Friday, March 18, 2016

Joie de Vivre and Cancer

I'm enjoying a quiet, no-doctor-appointment Friday on my last day at the Ecumen Lakeshore Rehabilitation Center in Duluth. I've basically reached my targets for turning around my kidney functions (since being initially hospitalized Jan 31) and done all that I can to make myself a suitable candidate for stem-cell transplant after having been diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

I have an important date next Thursday at the Mayo Clinic to see if I'm acceptable for the next step. Meanwhile, I'm at a pause point, with an opportunity to reflect. My pain levels have ebbed (at least temporarily) and I've been steadily increasing my flexibility and mobility through physical therapy.

What's on top today is my relationship to the unknown. While I've written previously about how much my life spiraled into chaos after my marriage dissolved 13 months ago—just at a time when all the major elements of my life seemed familiar, welcome, settled, and productive. Rising out of the fog of chemo-therapy I see now that all has been stripped away in the tempest of my 66th year, not just my marriage, my home, and my community (which seemed like plenty at the time).

Even as I started over the summer to reinvent myself with a new base in North Carolina (with María Stawsky and Joe Cole), and was blessed to uncover a precious, though long-dormant intimacy with Susan Anderson, the cancer was already at work in my bone marrow, moving me inexorably along the path toward my current health crisis. I had naively thought that my work life (as a cooperative group consultant) was going to be spared the turmoil of the past 18 months but here I am with all work cancelled or at least on hold at least into May.

I caught myself this morning looking ahead, projecting a return (at least on some minimal level) to the work I know and love, yet am also aware of how that can be a trap—of how my holding onto that dream of recovery may be Laird's clever way to avoid the work of fully examining the ways I've become dependent on my accomplishments to define my identity. 

The universe has gone to considerable effort to shake my life up; will I be strong enough to continue to sit in the uncertainty of love as the petals of the mystery unfold in their own rhythm? Can I resist forcing a favorable interpretation on events? Will I be able to find and sustain the fortitude needed to allow life to come to me—refusing the wheel?

Of particular interest to me right now is this wild and improbable juxtaposition: on the one hand my world has been stripped down to the elements of relationship and spirit—that which remains after the flood of divorce and fire of cancer have scoured my soul. On the other hand, I have been singularly blessed to have found Susan and yet another chance at centering my life in love—even amidst the ashes. How do these two realities blend?

As I sit with this, it has bubbled up for me that the key piece remains Susan and what we create together—not the extent to which I am able to revive my beloved consulting career. Having been allowed a peek at the unknown, my prime challenge is to not be so hasty in seeking resolution. 

Going forward, Susan and I will make choices based on my ongoing response to cancer therapy that celebrate intimacy and joie de vivre—not the chance to author one more report.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh how wonderful Laird. You are closing in on LIFE as you wisp along the edge. I follow your blog not for your reports on community and consensus but for your accounts of your life and honesty to yourself. Joie de Vivre fellow traveler.