Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I Cry a Lot

Having something to fight, as opposed to something simply to endure, is much more my style. While this adventure was in its acute stages, there was a lot to fight. Now, though, as I’ve written before, as this recovery proceeds at its own pace, it feels more like something to endure. For the first time, as well, I’m beginning to be worried that the current level of capacity—significantly diminished from what I think of as the baseline—is likely to be permanent. Michael disagrees, and argues that what’s going on now is all an artifact of reduced stamina. It would be nice if he’s right. For a lot of reasons, including that while still coming to terms with the fact that this is simply going to take a while, in retrospect it’s pretty clear that one of my responses was to try to pick fights with him. He’s good natured and nice enough that most of my efforts were futile. He can almost always make me laugh—and he laughs at a lot of stuff that a lesser person would take up as bait. When he wasn’t laughing, his general response was to ask if I was especially tired or something and not take it personally. Shea is also a lot like this and I wish I could learn to be more like them!

Shea has gone off to visit friends from camp and is having a grand time. We miss her a lot around the house. It does make for a really quiet down-time between the semesters, though, and I’ve managed to inch ahead some projects. There’s more to do and still more quiet time ahead so I’m hopeful that even in this reduced state, with minimal hours of true thinking clarity every day, the break will end with some serious accomplishments.

In the quiet, one of the things we’ve been doing is following up on John’s recommendation of West Wing. He’d talked it before, and it came up again as we were discussing Barack Obama’s choice to use the Lincoln inaugural bible. (How cool is that, anyway?) We’ve hugely enjoyed watching this, practically doubling our exposure to popular culture and TV series in the process. We’re feeling very hip and plugged in. So we came to it years later than the rest of the world, we’re here now…. Among everything else to like about this series (the writing, especially) is how the characters are consistently shown disagreeing with each other with tremendous overall civility, even when they’re passionate about the topic and their differences. They apologize for transgressions and continue positive working relationships. The general level of self-restraint modeled during disagreements is terrific. It would have been easy to go for drama by making this workplace a scheming nasty one, and instead, the show consistently depicts a large group of people working hard and focused on larger issues and principles and finds its drama in other places. Admirable. More workplace role models like this would go a long way in this world.

Meanwhile, one side-effect of this whole medical adventure—and the hormonal disruptions it has apparently triggered—is that I cry more than ever before in my entire life. At least this isn’t full-out weeping, more like tearing up. I cry reading the newspaper, or watching West Wing or hearing a story on the radio. It’s bizarre and I don’t care much for it. It feels like permanent PMS, except of course that’s it’s accompanied by hot flashes. That’s really fun. Presumably, this too will pass. Sooner would be better than later. The surgeon’s response, when queried, is that this is not unheard of, though not one of the most common responses. His speculation was that maybe it was the general stress and strain of brain surgery and predicts it will die down over time, like the other lingering symptoms.

On that front, I’m still puzzled by why the different parts of the incision heal so differently. For most of the length of the thing, you’d be hard pressed to find its location either visually or by feel. (You can easily feel the dip in my skill where the initial drill hole was made, though.) There are stretches of maybe cumulatively two inches, that are still raised, a bit inflamed and lagging way behind the other parts in the healing process. We keep putting vitamin E oil on them, and they do keep improving, bit by bit. The area of the scalp that’s tender continues to shrink, though it’s also still noticeable.

Kate commented the other day on the interconnection of symptoms: tiredness begetting less sharpness, making it take longer to figure it out when I’ve overdone. Check. Likely, all the glooms I’m experiencing now are also interrelated, on top of the regular seasonal stuff I always experience, plus the effects of less sunshine. Trying to joggle myself loose, I went and worked out a bit and tackled a task I’ve been dreading. I feel better from both: the exercise got my blood moving a bit and having the odious task completely finished feels great. Predictably, the job didn’t take all that long: I probably spent more time thinking about how much I didn’t want to do it than it took to tackle and complete it.

We’re enjoying tremendously the annual letters we’re receiving this year. We’ve both been struck (astonished and gratified) by the number of people who commented on reading this blog regularly. The increased connections with and to all of you has been the silver lining to this experience in every sense. Thanks for being out there, grand people.

The sun is shining here and it’s a beautiful day. We hope it is where you are, too.

1 comment:

  1. We've been re-watching West Wing also in recent weeks (gotta love Netflix) and I'd forgotten how hard I worked to see this series when it first aired--my kids were young and I saw almost no television back then. At least until it jumped the shark a bit in season 5, this was a GREAT narrative, without regard to form, and it has aged quite well. In fact, in this era of reality TV, quality scripted TV is such a treat that I have a feeling I won't even mind living through the less than stellar seasons as we get to them.

    Regarding the more sublime theme of your post, the "I cry a lot" issue--I think this is all connected--the free-floating frustration, the fight looking for a likely fellow combatant (and not finding any close at hand), the "no Kodak commercial can be watched without tears welling up" stuff. I have a feeling a psychologist would talk about acute post-traumatic stress syndrome--you've had a close brush with a life-threatening enemy and get a bonus trip on the emotional rollercoaster to go with it.

    Since I'm a frustrated philosopher (with the undergrad degree to give me street cred) I prefer to think of all this as a manifestation of the existential crisis that comes with a brush against our own frailty and mortality.

    Either way, time has a way of smoothing this out, but it never hurts to eat some chocolate in the meantime.