day emergency screening. After waiting, I was finally seen at 1:30 p.m. or so. I wasn’t planning on spending the entire day there. The phone was dying. The laptop as well. After the scans and waiting for another two hours or so, a nurse brought me a wheelchair.

I don’t know what’s wrong, but I know you’re having surgery today, is what she said.

I had a perineal abscess (look it up; it’s not in a fun place), so it made everything I tried to do—sitting, standing, lying on my back and stomach, walking—all hurt. It felt like the center of my body was on fire intensely, not easily locatable except somewhere within my flesh.

When I saw the wheelchair, I felt the fragility of my life, of my creaturely existence, more sharply than ever before. I’d never been in a hospital except to visit others, so at thirty-one years old, I was quite alarmed. And scared.

I learned. Life is so fragile, so uncertain. It is a gift, certainly, but there is an unkindness to the chance and opportunity that seems so very unevenly distributed. Though I am grateful to still be alive, there is a kind of existential dread, because I do not know how to explain away the absurdity of living in this world, this fragility. Some folks don’t make it.

I remember talking to my mother around 4:30 p.m. in the operating room prep area, crying profusely. She was in New Jersey, I was in North Carolina. No one was expecting what happened that day. We all sat with uncertainty. And I had to confront the real fear of maybe that being the last time we’d talk. Everything felt so surreal.

I realized my mortality and learned.

The experience gave me a sense of resolve, that there was no time to waste, only time in which to share myself with others. I learned that I needed to use whatever time I had left to live as fully and authentically and truthfully as possible. It has not always been easy. It has often been heartbreaking. But I choose it, still, because tomorrow is not promised.

The experience gave me a desire to live softness. The one thing I wanted from my house more than anything was my big stuffed Tigger doll. And I colored in coloring books. And that a six-days’ hospital stay was when I began watching cartoons. To cultivate softness felt urgent.

The experience gave me a sense for friendship, for really showing up for others, for really being cared for and to practice care for others. I daily hope that I am for my friends what they have been and continue to be to and for me: calm, love.

The experience compelled me to cultivate a sense of joy. I try to laugh every single day. And nine years later, in the midst of a global crisis and unending uncertainty and deep separation, this attempt toward laughter and joy and delight is more difficult. But the attempt is still, I think, worth the pursuit.


Crawley A.M. '11, Ph.D. '13 is an audiovisual artist, writer, and teacher based in Charlottesville, Va., and is the author of The Lonely Letters with Duke University Press.

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