Sunday, June 1, 2014

Missing

Morning sky
Missing today are my keys to the house and post office box. Misplacing things (like the remote that never was found) has always made me crazy anxious. It feels like my orderly little world is coming completely unglued. Today, I suppose it’s displaced anxiety over the loss of bigger stuff I’m not willing to deal with yet.

I might instead take satisfaction in taking the dog for a walk around the block this morning in 87° at 8:30, dodging the noisy trash pick up truck by sitting on my walker in the shade along the street and enjoying the cooling breeze. At such a moment, I can wonder if never seeing my keys again will ever need to be be more than a minor inconvenience.

It was also my first walk with the dog in many days and reassurance that I can still muster the energy and strength to do that on my own. For the last week, I have been weary with fatigue, sleeping half the day and then through the night again. One evening I could not make it through more than a half hour of a movie, my eyes simply falling shut as I stared at the screen, trying to follow the plot and keep the characters straight.

Memorial Day morning
I slept this morning past my usual wakeup at daybreak. Most mornings, I have been outside on the patio as light from sunrise brightens San Jacinto across the valley. In the shade, with the fountain running, it has been an easeful start to the days, the air calm and slowly warming before we retreat inside to close up the house, thankful for the AC as the outside thermometer pushes 100° again.

All has contributed to the stress reduction I have tried to be mindful of. I have also discovered a vast variety of relaxation videos on YouTube and have even used them during sleep through the night, tropical rainfall being a favorite. I pop in ear buds and drift off, maybe waking now and then hours later to drift off again. Tibetan bells are even beginning to lose their strangeness.

Rocky cliffs and trees, Whitewater Preserve
While I await the next visit with the oncologist, coming on Wednesday, my mood swings have been generally mild ones, the loss of keys notwithstanding. One moment I may feel something like a calm normality; another may be troubled by dread of an unwanted surprise, some forgotten business returning to haunt me. Meanwhile, whatever physical exercise I can motivate myself to do gives some feeling of accomplishment, though the weakness and numbness in my left arm and hand continue without improvement.

For Memorial Day weekend, we hung our flag on the front of the house, where a light breeze all weekend lifted it gently on currents of desert air. Monday, we drove out to Whitewater Preserve, where we hoped for a few degrees of cooler temperature, but we stayed for only a while and returned, glad not to be joining the heavy traffic on I-10, headed back to LA. We stopped at Starbucks in town for iced coffees, hoping to find misters outdoors, where we could sit with the dog, and discovering that our Starbucks does not have them.

Whitewater Preserve
Otherwise, the days blend into each other, and I’m surprised to discover that four months have passed since my diagnosis and surgery. Finishing volume 2 of my book on frontier fiction is the current unfinished business, which is coming to a close as I get to the last chapter. And after that there looms a sense of vacancy I am not used to, an emptiness that wants to be filled with more than simply waiting for the Unknown.

I finish Reynolds Price’s cancer memoir, A Whole New Life, and he advises to keep asking (and looking forward to) “What’s next?” and not let a void open that fills with grief over losses. What’s gone is gone. So today I’m thankful for what seems like a loss, besides my keys. Though it may seem like resignation, the slowing down by small degrees, less stressed by urgency and busy-ness, is a gift that makes for room to breathe—and to keep on breathing.

 Previously: Stress, de-stress

17 comments:

  1. We are all wishing you the best, Ron. I'm glad to hear that volume two of your study of frontier fiction is coming along. I'll be interested in reading it.

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  2. Ron, if the photographs are of your home, and I expect that they are, just lovely.

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    1. Thanks, we enjoy it and are glad to have it as our home, especially now.

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  3. Ron, I've seen some good relaxation videos on the internet, too, as well as some newer variations of yoga. Recently, I read a book on mindfulness called "The Miracle of Mindfulness" by Thích Nhất Hạnh, the noted Vietnamese Buddhist monk and teacher. I found his writing and teaching on the practice of mindfulness simple and effective, and suitable for the lay man. My best wishes to you for continued progress in health.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Prashant. What I have read of Thích Nhất Hạnh has seemed clear, incisive, and thought-provoking.

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  4. Tanks Ron, And best of luck with volume 2. I am having some difficulty seeing much room for vacancy after such a significant publication. Surely there will be interest from societies like the Smithsonian, the WWA, the Library of congress, other literary and historical societies and the wider public in general. What about invitations to lecture on the subject and do book signings? In North Carolina we had a Western Preservation society that would certainly have been interested to hear about your work.

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    1. Mobility will be an issue for me. I have to think of ways to use the digital media to reach out.

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  5. Another great post. Living in Wyoming I don't know about heat like you have - but of course, we have winter and lots of cold. Glad to hear Vol. 2 is coming along. I am trying my best to not worry about little things like lost keys, but being a lifelong worrier, I am not doing well with it.

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  6. I've found select classical music to be calming half way through my day. Usually its Beethoven but recently I've been venturing into Mozart territory.

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    1. Recommended: Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21.

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  7. My life most days so far this summer has been pretty calm, and I'm so grateful for that. Peace and quiet, peace and quiet. Wishing you the best.

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    1. Thanks, Charles. Loved those lazy, hazy days of summer, too, when I was a college teacher in Pennsylvania.

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  8. Don't let that void open, Ron. If nothing else, write fiction. You put together some bang-up stories in the past, and more would be welcome! Keep on keeping on!

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Richard. Blogging will no doubt keep me going for a good long time.

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  9. I wonder if writing poetry might be your forte. Your prose is very poetic and you are surrounded by beauty out there. And a poem is more manageable, my poetry friends tell me, for limited time. You can finish one in a matter hr hours instead of weeks. Thinking about you every day. Meanwhile a friend with MS was just diagnosed with lung cancer. She never smoked and I'm wondering if her job as a dental hygienist might have contributed. She has a 13 year old son. My heart breaks every day now.

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  10. I think part of your worry and restlessness comes from not being retired for very long. I was like that for months but it is diminishing, but I still wake up nights thinking of something that I should have done but didn't. Your sleep routine is similar to mine also, some days it is a real struggle to get going and get interested in something and mine is mostly, if not all, from old age. I received Vol l, albeit in the paperback edition, last Saturday and was surprised to see my name in Acknowledgements. Thanks much, Ron, and all the best to you and yours.
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