Saturday, June 2, 2012

Across The Table

I took a friend out to dinner last night who wanted to sit and talk because they are going through a relapse of cancer. It was originally stage 2 last year and now it’s back as stage 3. She sounded a lot like what I felt last year. She was trying to figure out how to communicate with her parents who like my mother is an overworrier. It felt intensely hypocritical to sit there and tell her to make sure that there was at least one person who she was unloading all of her emotion to and at least one person who she was sharing all of her medical information to. The medical information I shared readily with everyone, the emotional stuff I wasn’t even aware of some of it. Perhaps in self protection mode, or perhaps in trying to be protecting everyone else mode, some of it I didn’t even process till way later.  She was closed to the ideas, not wanting this random disease to be damaging to anyone but  her.  She, like I had, did her best to hold it together the whole time and it wasn’t until I excused myself from the  table to the bathoom that she let herself cry. I came back to hug her and she said simply “I never cry.” Well I never had either but there’s a reason it’s built into the system. Maybe it’s not that different than sweating… it just relieves other than things to try to get them to a better balance. We are going to meet again in a couple of weeks because she has a trip coming up and I offered to be either role but that either way, she was going to get a text from me daily until she picked one of each. Today’s was already sent. I reemphasized the line that I hope to always echo in my lifestyle: you have to work on the relationships you want to keep. 

Living strong is important; so is acknowledging that we’re human. The balance is at best tricky. “We” want to believe that we are better than “them.” Those of us who don’t cry and don’t weigh our family down with a random occurrence are more “noble” in our own emotions and thoughts. The Livestrong ad for the bicycle race comes out this week (someone on a group ride asked me if I was the guy from it and it becomes the second time where other people see the ad before I do). I was annoyed with Livestrong when they first asked if I could be in their ad about how I mishandled cancer in regards to my wife. Why couldn’t they focus on the fact that I had put off brain surgery to qualify for Boston but there was something awfully accurate about it. It’s good to work on your strengths but there are some weaknesses every human should work on and mine a long way from being there is how to completely deal with my emotions. I biked hard last night, coached some people training for their marathons this morning and am preparing for an ultimate tournament in a couple of weeks and that’s healthy but there’s more than that. I’ve laughed and made plenty of jokes about what may kill me and I also think that’s healthy. But you have to acknowledge some of that humanity. I cried five times between the diagnosis and the surgery. The first was a very angry crying as I threw a gift card someone had sent home, the second was when people handed me checks towards my medical  bills, the third was at the tourney as Kiana kept wanting to know “why she was there.” There was and is no good answer. The fourth was when I decided to the surgery and went out for some cheesecake, assuming the guy I knew was done. The last was in Barbados by myself in the restroom sensing that the wife was disconnected but I couldn’t think of anything to do or say to fix it.

If people are randomly split into two groups and are told that it’s completely random, they still believe the group they ended up on is better. We cheer for our team, our family, our friends. My God is better than your God. My political party is better than your political party and many many people never re-evaluate. We die with the faith, system, and beliefs of our parents and surroundings… I was an am a stubborn enough son of a bitch to where even being told I was probably dying my coping mechanism was to try to hold on to all of my life and laugh about it. Life was even more of a bitch and rewarded some of that stubbornness with keeping my life but laughed back by taking some things away because of that stubbornness. I am struggling to figure out what to do with that stubbornness. The fact that I have meals like that and raise money for charities has within the span of an hour has gotten people who I love to say that I’m both “humble” and “narcissistic.” Are those mutually exclusive?

I’ve held onto many good things and am incredibly grateful. My director once, as we argued about me being stuck in a back closet because of my driving restriction, in a human moment just asked why don’t you just go work somewhere else and I answered because I believe what we do at here. And I do… but it’s not like it’s my only belief system. The problem with when I believe things is I do it with incredible passion and at a track workout, people want to be pushed. In some places, they just want to be allowed to be… I guess I hoped work was more like the first for me but I didn’t do enough of to each his own there. If you just do what you’re told, life is easier but is that really living?

So now there’s no medical evaluations for a while and I’ve definitely taken some criticism (including at last night’s dinner) for that and I suppose it’s more than fair. But that’s not preventing anything honestly so it’s not self harm… Not getting on the scale doesn’t make you gain or lose weight, it just tells you if you’ve done so. Somehow, it’s somewhat comforting to be holding weight pretty steady just as it’s somewhat comforting that my neuropsychological said that all the tests reflected the deficits I noticed and none that I hadn’t caught. I still have a series of tests that I do regularly to tests my own neurological functions… plus the Ipad rehab games. This somehow feels like a diabetic testing their own blood sugar level.

I am looking for a job but I’ve made one of 2 commitments. It has to be something I’m passionate about and where passion is encouraged, something that as I listen to some of my friends talk about reflects their work. Or it has to be a way to pay the bills that I can tolerate that I couldn’t possibly care less about “the cause”. Choice 1 is choice 1 but I’m not going to give 6.5 years at any job where cookie cutter is the norm unless it’s just a way to pay the bills. I also have to get better at communicating there. I’ve made many friends in life but less at that job than any other job I’ve had. Part of it was the nature of the job, being a juvenile probation officer is heavy and I very purposely didn’t talk about it to be able to disconnect when I left and not burn out. That may not be the healthiest thing and it may have been part of why those were the people who I last told about Duke. Also most of my friends never heard about it either because I just had to compartmentalize to not “take it home.” A lot of staff leave there when their children become teenagers and I understand why.

If and when I’ve landed a job like that, I am going to try to block off some of the icecaps around my emotions and try to let myself be and someone else in. A recent facebook post someone had up was “My ex said you’ll never find anyone else like me… that’s the point.” A couple of friends from running had dated one after the other and now they are both married and sometimes life is just about finding better matches. I did this with doctors, with friends and this has proven wise to match with people who are a better match. I did it less with a spouse and employment… and this has proven less than wise and netted these results. So, not having really dated since high school, and being nerdy and data driven, I’ve read some books on relationships in the last couple of weeks before this termination thing, showing at least some cracks in the barriers.

Being raised Seventh-day Adventist, a religion which has sometimes been contended to be a cult (I don’t believe it is), also well sheltered me too much from the world. I went to a boarding high school and the college I went to was a bunch of tee-totalers in wine country… In the Marshall Islands, we were behind a wall. I’ve gotta pick up some skills that didn’t give me enough of. We took that “be in the world, not of the world thing” a step too far in my book.

I am going to do my best to take these new chances and make them opportunities, to hold onto the good, improve the decent, tweak or get rid of the bad. I don’t want to be over romantic or meaningful but maybe life part II, like conception, child birth and growing a child isn’t some formula and some of it is going to be messy and I’ve got so many damn steps to learn. But everyone keeps telling me to take this second shot at life. Some of that will be recognizing where I didn’t fit in and some of that will be recognizing my mistakes and shifting some of both. I am working on just letting some of that anger go as quickly as I can or channeling it correctly because the old saying is Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.

Keep on keeping on is a good phrase if things are going right but they haven’t been. So I want to keep going for now but not just keeping on but analyzing my faults and what you did right though it definitely is my tendency to notice what I did wrong. I’ve literally even thought about taking a gigantic leap of faith and going back to school, seeing if that brain still works. But I’m lost right and broke right now so it’s not wise to jump into school without a great career or future in my mind.  There’s probably going to be some slip ups and some mistakes along the way as there have been so far… but I hope it’s a learning process and in the end, mine and Kiana’s life are somehow better for it.

I sat across the table from someone who left someone they had been with for 15 years to be with someone new and now they are getting married. I can’t say that I was fond of it all since they were the one leaving and quitting which is so against my nature but it was interesting to listen to. I’ve been on both sides of many tables now, I hope I find somewhere to land because I’m tired of being lost.

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