182 Seconds of Silence

Water

The pitcher is just far enough that I no longer want to reach for it. Someone should check the filter on something because I have asked any visitor to bring a bottle of water rather than taste what seems to be recycled sweat. Clearly it’s me and not the liquid, but some things never returned to their natural flavor after the chemo. In fact some things are better avoided because they are just reminders of items I enjoyed but know worry that cardboard will be the signal my brain receives.

I spent the past week being a captive of the medical establishment. At some point I really do need to ask if the drugs were designed to make things easier or worse? The entire task of getting up and walking a few feet didn’t work out as intended. Being dizzy just thinking wasn’t fun.

For 182 seconds I was dead. Nothing to report about that experience. I’ve needed the reports from the hospital to tell me what happened. Lots of people running around while I was laying on the floor of my den-mother’s living room. No bright lights, no angels telling me to go in either direction. Basically I was just there.

I’m glad I don’t remember or even understand all of it.

Being shocked back into some form of heart rhythm apparently doesn’t constitute a violation of a Do Not Resuscitate. Breathing being that line my body hadn’t crossed. Sure the heart was silent, but the rest of me was still trying to give it the “Old College Try”!

By the time people explained to me what had happened, my thoughts were about possibly making a few adjustments to what I thought I wanted versus what ended up occurring. The problem with that is this while depression thing that goes with basically everything surrounding my medical stuff.

I found a reason to not be so cavalier about my death. Not in such a rush to just let the cancer win out.

Every single attempt I have made to avoid letting new people in has led to finding the will of two people in particular to be stronger than my willingness to be alone. The therapist has always said I came back to Massachusetts to be around people who were going to push me to be more than I felt I was. But that is why she gets paid, to tell me things I don’t always see. Knowing that people did that same thing in order for me to tell them about economic forecasts, I get how much of a guessing game it can be at times.

The best thing I can offer is letting them have hope.  You can’t take that away from a person without it changing them in a very bad way.  They aren’t even hoping for a cure, it’s been about time and how best to spend it.  Facing simpler challenges that we might be able to conquer in an afternoon.  Something as simple as a puzzle or wanting to learn about a subject.

I know that there are times when people leave and that hug is about a full range of emotion.  Not too tight, but lingering long enough to carrying until the next time.

The funny thing I can say?  You drain too much water out of a person and they can’t concentrate on the world around them.  They slowly die.  You take away people who matter?  The same thing happens.

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A Gathering of Lesbian Druids Ice Skating

Natural

240 some odd years ago a bunch of white, privileged males gathered in a room to decide the fate of a nation.  Sounds dramatic?  What they really wanted was the ability to decide for themselves who they were going to hang around and what price they were willing to pay for that to happen.

Way too many people seem to get hung up on their Second Amendment rights.  That would be the one that says the government makes an exception for people to own guns to form a militia.  No army, we weren’t a country at that point!  But this was also a legal distinction that they wanted to provide since what they were attempting was to succeed from another country that had far superior armory.  History class would call that a response to the Sedition Acts passed by the British Parliament.

Anyway, let’s back track to that First Amendment.  The first thing that they addressed was the ability for people of different religions, economic backgrounds and depending on what part of the country you were living in at the time racial makeup to gather without fear of government interfering.  [They didn’t get it all right, but it was a start?]

Every now and then I see a sign that invites Lesbian Druids to gather at a Ice Skating Rink to discuss their cancer diagnosis while eating Organic Cat Food.  An exaggeration for sure, but if this group might exist, there’s no reason they should feel safe.

I don’t know if biology, society, or a random flip of the coin this morning is behind how people turn out.  But that also shouldn’t matter.  While religion is not a part of my life, I do believe that people really shouldn’t point fingers at others.  Maybe for the person dressed as a clown, juggling sex toys standing outside a Whole Foods might be worth the chuckle.  But I can walk in the other way rather than pick up some piece of garbage and throw it in their general direction.

Sure, I’m tall, white, overly-educated and came from a privileged household.  It’s easy for me to make statements like this without fear of others.  But I have also read as much as I can about my uncle who was present during those Colonial times.  He was in the room and all of the letters between him and my aunt are public documents (that would be anything about John & Abigail Adams).  There were so many times he wasn’t sure they were doing the right thing and she called him on it.  Do the right thing, even if not easy.  [another reason why I have a fascination with strong women, history taught me well.]

There are several life lessons I have drawn from their conversations held via the postal service.  Imagine if they had email or even worse Twitter?

To be clear, I’m not against guns.  I learned how to handle them as a kid.  Do I think someone needs a weapon like a AR-15?  I’m not sure.  I don’t see the point.  But some people buy $300,000 cars to drive on public streets.  Overkill?  Poor choice of words…

Is it ironic to find that in order for some groups to gather and talk,  not plot to kill, not smuggle children in for repugnant activities, just sit across the table and find a way to advance their own thoughts; they some times need armed guards?  Heavily armed people to protect speech.

We no longer want to hear opposing views, just our own?  How can I possibly learn anything.  Would the world still be flat?  That we are the center of the universe and everything revolves around the Earth?  Zeus is ticked off and throwing bolts of energy?  Until we understood why these things happen, we tried to at least explain them.

I’m very sorry some families had to learn that their brother, sisters, children and friends didn’t get a chance to come home simply because someone didn’t let them.  It’s not the first, won’t be the last.  And there’s nothing I can suggest that will stop it either.

But I will be willing to stand at the door and tell others that the people inside have ever right to gather and enjoy music, poetry, a lecture, movie or anything in the world.  They should have gone home and thought about the nice time they had.  The new people they met.  They should have seen the sun come up.

So the next time a bunch of Asian Power-lifters want to gather and dress in togas to re-enact the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, let me know.

Secret of Life

Struggle

 

One foot, moving slowly in front of the other.  It used to be measured in miles but now I measure that same stride in feet.  If not for the silly Fitbit on my wrist I wouldn’t know the distance.  Amusingly my knees are still just as sore.  And there have been times when I can feel the sweat gather on my hairline.

The doctor’s had told me one thing and when I discussed it with my family, it was a struggle to understand how to proceed.  “Let’s remove the last bit of a tumor and hopefully it with ease the pain.”

Some risks I was willing to take in the last year have become harder because I let people slowly come back into my life.  When I was only concerned about myself, I was willing to allow doctors to perform surgery on the street with dirty kitchen knives.  It didn’t matter to me if I died or not.  Sooner, later, at some point it is going to happen.  Things changed.

My quiet fascination with a Disney show taught me something I really wish my daughter had been able to learn in time.  People change people, that’s the secret of life.  The obviously nuanced comments would go around how that happens and whether it is a good or bad thing.  But that’s about circumstance, not just theory.

Now I struggle not just with walking down the hallway.  Or wondering how much more I can ask of the people around me before I need to push them aside and bring in someone else.  (Hospice people, not just the nurse who occasionally comes by the house to check on things.  I need to be clear on that point.)

Anger stopped me asking for help.  Depression forced me to confront issues about myself that I hadn’t handled and still fight with daily.  The natural step is to be overly concerned with those who keep raising their hands to volunteer.  Finally feeling comfortable with the two new additions to my life still means I worry about them endlessly.  They need to feel wanted, appreciated for their efforts.  I do the best I can, just like they are.

Look, everyone has experienced a family member getting sick.  Not just the flu, but something that deteriorates with time.  There’s nothing unique about my situation from that respect.  But I know that there are times when for a few minutes, sometimes longer, these people make it easier to live.

They understand when I say I look forward to seeing my kid again.  It’s not about them, or their place in my life.  It’s about looking towards something in a slightly more positive light.

And what has been a major advancement, I have finally found that it’s safe to be upset because they are going to understand.

Life is always a struggle.  There’s nothing simple and easy without a massive amount of effort.  Right now it’s a struggle to get down the steps, but it’s nice to have a hand reach out to steady me.

Goodbye, Blue Skies

Gather round me in a circle.  Just grab a chair and let’s see if I can get this right.  The story sounds familiar and everyone here has the same ending, just different details.  Let me tell you how it all ended and how it began again.

Last night I agreed to lead a small group of people.  Honestly there should have been one or two people, but the universe had a different plan.  For too many people.  You get caught up between hoping there are no new people and knowing that they are out there and hopefully getting the help they need.

The theme is death.  Specifically our children’s deaths.  That haunted look in their eyes that still looks back at you in the mirror on occasion.  And in my case, last night needing to remove myself from all emotions that could trap me in their narratives.  It’s my nature to absorb other’s sins, to try to take their guilt and emotion on myself so that someone else can continue.  So sitting in that room meant trying to remove everything about Abigail that keeps me smiling.

I always start talking about this by letting them know that crappy stuff happens on the nicest of days.  Blue skies and gentle breezes replace by the harsh wind coming from barely being able to contain the screams.  Letting them know that we all wished there had been some sign to let me know the day was going south.  Dark skies and pounding rain.

Telling people about how angry I was and how angry I still am takes control that I lack on this topic.  Leaving out details about my ex so that her privacy is respected in a way her family has not respected mine only gets raised hands.  I politely, and maybe forcefully decline those answers.  I’m not exposing that anger when it only means taking from their time and ability to talk about their children.

We talk about finding a way to honor their memory, and last night was just another balloon launched into the sky.  I don’t know where it lands or how its journey will end, but not doing something to make her proud isn’t an option.

I’m learning that while I’m not religious, I am finding a faith in the dreams.

People tell me I still have the ability to command a room, even while needing to sit in my chair.  That while my voice isn’t as loud anymore, it still carries a strength.  I don’t see it, I’m still a kid inside trying to not disappoint by doing the wrong thing.

As the meeting broke up, I made my way to my ride.  Sneaking out the door because I hate thinking if this might be the last time I make one of these meetings.

The skies had turned dark from time and lights were reflecting in every direction.  My heart was only in one place, and that’s where is should have been.

A New Gathering Place

Purpose

This was the perfect time to ask for some assistance.  If I was going to actively chose falling down the cavern, having a person to hold the rope was smart.  Allowing depression to take hold for a short period of time means trusting someone to shine a light I could follow back.  Finding a person who is strong enough to be there and not take it personally or become trapped beneath the surface was easier than I thought.

My surprise came from having someone volunteer and push their way to the front of the line to help.  Not a series of words but actions that allowed me to do what was necessary and come back.

That gave her a purpose.  A long overdue acknowledgement that I valued what was being offered to me and that I was finally ready to accept a small portion of assistance.

Long ago I became accustomed to having to beg for someone to be there.  It became so desperate a plea after my daughter left that it was impossible to get anything done.  At a time when if things had been different maybe my future would also be.  Those months of not sleeping, barely eating, and carrying around a level of anger and grief that served no purpose other than to turn rainbows grey; they left me weak.  Prime for illness to take hold and keep it.

Saturday I had to go deep.  Talking about death is one thing, talking about how you expect people to handle your own combines a strength to get through the words and complete weakness as a result.

Most days I don’t allow the pain to show openly.  There are signs, but that just letting go long enough to get it out and move forward, not a chance.  I’m still haunted by showing previous weakness and have it exploited.

There were just two of us in the room.  It was a movement in our friendship that needed to occur.  I know that there was no amount of things I could buy, or meals I could cook that would be as meaningful as simply letting someone see me break down.  Accepting her hand to get off the floor hopefully was growth.

When someone at work feels like they aren’t fitting in, you find them a purpose.  Let them do something that brings out their confidence in themselves.  Let them know they matter as more than a nameless, faceless cog in the wheel.

It’s taken a long time for me to be able to open myself up to show that I understood that when I fell, those moments of weakness I try to hide, I was comfortable taking hold of a hand that has allows offered to be there.

Let’s put it in the simplest form –

I took a few bricks that have been built into a huge wall and moved them off to the side a started a foundation for a different structure.  Not a wall this time, but how about a nice patio where a few chairs can gather?