Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Ceaseless Imaginary Tribulations

In recent years, I’d worked from home more and more often, and always had good intentions about getting some exercise on those days—cycling or walking—but it’s amazingly easy just to sit down and stay there if you don’t have to leave the house. So I’ve been a bit worried that I’ll grind to a halt completely. Will I start going to bed at 3 a.m. and getting up at noon only to spend the day weeping and eating Doritos?

I did walk late yesterday afternoon for just under an hour, ending up at Howie’s for meditation group, where I go pretty much every week. I haven’t been sure how to talk to people there about recent events. When someone says, “How are you?”, am I supposed to say “Great!” or am I supposed to say, “Well, I had a hysterectomy, and then I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and then I lost my job”? That seems like kind of too much for casual conversation. It seems unfair to the other person, and also to myself, though not saying that feels kind of strange, too, as if I’m trying to conceal something.

In any event, it was starting to make me feel isolated just to say “Fine” or “Good,” so last night I told a couple of people I’d lost my job (skipping the rest of it), and it was comforting to receive expressions of sympathy, plus one of the two said he’s also looking for work. I’m not the only one in this boat.

I told Howie I’m afraid of dying in a homeless shelter and he said, “We won’t let that happen.” I don’t think he meant he’s expecting to see me on his doorstep with all my belongings heaped about me and Hammett tucked under my arm, but it was consoling.

When I asked him what he thought I should be when I grow up, if ever, he immediately said, “Stand-up comic!”

I woke up rather anxious today. Meditation helped. Each moment of liberation from the imaginary future, with its bleak landscape of unrelenting misery and full as it is of hideous losses, is a relief. The difference between that seemingly vivid place and real life, where comparatively little happens, is becoming more and more obvious, though each moment of seeing it has a faint flavor of surprise: an entire world, complete in every detail, suddenly gone.

I’m also seeing what a persistent habit of aversion I have: I don’t like this job and wish I had some other job. I don’t like being unemployed and wish I had that job back. I don’t like living in San Francisco and wish I lived where more of my family members live.

Then there’s pre-emptive aversion, making sure every possible thing has been considered and disliked. If I did move to where my family members live, sooner or later I’d think, “Wasn’t it great when I lived in San Francisco? Why did I let that below-market-rate apartment get away?”

In sum, grief no matter where you look. Oh, except for one place, just one teeny-tiny spot that is astoundingly easy to miss: the one where my body is right now. As I sit in my chair, feel my posterior on the seat, and look at the iMac’s screen, where is all of that misery? It’s nowhere. It’s not here, and it’s not anywhere else, either. It’s made of thoughts, but I don’t even have to banish those thoughts—all I have to do is directly notice any sense impression whatsoever and what is false is automatically gone.

I’d been thinking about sending medical oncologist Dr. W. a letter about his not looking at my chart, and not answering the question the nurse educator was happy to answer, and making up crazy recurrence-risk numbers just for sport, and I was planning to mention early and often that his services had cost me $500, but then got I a bill for $542 for my consultation with Surgeon Number Two, so I guess that’s a very standard charge. I guess these cancer-related people get to charge $500 every time they move a muscle. Perhaps I’ll start doing the same.

I’ve finally figured out that while I’m probably going to worry about cancer recurring, I’d worry even more about what tamoxifen was doing to my body, so I have finally made the decision not to take it.
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