The figurative water stretches out before you like a Finnish lake. Let us wade into the shallow end. There will be no anesthetic (that is not a promise of delight).
You find Helsinki:
Imagine a zero entry pool, the slope an inevitable glide from dry land to X.
X could be water aerobics after your stroke. Could be a raunchy aquatic romp (XXX).
Could be visiting your parents at the 55 and over community with your siblings and their kids, your boy the youngest.
Could be the greased watermelon contest. The peanut butter and honey sandwiches (crustless). The “Where’s _____?”, where _____ = your son.
You look to the kids. The kids shrug their shoulders. They were swimming. Now they’re eating. Minus 1.
You run toward the pool.
Your whole life, always running late.
Left-handed and late (according to your siblings, because…obvs?).
You went back later that night. Maybe that night. A night. The underwater lights, the drizzle, the gall of that glow.
When the water reached your hips, you let yourself float, pretending to drift. You had to trick yourself into getting this close. When you reached the spot, you were holding your breath. You dove down, marked an X on the bottom of the pool. That’s how you know now, on these annual pilgrimages, that you occupy the same space as him. You put your face in the water, commune, hold your breath for as long as you can, then a little longer.
Part of you will always suspect that you mismarked it. That you can’t even get the thing with no right or wrong right. You think of all the pool emptyings and refillings since. You can’t decide whether that should make you envious or heartbroken.
For the first two years, your body refused to sleep. All night, every few minutes, just on the verge of surrender, you’d jerk awake. Now it only happens a few times a week. The half-life of vigilance is long.
You whip your head up, gasp for air, check your watch. You beat last year’s time.
You were at first surprised that his obit didn’t begin: The late _______, survived by his parents, Mr. So-and-So and Ms. So-and-So-Such of…
You’re not surprised anymore. Now you know: the parents don’t survive.
Did that go as well as expected? Let’s talk about your brain 🧠.
Intervals: Chest & Arms
A brief history of the Helsinki Method 🇫🇮🇫🇮🇫🇮
It’s filthy. This is a surprise? You don’t hold off the Soviets in the Winter War with dry steam and warm milk. The history of the Method is the history of Medicine. 😷💉💊 Were subjects tested without consent? 🙃😱 Was there sexual misconduct, gross negligence? 💀💀 None of it taints the data (pure as the Finnish snow). You’re uncomfortable with this. Let’s see.
A Helsinkian scenario 🎢
You’ve got two kids, ages 3 and 5. They’ll remain gender neutral (shifting social norms, fluid dynamics, etc.). You’re aware of mortality, i.e., your kids break your heart daily without even trying. Your partner is, let’s say, a fuck nut.
You had a little ache in your side, a whatever. You snort when you tell your doc, “Probably nothing.” Your doc, half listening, does that grunt thing he does. Could mean he disagrees, could mean he’s still working out his grief over Tom Brady’s departure in free agency. (More likely, it’s his broken rib. He’s ready to leave Stan, his abusive lover. His plan is meticulous, down to the day, the minute, the socks he’ll wear. A bag of essentials already hidden with his Aunt Phyllis. Stan doesn’t know she exists. But already and again, the plan seems insufficient. He can’t help it. He keeps orbiting accidental overdose, can’t settle one critical question: Mine or Stanley’s?)
When his office calls, you learn you have STAGE 4 something something, “STAGE 4” having robbed your executive functioning. It could return, should you live long enough.
But good news. Great news. There’s a cure. “A cure, kids! Turns out I won’t have to leave you with your alcoholic aunt.”
In other words: you’ll be bankrupt, but not dead. Congratulations on achieving the America dream. In Finland no less!
One small thing. How we got the cure is, how did they put it, “vulnerable populations in urban settings.” Or rather, per government officials (retroactively), “an unprecedented initiative to correct for racial disparities in clinical trials.” Perfect, yes?
Except. A few minor administrative oversights. Among them: no consent, no protocol, no acknowledgment of “participation.”
(At least they didn’t have the study run by the medical students who thought Blacks had thicker skin than whites, right? Counterpoint: Did they ask?
Don’t get hysterical, they say. The 40% of first-year med students who believe that? Drops to 25% by the time they’re residents. In hospitals. Practicing medicine. But what’s in 1 in 4 dead amongst friends? 👋🏻👋🏻👋🏻👋🏿 Turns out “at least” is a lower bar than you’d thought, like, six feet lower.)
But look, let’s focus on the here and now. After all, what’s done is done. And what’s not done is parenting your kids, 3 and 5. For 3, that one, by 12, you’d be lucky if the kid recognized you in pictures without your sister slurring your name. And 5? The abandonment anger should subside by, mmm, 30 or so.
In other words, you’ll take the cure, yes? What choice do you have?
👋🏿 I hold my kid’s hand and it’s…I can’t get my head around how small it is, like a bird. Do you realize? It crushes you and makes you invincible all at once, walking down the street holding that hand. Look at this hand, you think. There is no better hand. What I’m saying is I reject your question, your entire premise. This isn’t hard to get right.
👋🏻 I mean, it’s not like…you know…I would have rather…like…I don’t think I raised my hand. Did I? I didn’t.
You deserve a snack.
You made it.
Where? Not important. It’s the journey that matters. Ironic, since we skipped leg work today. Still. Keep the hypnic jerk in mind, that twitch that wakes you just as you were falling asleep. You dreamt you were plummeting in a roller coaster and could feel your spleen in your throat.
Here’s the rub: the dream comes after the jerk, your brain’s desperate attempt to explain your body to you. And you believe it. 😴😴😴 Better your spleen in your throat than someone else’s (counterpoint: consider the slimming effect of less spleen meat. Seriously, do consider that.).