Monday, September 28, 2009

A Tall Ship and a Star

"Life on earth will always be Hell. The antidote is not a hereafter called Heaven, but a new life below. The new Heaven and Earth; born of the complete acceptance of Life."

Like everyone else, I cope with abstraction and uncertainty every day. It might have been unemployment if hadn't been cancer. And like you , I would vacillate between dread and opportunity with metronome indecisiveness. Everyday, I reinvent myself stronger and more determined, but with Sisyphean inevitability tumble backwards without the sense of purpose I had set out with. Yet, I begin anew, With increased vigor and a little more experience, I should hope, having learned that maybe , I just need different shoes.

Still, uncertainty will not relinquish its abstraction and shadowy guile. We struggle with it repeatedly, it defines our character and tests our faith. For some of us it is a plague of consciousness that is so debilitating we actually fear it more than the physical pain we anticipate. Stifled and unable to act, we succumb to it and wash it down with denial and self-delusion.

And yet again, in others it provides the possibility for a new beginning, as it has for me. New steps taken with trepidation and reticence at first, but overcome by the exuberance that discovery and adventure brings, we savor... " the sweet confection of possibility"; that I'm not sure I know where this is going, but I can't wait to get there!

Affirming that I will Survive! And although my will has been exceeding tested, as of late, I will persevere. There is purpose in that alone. Perhaps not so revelatory for some , but many of us are constricted with doubt. I have been. We are tethered, without the confidence or the imagination to wrestle the tentacles of ambivalence. It constrains us and with seemingly insurmountable challenges, we often submit our determination.

Conceit disguises our solitude. Stoic silence in the face of denial, render us unable or incapable of confessing that which is so common to all of us. We're all sinking to some extent. But fear not. We will resurface from this bottomless quicksand and I for one will be dragging my fear behind me, vanquished by reason and conquered by faith, reminding myself that my frailties won't be my downfall nor my illness or even my own mortality.

We live to die after all. We were assigned its inevitability at birth. The ultimate test is that we won't fear Life! Learning to embrace it with each breath. Discovering the potential of each moment, defiantly shouting to the heavens; I'm not afraid to die! I'm afraid of complacency; as should we all.

My son, Zack, lives in China. I talk to him every few days and I think about him all the time. I revel in his potential and I'm full of pride and conceit that I had something to do with that. His character has grown perceptively with the ambivalence and bewilderment he has known, annealed by experience. Undaunted, nevertheless, by the discoveries that come with an adventurous spirit. Ah, his spirit, I think his mother had something to do with that.

I marvel at the notion that it really wasn't so long ago that I too was imbued with wanderlust and exploit, unrestrained; in pursuit of adventure without uncertainty or mortgage payments. I travelled the world and read books inspired with fantasy and ardent purpose. Kierkegaard whispering in my head and Oscar Peterson improvising its urgency. I was invincible then, confident in who I would become and resolute to get there.
I reminisce those attributes and reflect at this moment on what I've been through, strangely steadfast with the same anticipation that I've known, undeterred now by the genesis of my own metamorphosis. A new adventure, an evolution of fate not yet imagined and under any other circumstances, ever considered.
Yes, I have trepidation and reticence still and now mortgage payments. But along the way I've acquired a few more attributes; Wisdom and experience and most importantly Jenel. And so, with Jenel at my side and the many muses in my head, with Oscar still syncopating my step, the world is once again at my feet, with the invincibility of conviction, I will begin anew and,

..."all I ask is tall ship and a star to steer her by."

"Sea Fever", poem by John Masefield

Saturday, September 19, 2009

On the knees of your soul

This started out as a simple postulation of the extraordinary work TNT does. Acknowledgment of the impact it has had on me and the gratitude I have for their efforts. This , of course, precipitated an examination of choice. Diagnosis has compelled me to reevaluate my predisposition on that. Considering, ironically, that when seemingly given no choice, you have a lot of choices to make

By default, I would have been reluctant to participate in much of anything, if it didn't benefit me in some way. Of course, it's a choice to do so otherwise. A choice not often contemplated, if considered at all, really. Illness has tempered my narcissism rather abruptly though with diagnosis of cancer: AML. Conceit has been replaced with humility and chemotherapy has refocused clarity from narrow-mindedness and obfuscation. Still, transformation does not come without equivocation and doubt. After all, I didn't ask for this, and "what did I do to deserve... " I can lament ad nauseum about that , to my disadvantage, I think.

Yet I'm learning to embrace the fact that I have many choices; uniquely mine, refined by uncertainty and certain to be difficult. Nevertheless, they are the choices I must confront to secure my salvation.
Some choices alternatively require responsibility and sacrifice; seemingly left without a choice; "do I really have a choice?" It resonates more like an excuse really, maligned by default; demonstrating little imagination or introspection.

I concede that some choices are predicated on individual coping capabilities; practical and automatic, effectively postponing alternative choices or deferring them completely to someone else who always makes those decisions. Under the circumstances, for many, it's easy to do. I won't presume to know the stoic nature of some and the deference of others.

And, of course, there are many of whom are imbued with a faith that wouldn't presume to question their circumstance, rapt with the conviction that; "Thy will be done". Alternatively, isn't "Faith in a holy cause to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves". I embrace the revelation of faith in myself, reintroduced to me by conscription , in the spirit of immediacy and purpose in that which is attainable, in spite of the overwhelming circumstances I find myself. Hopefulness should not be a strategy employed by submission, rather, shouting in defiance; I will not lay prostrate to anguish and despair! My dignity is not so easily discarded. Ugh! or is it so tenuous? Mine has certainly been tested, but not relinquished, as of yet.

Although distorted and unrecognizable, my identity is still intact, after all. I still feel it. I know it's there. The confusion of apprehension I might have had, disappears with the contented exhale of resolve and Saul Bellows is in my head to remind me that "when your on the knees of your soul, might as well make yourself useful; scrub the floor!"* A constructive affirmation to apostasy for which we must calibrate a new barometer. Create another standard ;the evolution of cancer is absent any rules, only a myriad of choices.

In the last 9 months, I have exalted the demonstrations of sacrifice made to further a greater good, undaunted by the responsibility to accept that there are more important things to be done. Loftier endeavors to be aspired to. Not persued blindly, rather , arrived at by choice.

Those who are not compelled by the necessity of choice but choose anyway, in spite of adversity, to participate, if only to inspire those of us who waiver in the illusion of improvement. For just a moment requiring nothing more than encouragement or, perhaps comfort acknowledging that this is real. Reassurance that, I too can survive.

It confirms the selfless choices that so many make that reinforce faith. Faith in that which is far greater than all of us. Choices that consign us to an effort that is neither convenient or comfortable, but essential, in fact imperative.

With that understanding , my objective is clearer. That with definition of purpose and single-minded determination my choice is no longer equivocal. I have been on my knees until now. I have chosen to rise up and genuflect the restoration of faith, inspired by the enlightenment of universal truth and the strength of purposeful action: Train, Endure, Achieve, Matter.These are empowering words indeed; a mantra for their imperative.

Even in infirmary, I am deigned to extol your sacrifice and promulgate the advocacy of participation and contribution and, ultimately, awareness. A Promethean effort to be sure. An effort sanctioned by the gratitude of us all, for whom you persevere. In that effort, know that you will always inspire generosity and the charitable nature in all those you enjoin ....Go Team!

"...nor does your happy vagabond expect any monetary reward for his efforts. He doesn't know the meaning of effort. No one can be paid to give of his joy, it's always freely given."

Henry Miller, 1961