May 10, 2012
I’m losing hair. To be fair, the poor follicles were already in a fight for their lives; they had several preexisting conditions which have subjected them to harassment from untoward forces. Predictable forces like aging and naturally thin hair. But there are also those forces resulting from my betumored state.
Let’s begin with my biopsy, these five and a half years ago. I went giddily into an anesthetic sleep with a decent head of hair and awoke from my stupor to find (what I knew but wanted so badly to disbelieve), circumscribing the stapled gash, a lopsided tonsure as might befit a hip-hop monk. Being a man in my twenties of so recent a flume of flaxen hair, my follicles fared better in their recovery from surgery than the rest of my body, so well, in fact, that six months later they were in decent enough shape to warrant another mournful destruction as dealt by a concentrated deployment of gamma rays against my right parietal brain-lobe.
After a month of this abuse, the right side of my head was but a sparsely-grassed terrain. (All was not a loss, however, on this occasion. The radiation so scalded my scalp as to necessitate the frequent application of a creamy salve originally designed to soothe the crackled teats of a dairy cow; and you know what they say about laughter and medicine. Secondly, the coincidence of my youngest brother’s wedding and my third week of radiation afforded the opportunity to forever memorialize myself as the uncle with snazzy newsboy
cap in all of the groomsmen photos.)
At that point, I knew I would never have a truly full head of hair again. Nonetheless, the deserted region managed a re-growth to serve the purposes of illusion. And what with being taller than most people, the scarcity most prevalent on top of my head went largely unnoticed—unless, of course, I happened to be seated. As it turns out, I spend most of my seated time around family and friends who know better than to fall for the illusion in the first place.
For the next three-ish years, my hair struggled back to a semblance of full coverage. But then came the great depression. Being suicidal keeps one up at night. Sleep deprivation negatively affects one’s seizure threshold. Teetering at all turns on the verge of physical collapse is cause for great anxiety. Constant anxiety leads to an asphyxiating depression. Being suicidal keeps one up at night. And round and round one goes. All of these torments, FYI, contribute to hair loss especially for those with preexisting conditions. After much internal and external debate, I decided to get on Lexapro to chill me out. Once again, my hair, let’s not say flourished, let’s say, soldiered-on.
And now there’s this darling chemo. (Which puts the treat in treatment.) Now the damage is an inside job. Flesh on flesh crime. Every day I see a less goldilocks-y fellow in the mirror. He’s more of a Batman-villain-y fellow these days.
On the up-side, I still have two of those newsboy caps on-deck and ready to step up to the plate.
May 12, 2012
Two of the greatest wastes of time known to man are ones that mortgage todays in anticipation of tomorrows. These two are essentially one, categorically, but are of distinct species. One has to do with impatience, one has to do with dread.
I believe the closest one comes to having nothing to do with either, the closer they come to a happy life.
Fortunately, at least in this regard, adults are generally far too occupied to be preoccupied with the future. For the majority of any given day, the given day has enough of its own worries. Unfortunately, the majority of our free time comes at night (depending on what hours you keep or shift you work, some other time of day might apply) when rest is most needed, when companionship is most wanted. The optimum time for cultivating bodily and familial health transpires during smallest periods of our day. Wasted leisure is, in matters of well-being, a wasted day.
Children are world class squanderers of time. And I don’t mean that they spend their time doing things that adults cannot fathom as being necessary or productive in the least. That sort of time, so long as they take their trash out and clean their rooms, etc. is time well spent. It’s leisure and it’s right now, so something, if little, is being gained by it. What I mean is that children (in the First World, at least) have a surfeit of time in which to long-for or dread some future event.
And time is lost in the anticipation. For our children, we can calibrate these anticipations and thereby alleviate some of its attending anxiety. Try this with your child next time: Planning a family vacation to Super Awesome World? Don’t tell them until the day of. Watch as their homework gets done at acceptable rates, as their bedtimes carry on in regular fashion. Or this: Kiddo got some dental work upcoming? See above.
On the other hand, for ourselves . . . well, we are too thoroughly apprised of our plans. We know what looms and how darkly. We know what excites and how sparkly. Our leisure is constantly in jeopardy. We know too much. Worse still, we are less likely to have X-Boxes or to be fascinated by sticks that could serve as slingshots. Doubly doomed are we.
In the last couple of days, I have been challenged to keep my days in a row. I have found myself already dreading my next round of chemo, already looking beyond my increasing vitality toward its monthly squashedness. Bad form. These have been lovely days—the weather and the relative wellness of my body.
But sadly, being in many respects disabled, my free-time is like that of a child’s and yet my strictly notated calendar is like that of an adult.
My days are in jeopardy.
So I have to be vigilant. It’s hard not to live in fear. It’s hard to play. It’s easy to lose hope. It’s easy not to play.
But for Pete’s heaven’s goodness’s sake, is this any way to spend three weeks? Let me get off of this computer and see what’s happening. Whatever it is will have happened with or without me regardless of what will happen around the first of June.
May 18, 2012
A lifetime of studiousness, scholarship, and deliberate observation continues to contribute to my impecunious circumstances. Wit is a poor substitute for grit. The life of the learner is in constant thrall to the life of the earner.
These things do not surprise me. I’m clever enough to know how the world works, just not clever enough to subvert the system. All I can really do is quantify the instances of its proof.
One of gauntlets that slaps your face while running the gauntlet of disability application is the subjection to a psychological exam—half of which ascertains your mental health, half of which ascertains your cognitive aptitude.
As for my mental health, suffice it to say I am on drugs that divert my attention from anxiety, depression, despair, and the impenetrable darkness of reality as it careens, indefatigably, towards the summation of one’s woeful days to the prettiness of that butterfly over there, all float and flap, flower to flower, flying on felicitous sky. That being said, which characterizes my actual mental health? My brain or my brain on drugs? Fortunately, psychologists have a formula for determining the actualness of one’s feelings.
Let’s move on to the cognitive aptitude portion. How shall I put this? Bear in mind that the horn I’m about to toot has already been established as a virtually useless one and should not be taken as anything other than another instance of proof. Thus disclaimed, I am apt. Let’s put it that way.
For those unfamiliar with exams of this nature (I.Q. tests are similar), here are some examples of the feats: you’re psychologist du jour will read a list of numbers which you will repeat back to her. As you continue to succeed, the list grows longer. You continue until the list becomes too long for you to repeat accurately. As a perennial student, I am practiced in the art of the mnemonic device and was therefore capable of rattling off some ten or twelve numbers in the order they were given to me. Your psychologist will give you four words to remember stating that she’ll ask you to recall them later. Then she’ll give you words to define that increase in difficulty as you go along. As a perennial reader, I know a lot of words. She’ll give you words to spell, first forward then backward, increasingly difficult. Again, I know a lot of words and I may or may not have some experience in saying things backwards during field sobriety tests. (For those of you who don’t know me, I have long since quit my inebriate ways.) She’ll present you with seemingly dissimilar items and ask you to come up with comparisons. Analogies are kinda my thing. I am to them as she is to asking these questions. (At one point, she gave me the following items: book and car. I thought and thought, convinced she had stumped me but unwilling to let it go. Hold on, I told her. And thought some more. I repeated the items . . . “book and car . . . man that’s a tough one.” She said, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I meant boat and car.”) These sorts of things will go on for a half-hour or so. At the end, she’ll ask you what those four words were.
What does all of this amount to? In all likelihood, denial of disability. “You seem plenty smart to figure some way to make money without having a seizure or panic attack.” It’s the same as with my physical therapy records which they have commandeered. “You seem plenty handi-capable what with all those big, bouncy ball routines you’re banging out.” It’s true, I am not utterly disabled. I can, in fact, endure an hour’s worth of light exercise twice a week. I can, in fact, glide through an hour’s worth of brain teasers. Anyone hiring for an hour a day? I’m your man.
By the way, those four words: river, book, shoe, and cloud.