Thursday, November 11, 2010

NOW I'm Processing this Experience?

The metaphysical questions are too confusing, so mostly I ignore them. For example, the sentence “I’m feeling more like myself again...” invites a whole host of questions (what does that mean? who am I, anyway? why wouldn’t I be me, no matter what, since by definition, no one else could be?) that, to pursue, derail the thought that stimulated the sentence in the first place. So, mostly, I ignore them. The end of that sentence goes like this: “ seems to be safe to go back and explore some of the really scary parts of this experience, and there seems to be some need to do so. So, I am.” Ok, if you want to get technical, that was the end of the sentence, and then the next sentence, too. Picky, picky.

This adventure went from 0 to 60 in no time flat: one minute I thought I was a hypochondriac with allergies/sinus issues having the worst case ruled out before sucking it up and dealing with the occasional headache, and the next minute, I was a person with a baseball-sized brain tumor scheduled for surgery. It didn’t leave much time for anything except dealing with it, so that’s what we did.

It seems important to note that the speed at which events proceeded was at least partially by choice, mine and ours. While we were doing our research about doctors, treatment options and second opinions, we could easily have added a couple of weeks into the schedule. We even had the option to delay surgery by a week and didn’t exercise it. It was a Thursday when we learned about the tumor and its size. I had a craniotomy the next Wednesday. Once it was clear from our research, and the time of several expert friends who really went into things with care for and with us, that the only sensible approach was surgical excision, that we had an excellent surgeon with a great track record here in town and that no second opinion was likely to shed much more light on the situation, we were all systems on “go.” As I recall it, my whole reaction, and Michael’s too, was to Get. It. Out. and then go from there to deal with the consequences. So we did.

At the time, there was so much to do--again, the time scale was at least partially by our preference--there wasn’t much time to do anything other than acknowledge the scary parts and carry on. There were people to notify, obligations to get covered, from a speech I was scheduled to give to classes to be taught, meetings to cancel, pre-op tests and paperwork to complete, lists to make (always!) and more. We were scared and we were doing what needed to be done.

This is all a very long way of saying something sort of weird: I’m scared about having brain surgery. To be more precise, I’m now scared of having brain surgery two years ago. I’m not talking about a future-oriented fear, I’m scared to have a surgery that’s already over and done and healed. The only way this makes any sense to me, so the way I’m choosing to think about it, is that there were emotions that there wasn’t time for experiencing until now, so now that it’s safe, they’re emerging and it’s time to process and deal with them. So, I am. It is strange, though.

Yesterday, it seemed urgent to talk about what our durable medical power of attorney says and whether anyone checked that it was in force before I had the surgery. Michael says this is a topic that was covered and reviewed during a meeting with the surgeon and again in all the pre-op paperwork, and not to worry, all the paperwork is in order and reflects our wishes very clearly. Now, how weird is that, to be worrying about whether the paperwork two years ago was in place in the event that things that didn’t happen might happen? (Yes, I know the answer: very. Nonetheless, that’s what bubbled up yesterday.) As I said, it seems to be safe now to deal with some of this stuff, so dealing it is.

Meanwhile, we played hooky for an hour in the middle of the day this week to go walk in the park. The weather is simply glorious, the more so if you consider that it’s the middle section of November in central Illinois. Today is the same, so while there’s work to be done, probably serious computer problems to address with my desktop machine and very sad developments on the book front (my editor hates it), we’ll likely do the same today. It will turn cold by the weekend, we’re told, so we’re going to play while it’s gorgeous. We’ll also take time today to remember Michael’s dad, who died on this day in 2005. He was a really fine human being, and we miss him. We’ll do something Ernie-ish today and talk about him. We do many days, but today, especially, on Veteran's Day, we’ll celebrate all that he brought us.

Later, there will be plenty of time to buckle down and get all boring again, and actually, there will be plenty of that today, too. Just not all the time. I sort of see a way through for addressing the book stuff, it will just take a ton of work. The grade appeals for the first quarter’s class are mostly all resolved (sigh, a new one in this morning’s email), and the end of the semester seems about as much in order as is possible at this zany time of year. I’ve started thinking about the self-assessment I write for each class after it’s over (and before the evaluations come in!) and how to make this course better the next time. The organizational pieces of our NSF-funded national ethics resource center are coming together in pleasing ways, with a work plan emerging that should be fun and challenging and satisfying. And there are craniotomy fears to process. But today, the sun is shining and it’s over 70 degrees, so there will be some time in the sun. .

I hope you’re taking the time to do whatever is the equivalent in your life today.

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