“God,” I sighed. “The office doesn’t return from remote work until April 2021 (if we’re lucky). Why drop off dry cleaning?” I muttered as I pounded the steering wheel. I remind myself of where I am on the road to eternity, especially when my heart gives small instantaneous pains. In seconds, they come and go. Each trigger (event) reminds me there is no end. There is no respite. And that’s the crux; five years post-osteoarthritis diagnosis, nearly two years into a tumor diagnosis, almost a year into Parkinson’s, and barely a couple of weeks into heart disease, I remain cloudy upon what precisely ‘new year’ means.
Does the ‘new year’ mean wealth, opportunity, freedom from pain, freedom from in-laws, or freedom from an ex? Could I win the lottery? Yup. Could I climb a mountain? Sure. Could my prayers heal the sick? I suppose. Can I heal myself? Unlikely. “Come on, man. What’s deep in your heart?” one might ask. “What’s there you want?” If I have to answer, I would likely retort, “Taking pain-free dump seems pretty awesome.” It’s like money, for it feels great. It would be like at the top of the world, and it would heal me. But it’s unlikely. After a week off, I went to work.
Typically, there are a few cars. Not today. Except for one other poor slob required to show and assist with ‘keeping the lights on’ we’d say. My inbox greeted me with, “Goals are due by mid-January 2021.” I don’t consider business objectives worthy considerations. Reading through the email contents, the company listed its 2021 goals. Employees, therefore, are required to choose an applicable goat that matches our daily activities. The problem is that nothing compares. How do you fit “Simply survive” against company profit? I mean, my real goal is to live – today.
Yeah, technically speaking, I am near my’ two good years’ this March . But what if I get another five years? Then again, what if I am only afforded tomorrow? I dreamed of seeing the world, of traveling, of adventure and romance. But I did. I never dreamed of having an innate knowledge with absolute certainty that I loved giving back to others. But despite all the wrongs, I did give to others. A lot. But the question remains, “How do I parlay two good years into another?” Or better yet, “How can I parlay two good years into another five years?”
Am I bargaining? Eh, not really. Maybe more thinking out loud as opposed to, “God, give five more years, and I will do A, B, or C.” I have not created any “what if” or “if only” statements. I have not asked God for anything throughout this process, except to suggest a quicker, more painless death, if possible [should it come to that]. The new year will neither find me writing a book, never walk on a Galapagos Island beach nor will I ever be me. I have not requested anything from anyone. I have somehow found a way to move while time stands still.
Strangely, the new year will find me being normal, my normal. At this point, death is normal; it is my day-in, day-out life. The new year rhythm begins just like the last: Drugs at five in the morning, drugs at one in the afternoon, and medications before bed. (And sometimes drugs in between.) Like last year, I will eat a mostly liquid diet, some vegetables, and some oatmeal. Like last year, I will lose weight, though I will continue to be bewildered if the weight loss is from the diet or something more sinister gnawing me internally. And just like last year, this year, no one will provide a cure.
No one promised me a cure. No one ever said I would beat osteoarthritis, the tumor, Parkinson’s, or heart disease. As such, I expect the new year to bring many days of medical advice and treatment options via email. Granted, COVID-19 has changed the doctor-patient landscape, but I suspect it’s easier to treat the dying via email versus in-person. Telling someone face-to-face that they are dying requires hard work. I get it. Yes, I know doctors are designed to provide hope, but sometimes the most companionate thing is holding a hand and asking, “How can I best assist you in transitioning to the last phase of life.”
For me, it’s an easy answer. Write. I will neither seek a long drawn out treatment nor endless treatments with untold costs. I refused to be drugged beyond oblivion with tubes running to and from every orifice. Instead, I will write. I shall share my experience for as long as possible. I will continue this blog for another year.
This new year, let’s not waste time. I want all of us to live the fullest life possible. Focus on real priorities, not getting dry-cleaning, running errands, or meeting some arbitrary corporate goal. As the Buddha might say, “… live longer by ceasing in trying to live the longest.” Life is not about quantity alone. The only real time is the present, enjoying simple things.
Simple things include extending my blog for another year (meaning I plan to be around for another year). I want to sip the one Diet Coke that sits in front of (something not participated in for weeks) and eat two peanut butter cups that I have saved for a special day. Remember, I have been diagnosed ‘terminally ill,’ I am not dying. Not yet. I will laugh, watch some incredible movies, maybe even travel (once COVID is over). Through all the medical appointments, medication, and ups and downs. This new year I refuse to stop living.