Hamlet & Fools

To get dressed or not to get dressed; that is the question. I slept till 2pm today. I dreamed of driving in Texas, and coming across, outside, pairs of guys dressed as scorpions fighting one: one. Each scorpion carapace was made of fried-food crust. It was nighttime with sepia light and the fighting guys were friendly.

I have this headache. It's like a sinus+tension headache and nothing helps it except, if I'm trying to sleep, Ambien. I'm afraid I'll become addicted to Ambien. I've had it about five nights straight. I didn't know this morning/afternoon if I should get up and walk three miles or sit around in my robe and read--listening to my body. L said to listen to my body and lie around. I didn't know if I should push through. That's always the question. Goes back to Rousseau/Hobbes and I'm sure to the classical philosophers. Natalie Goldberg, the free-writing advocate, talks about pushing through tofu. It's making yourself write when your mind feels mushy as processed soy. That's how I felt writing about the stores (below). Do you listen to you body at this time when it's reeling from the chemo, do you rest, or do you push on because you've promised yourself to walk every day, and walking will make you feel better? Which part of yourself do you listen to? Which is the legitimate part? Which is the whiney, weepy, wimpy part that needs a push? The thing is you don't know. I was sitting in a corner of the couch and reading the Groopman book about hope. No one can tell me if even after the 20 weeks of chemo, I'll be cancer-free forever. That is true. And it seems stupid to be hopeful because you could be wrong. But it seems self-defeating not to be. Isn't it better to hope and believe that I'm already cancer-free, that the chemo is just to make sure, that all this will be a bump in the road when I look back on a long, healthy life? The opposite is to be the sadder but wiser girl, the I-told-you-so girl. But what is the value of being able to say I told you so on your death bed?

But my mood ultimately depends on how I feel. I canceled the acupuncture appointment on Friday because I didn't hear back in time from the absent-minded practitioner. I have an appointment on Wednesday with someone else. I think if I'd gone on Friday, I'd feel better, I wouldn't have this headache and more of my cough back. And then I would feel better, and thus more hopeful. So I am still working on how to make yourself feel more hopeful when you feel whiney. How to punch through the tofu. How to know you should punch through the tofu. Instead of curling up. Which isn't a sign of defeat.

I did get dressed. I am going to go out and walk even though it looks like rain.

I write all this and I ignore the reality of yesterday: that I walked part-way to a reading sponsored by WRU (Well-Regarded University), and I saw a lot of students, and I hugged them, even though I wondered if I was exposing myself too much to germs, and I emceed the reading and afterward went for sushi (cooked) with the featured reader, the exceptionally talented Tara Ison, and we talked about cancer, but not only about cancer. It required a few pauses here and there to think of other topics. My world has gotten that small. We did talk about books and family, and how hard it is for her to write book reviews, but she does it. It is hard for me, too. Which again is the tofu question. If it's hard to write book reviews, do you still write them, or do you do something else? That question has plagued me all my life. When I was in journalism school I didn't know if I should transfer because journalism was so difficult for me. It was harder for me than for other students because I was scared to interview people and I didn't have an inherent sense of how to structure stories. The same with the novel that I've been writing or "writing" since 1991. Should I give it up because it's so difficult or is that the nature of novels and me? Which leads us back to hope and faith. There are people who are bound and determined to write or make art, and though they persevere, they are terrible. They make fools of themselves. Does that matter?


Anonymous said...

(in the opinion of one) it does NOT matter. (I am living proof that it does not matter if people make fools of themselves through their writing or their art) Good actors give bad performances. Good singers do the same. Good playwrights write bad plays, good artists make bad art and even the best writers write bad books every now & then. It happens. They can't all be the best performance ever. Every book can't be the best. Picasso made some bad pictures. Chagall & Warhol & I did, too (unless you ask Rhoda or Luna in which case the "I" comes off the list). Heck, Steven Spielberg made Gremlins.

please ask L to forgive me for what I am about to write here) I think even Michael Jordan played a bad game. Once. (I think).

Your regimen is punishing your body. Your head knows you want to do certain things. It is bound to be hard to know what to do and I'm sure that confusion might be the rule right now rather than the exception. I think L is wise & for whatever it is worth, I agree with him. I think you are wise too. (I know you did not ask me but if you did) I'd say listen to your body. I'm trying to convince my bride to do the same. Hope isn't stupid. Hope is good. Like naps. Naps are good. Dogs know that. There is a lesson in being able to just flop down and crash. I wish I could take your headache away. Sleep. Sleep is good.

PS: I also think that "I Told You So" is way overrated.

Anonymous said...

i agree with L and BC, better to rest, listen. the chemo doesn't hit your body all at once--there's a nadir about a week later when your white cells are at their lowest level, just before your body starts to come back. think: new moon. you're probably closing in on it about now, so perhaps that's why you feel a bit worse. soon you'll start to feel better, will have been through the lowest part of this cycle. someone told me--mid-radiation/chemo--that sleep is the best thing you can do to boost your immune system. when and if you are able to sleep, consider it a gift.

sometimes a short walk, even just up and down the block helped me. i craved fresh air; i needed to walk and sing to solve my nausea issue. i know someone else (a non-smoker who came back from lung cancer!) who needed to listen to jazz, to go into a kind of cocoon with no one around and just inhabit the music. you seem to need to write--or perhaps that's how it seems to me--a need i envy.
or maybe there's something else, too. whatever comforts and restores you is right.


Gail said...

I am glad you were there. It was lovely to see you. You did a great job as the MC.

I'm sorry to learn -- first, from Tara, and now, from reading your powerful blog -- that you have cancer, and are going through chemo. But I am glad you are putting this all to paper -- virtual paper? -- for people to read.

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