Day 23 — Broken Computers
Broken Lives?

The title is more one out of frustration with the fact that both of my laptops are damaged, and the one I had with me no longer will start :(

It is the little things that can frustrate us and accumulate to cause us to blow off steam :(

I get angry sometimes due to these accumulated little things that can drive me to snap at people.  Fortunately, the big things have taught me to count to ten as often as I can, but it has been difficult lately to do so.  I apologize to those who perhaps I have not been what I believe is my normally polite self.  I know that I have snapped at times.  It is not fair to my friends.

Now I have will have a weekend when I might skip a day of spouting off here.  I arrived in Charleston.  Interesting little city.  Did not get much of a chance to explore.  Walked to the restaurant district from my hotel – a distance of about .7 miles, which was nice.  Allowed me to walk off dinner, which was at a pleasant Southwestern Style restaurant.  I am writing on the hotel’s business office computer.  Took me logging into my computer at work via my phone to get the password I needed to log into my blog (too many passwords to remember).  Ahhh…..Technology.   :(

I leave today at about 8am to drive two hours to Pikeville, Kentucky where Ned’s play takes place.  Looking forward to seeing him.  We are going to lunch, and apparently the evening show tickets are taken by many family members.  Thus big party before hand!  :

I’ll let you know to how the play goes tomorrow if I can gain access again to the hotel’s computer.

To be continued…

Day 23 — School’s Out

Finished grading and off to Kentucky today (well Charleston, WV, first).  Then on to Pikeville, Kentucky for Ned’s show.  He is starring in “White Christmas,” playing the Bing Crosby role.

Looking forward to getting away, and again seeing a different part of the country.  Ned and I will drive back to Brooklyn on Sunday.  Road trip, again.  Fun.

Meanwhile, I find that after my transfusions, I have energy again, and but for the inability to run any distance, feeling reasonable.  The next set of shots don’t occur until the 29th.

So, steady as it goes.  This felt like a dash at first, but now it is a marathon (or at least I hope so).  However, in between shots, it is like a mid-range run where there is a time when the race is in “float” mode as you maintain steady pace with the pack and reserve energy for the final 100.

Each person’s trial is handled differently.  I do find that I have to often use athletic metaphors.  Hope readers do not mind.  Again, it is optimism that all finishes well, even if not in first place.  I went two years without the team winning a winter track meet (although I occasionally — very occasionally — won, placed, or showed in my events).

That causes me to think of another (I think I wrote about one previously) paradox associated with positive thinking.  We talk about learning to lose or to fail, which means experiencing a negative event, and how it can provide many lessons.  Those who sometimes think too positively (have not learned how to lose or fail) can either find themselves unable to understand the loss that is experienced by others or cope when something bad does happen to themselves.  Is it un-American to contemplate the possibility that failure or loss might occur?  In our country’s cultural ethic, do we place too much emphasis on achieving this glorious utopia of materialistic and “spiritual” bliss of positive vibes?  If we are down from negative events, does that make us a bad person?

We know that our country (our world) suffers from a crisis in mental health.  How much does the phrase, “be positive” or “think positive,” contribute to the challenge we have for a collaborative effort to ease the epidemic?  The phrases simply assume an instantaneous cure to despondency.  Of course, they help, but ultimately do they simply shift a solution to an impossible ideal?

I do not have an answer, and tonight, I am actually in a good mood and optimistic.  So these are just questions for all of us (I hope) to consider.

To be continued…

Day 22 — A New Life:
Well New Energy at Least

After 4 hours in the transfusion chair yesterday, I was filled up with platelets and little red cells.  Amazing how there is an impact.  Did feel new energy fairly quickly.

Went off to the College’s holiday part where I received my 10-year service recognition.  Strange.  This is the first place I had worked for 10 years in a row.

Today, I submit grades and help a colleague with getting settled in an offsite classroom.  Then get ready for my trip to Kentucky to see Ned in his play.   Looking forward to a fun roadtrip.

Not much more to say today.  We will see what I might wish to discuss, tomorrow.

To be continued…

Day 21 — Auld Lang Syne

Today my car needs an oil change before driving to Kentucky on Friday to see my son in “White Christmas.”  Whether I need a blood change will be known in a few hours after I learn about yesterday’s blood test.  Cannot guess right now:  yes or no. My hematology nurse will let me know this morning.

Long, long ago in New York City, I met a bunch of friends in graduate school.  We have kept in touch, so-so, over the years.  Certainly, Facebook has helped, as did email.  We struggled together in classes, hoisted beers, explored the city, moved away from each other.  A particularly close group surprised me for my bachelor’s party, and the pictures shall forever be hidden (thank goodness pre-digital, but that doesn’t really matter any more, does it in the age of information technology).

The party originated when my boys’ mother and I thought we were going over to dinner at the apartment of a husband and wife who we knew well.  He was my classmate.  This particular person was very close to me.  We kept in touch fairly often.  Twice connected in his home-state (I even taught a class of his at his University), and twice he and his wife got to Maine where my family lived post-graduation. That’s it, almost 35 years, and only a few times had we been able to connect. Like me, he has faced a health crisis.  Fortunately, his has passed.

The thought of others often come into my mind.  They live closer, and we have been able to meet, say, once a year.

Last week, I got a phone call with some details that were simultaneously sad and disturbing.   Nothing to do with me, still solutions, both temporary and permanent were needed.

And then,

My friend came to the rescue.  No questions.  No criteria.  Simply a rescue at the right time and place.  This, after 35 years.

Lots of friends have rallied to my health situation, but what happened with the generosity of my long time friend was certainly special and deeply appreciated.

Optimism during hardship, maybe, is maintained partially (or even significantly) with the knowledge that friendship can be a powerful force of good in a time of horrible events.

So, in the spirit of the time of year, to my friends, far and wide, new and old.  Thank you.  Life is better with you all.  (Oh, and Indeed, about 10 minutes after writing these words, I got a phone call from one of them!)

To be continued…

Day 20 — Midway

Late this week will mark the midway point between the time scheduled to take shots.  I think that I passed through the worst moments of side effects over the last few days, as warned by my doctors.  My bruises are almost gone, and the pain associated with the shots has pretty much disappeared.  I feel lucky that I do not have to undergo traditional chemo treatments, very lucky.

One never knows when crises occur.  They surprise us.  Wear us down.  Make life seemingly unbearable.  I can look around and totally understand why people have anger, or hate, or experience despair, or even give up.  It takes a lot of willpower to keep going, to look across the low points and believe there is something to look forward to.

Right now the social ills we face here and around the world leave me exhausted.  People are so quick to criticize others.  Hate fills the internet and the streets.  Ignorance stereotypes so quickly.  The media pushes us to behave in ways that seem illogical.  We text while at dinner with friends.  We tailgate at 75 mph.  Exploitation is everywhere.  We build mansions that have so much material tied up in creating space that no one will ever use, while others go homeless.  Individuals earn more money  in an hour than others do in a year.  In a couple of days, people earn more than perhaps they need to spend in a year.

Yes, I understand why these behaviors occur.  Many just give up trying to remain principled, and selfishness explains why we abandon being kind, hopeful, fair, just.

We must just get worn down and do not have the energy to be nice to anyone beyond our own little circle.  The hell with anyone else.

I recognize that intergenerational transmission of principled behavior is not an easy thing to accomplish and sustain.  We like to say the parents should be in charge, but when generation after generation is kept out of the mainstream, the task becomes very challenging.  I also will point to advertisements that celebrate unethical behavior.  And weird entertainment that encourages strange perspectives on how the world works. Even video games make one believe they are soldiers able to have 9 lives.  It is amazing what I see and disappointing.

So, here it is midway.  I have time to look around, and shake my head.

It is sad.

To be continued…

Day 18 — For All
The Lonely Souls

How might loneliness and happiness coexist?

A concept I have invoked over time to help me understand beliefs or events is the use of “slices.” The idea is to capture the multiple “dimensions” within ideas and the feelings that may drive action. A slice would be the particular worldview selected/adopted/compelled to consider when making a decision. We may or may not be aware of which slice is motivating us.

Readers know that I use this space to wrestle with the reality of a life-threatening illness. I am not alone. I mentioned yesterday chatting with an individual whose situation seemed far more serious than mine, in that health-related challenges radiate across her family. I felt lucky, even happy that I at least had an idea about the future. Hers was very uncertain. Still, her attitude was optimistic, and I admired her stick-to-it perspective.

As i drove back from Cambridge Sunday, six hours of travel-time provided an opportunity to think. The terms loneliness and happiness crossed my mind. I have accepted my condition. I am happy there is at least a method available to attack the leukemia. I am happy for my family. I am happy for my friends.  I guess I have accepted that this is just another game, another long run, another 4th quarter, last mile to confront.  Those were moments when I was at my happiness, and are linked to an ability to remain optimistic, even in the worst of times.

Contradiction.

But I do tend to worry.  How can I be optimistic and also be a worrywart, which I have been for most of my life, at least until recently.

This has been a puzzle to me for decades.  It took two cancers to begin understanding the source of worry, and the revelation that in the end there really is nothing to worry about.  The slice contributing to my worldview of worry cut a diagonal across my personality, affecting almost everything about me.  At the same time, optimism had developed as another slice cutting through me at a different angle.  My mental model of slices is not static.  These slices can move and bend and wave, perhaps occasionally intersecting, but mostly lingering close to each other, in opposition.  Usually optimism fought back, but worry always lingered close by.

Which brings me to loneliness.  I am not the only person who is in a bad situation.  Maybe it is inappropriate to wear my heart on my sleeve.  I do know that writing has helped me get to this point.  But in conversation with someone the other day, we agreed that the disease is yours and yours alone to face.  That is the truth for all of us facing mortality that may arrive earlier than desired.  We can be encouraged by friends, family, and happy activities.  The loneliness of coping remains.

So, I am happier than I was on November 7, as I woke in a hospital room being told that what I could have might kill me within a month.  I am happy that we can try to get rid of these bad guys inside me.

Nevertheless, I will admit that it is a lonely experience.  And I hope my friends understand when I am quiet or wishing solitude or can’t necessarily be outwardly upbeat.

I probably speak for many.  “This is hard to face.”

To be continued…

 

Day 17 — Another Happy Moment

I stayed an extra day in the Boston area to complete some grading which I did, and then drove around my home town checking out the mansions that quadrupled (or more) the size of a typical home in the community.  Drove by my high school to see the new athletic fields,  A friend had announced their construction on Facebook, and I wanted to see them for myself since I had been an enthusiastic jock back then.

Well, here is a picture.

field

Amazing.  I wonder how much money they spent because it is not just the football field.  There is a turf practice field beyond the far light posts and to the right of the picture a turf baseball field, and a turf softball field.  I guess the mansions helped with property taxes.

This was not my happy moment, obviously.  There was a perfectly good football field in the community at the old high school site (now the middle school), and plenty of grass practice fields/soccer fields in the area where you are looking.

Kids in Allentown are lucky to have a practice field of any kind.  Yes, there is Crum Stadium, but that was built ages ago.

Later, I went out to a pizzeria near my hotel for dinner, and had a lovely chat with a woman waiting for her brother, sister-in-law, and nieces, who were going to visit with her for the weekend.  We talked about many things, but when I compare my situation with hers, I reflect.  Not much more to say.  Readers can make their own guess at what I mean.

And that makes for a happy moment.

To be continued…

Day 16 — Those Happy Moments

Had a meeting today with a friend, whose son was waiting to hear early decision for college.

After the meeting, and I was walking toward the subway station, I bumped into his wife and his son.  I figure where they were going so I asked and learned the good news!  Waited to congratulate until after my friend announced it.

The event brought memories of both Will and Ned learning that they had been admitted to the schools of their choice, and how happy they were.  I was happy, too.  And watching what they have accomplished since then has made me very proud.  Their mother did a good job!  :)

I will admit that you start to think of these things

To be continued…

Day 15 — A Digression:
For Whose Benefit?

Since moving to the Lehigh Valley, I have felt, seen, and heard the deep and often explicit classism/racism/ethnism that exists among many, especially those in leadership positions.

And when I was involved in local government, I raised the issue over and over again, to no avail.

Since early this year and most recently since November 6, I have had to focus on myself and forget any thoughts or memories concerning politics, but the announcement of Shula’s steakhouse (with its $41 menu items) moving into downtown and the contrast it made with the recent report concerning widespread discrimination in the Valley, brought back some of the exasperation I have endured while living here.  If you are looking for another contrast, consider the enormous sums provided to developers set against self-congratulatory press event where five neighborhoods received $750 each for some “improvements.”  That frustrated me, too.

I have looked city-wide, and notably within the NIZ, for implementation of modern ways that inclusive community planning and development can occur.   These techniques are found in many other cities around the nation and the world.  Nope.  The “idea” sessions finally held in the last year may appear inclusive, but who ultimately are involved in making final decisions is the key to proof of inclusiveness.

And I doubt that I will see that happen.

Too many cheerleaders are waiting for the miraculous resurrection of Hess’ and unwilling to notice the discrimination that is very real in Allentown and throughout the Valley. Gawkers at the pretty buildings and celebrated by the media forget about the human tragedy that exists a few doors away.

We continue to focus on buildings and expensive food/drink/entertainment without considering the intellectual capital and human development needed within the community to build a truly successful city, not a playground comprised of a few blocks for the favored few with expense accounts.

I do not consider this off-topic because I am not alone as someone who is in a difficult situation and facing a crisis.  I am white, educated, and have a job with insurance — produced through a life-long network of opportunity delivered on my doorstep.  I am privileged, and can confront the hell I face with resources.  Not many of the 118,000 who live in Allentown can say that.  Most never had a chance, and any chance that might have occurred is exceptionally well-guarded and fenced in.  Our leaders give lip-service to this plight, and their supporters too often just resort to blame.

There, I got it off my chest.

To be continued…