Friday, June 11, 2010

21 Month Cranioversary, Plus One Day

It’s been a long pull, but each and every one of the big projects with deadlines is over now, and successfully. I’m still a little numb and, so far, about all I’ve taken in is how good it feels to stop. This intense patch went in two waves and, as has been clear from my absence here, resulted in a pared-down life focussed entirely on putting one foot in front of the other. The deadlines were in two waves, and the first wave was bigger than the second.

After that first wave, when both the huge proposal and the conference were complete, we got home on a Saturday night. All I wanted was ice cream for dinner. It’s hard to describe how deviant that is in our lives, which are generally pretty well-ordered. We make the bed, eat dinner together at the dining room table, wash the dishes and keep the public areas of the house tidy and welcoming for family and guests. We exercise (Michael more seriously than I). Michael, the cook, makes sure we have a protein, a vegetable and a starch at every meal. Our food habits are healthy and don’t include caffeine or sodas, much processed anything, etc.

Still, upon arriving home after a long day of travel, following a long and intense stretch of work, the only thing I wanted for dinner was ice cream. From Jarling’s. Size Big. Since I didn’t have to worry about the consequences of this choice for anyone but me, that’s what I did, by way of celebration and punctuation. Michael, of course, ate a balanced meal first and then had his desert. Size small.

It bothers me that I didn’t take more satisfaction from doing the two big projects, and doing them well, and that’s something I want to think about more: when I do well, I want to feel good about it, not just listen to the inner script that says “yes, that’s what you’re supposed to do, so what about it?” I’m ready to shed, for good, the “day late and a dollar short” tag my father hung on me, as it wasn’t right then and it isn’t now. My new goal is to feel that as well as to know it. Stay tuned on that front!

As for the 21-month cranioversary, plus one day, things are good. The intense stretch I’ve just been through wouldn’t have been possible last year or even six months ago, and certainly not the summer before diagnosis. It’s a great demonstration of the long road we’ve all traveled together and the tremendous gains of the journey. I’m not what I used to be, both in positive and less wonderful ways, and that’s ok. It’s all manageable and I am keenly aware each and every day that mine are the good problems to have.

The key is that my children still have a mother and that I can work, and successfully. The other stuff, including the need constantly to manage my energy and watch my balance, is becoming second nature. I’m more graceful at asking for--and accepting--help, which is overall a net gain, I think, in my overall growth and maturity. The continuing balance problems are the most visible remnant of my medical adventure, having stabilized at, well, unstable. After a long period where, with seriously focused attention, I could navigate stairs alone, that’s no longer possible, especially going down, without assistance. This gets worse as I get tired. I’m hopeful that this will attenuate some as I get less stressed and more rested. If it doesn’t, that’s ok. I can do this. The ability to read fiction still wafts in and out, and I remain hopeful it will click back in for good sometime.

My head and its dents are something I’m still aware of, though not anyone else--except now some TSA workers in Boston. I got wanded at their security station this week, and my head beeped. This resulted in what felt like about 600 people feeling my head and its dents, searching through my hair to assure that I hadn’t hidden anything in it. I’ve long since stopped carrying the document that explains the titanium spacers in my skull as they don’t set off the walk-through metal detectors, so that was a less fun moment. Fortunately, I had plenty of time and still made my flight. And washed my hair when I got to the next hotel.

As I continue to integrate this strange experience into my life, I’m discovering that a lot of people apparently harbor fears that they have undetected brain tumors. People who have heard through some grapevine about my surgery often seek me out and ask how the tumor came to light, and then tell me about their own concerns. This has happened often enough by now that I’m getting used to it, and hope that my responses are suitable. Who knew? It’s so easy to overlook or discount the stories everyone carries, their hopes and fears. That’s worth remembering and factoring in more often: we need to be more gentle with each other, as a daily habit. I’m going to try to start with myself so I can offer more to others.

And what I’m going to offer to myself, now, is a day away from my computer. Cheers.

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