I am putting this post in a variety of categories because it’s kind of silly but I’m kind of serious, too. I would like to believe that in this very complicated world, my actions truly do make a difference, even in unexpected metaphysical ways.
Purple is my favorite color. At this point in my life, I feel like I finally own enough purple clothing. On my fortieth birthday, which in various ways did not go very well, I was wearing an all-purple outfit when Daniel and I went out to lunch and he (very uncharacteristically) spilled an entire glass of ice water on me. When we got home, I was able to change into another all-purple outfit. That’s the way life should be! I am happily on my way to being that old woman in the famous poem by Jenny Joseph.
Monday, I wore a purple sweater. This was really just because I had finally gotten around to washing this particular sweater, so now it was available again, and at this point in the year I am kind of tired of most of my sweaters, but it had been at least two weeks since I’d worn this one.
Tuesday, I wore a purple and white striped knit top. As I took it out of the drawer, I thought, “But I just wore purple yesterday!” like I might be enjoying myself too much or something, but then I remembered that my church was hosting the East End Lenten Series supper and service that night, and purple is the color for Lent because purple is the color of sadness in church tradition. It works all backwards with me and is one of the reasons why I like Lent.
Tuesday morning’s e-newsletter, for employees of the gargantuan “health system” where I work, encouraged us to wear purple on Wednesday to support patient safety. This is the kind of useless “raising awareness” activity that makes me itch, but hey, I like to wear purple! And as an employee who has a desk job in an office building and doesn’t actually work with any patients ever, there is not much else I can do to promote patient safety while I’m in the workplace. (I did speak up for patient safety the time I had a harrowing experience as a patient myself, wandering around alone and sick in the dark and cold because I could not find an unlocked entrance to get into the hospital in the middle of the night–afterward I wrote a letter suggesting that they watch for such people on security cameras and send someone out with a wheelchair, and maybe also hang a big banner at the parking entrance that says, “If you are driving yourself to the ER, you really really want the other parking garage at the opposite end of this vast hospital complex.”)Tuesday night, I saw that my friend Andy Looney had posted on Facebook earlier in the day a link to an infographic about a study of favorite colors (which, I must say as a research professional, was a poorly done study with a very small sample size, especially for men–here’s the methods section of the original study) claiming that no men like purple. Andy was a bit upset because he likes purple very much and doesn’t think it makes him unmanly. I commented that I know a lot of men who like purple. I told Daniel (the man I live with) about this so-called research finding, and he said in his manly way that purple is “obviously the best color.” So there!
Wednesday, I wore a big purple sweater with white stripes and purple jeans (the clothes you see here, actually) and purple socks. Because I am all about patient safety! I don’t know if anyone noticed, though, since it was one of those days when I work alone in my office all day and nobody talks to me except the security guard in the building lobby, who only sees me with my coat on.
Wearing so much purple specifically for this reason actually did make me think about patient safety, a little bit. I have been very slipshod at my Lenten discipline of praying while I walk between the bus stop and my office, but during the part of the walk when I hadn’t gotten distracted yet, both Wednesday morning and Wednesday evening I remembered to ask God to take good care of the sick and suffering, and when an ambulance went by I remembered to pray for the helpers.
Wednesday night, I saw that Kristin Looney had posted on Facebook after bringing Andy home from the hospital at 3am. He had tripped over one of their cats and wound up with a concussion and stitches! But he will be all right. He had even commented later in the day confirming that he was okay. Whew!
Obviously, my support of patient safety–including my unconscious support of it by wearing purple in the days prior to Andy’s accident–paid off. Right?
Well, I would like to think so. At the least, I appreciate the reminder that sometimes, when you are thinking good thoughts for “the suffering” in general, one of the people suffering may be someone you love, and you just don’t know it yet–which reinforces the important realization that every single one of the people suffering is someone somebody loves.
Anyway, I am very relieved that Andy’s injury wasn’t more serious, and I enjoyed wearing purple for three days straight. (Today, I am wearing red and pink.) It took me a couple of days to see these things as interconnected with Andy’s post about liking purple.
This interconnectedness ties into my mixed feelings about Facebook. Andy lives hundreds of miles away from me, and we haven’t seen each other in almost two years. He has a blog, on which he posts infrequently, so the news of his injury may or may not ever show up there, and his annoyance about the “men don’t like purple” thing didn’t. If I hadn’t joined Facebook, I might not have heard about either thing. I’m enjoying getting to “talk” with Andy and Kristin a little bit…even though it is more like having very brief conversations when we happen to pass in the hallway, or slipping notes into each other’s lockers, than it is like actually talking to each other or writing letters…and it is interesting to see how things coincide. I actually had posted a Facebook status update about wearing so much purple for patient safety, on Wednesday night, before I made any mental connection between Andy’s purple and my purple or between patient safety awareness and Andy’s safely surviving the hospital. But one of the things that really bugs me about Facebook is the relative difficulty of linking multiple things together, compared to writing like this on WordPress or on a message board where I can link as many links as I want anywhere in the text and even decide what words I want them linked to. Facebook doesn’t even want me to have a two-part thought that I’d express in separate paragraphs within one comment–if I press Return, my comment is posted! (My cousin told me a hack that gets around that. But still, grrr!) And if I post a link on Facebook, I can’t make it subtle, like the links here that convey, “Here’s more about this if you’re interested, but if not you can totally keep reading.”–it turns the link into a big giant thing. Facebook also makes it tricky for me to follow up on any of the three existing discussions saying, “Dude, these are all related! Check it out!” by simply posting links in one discussion to the other two–I think it’s possible, but it’s hardly intuitive. And I’m not linking to any of it here because if you are not a Facebook member, you can’t see any of it, and without checking the details of each of the posts I’m not certain you’d be able to see any of it without being my friend, Andy’s friend, and Kristin’s friend. (Which you should be. Because we all are very cool. But you should be our friend in real life instead of just a Facebook friend.)
But then, wait a minute, if things are said in friends-only posts on Facebook rather than on the open Internet, they are private, right? So maybe it’s a secret that Andy hit his head? Maybe it’s a secret that he saw that annoying “men don’t like purple” thing? Gosh, I don’t think so. It’s certainly no secret that he likes purple. And I hope he doesn’t mind my telling everyone that I’m really, really glad he is going to be all right, and I hope his head doesn’t even hurt anymore.
(By the way, if you came to this site by clicking a link in Facebook, and you want to say something about this article–you can comment below using your Facebook account. It’s easy, and you don’t have to be my Facebook friend to do it.)