A few weeks ago, I saw Kevin Nealon’s stand-up comedy show, during which he shared his reaction to last year’s devastating wildfires in Southern California that destroyed dozens of homes. He recalled how, when walking out of his multi-million dollar beach home, he discovered a thin layer of ash coating his brand new BMW and sank to his knees in despair, tears streaming down his face, clenched fists raised to the sky, screaming “Why me?”
Never has a joke so perfectly epitomized the way I live my life. If I’m not taking things for granted or blowing problems out of proportion, I just don’t feel like myself. I thrive on negativity. Mine is a life defined by imaginary hardship. But every once in a while, something legitimately bad will happen, and with it comes a moment of clarity: hey, my life is actually pretty great – or at least it was until about five minutes ago.
I had one of these trauma-induced epiphanies last month. I haven't mentioned it until now because I was waiting until my husband and I had both sufficiently recovered from the ordeal. It all started with a bottle of pink champagne. That might not sound like the makings of a terrible tragedy, but champagne bottles are in fact extremely hazardous. Exploding champagne corks can fly at a speed of 50 miles per hour and are one of the leading causes of traumatic eye injuries. If the cork is defective, it might explode before you’ve even removed the wire cage, as my husband learned the hard way.
When it comes to remaining calm in a crisis, it turns out that my husband is much better than I am, but I think that’s because he didn’t have to look at his own eye. Every time I glanced over at him and saw a giant pool of blood where his pupil and iris should’ve been, I had to stop what I was doing and breathe into a brown paper bag, while he just rolled his eye at me.
As I was driving him to the Emergency Room, I couldn’t help but think, “Why wasn’t I happier ten minutes ago? Life was freakin' awesome ten minutes ago! I should’ve been overjoyed! I should’ve been celebrating!” ... Oh, wait, that’s exactly what we were doing.
Upon arriving at the hospital, a normal person would probably feel relieved, but I am not a normal person as far as hospitals are concerned, having once been a victim of medical malpractice. When I was fifteen, I broke my leg playing softball, and a simpleminded ER doctor slapped a cast on me without ever bothering to examine my ankle, which had been shattered and was subsequently left untreated for months. Now, when I hear the words “Emergency Room,” I don’t think of a safe haven where miracles are performed and lives are saved; I think of a chaotic, nightmarish place where exhausted, overworked, poorly trained non-specialists “practice” medicine on unsuspecting patients.
Thanks to my traumatic past, I am now the worst kind of patient. When dealing with doctors, I have to perform rigorous background checks, I repeatedly question their intelligence, I demand second opinions, and I always have a list of 50-100 questions that need answering. The doctor who was attempting to treat my husband’s eye looked to be about ten years old, and I questioned everything from his faulty instruments to his choice of painkillers. (I was right about the painkillers.)
I’ll spare you the grotesque details of his treatment, but I can assure you that eye injuries are the absolute worst. Imagine having to sleep sitting up for weeks, waking up every hour to take eye-drops, and having to keep your head completely still – which means no walking around, no bending over, no sneezing, and some nice person has to wait on you hand and foot and act as your chauffeur. It also means that you’ll have to wear an eyepatch so that you don’t frighten young children.
Luckily, we already owned an eyepatch. A genuine pirate’s eyepatch! Embellished with the traditional skull and crossbones. I thought it made him look very handsome. And, he was suddenly able to command the attention of any room. No one forgets the guy with the weird eyepatch! When we would go to our local coffee shop, the barista would take one look at us and say, “Iced soy latte and an orange juice, right?”
There were a few other good things that came out of the experience. On April Fool’s Day, we got to tell our friends and family that my husband had been severely injured by a bottle of girly champagne the night before. That was fun! And, of course, I now have a new phobia to obsess over. I was at a bridal shower a few weeks after the incident, and when the host started popping champagne bottles, I reacted the way one might if a deranged lunatic had started waving a gun around. I’m strongly considering wearing protective eye goggles 24/7 for the rest of my life. With the right hair and make-up, I think I can pull it off.
Anyway, now that my husband is mostly recovered, I’m back to taking things for granted and getting upset over frivolous things. And, God, does it ever feel good.