Way back when I started this blog I mentioned, numerous times, that I was going to live the mindset of the moment, and not waste the life I was living caught up in the mental fear of future scenarios, real or imagined.
I also said that there would come a time when those anxieties and fears would be true enough.
In the last day or two, those moments have finally started to find their way in to my every day thoughts. They don’t dominate my thinking; they are more like faint whispers from the shadows, lingering just outside of sight.
I expect that in the next 24-36 hours they will fully step out of the shadows and in to the light, facing me squarely, eye to eye.
My goal is to face the realities of the situation but to keep my mind fixated on as many positives as I can. The alternative is to fixate on the negatives, and I don’t know of anything good that can come of that, even though I know it is a pretty normal thing to do.
I have come to the point where the only way to the other side of this obstacle is to go through it. There is no around or under or over (that I know of). The time for those things is now all behind me.
This is the battlefield of the physical; the time for courage to confront not just this disease but also the treatment, and to hope for, nay, count on, a more positive future. And yes, it is also time to allow the feelings of fear, sadness, weakness, and anything else that might be present to come forth for full acknowledgement.
It says so much about the human life that we have the space inside to hold so many opposing things at one time.
Interestingly, I think this is the time that a few of my friends have been waiting for. Not that they really want me to “break down,” but that they don’t know how to help or assist me until I do.
I have read it in their language since the very beginning. Amazing, loving, kind people, who I am honored to have as friends and acquaintances, all waiting for me to “lose it” so that they can find a gap in which to feel useful.
First and foremost, do not take this as a criticism of these beautiful people. I only recognize it because I can be one of these people as well. We are loved and adored and appreciated for being the helper; the listening ear, the shoulder to cry on, the “I am going to put you on my back and carry you through this come hell or high water.” And we associate strongly with that aspect of ourselves. We are not only helping those we love, we are stoking something inside that feeds off of that kindness and service. It feels like a sense of purpose.
It makes me wonder…
While the intention and the outcome can be a very beautiful thing, can we find ways of being there for someone that don’t require another person’s fragility? Can we stand by in support while they remain strong and are doing well?
It seems obvious, but it isn’t always as satisfying.
There is this thing that Rose always says. I don’t remember when she and I were first talking about it, but we have both referenced it a number of times in the last few years.
The Golden Rule states: Treat others as you would like to be treated.
The spirit of it is to create awareness and empathy. And in that, the rule succeeds. But it can be taken one more step…
Golden Prime: Treat others as THEY would like to be treated.
Each of us has our own unique preferences and desires. What is right for me might not be right for you. If I don’t know you, the best place to start as a helper might be to treat you the way I would like to be treated. But soon enough, I need to determine how YOU would like to be treated. The two can be very different things, and I try to remind myself of this so that I don’t end up pushing my own, very well-intentioned, agenda on to the person I am trying to help. If I do, I make it more about me than them.
Or perhaps, there is another, deeper, agenda at play inside of myself. Perhaps one I am not even conscious of.
I can already sense the depth of digression that is possible here, but time is short, so I will have to develop it more in a later post. :)
For now, let’s stick to the present reality…
Friday night I was trying to go to bed early because I had to wake up at 2:30am to catch my cab to the airport; except I wasn’t really that tired. And that created the opening for those first thoughts…
They weren’t about “Will I be able to still run mountains and do physically active stuff?” or “Will I be able to be as active with my children as I would like to be?” or “Will I have to have this surgery again in 5 to 10 years?” Those are all thoughts that have crossed my mind, but those aren’t the ones that set in on Friday night. The ones that came in to my head and grabbed me by the throat were all about post-op.
The pain, the discomfort, the questions.
What tubes will I have in when I wake up? NG tube, abdominal drain tubes, an epidural, a catheter, a central line, and probably a temporary ostomy. Will the NG tube give me a feeling of suffocation or choking? I’ve noticed that my breathing is my security blanket; the thing I can count on to create calmness. The thought of not having it the way I am accustomed to it is a little disconcerting.
I didn’t dwell on those thoughts very long, but I decided that I needed to create a proactive mindset; a way of navigating and preparing for what I might experience without dwelling on it. I think I have some of those strategies in place, but there is really no way of truly knowing what those days will bring.
One of the reasons why this whole situation has been difficult to truly embrace is because I have been so asymptomatic. I hear I have this disease, but I don’t feel it, so it just remains a conceptual idea. I have no real visceral experience of it.
However, having five days of GI issues leading up to today has really been helpful, in an odd way. It has helped me experience, albeit mildly, just some of the things I could experience if the disease was further along. And that is the type of reminder I needed heading in to this surgery.
To consider a surgery of this magnitude while being symptom free has been a tough idea to swallow. But now, the importance of the surgery is finally settling in. Again, conceptually I have understood this, but there was an experiential disconnect.
As I head to the hospital on Monday morning, I will keep this truth first and foremost in my mind. Beyond that, it will be about confronting the crappy and overcoming it with optimism.
This will most likely be my last post for a while. Tomorrow morning I head to the hospital, and then surgery is scheduled for early Tuesday morning.
I have greatly appreciated all of your super kind thoughts and comments and emails and texts and calls. I am so richly blessed with so many friends and family members. I also have to send a special shout out to the OCR community, who has really rallied around Rose and me throughout this situation.
Get out there and GIDDY UP! Don’t take it for granted!