Human beings have a very common fate. Though we all have unique experiences and adventures, much of our lives are the same. We are born and walk thought our time at the same pace.
Time waits for no man.
I am thinking of a Greek myth of Tiresias, a blind oracle for Apollo. He was a prophet, a seer and had unique wisdom that others wanted.
Tiresias popped out of the uniform path of humanity though, when the gods changed him out of his fate of being a man and he was changed to live as a woman for about seven years.
He was granted this experience and insight into humanity that no one else ever had.
If I try to imagine what it was like for him, I suspect it was jarring and inconvenient. It’s a good thing he was a seer and valued wisdom and insight.
Tiresias is on my mind. This Chemotherapy is working on my body and I believe it is giving me the early out-of-sequence experience of being elderly and frail before my time.
All my systems are weakened, just like an 80-year-old body. Muscles, stamina and even memory are affected.
Oh! Just like Tiresias I am pursuing wisdom and insight. What can I learn from this trip into a different experience than the ordinary?
It’s like a tesseract (nod to the Happy Mediums from a Wrinkle in Time) making a shortcut to this part of my life that wasn’t accessible to me before. In my momentum of daily life and short-term goals I was barreling forward at speed and complacency, making plans and tracking was possible and what I could expect.
I’ve popped out of that rut. Speed, distance and progress changed scale and my expectations had to do the same.
Me and Tiresias could both be annoyed with the change in circumstance in our fates.
But it’s a curious new land. What does it have to offer? What can I learn from this unfamiliar situation? In this new scale, what is important? Connection is growing in importance and progress is less important.
Tiresias discovered his change was a gift. I’m seeing where my insights can appear. I’m still exploring
I always bring work when I have to wait. I have stuff to write, or at the very least something to read when I am early to a meeting room or in a waiting room.
My life now has a lot of waiting rooms. The average week has 2-5 doctor visits. I’ve got a book on finishing writing, so I’m trying to move the needle on that one.
I had the third chemo last week. The three hour chemo. That’s three hours not including the wait time.
Naturally, I had a doctor visit the day before, and I noticed a couple sitting together. Both looking at their phones, but cheerfully were chatting about what they were reading.
Chris comes with me on chemo days. I am grateful for his companionship. I hadn’t even mentioned the companionable couple from the day before, but he pulled out his phone.
“Are you ready to learn things?”
I gave him a huge smile. “are you going to tell me things?”
He is very good at finding interesting things for me.
There is, right now, a surf-jacking otter in Santa cruz. Otters are so very cute and cuddly. I know I’ve seen ton of cute otters swimming on their backs and holding hands.
Otters are wild animals though. They can grow to 6 feet long. This otter in particular is going up to surfers in Santa Cruz and knocking them off their boards. This otter Bites!
Things have gotten weird over in the Bay. This otter is not kidding around. She is coming after surfers and not giving up.
But where did she come from? It turns out her mother was getting involved in surfers too, and that otter was captured. Over at the Monterey Bay aquarian, this original surfer-interfering otter was put for rehabilitation. See…it turned out she was pregnant.
The child of this family of crime turned to surfer violence on her own. This Otter Daughter is the one terrorizing the surfers, permanently harshing their vibe.
There is more to the story, I know. And I don’t know if this otter is a girl, but I like to think so because otter daughter is fun to say.
We delved into this story while I went through my treatment, and this is what I get to have as my partner and companion in hard times.
We can laugh, be kind and do silly things together. Cancer is not the only thing that’s happening. I have a wide world I’m still a part of and many adventures—even if they are only ones to read about—to enjoy while I’m going through this.
Early on I heard the advice: “Don’t let the cancer become your identity.”
At the time I thought, How ridiculous! I have a million things that I regard as more important and interesting that this silly disease. Why would I make it my identity?
Some identities are thrust upon me. I did not choose this, but I have to carry it. And it’s an immersive experience. It seems every part of my body and mind, as well as major parts of my schedule are consumed with grappling with this hated disease.
It’s a long army crawl to get to the other parts of my identity.
Is there enough left to cover the scraps of my denuded self? What dignity can I scrape together in this time?
Writing is a big part of my identity. Writing and sharing it. The sharing gives the writing a different quality.
I thought of two different things to write and then hated both of them.
Then I realized I could be honest. How I hate writing about this cancer AGAIN. But that I am deep in it and can only describe the many many trees in I am encountering. I know it’s a forest
I keep hearing it’s a forest. And I believe I will get to the end of this forest.
I have to see a lot of trees before I get there.
Other parts—the WAYYY more interesting parts—of my identity are on mute. They are there and I’d love to let then roar forward.
Maybe I’ll find a way. Or maybe I have to get through more of the forest.
I cannot give in to frustration or resentment. I have to far to go. Maybe This is a new part of my identity that I’m growing into. Not as “cancer victim” or even the more palatable “cancer survivor.” But as the person who can go through a long fight. This is my campaign…my battle line. That’s the identity I’m putting on. A way will be found, and I will find it. It will take time.
When I’m looking for a job, I pay a lot of attention to how I look. My clothes, my face, my HAIR, I want to impress. I want that new job, so I grasp for anything I can think of to get a boost.
I will change my outfit, and preen and look at myself from different angles. I am trying to make myself the ONE that interviewer wants. I’ve never met him before, and I’m hoping I can make the connection and get what I’m hoping for.
I’m not the only one who spends time carefully preparing an exterior for the world. I’m trying to show who I am so that I will gain favor and advantage.
But did my hair-do really make the difference?
I’m not looking for a job right now, thank God. But I am wondering about my hair do.
The lease has ended on my hair. It’s mostly gone and will be all the way gone for the rest of the year. The old ways I used to put myself forward in the world are different now. As I submit to the chemo procedure, I’m realizing I have less ability to be impressive in the world.
It’s not so easy. I have to learn new tricks. I have to be satisfied with less.
Or at least something different. If I am clean and decently groomed, that is enough. It’s not required that I be the MOST beautiful. It’s enough to be enough.
It seems my concerns even while I had all my hair may have been superstitious anyway. Enough is as good as a feast.
I’m weaker and less polished than I was. I will have to believe that I’m enough even though I’m less than I’ve been.
I’ll have to focus on being my best in less superficial ways. My thinking—though slower—is still the important part for my job. I can be careful and thorough and not be distracted. That’s the part that I can move my attention to.
And..as I am not feeling good and I am receiving the attention and help of those around me, I want to make sure I give attention and help back.
My value is not just in how I look, but how I can give love and concern to others.
I don’t’ have to do it all. In fact, it could be better if I amplify the efforts of those who want to do more. I could try out how it feels to not do everything. There is something to be learned in that too.