Tuesday, May 24, 2005
The photo, with my son Jeroch, was taken a year ago immediately following the final performance of a play I was in...so there's still a touch of stage makeup visible.
The greatest thing in the world is to know how to be oneself.
---Michel De Montaigne
I have full faith that even when you are down you will not sink, you will not falter, you will not crawl because you will be that special child who understands there are moments in life when there are no answers, no rhymes, no reasons but to grow beyond yourself.
You are relaxed and ready. You are prepared for the operation. It is an initiation. You are being initiated. Such initiations have been practiced forever, under other names. You are safe.
That particular thought of Renaissance philosopher Montaigne has been among my favorites for many years. Grange and Indira are 2 personal friends, who emailed me their encouragements a little over a year ago, before the "operation." I printed out their complete messages and have carried them with me in my wallet ever since. I don't usually do that, so I must assume it was only the first of the new behaviors since---initiation.
We guys who've endured one procedure or another for deranged prostate greet each other with the secret handshake of the service club or 12-step group. We say things like, "I'm still at .11" or "I'm holding off for 8.6." These are PSA numbers and refer to where we are on a certain lethal level of understanding. After he's been diagnosed, a man starts thinking this way and talking this way because from now on an aspect of his life will be living from one periodic blood test to the next.
The initiation has to do with how one deals with such a reality. A few months after my operation to remove the offending gland, I learned my body still was in battle against tiny demons and we would proceed to shoot radiation in there after them. On Friday, even though my specializing doctors think it's too soon to tell, I got Dr. Conjeevaram to give me my first numbers since that therapy concluded 6 weeks ago. When I read I'm down to .27 I felt a new kind of relief. Oh, we want that number lower...and hopefully in another 2 months that's where it will go. But in the meantime, it's like my life is on vacation and the vise of anxiety is loosened a couple of turns.
Immediately after my appointment, Dana, Ilona and I piled into the Hybrid and tooled up to Barcelona, New York, on Lake Erie, which is one of our favorite hangouts. From there we visited with my sister---and by golly, did find the stand of trailing arbutus our mother used to look for each Spring, and a couple other rare wildflowers too---and had a wonderful family cookout the next day in Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania, with Dana's aunts and cousins. We especially enjoyed lollygagging our way home yesterday when everyone else was hard at work at school. OK, maybe Ilona didn't so much because she still had that honors English homework to do in the back seat.
It's not part of our family tradition or work ethic to just take off like that. The people we visited kept asking us what urgent business really brought us up there...and we found ourselves saying we just wanted to see them. Who drives 6 hours just to say hello? Should I tell them that maybe I've completed my initiation? Do I have a chance right now to see my life in a new light? A new Light? Is it safe to Lighten up? This may be the first time I've allowed myself to feel I'm on a journey.
My generation may have gotten the idea we're supposed to have drive and ambition. We have to go somewhere. We're Americans and actually can amount to something. Many of us choose not to be too aggressive about all that, but to get those good grades and job evaluations you ought to have some kind of balance with a forward edge to it. Too much friction and you may burn out...but the right stuff can set you on fire, a shooting star, a leader of the people. But you have to do the driving...unless you are one of the lucky ones, and I for one never think about luck.
Now I am feeling more that I am letting things lead me along. I am appreciating a spaciousness in time. I am looking around more, enjoying the scenery, and feeling that's OK. At 65, that should be OK, but the drive to keep going---on into my 70s---is strong these days. But I'm allowing the drive to take me now. I'm on cruise control, and there's some relaxation possible in that. Even surrender. I think I know myself well enough that I'm not just on a Cloud 9 of relief. This is a new side of me to get to know...and of course I need to see how others react. But other people may not have as much influence on what I do as before. There seems to be a new voice calling me, leading me.
I like how men continue a sense of humor about our conditions. Garrison Keillor, who is around my age, seems to understand it...and gave us some real hilarity on Saturday about the prostate and urinary difficulties. How can such matters be funny? Listen for yourself about 9 minutes into the show~~~ http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/programs/2005/05/21/ in Segment 1, under "Nice Script."
I know that women have a similar initiation. Perhaps it comes with a diagnosis involving the miraculous female physical organization. I talked with women in the waiting rooms, and there seemed to be a similar communication together as I have enjoyed with men during our particular therapies. I don't know whether women experience the same possibilities of humor in their situations. I know one who does...or did, because I haven't seen her since her procedure a couple weeks ago. I need to find out.