Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Final Backtrack-- Domino

I don’t really want to say this, but last week was… good.  I wished that I wrote about it then, because things have been sliding away from good, and its hard to recapture the good in a way that is genuine.

But fuck that.  Last week was good.  For a few reasons.

I know I’ve already dark washed the trip I took to the Eagle’s Nest.  But I don’t know where I would be now if I hadn’t went.
I didn’t work as much that week.  Always a bonus.
I allowed myself way too much caffeine.  Paying for that now.
And a friend of mine was in town.  John.

I have been chasing my tail on what I want to say about him. 
Our friendship is important to me.  Maybe because he had enough distance for me not to try and push it away.  Maybe because he met me where I was with everything, and didn’t try to back away.  Maybe because of the trip he just finished with- a trip that was really important to him, and I happened to be a person he wanted to see.  It put my worthlessness, my feelings of an empty life in check for awhile.  Or maybe because, in spite of the distance, we surprise each other with the amount we have in common, and… whatever.

The truth is, the friendship just works.  And I don’t know how the hell to say it better than that.  If I wanted to, I could look into it, and analyze it, and make things sound more or less important than they are.

So I kept on trying to do the opposite.

I started treating it like it was fragile- like coming upon a rare animal, and being afraid to breathe too deeply, a moment of weightlessness with the wonder of it all, and the fear that it’ll soon just drift away again.
Of course, with John, the animal would turn, look me up and down, and say “What’s your freaking problem?”

I waited for his bus to drop him off at the stop past the Hawthorne bridge in the morning, beating back thoughts about what my expectations or his expectations were.

Of course, he was fine with anything.  I wasn’t.  I hadn’t went so far as trying to be a better, more heightened me… well… other than the soda I drank, because I wanted to be up and talking, and not asleep.  I just wanted some place comfortable, some place conducive to talking.  And downtown Portland still mystifies me for just finding a good hang out spot.  Of course, I felt like this made me seem unprepared.  Which I was.  I didn’t want to overthink it, but, hell, that was going to happen either way.

I knew of  a decent coffeehouse in Old Town, which is no longer there, then Stumptown, but neither of us drank coffee, then Starbucks, which was stools at a communal trough table and uncomfortable.  Then a...hmmm… a bagel place.  The most interesting thing about this place was reliving a CSI episode by taking an elevator down to the parking garage, then finding the bathroom.  I ordered a soda.  He ordered a tea.  We were there for hours.  And no one kicked us out. 

In writing, in music, in acting, in painting, there is sort of zen-like time that takes over, and once you come to, you aren’t exactly sure where the time went, but all you know is that you feel good about whatever happened. 

That’s what I felt like talking with him.  Of course, things come back to me about the conversation, and the goodbye was brief when meds decided to interfere, but it was good.  Just… good.  And that is one big fucking mountain moved for me.  It was time I gave myself space- when everything that is usually pushing at me just stopped, and I could talk.  And listen.

I also caught up with him at the airport, to see him off.  I like airports… especially when either going somewhere myself, or when other people are going somewhere.  Its one of those completely transitory spaces- a place where just about everyone is in a moment of coming from and/or going to someplace else.

Of course I was all self-judgemental about it… like it was a weird thing to request.  But he was grateful, and said so.  A huge relief, because I always feel like I’m pushing myself on other people.

John is a good friend.  He was also in the right place at the right time, which, as I’ve heard, has been happening to him quite often.

The hardest thing for me to do, the hardest part of the cancer is trust.  I don’t trust anything- medical professionals, money, work, the future, affirmation, compliment, the plans I had, hoping or believing in anything, myself, my health. 

John is a person I trust.  I trust him to give me an honest reaction, and honest opinion, and would tell me what he thinks.  I trust he gives a damn.  And if I can trust him, maybe I can eventually trust other things, other people.  Hell, maybe even myself.

Doesn’t matter how much credit we take in our relationships, it seems we are at best the first domino to fall over and start some sort of chain reaction.  We can’t control the course of it, we can’t stop it, we can’t even know if the result will be positive or negative.  But just by being who we are, if we have the courage to be who we are, we affect change in those around us.

Just being able to meet and talk and make real a friendship I’ve had with John for years, and just by him being who he is, I had a good week last week.  And the domino fell.  Who knows where the hell it will lead. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Journal entry… November 19th, 2012

Halloween- Samhain, Steve put up strings of lights- orange and two strands of purple- both of which were different shades. 

I was just coming out of my ‘everything-is-illuminated’ recovery.  I was walking back out of the spiral, to realities I didn’t want to face, both at all and in the same patterns, the same streambeds that had worn themselves into my life.  That I’d worn into my own consciousness.

Samhain night- Steve went to bed.  I was up for a while, just trying to keep going, find something.

And it was pointed out to me- a strand of purple lights hung on the side window overlooking the balcony.  The string of purple lights were the line of ancestors going one way or another.  And there was one, brighter than the rest. 

That was me.  Special?  Different?  Maybe, maybe not.  The light just shining brighter wasn’t a comparison, it was a statement of fact- the point of ancestors saying that I’ll stand out no matter what I do, so just be me, be that light.  Shine.

It’s opposite me when I lay on my side on the couch- its where I’m still sleeping, and it’s a guidepost, a reference point.

Today, a power surge, and that light, that one out of all of them, just burnt out.

First, sadness like I was submerged  sudden like.  Then the brain took over, chattering away, what-does-it-mean-what-does-it-mean?  Black and white definitions started the the narrative down a dangerous and depressing path.

Steve replaced it, but it’s the different color purple.  So, now what?

Realist tells me to stop being fanciful.  It’s a short in the socket, makes the bulb burn faster, brighter, and in a power surge, it’ll go again.

Bam.  Listen to that and learn.

Also, bed time is about over on the couch.

Keep moving,.  Sacred light is ephemeral.  It goes out when it is no longer needed.  Or when it wants to make a point. 


I didn’t need it anymore? 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Backtrack 3- Eagle's Nest

I am having trouble writing about this trip I took.  This trip that I put some expectation on, and it did, and it didn’t live up to the expectation.

Through the cancer, through the treatments and the recovery that doesn’t seem to fucking end, I have found a bigger and bigger empty spot where spiritual stuff used to be.  The wonder and joy and comfort and self-confidence I took from that is an incredible loss for me.

And what compounds the loss is that I had built my life on this bedrock.  And now its not there, or I’m denying it, or whatever the fuck it is, I now feel like I need to explain myself.  Like there is an expectation there for me to find the meaning, the silver lining on the fucked up life I am now leading.  So, even though I disappointed by not becoming one of those ‘cancer was a reaffirmation of life’ assholes, I could go away by myself, have a revelatory epiphany, and come back right with the world, the light come back to my life, and things would right themselves because I was righted.  And all I needed was solitude, communion, the chance to reconnect.

Oh, rapture.

Breitenbush was the first place I was going to go to- a spiritual retreat center with natural hot springs, yoga and meditation rooms, vegetarian food cooked for you, and beautiful, beautiful grounds in the middle of nowhere- so much so that phones don’t work, and any electronic device is discouraged.

This was immersion for me.  Who knows if I would go completely bonkers, but I just needed to get away from everything, and get back to zero.  Get back to me.  Get back to some sort of reason to continue to exist in this world.

Weeks after my reservation, they informed me that my stay was going to be full of construction and thinning out their natural wooded setting.

This was a deal breaker for me.  I certainly could have gone, and resented every fucking minute of it- how folks went there and had revelatory experiences, and I got to listen to a fucking chainsaw… one of my least favorite sounds of all time.

So, I found something else.  The Eagle’s Nest.  A cabin on the side of Nehalem Mountain, overlooking Manzanita.  The far window, especially at night, you could see the Manzanita coastline, and the small community lit up against the greater darkness that can only be experienced in lesser populated places.

It was small, but it was space.  And the kitchen was wonderful.  So wonderful, I found myself putting it in order, showing off the better pieces left there for guests to use.  Red yellow and green brindled Fuji apples in the cobalt blue hand-thrown bowl.  The avocadoes in the purple-grey dish, both placed in a prominent place, like flowers, like I was waiting for a guest.

This could be the place, right?  This could be the place where I would be able to leave the grief and anger and depression and anxiety and any iota of bad feeling streaming behind me, and I’d come out clean and happy and ready to face the world again.  I mean, it was all put together by hand, and was used as the place for the energy worker to see her clients- specifically, the womb-like bedroom, with its walls festooned by images of possible spirit guides from every culture.  And if that wasn’t your thing, both nightstands were bookshelves, the one to the left of the bed filled with books on tantra and divine sensuality.  Nothing overt or too provocative.  Or gay.

I feel like I’m setting this up to be another fiasco.  It wasn’t.  I’m glad I went.  It was just a mixed bag, and that, in itself, was disappointing. 

I keep on holding out for some sort of supernatural intervention, some sort of deus-ex-machine to happen that would give me a kickstart into believeing into myself and my life again.  To make me believe I am special, because I sure as shit don’t feel that anymore.  But I still have some sort of tiny glimmer of naivete that waitsandwaitsandwaits for the moment everything is just fine, and better than before. 

Why not when I’m alone, when no one but me would have to believe it.

Here’s what happened- I spent a mostly pleasant time there.  Very pleasant.

But by myself, I found a new thing staring to make itself known—crippling anxiety.

The first full day was great.  It was great because I was able to shut up that “you should be” voice in my head.  I did a puzzle the whole day.  I loved doing puzzles, and I said ‘fuck it.  I don’t have to do anything but this puzzle today.”  Although it was a meta day, putting together a puzzle of a picture taken on the beach of Manzanita looking towards the very mountain where I was in a cabin putting the puzzle together.

Every night, a cup of detox tea, and a light over the small dining table, with another light coming from the stovetop.  By myself, listening to the waves outside, and feeling them as well (Nehalem mountain is that type of place, made up of metal or something, so you can literally feel the waves.)  Sitting there, feeling bored, lonely, but free and uncramped. 

Then off to the bedroom.  Now, the bed was memory foam.  No problem there.  Really, no real problem.  I had a few issues the first night getting used to an odd rhythmic scratchy chirp that would happen in burst of call and responses.  I assumed it was frogs or insects outside, and let it lull me to sleep.

First night, sleep.

Second night, less sleep.

Third night, nightmare.

Fourth night, before going to bed, found ants crawling in the room.  This spiked my anxiety, even though nothing happened to me the first three nights.  What clinched the sleepless night was this rhythmic sound I heard was coming from inside the room.  Small, but distinct.  The ants?  Who knows?  I couldn’t figure it out.

I finally went to sleep on the futon in the main part of the cabin, but felt like someone was trying to prod me awake all night.  And that was the time during the trip that I began to question my sanity.  The anxiety was so intense, I wondered if I really heard any of the sounds, or just hallucinated them.  I then had this moment of thinking maybe it was all a dream, and someone with a british accent was trying to wake me up.

This overshadowed the whole trip.  I had so much space, so much time just to be.       

And I have some doubts if I spent it well.  Because I came back tired, and confused.

But fuck it, I’m glad I went.  And if everything was brilliant at this point, maybe I would be completely insane.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Backtrack 2- the final diagnosis(November 8th, 2012)

Like a good friend of mine said recently, “OK is a moving target.”  More on him later.

Progress happened.  The shitty Endoccrinologist did not sink me into self doubt and depression.  No, I have plenty of other things for that.

And that being said, at this time last year, I was told that it indeed was cancer.
But, in the running theme throughout the bullshit I went through, it took a while for it to be told to me.

My Otolaryngologist, my ear nose and throat guy, the guy who did the surgery, is quite an excellent surgeon.  I will give him that.  He just completely bungled the process of the biopsy and the final prognosis.

A week after my first surgery, I met with him to check in, and get the results of the biopsy.

Results:  Inconclusive.  They had the bit of me that was oddly lumpish, and still couldn’t tell if the oddly lumpish lump was something that, left unchecked, would ultimately destroy me and my body.

So they sent it to Boston to get a better opinion.

I didn’t do any research on how common this is, but even if I did, it’s a horrible thing to have someone tell me.  Especially when I’ve endured about six months worth of ‘inconclusive’ before this.  But, fuck, what could I do?  I left, knowing that he would contact me in a week.

That week was hard.  It was a time of going back and forth between wanting to know and having it finally over to getting angry at myself for going through this process.  How the hell could I trust someone who could cut clean and well, but couldn’t even tell if it was fucking cancer?

This one meeting, this one moment gave credence to the shadow of a doubt I still have that I actually have cancer or not.  Every moment after, there’s a feeling of “I’m putting myself through this when I didn’t really need to.”  This is hard to deal with.  Day to day.  I still get this heavy feeling in my stomach whenever it comes back up.

So, a week later.  The week that he said it was going to take to get information.  That day- I get a phone call.  I see who its from- his office.  I’ve been freaking out more and more, so I take a breath, stop what I’m doing, and answer the phone.

It turns out it’s the fucking receptionist, telling me that I need to make an appointment with the doctor to deal with the FUCKING NASAL POLYPS he found while also scheduling me for my hemithyroidectomy.

I was furious.  I still am furious.  Who the fuck cares about nasal polyps?  Sure, they are uncomfortable, and left unchecked, could result in a worsening medical condition.  BUT NOT FUCKING CANCER!!!

I should have told the woman “As soon as I am told whether or not I have cancer, I’ll make a fucking appointment.”

Wednesday dragged on.  Thursday.  Thursday, I couldn’t take it.  I finally called the office and left a message for him.

“You told me this was going to take a week.  And its been more than a week.  I need you to tell me as soon as you know.  AS SOON AS YOU KNOW!”

I get a call around eight that night.  Affirmative.  Papillary Thyroid cancer with a follicular variant.  Listening on the phone, I put up the oh-so-cheerful-and-reliable persona, and fell apart behind it.

Apparently I was agreeing with him, and being way too upbeat, because he asked me point blank if I was going to do this, because it sounds like this might be the last time he hears from me.  An odd admission from this guy.  Maybe he never had to call so late before.  And maybe I did sound so remote.  But fuck it.  I can’t guess what he was thinking.  He said it, and it tied me to the moment a bit more, tied me to him, to the next action, which was the second surgery, and the radiation ablation, to happen afterwards.

In all of this as well, there was a certain ironic sense of relief.  That something was concluded.  That it wasn’t any more testing about the unknown, even if I didn’t trust it, it was definite.

There was a few days before the fall out actually happened.  The first few days is about communicating, being as upbeat as possible, so I didn’t have to be receptive to the sadness, pity, compassion being thrown my way.  I could block it, and keep on going.

I worked through that weekend.

And that Monday was the day that I realized that there was a period now at the end of my sentence.  That death had become much more real, and, as I still joke, I probably am not going to last as long as I always imagined in the Zombie Apocalypse. 

And yet, and yet… feeling like I’m just being a fucking victim… I don’t have it so hard, shut the fuck up and keep on moving.  Give yourself the candy bits- the food, the cheerful positive affirmations, the distractions that will keep you form going too dark, too deep, too emotional.  Just keep going.