A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art. – JL Borges
Writing weaves in and out of our life. It weaves in and out.
So this happened. It actually happened.
I was at my parents’ house in rural Oregon and I was trimming some trees with some clippers. I had heard shooting in the distance (a common occurrence on the property), but I kept working. As I was walking back into the house, I felt a sharp thud on my right side.
Now, I’m one of the guys who has read his Dashiell Hammett. And Dashiell always said that when you get shot, you don’t feel it at first. It takes a few seconds and then it comes over you in waves. And it did take a second or two and then–I felt it. And I knew. “I’ve been shot.”
And immediately, your mind goes into hyper-drive. Thoughts racing one after another through your brain. First, “compression.” I put my hand on the wound to keep from bleeding more (or bleeding out.) Next, “run” or “run towards people.” So, I started running towards the house. Finally, I thought, “yell.” I started yelling as loud as I could that I had been shot.
It seemed like a long time, but it probably wasn’t when I flung open the back door and made it into the house. My family was there and they helped to calm me down a bit. I don’t want to get into the details here too much. Frankly, I don’t care to relive it all in depth. Not yet, maybe not ever. Suffice to say, we made it into town (about a 50-minute drive). I went to the emergency room, they did a CT scan. The scan confirmed it was a bullet (a .223 probably). The doctor tried to remove it, but since it was outside the abdominal cavity, wasn’t too close to the surface and wouldn’t harm any internal organs, decided to leave it in. I also gave a statement to the sheriff who stopped by the hospital.
Bottom line: I’m doing fine. This happened at the end of last month, so the pain is mostly gone. I do have discomfort from time to time. The bullet is still in me. But I’m seeing a surgeon soon to see if it can be removed. Mentally, of course, I still have some work to do.
One of the first things I did (the next day, I think) was write out a much more detailed retelling of what happened and send it to my family and friends. It was very therapeutic, and I think a lot of my friends and family couldn’t believe it, frankly. For the first couple of weeks, I couldn’t really believe it either. But here we are.
The local sheriff is still investigating, but said it is unlikely they will ever find who did this. Whoever they are, they’re out there and, almost certainly, not aware of what they did.
So, why write this? Why tell you this? Because I thought it would be disingenuous, almost a lie, not to let you know. It’s reality and it happened to me. And it does tie into writing…
It ties into writing because the first thing I thought about when I got shot was what Dashiell said about being shot. Because I read his novels, I knew immediately that I had been shot. It ties into writing because writing that email to my friends helped me deal with the experience in a way that, for me, was helping and healing. It was the first step in my (mental) healing process. It ties into writing because as I was lying in bed, taking my pain Meds in that first week, one of the quotes that drifted into my mind was that gem by Borges up above. That whatever crap happens in your life you’ve got to see the good in it, maybe eventually as a “resource,” as “clay,” as something you can use, at some later point, to make something good.
And that’s how I want to view it. Someday.
Anyway, that’s about enough for now. Before I go I want you to know I’m doing OK and that I’m starting to sort this all out. And I’m still writing whenever I can. That’s all for now. It’s a crazy world out there, People. Take care of yourselves.. And dammit, please take care of one another.
I don’t want this to become a political blog, but I don’t want to just leave this here. And have readers think, “Well! That’s just the way things are!” In fact, two things have really shocked me since the shooting:
- It hasn’t truly changed any of my family or friends’ views about gun control in America.
- Friends and family on both sides of the debate have a lot of ignorance about guns and gun statistics. (For example, both sides have almost no understanding what a caliber of the bullet means or what sorts of guns fire what sorts of bullets. Also, most people seem to far underestimate the number of gun deaths in American per year.)
The first one disturbs me the most. If facts and reality can’t sway you, no matter what they are, democracy and civil society are in big trouble. Both depend on the public being able to absorb facts and new information and modify their behavior and beliefs based upon this new data. If you just cherry pick facts to buttress your preexisting beliefs, whatever they are, that’s when society starts getting into trouble.
At any rate, if you’re looking to educate yourself, let me suggest checking out this resource: The Pew Research Center’s page on gun policy. This article in itself is a great place to start. Do me a favor guess, just guess right now, how many Americans die per year from guns. Got a number? Good. Now, click on the link and see how close you are. You might be surprised. I was.
If you Americans out there want to get more engaged on this issue let me suggest Everytown as a good place to start.
That’s all for now. Got to get healing and get writing. Take care, Friends…And remember.
Keep Reading, Keep Writing,
PS… That photo up top is the actual CT scan of my torso. That’s the real bullet.