Thursday, January 10, 2013

Such is the perfect person. Her boat is empty.

Yes, I am very much alive, unlike more than a few of the insects at the butterfly park.

Cull and I were in hysterics this morning posting photos on Facebook. I'm not going to say which ones.

I have minor physical complaints which are the result of my body aging I think 10-15 years as a result of cancer treatment. I am not in pain. Apparently there are rapidly multiplying cancer cells in my lungs. I cannot feel them, nor do I have shortness of breath. I've been coughing some. I'm pretty sure it's from the super dry air conditioning in the room I sleep in although I seem to be getting used to it. I turn it off the rest of the day which I wasn't doing before.

The way my hair is growing back after chemo is surprising. The hair on my head is still very short, and way grayer. Eyebrows are back in their full glory. And as I may have mentioned before, I have very fine (in the sense of awesome, and in the sense of subtle and perceived with some difficulty) blond hair growing where men have sideburns. It'd be easier to camo if my head hair were longer than 1/2 an inch. But there it is. On the left side of my face the hair points straight down. On the right there is less and it sways in toward my nose, like a wolf. Or, perhaps, a superhero wolverine. Hello Hugh Jackman.

The main point I wanted to make, which is now lost in other ones, that I forget to update people about, is that even though I seem to have one foot firmly planted in the grave, I don't currently feel sick.

Ubiquitous sculpture gardens,
some Buddhist themed
Another cancer change, again relatively minor, is that I'm much pickier than I used to be about food. I used to be more flexible, more working class. Now I take four anti-inflammatory pills (here are the ingredients if you want to know) and various other supplements every day. I try with varying degrees of effort to avoid white flour, etc. I eat almost nothing with added sugar, occasionally some dark chocolate or a bite of something. I don't really miss it though it's a pain sometimes reading ingredients, especially now that my eyes don't work as well (unrelated to cancer, I think) and from my current point of view, there seems to be sugar in almost everything. Avoiding it for so long, most of the time I don't desire it anymore.

I was pondering the other day how lovely and nice and sweet the people in my life are. I mean I wouldn't have said that before I got cancer, not 'cuz I thought they were bastards, but of course because things have changed. No one tells me what they think I should do, unless I ask. It is lovely. I got two super sweet emails today. I'd post them but they are long!

I was reading Stephen Levine's Who Dies? last night. There's this great part about an empty boat, about being an empty boat, a Taoist image. I don't know if that's enough of an explanation for some of you but I find it an inspiring idea. (Here's a translation of some of the original text from Chuang Tzu.) As an example of NOT being an empty boat...

There is a sort of touchy issue for me, it doesn't come up very often but it does come up. It's when my mind goes to thinking people are acting as if I'm already dead, or, even, too sick to do something (when I do not feel sick at all.) It's just someone doing something nice for me or taking something off my hands, and I think, Good god man I am not dead yet! Then I sort of get over it and realize they are trying to be kind. It's a process. Perhaps from the point of view of the full boat, there's always going to be the right kind or the wrong kind of kindness. Most of the time I am very, very happy with my circumstances.

Vimalasara suggested I have a living funeral. It sounds groovy though I don't really know what it is.

There is a lot I could write about Bali. I notice that there's so much Sanskrit around that I recognize. Dewa=Deva/God (related to the English word 'divine'.) Today I saw a store called Satya Cell. The Hinduism here seems softer than in India. Today Wayan drove us to some lovely places and told us that the offerings on the ground are for the bad spirits, to feed them, make them happy...He also said Bali is a kind of fusion of culture, art, and religion which seems to be true. I don't just go around saying this, but it is a magical place. Kathy got it totally right.

Movies: The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Not a great title for what the movie was, but it was pretty good. The woman who plays Hermione on Harry Potter is in it.

I'm writing two poems: Mind on Cancer, and On the Occasion of my Seventh Baliness Massage. I can't really finish poems these days for some reason but I will try...

I have a lot of appointments set up for the 10 days I'm going to be at home before going on retreat with Dawn. The social worker, Dr. Nelson, three phone appointments with Dr. Block's office in Chicago, and on Feb 11, the clinical trials lady at UCSF that Nancy set up for me. And it's going to be cold and rainy, and there won't be any mangosteens.


  1. I was going to suggest a living funeral/wake, but then I thought it was kinda awkward, plus I got the idea from that teens with cancer book I loved, and I know you're not really into cancer books right now, for some reason. I think it's partly about getting to hear all the nice things people will say about you when you're dead (which if course they're doing now, but all together) and also a chance to express things in a way that is more open than a traditional memorial (which if course you won't have). Sort if like an ordination send off? I don't know, see you soon.

  2. The "Empty Boat" piece by Chuang Tzu is a gift - and I'm glad to have received it today. Smiles to you, you Easy Rider.

  3. I love the idea of a living wake/funeral, although I agree that it is an awkward thing to discuss. When my father died, we had a memorial service for him which was advertised (if that is the appropriate word!) as a celebration of his life. There were many things said that I wished he had heard, that I wished I had heard sooner so that I could have talked to him about them. Celebrating each other's lives is a gift we can share with one another, and yet we do it so seldom.

    I also loved the "Empty Boat" piece and thank you for sharing it.

  4. Hey Dhi - I am into cancer books actually, just not all of them! I like checking them out.
    Nora - that is interesting, thank you.

  5. The Fault in Our Stars, can lend.