Sunday, August 7, 2011

Reprioritizing perception

Emotionally, it was mildly put difficult to just continue to deal with betrayals of huge parts of your identity. There was the person who I considered the closest family member wanting a divorce, the friend who had met more of my family than any other friend and who had also been the friend that named the teams at my hat tourney after some of my family members. This was in addition to me being the nerdy kid whose brain had turned against him. As I let this weigh in on my head my therapist said something as I tried to deal with the emotions about Dre and his girlfriend, "as you know perception is reality and you have to find a way to perceive them where they aren't extra baggage in your head." While I'm sure this may well have been a standard line, the choice of words was ominously magnificent. I'd had a recent surgery in my head to get rid of extra baggage in my head that had a real chance of killing me so I didn't want to put in new baggage that might kill me in its own way.

I don't know whether or not the cancer or the struggles of it had stayed real toKiana's mom. The simple truth is that I didn't simply wear the Livestrong bracelet because the organization was against cancer but because they had helped me individually and so specifically. She would only wear it occasionally saying she'd forgotten that day because it didn't match with her outfit. When she finally moved the stuff she was taking out of our house (painfully to Dre's house), it might have been telling the things that she left at the house: a shirt back I'd brought her back from Duke, the music box I'd gotten her during my tour to California shortly before the surgery (a penguin couple playing side by side since she had always said that we were like penguins mated for life) and the Livestrong Bracelet. Kiana's therapist had also noted that she seemed very disconnected from the fact that we had just gone through a battle with cancer and that we were going through divorce. Friends who had been to our house through this and who had called her reached out to her but very few were able to connect with her. One of the ones who did said she acknowledged that there were mistakes in our relationship and that she wanted to fix some of them but in her new relationship.

To grieve appropriately over both losses of good people, I went through and read the 14 years of correspondence between us. To my huge discredit, I realized that the first few emails she'd sent me after the diagnosis she was pretty panicked and in my trying to keep it together phase I'd not responded appropriately but perhaps in denial of my emotions had simply answered things like that it would be fine. I went through and read the few I'd kept between Dre and I, which interestingly enough the most interaction we'd had was when he was going through his divorce and during the brain cancer stages. I can't say the anger turned off completely or the depression but I wanted to refocus that the present wasn't the only part of my life and that there was a point where they had been very good for me. I thanked them to the air and realized that I'd have to keep working on letting it go because if they worked out we were all stuck with each other as we'd all be a part in Kiana's life.

Then I put that stuff away and I started to do somethings to change my perceptions and get back to my life. I had already constantly worn the Livestrong Bracelet but I kept looking at it more frequently. My badge at work hung on a Duke Lanyard and everyday when I had to waive it in, I'd try to take a second to remember. I put the disc that people had signed at the hat tournament over my office door, I put the plastic brain that my friend Hugh Daschbach had given me at that tournament up on top of my monitor. I hung the gigantic check that people had given me at the Houston tournament up in my house. There was a graphic that had made the Livestrong Logo into an 8 that I contacted the graphic artist and printed it poster size for both my house and my office. The astrocyte stuffed animal that the Imerman Angel connection had sent me hung up in my kitchen. By coincidence or the grace of God, Kiana asked for a Livestrong bracelet of her own but it didn't fit her wrist so she started wearing it on her ankle. I am not sure who taught her to say this but to this day she says that she wears it "because I am happy daddy's alive." A Duke Sticker and a Livestrong Magnet went up in my car. I had a huge success story of life which was that I had stayed alive and I put reminders in so many areas of my life to go "HEY YOU'RE ALIVE!" I put up more decorations of my little girl around the house and around the office. We repainted her room in a color and decorations that she had picked out. I started hanging out with the friends and family who were kind enough to still be cheering even through the awkwardness of divorce. The only decoration I chose that went into Kiana's room was an angel that had engraved on it: friends are angels on earth. And I finally changed the picture in my wallet from one of the three of us to one of Kiana and I holding hands when she was 1 year old. I was alive and I had a lot to live for. That had to be my new perception, my new focus to carve it into my new reality.

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