Sunday, August 03, 2008

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0983 - Getting Ready and Melancholy

It's been a week since I've written anything on this unwanted journey thread. A busy week, working hard, doing normal, everyday things with my colleagues, my wife and my sons. But never far from my mind is the realization that it won't be that long until I gather my hospital gown around me, pull myself onto the operating table, answer a few standard questions, receive the anaesthesia, and then awaken to nurses asking more questions.

Like a pendulum, I swing between wanting desperately to continue with the normal routine and thinking that I need to get things in order...just in case things don't work out during surgery. Today, for instance, my wife and I revised our wills. But yesterday we also visited Picard's Peanuts in St. Jacob's, the LCBO in Waterloo and other destinations essential for preparing for next weekend's annual trip to visit with family at their cottage on Taylor Island in Lake Muskoka, one of the highlights of the year for us all.

Today, I rummaged around my library for my unread book on Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain, purchased some etching pencils and a pad of drawing paper and started thinking about overcoming my life-long aversion to drawing. Yesterday, I visited Chapters in Kitchener to pick up another book by Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance, after having watched the movie about Josh's early performance as a child prodigy chess player - Searching for Bobby Fischer. I reviewed Pocket PC software for chess and considered re-igniting my childhood and teen love of the game.

Maybe I'm a little crazy. But the tug of the future and of things I'd like to do and learn is battling with the urgency of imminent surgery and chemotherapy and the possibility that, this time, cancer has the upper hand. Randy Pausch called it the "elephant in the room". An apt metaphor, I suppose. But it's also like the shadow following my every move, the pop-up reminders in Outlook, and the questions in the eyes of family and friends when we meet on the street - "How are you doing?"

There are so many things I want to do and learn. I've always been a little odd that way. Mastery isn't as important to me as opportunity to learn something new. Being the expert has never been as significant a draw as knowing something about many things. But now, I'm becoming knowledgeable about things I'd rather leave to other people - what it's like having multiple surgeries, what do multiple courses of chemotherapy feel like, how do you find a vein in the crook of your elbow when scar tissue begins claiming more and more territory.

And so, I find myself saying "No" to some learning opportunities simply because I don't know if or when I'll be able to apply the learning. I find myself thinking about books and software and hobbies which yield quick returns on an investment of time and energy, that don't require more than I can give. I hate that!

I'm not pulling out my guitar these days and practicing. I'm not getting up early and studying SQL Server. I'm not learning French. I'm not thinking about certifications.

On the other hand, at work and at home, I feel more present, more in the moment. This can sometimes be very valuable and worthwhile.

I'm not depressed, but I do feel melancholic.

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