Days of Futures Past

Would what I know today have helped me in the past? Circumstances change with every decision and what and who play roles in our lives constantly shift like sand on a beach. The ocean’s tides ever flow, but never continually the same so the charts must change with them and the shifting of the depths we cannot see beneath us. So anxious minds consider, “if only I’d known then what I know now,” beating themselves up with the knowledge they never could have known before that very moment. Experience and wisdom helps our insight, but focusing on the moment helps us get to the shore, while not looking back at the vastness and the waves behind us can make us run ashore instead of landing in the safety of the port of call ahead.

People change, as their roles in our lives do – and they perhaps hadn’t even shown up yet as we sail into this moment. Knowledge of the past certainly builds a foundation failures and corrections, of perfecting a skill or building a long term relationship. Adding all those trials and errors leads to our successes. But somehow we get older. Hopefully wiser and things become easier. Right?

There’s knowledge that’s unfashionable to a younger, unexperienced mind. Yet how I sometimes wish I retained less of the knowledge I’ve amassed. The German Erfahrung, translates to the English word experience yet the German definition connotes more closely to my point. Erfahrung equates to the coherency of one’s life’s experiences. And that’s the subtly of why what we know now never could help our past selves.

Our egos sometimes overshadow our vision making it difficult to see that we, as the coherence of the past, culminate into the current moment. Can you know more than you know? But how do you infer a decision from the past without the culmination of experience?

I try to follow the old rule “fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.” But there’s not a one of us who can honestly say we’ve not gone back for more foolishness given instances of grief, love, passion, obsession, and even hope. It’s the science. We rely on evidence based knowledge to go back for more chemotherapy. Yet as far as I know there are no instances of chemotherapy curing cancer, though we’ve experienced successes using western medicine.

It’s not foolishness but hope that drives us to swallow the pills, sit through long infusion sessions of poison, and lasered with radioactive beams of light. How can we hope to recover with the help of the very things that contribute to cancer? We certainly know more today than we knew yesterday, but back for more we go.

All we are is all we are.

We’re all we are, but not all we have been. Change is never a straight m path. It’s not a tightrope with a net beneath to catch our fall when we make mistakes and lose our balance. The paths we walk, crooked and curved, and look more like mazes than labyrinths, since we have an end to the process in mind not just a question we ask as we walk around the crooked and curved lines, none contain us or forced us go make a decision in order to exit.

We skip over cobblestones in the roads. We change course. Our bodies don’t even remain the same as our physical selves aren’t even the same as they were a millisecond ago. And that’s physical age taking us over. Everyone is born terminal. If the doctor slapped a newborn’s bottom to make sure they’re able to scream and thus breath, the first words we should have heard were, “I’m sorry but you have a terminal case of stage four life and you’re going to die from it”. We don’t have a prognosis on your actual mortality but have hope. Medicine has come a long way and life expectancy has reached 77 years in the US and over 80 in European and Asian countries. If your children were born recently they’ll be expected to live over 83 years. When I was born in 1965, the average age of mortality was 74.

It’s unlikely I’ll reach 74. Metastatic cancer shaves years off of the long life my parents expected me to have – both of them thought I’d live into my 90s for some reason. I’m a mortal disappointment.

Roll the dice and be nice.

Take good care of your soul and your spirit. Whether or not it’s true that heaven and God exist, kindness and giving others love won’t make life here and now any worse. Actually, I can only make living here better. What really do you have to lose by navigating this life with a well tuned moral compass to help guide the way?

One thing I have learned is that saying I’m sorry even if I don’t feel that I am at fault and the argument isnt “my fault” I apologize. Yet it has to be a real apology not one that feels false or feels forced. Sometimes you have just say I’m sorry. Because tomorrow morning it’s not who said they were sorry, but that the burden of stress is over. Chances are you won’t even remember what the argument was about. Because let’s face it it wasn’t about what you said, it was about what you didn’t say. But you’ll be happy for for the hug that you’ll feel for the kiss on the cheek for the I love you that you’ll hear. That is an easy thing to do. It’s the ego that gets in the way and if you’re taking care of your spirit and your soul the ego takes a backseat.

It’s the ego that gets in the way of the possibilities of genuine apology. Yet if you’re taking care of your spirit and your soul the ego can take a backseat. We can let the ego grow, like ivy growing over the bricks of a university building. It might look good, yet it covers what’s hiding underneath.

Your soul and your spirit are the most valuable and precious things you’re responsible for. And if indeed there is “heaven” and “God,” and you don’t believe in a specific doctrine or prayer book or religion, still what do you have to lose by doing good? Taking spiritual care of yourself is as important as taking physical and mental care of yourself. It helps you treat other people the way you like to be treated.

I do believe in the old aphorism of treating others how you’d like to be treated. How many of us really practice that? Look at the arguments that you have look at the things that you don’t say that you really want to say and then tell me that you do treat other people the way that you want to be treated. Don’t you want to really know what somebody feels have somebody wants to be treated? Perhaps it’s not what’s being said, but that feeling in your gut that you should listen to instead.

Laying down your sword and holding out your arms instead to hold someone makes life easier. And I do believe that life is meant to be easy. It’s certainly easier taking care of yourself and allowing that self-care to show and shine for other people in the form of a genuine heart. The better you take care you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of other people. Practicing that can give you a happier life right here and right now. Practicing self-care and self-love helps the way I care for others to improve.

Where in lies the difficulty?

We struggle when we want more than simply life itself. We cannot control others. If indeed life weren’t meant to be easy then life itself would make no sense at all. It is simple and it is easy. In summary I want to give you for things that I’ve been thinking about that had me write this post which seems probably very philosophical to you. I haven’t written a post for a few weeks because I’ve been thinking quite a bit in this downtime, in this alone time, and tried to treat this isolation is not so much lonely but is the time to do some self discovery. I hope that you’ll get a little bit from the soul-searching that I’ve been doing.

1. Accepting that you’re born to eventually die and not worrying so much about the end but simply living in this very moment is the best life there can be.

2. If you take care of your spirit and your soul your back is covered. Whether you believe or not in god or a doctrine to understand the meaning of life, regardless, there was once a beginning of all things and there will be an ending of all things but everything comes from “one.” You don’t have to worry if you’re a good person and don’t damage yourself or harm others or the planet or anything beyond.

3. All we are is all we are – but not who we are. Some say we are only the summation of our experiences. But those circumstances of our experiences don’t simply make us exactly what we are and we can change. There are second chances and we can change. Some say people can never change but I say that’s absolutely false. I’ve seen people who have argued about the same things so many times but when they finally got down to what was really bothering them they were able to go forward and move forward and take care of their spirits and souls.

4. I have all I need right here and right now. If I want more than life itself then I’ll always feel life is a struggle. Leave behind the wants and the must-have’s and the lists of things. Buying doesn’t make you more human, but sharing does. Loving does. And being loved in return makes life an easy place to be. Life is terminal but let’s say this:

Life is easy let’s let it be and so it will be.

Viruses and Assholes

Assholes. There I said it. You who were too selfish to even comprehend that viruses beg for crowds to strengthen them. The more the better, and you just couldn’t stay put for a couple of weeks to save humanity. 3,000 people in the United States are dead as a result of COVID19, as of today March 30, 2020, or so we’re told. If there are too few people to take hostage the virus will become less deadly because a virus, like a parasite, won’t kill off all of its potential hosts. To survive with less the virus weakens. So with fewer to infect so it can remain alive only far less deadly. Much unlike stupid metastatic cancer, which will eventually kill its hosts.

But such assholes probably won’t die. The ones who will die are the aged and the infirm.

I fall into the category of “infirm.”

I have one of the diseases metastatic cancer along with diabetes, AIDS, and other lovely human killers have repressed the immune systems of the human beings who walk around with those assholes. Those jerks who couldn’t stay home just for the sake of their fellow Americans to avoid such an imminently high death toll.

And the slow burning down of our Economy is their fault, too by the way.

Having metastatic breast cancer means jumping from one therapy to the next until they no longer work. Right now the very Immunosuppressive chemotherapeutic medications ingested into my body to hunt down cancer cells and save me, could kill me. Good luck to me for trying to find a lab willing to draw my blood for the four major blood tests I need to know if the Verzenio and aromatase inhibitors are working and if I’m suffering from liver or kidney dysfunction. Oh and how bad my white blood cell count really is right now to see just how open my system is to this corona virus. I’m not too happy to have been home now going into the fifth week.

I had two telemedicine visits last week with my palliative oncologist and my medical oncologist. My palliative oncologists and I are just in the “getting to know you” stage of our relationship. He’s a great guy, and I hope he lasts in the role longer than the previous four I’ve had at Stanford. I don’t think palliative medicine is still taken as seriously as it should be for those with terminal and chronic illnesses. But what a great time to educate yourselves if you’re at home like I have been.

Dr. B and I had a laugh or two on our call. He’s not as techno savvy as he will be when this is all said and done. I hope for his sake and mine he stays well. He’s in the “aged” category and I am in the “infirm” category so we run similar risks although mine’s a bit worse than his but he was in clinic doing our call. I need some ascites fluid drained off – the new protocol I’m on doesn’t seem to be getting rid of it as we’d hoped. I have a hard time breathing and I can’t button my jeans and the rest of me looks thin. It’s making my back ache where I had the L5 stress fracture in my lower back. That was two months ago when I had my CT scan. It’s showed a slow accumulation of fluid and it needs out. We will try to find a place to have it done but chances are I’ll have to go to the cancer clinic – alone. No use anyone else getting sick if I do.

But I’ll do what I have to to keep myself alive and well as long as I can. Every time Craig and our friend S leave the house they are the only ones wearing masks and gloves. They assure me the looks they get are like two men about to commit a crime. When the opposite is true – those assholes who refuse to take this situation as seriously as it should be are the thieves and crooks. The thieves of lives and the crooks of humanity.

Every time they come home from the grocery store, the post office, or the pharmacy and the occasional trip to the hardware store – we procure most of what’s needed online and the rest we try to buy from local small businesses when and if at all possible – they remove their clothes in the garage to be washed later and shower in our downstairs bathroom. They keep me safe.

I do get out for my walks and for some much needed gardening, too.

Our friend has been staying with us for the past three weeks and knows once he leaves the house he cannot come back due to the high incidence of the virus in the Bay Area and specifically to his neighborhood. He is the opposite of an asshole: the Yiddish word mensch comes to mind. He’s here to help complete what’s necessary to bring our house up to move in ready. It turns out our dream home wasn’t as move in ready as we were led to believe.

So people reading my blog aren’t likely in the part of the Venn diagram labeled assholes. And there’s a few who should stay home or face a ventilator and take a hospital bed away from someone who couldn’t help it, like a nursing home resident. If it was your mom or grandmother I doubt you’d think – well they already had their lives…fill in your own blanks. I know Americans. They love their freedom, but freedom at what cost? The cost is detrimental this time. And to those who least can afford a virus as deadly as COVID19. I don’t care if the conspiracy theorists are right and it was unleashed by the Chinese on an uprising in Wuhan province. I don’t care if it came from Mars. I’m a native New Yorker and I know the venom from the fangs of the rabid individualists. It’s deadly too.

But hear my plea. Don’t, for the love of those you love, take risks on our behalf. Don’t be an asshole. Assume no one can fight off a very strong virus. And don’t assume you don’t have it right now. You might. The massive campaign to politicize this virus is only now becoming apparent. Shame on those assholes, every last one of them. But here I sit, happy in my bath of green tea, macha powder, frankincense, and Epsom salts. I’m lucky to have telemedicine, immunotherapy, people who love me, and a house far from the madding crowds. And if you’ve got metastatic cancer and need to get away for a couple of days drive in and stay. My house is open to you.

But the rest of you – don’t be an asshole. Stay home, please, because this too shall pass and all will be well after the dust settles. I just hope I’m still here to see that first sunrise on that first day we can all breathe in the same air and heave a collective sigh.

PS The photo is of three donkeys who live up the road from us. They look rather unbothered by this fiasco and I take solace in their existence every day they come down by the fence when I am walking by. They see me and trot quickly down to say hello to me no matter where all three of them are at that moment. Craig said they don’t do that when he walks by without me. They come to the fence and shake their manes at me as though they’re inviting me to hang with them for a while. Maybe next walk I will, too. They’re asses not assholes. 😜

Meditation

Please allow me to share a current meditation with you.

In quiet moments, I sit relaxed listening to the fireplace: the sizzle of the wood and the clicking of the cast iron as it expands with the rising temperature, the energy coaxing a well timed 1:4 beat in the background for my chant. Sometimes I may whisper the words to myself and other times spoken only to myself in my mind.

Sometimes I’m still or others I rock or sway gently side to side or front to back. All the while it’s important to push my thoughts out from my mind – I use an imaginary hand to shoo them away like flies on a picnic blanket. No violence, just a helpful movement of the pests so concentration on the words of the meditation can rise like the sun enlightening my mind…

All things in time, all for the reasons on which my life tumbles and turns to the songs of the spheres. Remind me as I am a human being, the universe tells me when I need to know: all is well. All is well.