I like being unhappy, but this is ridiculous

Let me warn you right up front, I am not in a funny mood today.

I’m right in the midst of a five-day span of trials and tribulations. Normally, I would like these things. As a lapsed-but-still-brainwashed Lutheran, I tend to thrive in the bad times and struggle in the good.

Usually, I find nothing more enjoyable than getting up at 4 a.m., slogging through a difficult day at work, running half a dozen pedestrian errands on the way home, then knocking myself out physically with a two-mile jog around the neighborhood. Only when I’m done with this self-imposed torture am I ready to sit back and relax for an hour or so before bed, confident in the knowledge that I’ve accomplished something.

I tend to be at my most uncomfortable when it would appear to the casual observer that I’m having fun. I still remember going for an early-morning stroll in downtown San Francisco during a 1988 vacation there, and despairing over my good fortune. My wife and I had just spent a glorious week in Napa Valley and were now preparing to see the sites in the City by the Bay. I faced a full day ahead of riding on cable cars, taking a boat ride out to Alcatraz, and wrapping it up with dinner and shopping at Fisherman’s Wharf, yet I was certifiably miserable. I longed to be one of those federal prisoners restricted forever to The Rock. I bet they could get a lot done during those long days of solitary confinement.

I’ve often wondered if I have a condition known in obscure psychiatric circles as “anhedonia.” This is a disorder characterized by the inability to experience pleasurable emotions from normally pleasurable life events such as eating, exercise, social interaction and sexual activities. I hope I do suffer from anhedonia; it would make me feel good to feel so bad.

Anyway, back to my current issues. It all began Friday, when I noticed an itching sensation on my left shoulder. When I checked in the mirror, I could see an irregularly shaped dark brown area, flaked on the surface and inflamed around the edges. It had all the hallmarks of a skin cancer. I made an appointment with the doctor, who was able to see me during my lunch break.

“That does look kind of funky,” said young Dr. Anapurna, offering a clinical diagnosis I don’t typically hear from my regular 50-something doctor.

After reassuring me it was “probably nothing to worry about,” he ran through the various scenarios of what we could and should do.

“I’d say ten-to-one it’s not a cancer, maybe even fifty-to-one,” he said. “These other moles you have, they’re probably more like a thousand-to-one.”

When he brought his thoughts back from Vegas, we discussed the two most likely options for treatment: cutting it out or freezing it off.

“I’ve got to tell you about the cutting option, mainly because of the lawyers,” he confided. “If it ends up being something worse, I’d need to be covered.”

He then launched into a story about what was probably the worst that could happen, which was that it could be left untreated and, even though benign, could spread to a larger area.

“I once treated a gay gentleman who had one of these on his butt and before it was done, it had spread to both cheeks,” he said. “He basically had no butt left.”

I asked if the freezing option could be done today and, when he said that it could, I went with that choice.

“Of course, you know we’ll lose the part that would be biopsied, and if it comes back, we’ll have lost time in treating it more aggressively,” he said. “Odds are, though, that freezing will do the trick.”

He left briefly, then returned with what looked like an aerosol can of deodorant. Containing liquid nitrogen, I supposed it would be pretty damn effective against underarm odor but, at $220 a pop, not especially affordable. He sprayed the spot on my upper arm for about a minute and we were done. So now I have shoulder cancer to worry about for the next month or so.

The next day was Saturday, and I’m sure it took place, but I’d have to take your word for it because I slept for virtually the entire day. It might’ve been a bright spring day outside, however I spent most of my time unconscious, recovering from a week of long hours at work.

Yesterday — Sunday — I spent most of the day preparing for my meeting this week with the tax accountant who would help me with this year’s filing. I go through the same anxiety-filled afternoon every year, certain that there’s some key bit of paperwork I won’t have or some critical deductible I’ll overlook. The floor of my home office was covered with different piles, as I sorted through a shoebox full of receipts and statements. This batch was phone bills, here were Form 1099s, these are proof of charitable deductions and these are business expenses. About halfway through the sort, two of our cats chased each other through the room, and where order had once been, there was now disarray. I wondered if the IRS would accept “my cats had the rips” as a legitimate reason why I had defrauded the federal government of thousands of dollars.

Around dinner time, I completed my preparations and was able to turn to a different kind of prep — the drinking of noxious fluids my young cousin had to do in advance of his colonoscopy this morning. Poor David has been struggling with a chronic GI disorder for several years now, and it was time once again for his doctor to take a peek and see exactly what’s going on inside. As he drank glass after glass of the vile yet fruity potion, David’s trips to the bathroom became more and more frequent. Each time, we had to ask for a report on the results.

“Clear yet?” my wife or I would inquire.

“Groan,” David would respond. “Isn’t that kind of personal?”

Finally, David reached a point of clarity that we figured would satisfy his doctor, and we were able to allow him some sleep, at least until 4:30 this morning when he had to be up and ready to leave for the drive downtown for his 6 a.m. appointment.

As I write this, I’m just about to leave my work to join him and my wife at the hospital. (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I was called in at 2 a.m. this morning to proofread an “emergency” proxy statement). We’ll spend several hours in the waiting room, eager to hear the doctor’s report, and then poor David will be transported to another area of the facility to have a painful adjustment of a permanent IV line that helps supplement his nutrition. This will make returning to the drudgery of my office seem like a treat.

Finally, tomorrow (Tuesday) will be the meeting with the CPA, where I’ll proudly lay out the fruits of my Sunday labors, and he’ll tell me I wasted my time collecting this, I need to gather more documentation for that, and why is there cat hair all over my W-2?

“The feds are cracking down on returns containing any trace of animal dander,” he’ll probably inform me. “Your kitties are just asking that you be audited.”

By Tuesday night, I’ll finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and can happily return from these depths of despair to a more sustainable level of gloom. I look forward to seeing you on the other side.


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