I split my day yesterday between handling a Saturday conference call for work, and going to see a friend in the hospital who may be dying. It really wasn’t fair. To anyone.
The phone call happened at 8 a.m., when a co-worker called to ask me if I was going to join the conference bridge. Sh*t! I knew the call was scheduled. I’d been talking about it all week. But Friday night, my spouse got news that our friend needed to see us soon, so we gathered that they were doing poorly and we needed to see them one last time before they passed away.
Their whole situation has really sucked. They have an aggressive and rare form of cancer, and their numbers have been up and down over the past year. They underwent a last round of treatment — a last-ditch effort — and the results were not what the doctors hoped for. So, they’re preparing for the memorial service, getting their affairs in order, and seeing people one last time before they go.
That’s where my head was, yesterday morning. And it took my mind off my regularly scheduled activities, which included the conference call. That wasn’t fair to my co-workers, because I had promised them I’d be on the call at 7:00 a.m., but I didn’t show up till 8:15. I felt terrible about it, but we just had to dig in and take care of what needed taking care of. It sort of happened, sort of didn’t.
We’ll try again on Monday.
The trip down to the hospital, which is in the next state, also wasn’t fair to me. I was really worn out, in general, and pushing myself to help my spouse get their act together, while they struggled with all the emotional baggage, really over-taxed me. It was nothing new — that’s how things have been in my life, as long as I can remember. I’m just getting more clear about how unfair that really is to me. Avoidable or not, whether I want to do it or not, stuff will need to get done, of course. So, I can’t expect life to be fair to me, the way I’d like it to be.
The important thing is that I’m actually thinking about how it works for or against me. And I’m getting clearer on how to better care for myself in the face of life’s inherent unfairness.
And then there’s our friend. Their dire, extremely mortal situation is completely unfair. They’ve lived a good life full of compassion and service… and then thishappens? Bizarre. Tragic. Unfair. And the financial burden on their kids, who have to pay for all the hospital bills (for a journey that isn’t ending up where anybody wants it to), is also deeply unfair. They should only have to pay for what works, but of course, they’ll have to pay for everything. And they’ll still have a massive hole left in their lives.
The whole thing really pisses me off. But that really only impacts me. It doesn’t change anything about life.
The one thing it does impact, is how I live my own life, how I know I have to take care of myself and make my own provisions and line up my own help in the way that I need, because my spouse really isn’t in any shape to come to my aid, if something really bad happens to me and I become incapacitated. This whole experience of watching our friend struggle through so much just re-emphasizes how important it is for me to take excellent care of myself. Because nobody else really can, the way I need them to.
And life isn’t fair.
So I have to adjust to that fact. I have to do everything in my power to keep myself in good stead… and also put supports in place that will help me, should I end up on my own and/or get into a situation where I’m no longer self-sufficient and need assistance.
I actually am pretty much on my own, anyway. But things could get worse for me. So much worse.
Plan accordingly, I tell myself. Plan accordingly.
So, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time today working on my new focus, and it’s good. It’s pretty invigorating, and it gives me plenty to think about. Good stuff.
I’ve also been thinking about some of the really bone-headed things I’ve done and said lately. I haven’t been at my best, I believe, and it bothers me a bit.
But then again, I am human, so I can’t be too hard on myself. At some point, I need to cut myself some slack and just live my life. And try to enjoy it as best I can, because you never know what’s coming down the pike.
I talked to one of my siblings tonight – a close friend of theirs just passed away after being diagnosed with cancer about a year ago. They left two teenagers and a devoted spouse behind. Weird and stupid — ocular melanoma. I’d never heard of such a thing. But there it is.
And I found out a distant cousin who I used to be really good friends with as a kid also has melanoma. Stage 4, I think. I need to get in touch — one last time? I’m a little conflicted about it, because I have a really strong, positive association with this cousin of mine, but I cannot remember very much about them at all. I know that we were supposed to be great friends, when we were younger, but I just cannot remember that much about them, aside from one time when I visited and stayed over. I remember their house being very bright. And we did have a lot of fun. But that part of my life seems to be fading away, as though it never happened.
It makes me wonder if my memory is going, or if I really knew this cousin that well, to begin with. I have a lot of cousins, and most of them I never got along with, but this one… well, they were different. But now I can’t remember much about them, other than that I have a really strong positive response whenever I think of their name.
It’s weird. I would ask my parents, but they get so freaked out if I can’t recall things they think should remember, and I just don’t feel like going there. I may have to, to find out more about this cousin, but I’m not looking forward to it. I may just have to put my pride aside and go ahead and ask. Like I have to put my pride aside and ask my neuropsych to start helping me with things I’ve not discussed much with them at all — like the intermittent fog I get into, where my thinking is completely jumbled and turned around and I can’t follow… so I just muddle through things and hope for the best. I’m kind of tired of muddling and hoping. I’d like to be able to keep some semblance of clarity for longer than a few weeks at a time. It’s like I cycle through these “fog banks” where all of a sudden, things are not making sense. I can smile and nod and repeat back what people say to me, but it’s not making a whole lot of sense.
Speaking of making sense, it’s time for me to get to bed. Yes, it’s Saturday night and yes, I had a nap this afternoon, but I am still bushed. And tomorrow is another day.
The point of all of this is to say that whatever happens, whatever comes up, no matter how uncomfortable or comfortable things may be, it’s all part of it. It’s ALL part of it.
So, the bulk of the Project From Hell is done, and the remaining pieces are mapped out to be completed in the coming weeks. So, that drama is behind me, more or less. I’m still exhausted — came home from work last night and crawled into bed to sleep for 3 hours… then had to go to bed after eating dinner, watching a movie and running out of steam. My exhaustion wasn’t just work-related. I also had a doctor’s appointment to follow up on some tests I had done over the past months.
Last spring/summer — about a year ago — I had some weird pain that wasn’t going away, so I visited my doctor and they ran some tests. They did some scanning and bloodwork, and they ruled out the cancer they thought had started up with me. The weekend I spent between being told “well it might be cancer”, having my blood taken and then getting results back the following Monday/Tuesday was probably the longest weekend I’ve had in a long time, and as a result of the existential crisis I plunged into, a lot of my outlook about life and work has shifted.
There’s nothing like lying awake in bed at all hours, staring at the ceiling, wondering if the life you’ve led has really been the kind of life you wanted to lead.
Of course, by the middle of the next week, my test results were back, and there was no sign of cancer, but still… Pondering that whole scenario — and wondering if it would even make sense for me to pursue mainstream treatment options at all — and wondering if maybe it would be better to not fight it but deal with it and check out with my own dignity intact (we’re all gonna die sometime, after all) — well, it changed a lot for me.
All of a sudden, I was keenly aware that I am in fact pushing 50, that life isn’t going to go on forever, and I have this one chance to do the things I feel I’m supposed to do… and what the f*ck am I doing?
All of a sudden, the chasing after this-that-and-the-other-thing made a lot less sense, and I decided to shift my attention away from climbing to the top of the corporate heap… and towards just being happy. All of a sudden, the track that I was on made a lot less sense and seemed like it just wasn’t delivering the goods I was looking for. All of a sudden, the things that really matter most to me — keeping this blog going, having a decent marriage, enjoying the house I’ve worked so hard for, and finding things that bring me actual bona-fide enjoyment — those things started to come front and center.
Of course, it didn’t bode well at work. I mean, people there are crazy. Seriously. They seem to use work as a drug to dull their pain — when they’re not drinking heavily or sleeping around or chasing some exotic high that makes them the envy of their professional peers. The Folks In Charge (FICs) are power-tripping yahoos who run around high-fiving each other like they’ve scoring a couple of overtime goals in a hotly contested, tied Olympic ice hockey game.
Dude – seriously? Your kids are the competitive athletes, not you.
Anyway, I guess the organizational changes have thrown middle management into a tizzy, because they’ve all behaving badly. And the worse they act, the more the pressure the folks in the trenches to PERFORM, the more they play their power games where only certain people get certain information, the less engaged I am, the less inclined to become engaged I am, and the more I look beyond the hallowed (and incredibly boring — would a little non-corporate, non-brand-specific artwork kill you?) halls of the WorkPlace for satisfaction and meaning.
Which is probably just as well. Because my devotion to my Work in the first year of my current job was not very balanced and probably not entirely sane. Ask my spouse; they can attest.
Anyway, back to the present…Yesterday, I had a doctor’s appointment to follow up on some testing that was done as a follow-up to last year. I was supposed to go in for testing, six months ago, but the job change threw me off, and I just didn’t go. I also didn’t feel like dealing with doctors and diagnostics and what-not — even if they were worried about me having something serious wrong with me. The change of commute was bad enough, and I figured that if I went in for testing before I was adjusted to the commute and my system had calmed down, they were going to see a bunch of weird spikes in my levels and readings that had more to do with my relatively normal system responding to unusual circumstances, instead of an unusual system operating in relatively normal circumstances.
So, I showed up at the doctor and met with the physicians’ assistant, who is capable and personable and has been more helpful to me than the doctor, proper. We had some good conversations, until we got into the testing talk and I got the lecture about not coming in earlier when they wanted me to, and they started talking about doing more testing. I did consent to getting some more imaging done, which was fine. But when we started talking about the more invasive procedures, I had to stand my ground and dig my heels in.
No way was I going to submit to what they wanted me to do. The last time I had it done, I felt like crap for days after. And I also started seeing articles about false positives and permanent cell damage from those sorts of diagnostics. And I told the PA that I’d done my research and if they wanted to know such-and-such about me, they were going to need to find another way to do it.
And the PA gives me a lecture about how they care for people who are seriously ill with what they would be screening me for, and they don’t have any other viable options available (at their facility), so that’s the best they can do. But it’s better than nothing. Or so they said.
I told them that there had to be a better way to screen for that sort of stuff, and I’d been doing some research and had found some new technologies that were looking promising — and I’d be going down that route, rather than helping their facility recoup their investment on that certain kind of imaging technology.
The PA could at least hear me. It wasn’t like I was afraid to have testing done. That’s not it at all. It’s the kind of testing that they use and make available. It’s the sub-human, degrading, painful, potentially health-damaging approach they take, all the while saying, “It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we have right now.” Bullsh*t. It’s the only set of technology eggs they’ve put in their diagnostic basket, and they’re going to push that “solution” until it finally pays for itself.
Please. As though the scientific research from nearly 100 years that has warned consistently about this certain type of diagnostics didn’t matter… and would in fact save me. Again. Please.
Again, at least the PA could understand where I was coming from, and they didn’t keep pushing me. But they gave me this long, sad look — like they expected me to come down with this condition, and they expected to see me back with them in a matter of years, as I slowly (or quickly) died from this dread disease.
Yeah, okay, whatever. I’ve heard too many stories about “deathly ill” patients outliving their doctors, to lose much sleep over it. Plus, my triglycerides are a whopping 44, my HDL (good) cholesterol is at 85 — way over the 40-60 desired range, and my LDL (bad) cholesterol is 84, which is in the middle of the desired 40-130 range. Overall, my cholesterol is 178, which pleases me. And aside from a couple of red flags about vitamin deficiencies which can be supplemented, my bloodwork looks like it belongs to someone half my age. So there. I’m sure folks will pardon me if I don’t panic 😉
It’s not like I am courting my own demise, but of all the things that can and may “get me”, cancer contracted from their diagnostics is not going to be it. I’m not losing any sleep over this, now that my bloodwork is back and looking good.
Quite the contrary — if anything, the exchange (on top of the past three weeks of unmitigated crunch-time) put me to sleep. I hate feeling like I have to fight with my healthcare provider to just answer basic questions, and it really took a lot out of me. It was all I could do, to keep focused the rest of the day and get my work done. My afternoon was slow and deliberate, then I drove home to crawl into bed and pass out for three hours.
So, now it’s Saturday. The work week is done, I have some chores to do, the weather is beautiful, and I am presented with a number of choices about what to do with myself. I need to get out of this house, for sure — I’ve been stewing in my work frustrations all morning, looking around at different opportunities online, and giving thought to what I’d like to do with myself. I’ve toyed with the idea of going out for a walk in the woods, but I’ve been so bent out of shape about my work situation, that I didn’t relish the thought of spending my time in the woods obsessing about my job, which I would have.
So, I’ve stayed inside and pondered what I want to do, as well as what I can do. I have a hefty mortgage to deal with, so I can’t just take any old thing. And like I’ve been saying, there are things that I’ve been doing for years and years that are no longer easy and enjoyable for me. So much has become a chore, so I’ve been spending some time thinking about what would make me really happy — what would get my life back.
I once worked with someone who believed that we are all working to earn/purchase our freedom. They believed that we come into the world beholden to the world around us, and we have to spend our lives earning our freedom. They did not believe that it came for free, but that it was a struggle for each and everyone of us to get free. Not everyone does, not everyone can. We all do it to the best of our ability and belief. But that was what they believed that we are doing on this earth.
I can’t say that I agree or disagree. I do see some logic to that outlook, and it has certainly seemed to be true for me.
Whatever the facts of the matter, the bottom line is that nobody but me can secure my own happiness and fulfillment. That is my responsibility, and I take it on willingly. Now, in that spirit, I’m going to get on with my day and get out in this beautiful weather. I may obsess over my job situation while I’m walking in the woods, or I may not. But I won’t know till I step out and go out to find out.