Thursday, January 13, 2011

Our Lesser Selves - ode to a barefoot snowplow stealer

It is boring as shit to lie down all the time but standing up gives me a headache.

But there is more to this than me vertical or horizontal. I hope to have it out there clear enough by the end of this post I thumbed mostly lying horizontal.

There is an impoverishment to my movement and thought - I simply cannot muster brain cells to respond or move in response to stimuli. Normally by now post chemo session I would have a few posts under my belt but this second phase of chemo (D or taxotere) is a physical smackdown. I mean in comparison to a nausea-centre of gravity hitting smackdown (Of FEC- the triumvirate of poisons. My bones hurt, seriously almost every one at some point; but worse, my head hurts - to the point that laughter smarts. Now that is cruel. Or perhaps divine retribution for the years of my own cackling into unwilling ears? Thinking too, hurts. Reading causes spasms of pain.

I have not felt sick. No nausea. No waves of illness. No gut wrenching digestive tract issues, no gums to bum trauma. Until last night when the body rebelled against the percocet/meds build up in my system and sent me dashing off for "barf" relief. (Such a childish but great word!!) Thank god the cleaning ladies had been - a clean bowl.

Ironically I had been craving a big mac - which arrived mid-thrusting - and once cleaned of its chemical poisons and suitable to sit at table my body sat down and heartily ate the lot. Yet more proof of my diminished capacity of mind. But mostly - this past week I was just tired- like someone (cancer is easy to anthropomorphise) is depriving my body of oxygen. It is lie down and sleep all day tired. And I do.

Food and beverage enjoyment has really taken a nose dive too. All seems to taste the same; all is heartburn producing and shmecky tasting regardless of the wafting gorgeous smells and rich melty consistency of all the good things brought forth. OK, but MacDonalds tastes fine - all is right in the world.

The kids pop in and out, bobbing, kiss my head, retreat with their usual sing songy voices - off to school, whatever they are skipping too. To my delight they sometimes bring their colouring or reading and sit with me- which is nice. I hear brief snippets from their days:

"Teens are stupid mum."

"I will never smoke marijuana."

"Mum, Jake and I make up our Monday morning "what did u do this weekend" stories together- right before class, Is that bad?"

"I think so and so likes so and so."

"When can I have a sleepover at X's house?"

I long for a hot summer day with my hands elbow deep in dirt and bees droning overhead and a cold glass of sauv blanc that I can actually taste. Not bitter metallic water. My folks are here so "normal" life continues apace around -laundry, food, homework etc plus dad and his projects- putting up walls fixing things etc.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. Yes, there is a point roiling around in this pot. Related to the land of the unwell, how we deal with it, and our willingness to embrace the hideousness of things around us.

I have a disease that rips tears and shreds- innards, as well as things outside my body - things are rent asunder - relationships, jobs, lives. I have a disease which creates discomfort and ill ease for many without the affliction, since it is also a mirror.

Looking at someone with cancer is like looking at your own potential death. You are looking into a portal to an unknown course to the kingdom of the unwell - with catastrophic and unpleasant outcomes. The sick are seen (when they are seen at all), in our world, generally in society as lesser beings, we have absorbed this ideology of the sick, the weak, as Carl Jung says  "our lesser selves" whom we hardly address. Our greater selves thrive in the artifice of society - if time, luck and chance permit.

When a clearly unwell man with no shoes in deepest mid winter takes over a snow plow and mows down people, killing and maiming, he is the perpetrator of a crime not a citizen of the unwell. True, he is both. He is being treated "Hypocratically", the same as the other victims of his outrageous behaviour. But I believe our compassion is troubled by such required extensions. It is perhaps too hard to extend our thoughts, busy with their current afflictions and day to day details, to embrace this "lesser self". He is not a well-educated mother of two in the throes of breast cancer. That we can grasp. How horrible. No, society tends to see him as a lunatic, gripped by malevolent forces. We will probably never know what makes/made him unwell. Nor will many care. Clearly, his lesser self got the better of him.

Jung once said "if people can be educated to see the lowly side of their own natures it may be hoped that they will also learn to understand and to learn their fellow men (sic) better". I know that people do try - because we face down and sometimes embrace those lesser selves - in order to help our friends and family who are sick. Sometimes even for strangers too. The entire oncological world does it everyday. Because of it, a world of love and care, beauty, kindness, and strength has grown constant around me. I in turn, will try to spread it around too. But I battle with my own lesser self - bald, bloated, unable to parse, cranky, sometimes a horror-comic of terrible thoughts. And I am sure we all do when we look and see imperfections, craziness, or lunacy. We try to spread the good stuff around.

I have the luxury of adoring, perpetual and consistent care 24/7. People thinking, and praying and doing. In this I am so overwhelmingly blessed. My hope is that the barefoot snowplow stealer has that too. But I doubt it.

xo KO

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