08 September 2007

I'm Here, But Not Exactly Here

"Our life is always deeper than we know, is always more divine than it seems, and hence we are able to survive degradations and despairs which otherwise must engulf us". ~ William James

"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

I'm not online much these days because I'm battling post-surgical pain and loss of stamina. Did I mention depression and despair? They have a choke hold on my will to sit in front of a computer and do anything, from catching up on friends to reading email and comments.

First the news. I had an MRI on my abdomen last week and all was well. The skin abnormality didn't worry Dr. Ross. The surgery (with five, count them, five incisions and liposuction) was successful. Surprise. Plastic surgery is painful. Breast lift, painful. Liposuction, painful, Correction of donor site, painful. More surgery on my relocated navel, painful. I do not recommend plastic surgery. My last, physically devastating surgery gave me unrealistic hope that this round would be relatively easy. It was, in fact, not in the same league as reconstruction. Knives cutting through flesh is nonetheless not without physical consequences. Note to self: Surgery is painful. Now commit that to memory.

Earlier today, I read a review of a book written by a Harvard professor that purports to provide something of a blueprint for increasing personal happiness. Self reflection was right up there at the top of the list. In my opinion, introspection is highly overrated, especially as a strategy to increase happiness.

Here's where introspection leads me: I give up. I don't know anymore whether I can find my inner phoenix and coax it into yet another rebirth. I give up. I don't know what to do anymore to fix anything in my life. I'm overwhelmed and, as my therapist pointed out yesterday, it's most likely related to my pain level. Nonetheless, for right now, I give up. The reason is almost irrelevant.

What if the best that will ever happen in life has already happened? It's a standard mid-life crisis question, one we all face sooner or later, I think. However, when I review the history of my life, the best of my life has been only slightly less than grim. If that was as good as it will ever be, then what?

The answer to the question is obvious: Nazi death camps, Darfur, Katrina, human tragedy on a breathtaking scale. People survive, people triumph over much worse than I've endured. I will endure, too. This month, this week, today, I find nothing particularly inspiring in that understanding. I can endure. I will endure. Endurance isn't triumph, though.

I'm not sure I have the will or the energy anymore to push myself forward into the glorious future. Glorious futures require the vision to create them. They require relentless will, boundless energy and an immeasurable amount of luck or grace. I've experienced grace and luck. I've summoned will and energy. Were those things not true, I would not be here. I'm not sure where they've gone, though.

I have more surgery coming, in approximately three months. It's classified as elective, but that's a lie. I can't stop now. It's like the lie of remission. Remission means nothing to me. I have more blood tests coming, regularly, for the next five years. The next round will be at the end of September.

People at work say to me, with a smile, "You're in remission now, right?" What they do not know is that oncologists don't really like that word. "Not medically evident" is the correct phrase. I'm angry when comfort people comfort themselves or offer it to me in the form of the magical word, "remission." The question isn't if, but when.

I don't deserve this life. I require from myself the spiritual strength to not only accept the cross, but to welcome it. In better days, I've known how well equipped I am to carry my own burdens. Others may not be so blessed and it's always incumbent upon me to be mindful of that fact. These days, though, the burden is too heavy for me, too.

My old friend, the fascist who live within taunts me: Self pity and hanging onto being a victim are unacceptable. That's where I'm living and my inability to break away from this state of mind makes me embarrassed and ashamed.

This is my self reflection for today. I can check that off my list of things to do. Next step on the road to happiness requires that I enumerate the things for which I'm grateful. There are many, but this month, this week, today, gratitude is not enough.