Sometimes TV is too close.
Yesterday I visited with colleagues at work and another friend for coffee. In both cases, I was asked what I'm doing to fill my days. One of the answers, of course, is that I'm watching more television. As I heal from surgery, that's natural enough, and as I begin chemotherapy, television will remain one of the few things I can do to pass time.
Sure, I'm reading and writing and visiting, but television has become an important part of how I pass time.
It's odd, though. Admitting that to colleagues and friends sometimes seems like a confession rather than a simple answer to a simple question. Maybe it's because the conventional wisdom is that watching television is a waste of time, something analogous to drinking whisky alone from a flask hidden inside your jacket. It doesn't matter that most people do the same. What matters is that you pretend to do something more "useful" or "productive" with your time.
But whatever the merits or demerits of watching television to pass time, I'm doing it, especially now that we have high definition channels and a big screen TV (a concession from my wife that there won't be many other things that I can do in the months ahead).
Yesterday night, we watched the season premieres for CSI and Grey's Anatomy. In case you haven't watched these episodes, I won't spoil the entire plot for you, except to say that both involved death and dying. But one thread of Grey's Anatomy was entirely too close to reality for me.
A young woman with a cheery disposition comes into the hospital for a liver resection for cancer metastases. She is confident that surgery will be curative. Instead, as it was for me, surgery reveals that the CT scan didn't discover the full extent of the metastases. The surgeons have to close her up and tell her, in effect, that she is dying.
When Meredith sits by her bedside, the woman tries to remain cheerful, but breaks down sobbing "It's no fair!" repeatedly.
I've admitted to a few people recently that there are moments when I feel the injustice of things deeply. There are moments when I want to grab one of my oncologists and demand an answer to the question, "Why the hell couldn't you find the metastases earlier than you did? I mean, I did everything you told me to do. I had all the lab tests done exactly on time. I never missed an appointment. I told you about all the symptoms I experienced regularly. Why is this happening to me? It's not fair!"
In the CSI episode, Grissom says that the team is trained to comfort the relatives of murder victims with the phrase, "I'm so sorry for your loss...until now we didn't realize how inadequate that phrase truly is."
Others have said similar things to me. I've had to say similar things to myself - "sorry for your loss" - because no matter how unfair, no matter how deeply felt the injustice, the loss remains. Being sorry, and saying so - however inadequate the words may be - is still better than nothing at all.
Maybe it's time to watch some comedy on the big screen boob tube...