13 days ago, my phone stopped ringing. I suppose that it's nothing particularly tragic, especially from an outsider's point of view, perhaps for you it would just seem out of the ordinary. You see, I have owned a cell phone since 2000, and over the past eight years, I've grown somewhat accustomed to being contacted on a semi-regular basis. I first got a cell phone when I had a crush on a girl who had a boyfriend and could only call me in stolen moments - so if I missed her call, it's likely she wouldn't call again for quite some time, if at all. Before you go casting aspersions as to the advisability of that particular tryst, remember, it was that adulterous obsession that started my compulsive need to hear my cell phone ring and it hasn't waned much since, so it looks like karma is one step ahead of you.
After three years in Los Angeles, I've certainly not made the sort of drastic impression that I had hoped to. I don't hobnob amongst the city's elite, I don't have a particularly large group of friends and/or acquaintences, and I'm often at a loss for something fun to do when I have a free Saturday night. I have had a decent run working as a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Clippers, and I've had a couple of nicely-paying jobs. But it's sad to say, that all of my friends are either people I've met with the Clippers or people I've met at work. As for the women I've dated, with little exception, they have been women I've met online. Of course, you may find this as normal as getting up and going to work in the morning - but as I take a large step back to look at the last three years of my life (as recent events have afforded me the opportunity), it seems marginally pathetic.
13 days ago I had spinal surgery to remove two severly herniated disks from my neck that were impinging on the associated nerve roots and causing me a tremendous amount of pain and weakness in my right arm. The operation lasted almost five hours. The recovery is expected to take six to eight weeks - and I had no idea I'd be doing it alone. When I told my "big group of friends" and romantic interest what was going on - everyone was quick to offer their assistance. I told everyone that I would be fine on my own and that the best thing they could do would be just drop by or check in as I would need to be at home for at least a week after the operation, and have limited activity after that for quite a while. They all promised they'd be by. My dad, against my urging and fresh off of a heart surgery of his own, flew out to help me through the first four days (where I couldn't do much at all), and left after I was cleared to drive. The operation went extremely well (or at least the doctor tells me so), and I even have the whole thing on DVD - which I have vowed not to watch until I have made a complete recovery (but I will loan it out if you're interested).
13 days ago I had a list of friends long enough that it was hard to keep track of, and a fairly serious love interest. I don't have either anymore. I suppose that, if anything, Los Angeles is a place where there's always a party or some great big thing to look forward to. It's a town of "hot spots" and when one spot isn't so hot anymore, there's always another one heating up just down the street. I guess, a lawyer/cheerleader who's lost 15 lbs of muscle and can't so much as jog for two months isn't that hot - as a teammate or a lover. But my "friends" and "lover" didn't go wanting. My team replaced me within a week - and I haven't heard from my lady friend - but the lack of contact or returned calls suffices to say - I've been replaced there, too. At least my team found it in their hearts to tell me that they hope I make it back before the end of the season.
I suppose this is the sort of cathartic situation which affords one the opportunity to find out who their "real" friends are. You'll have to excuse the hyperbole - as I was visited by two friends in the hospital and at home; one of whom was a former teammate and the other a former love interest... you might say that my past came back to haunt me just when I needed it most. For now, it's still a little too startling and painful to me to see this de facto abandonment as any sort of meaningful "learning opportunity." I miss terribly the cacophony of my phone's beeping and buzzing, the sometimes trivial nature of the text messages I would get, and the invitations to go out and have fun. I miss it almost as much as I miss the friendly confines of the gym, the familiar clank of weights, the grunts of exertion and the piped in "motivational" music. They were each a normalizing force in my otherwise crazy life - there would always be a friend to call, or a place to go work out. There would always be someone trying to get a hold of me, and a place where I could go tangibly make myself a better person. Now they're both gone - and I feel as set adrift as an abandoned ship.
I've been handed "The Secret" and "The Sedona Method" and a couple of other bits of selp-help media - and actually kicked through a few of them... and may be there is something to this positive thinking thing - of course, it seems to be a lot less humorous that my normal thought processes, but perhaps it's time to sacrifice the funny for a marginally increased quality of life. I'm even doing morning visualizations now - of course, they didn't mention the obscenely guilty ridiculousness which would accompany this practice, but hey, it hasn't stopped me thus far. Which is not to say there haven't been some up-sides to the surgery: I've gotten a lot better at my Xbox 360 - including become a pretty kick-ass drummer on Rock Band, I've made at least ten cool new playlists for my iPod, and I've started writing for BrooWaha again (cue the applause track) - because I had previously devoted all my writing time to a blog/weekly gossip thing for my teammates (who it turns out don't give as much of a damn as I had hoped). So here you are benefitting from my solitude.
The terrible thing about this entire process is truly the unimaginably long time that I have to go without doing a damned thing - or "time to heal" as my doctor likes to call it. When you normally spend your free time doing things like lifting weights and throwing girls, getting free time where you're not allowed to do those things feels a lot more like not-so-free time. And while two months of it is not really a sentence of any real length - it certainly doesn't help to have to do it with substantially less human contact that you're used to... which may explain why I went back to work a week early (don't tell my doctor).
I imagine that, in time, this will hurt a great deal less. As luck would have it, I'm also at a professional crossroads which may leave me with a new job and (another) new living location in just a few months. My everything-happens-for-a-reason friends (you know you have them, too) would almost certainly tell me that these latest events should advise that decision - but I secretly think they offer that advice because they don't really have anything substantive to say in the way of helpful analysis. And in truth, there's no way it can't advise that decision - I'm only human, after all. But for now, I'm going to let it hurt for a while, and then I'm going to focus that energy towards my recovery - a little angry in the weight room is always a good idea. Of course, that's still six weeks away... so until then, I'm just going to make sure my phone is charged - you never know who might be calling, even if you know it's no one at all.