Friday, February 27, 2009

Pick Myself Up, Dust Myself Off…

As a healthier state returns to our house, if not all the way and not to all of us, the world starts to look like a nicer place again. The weather has been mild (for February in central Illinois) and we even went out yesterday without our coats. We are so ready for Spring! Michael pointed out that the Facebook crowd knows about my new career as an advice columnist, but not this one. Consider that remedied. It also looks like we might have made headway with ATT, but that’s a story for another day, when the level of animus recedes and we’re absolutely sure that everything is working. At least there’s a nice new story for my negotiation class illustrating real-world negotiation elements.

As more energy kicks in, an emerging insight is that, someplace in the greyed-out period, I took another step forward in integrating this experience into the arc of my life. I had coffee with someone from out of town I don’t know well and who didn’t know anything about this adventure. As I heard myself talking, trying to compress the whole into a reasonable bite of the conversation, it felt like the ground had shifted. Since then, I’ve been trying to get a better handle on the ways in which that’s happened. Despite all my resistance to that idea, the reality is that I’m different because of this experience and my life is different. We still have hopes that more of what used to be will return. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect and hope for that, especially if you look at the distance we’ve traveled. While the rate of progress has slowed, if you look at this the right way, that’s the good news.

At some level, how slowly I’ve been able to assimilate this and work it into the context of my life is akin to my very delayed cognition at the beginning, when it took me almost two hours to process the very obvious message (though without the exact words) that the diagnosis was “brain tumor.” Michael, of course, got it right away, having heard me repeat the notes taken while listening to my doctor on the results of the brain scan. We're going to get that framed someday, as it was our ticket onto the conveyer belt on which we’ve been riding since September.

Like it or not, accept it or not, the reality is that our life is different because of this brain tumor, and so am I. My brain doesn’t do some of the things it used to do. That was very clear this last week (or so) while we’ve all been down with the flu. During that time, I could do what I think of as ministerial functions: respond to things, like grading or reviewing manuscripts, filing, re-organizing the lesson plans for the upcoming MBA course, cleaning up my hard drive, etc. They’re all necessary tasks in order to keep the flow of productive work going, and work life always has fallow periods where turning to those functions means that the work is getting done and the fields prepared for the next burst of productivity, but… it just never feels like real work to me. I know it’s necessary, I know it’s part of the pattern, and still I always feel slightly sheepish, as if I’m not working hard enough, or something. In my case, I have non-ministerial things that want doing: the next chapter awaits another burst of lucidity and so on down the list. It’s just that the capacity to do them wasn’t there in combination with being knocked down with the flu. It’s becoming clearer that the fatigue from the stimulation of going out in the world is going to persist for a while longer—it’s not wearing off as quickly as I’d hoped. We’re learning to adapt and there are many things to appreciate about the changed landscape of our lives.

The plateau of this stage of recovery is a large one, and it’s mostly flat. On the other hand, looking back at the journey so far, the climb has been steep and the distance covered long. This place is a good place to be when the perspective is set properly. And, as I keep reminding myself, even my problems are luxuries. That’s worth appreciating, even while chafing at the restrictions of this part of our adventure. As I said to someone who asked yesterday, in the big picture, I’m great. In the little picture, I’m still frustrated and impatient. At least in that respect, I’m still the same person I’ve always been.

Happy Friday. This has become a day to check in with a lot of far-flung friends, in a new rhythm that’s emerged, and I’m looking forward to hearing from my Friday correspondents, as I look forward every day to the mail that comes in response to these posts. Thanks to all of you out there who have provided so much support and friendship. We send warm February greetings and high hopes for the coming March.

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