I am so grateful for those of you who read these posts, and for those who take the time to comment either via the “comment” function below or by writing me personally. Based on some of the responses I have received some of you may not realize that, while occasionally some news event prompts me to write a reaction that I send out right away, most posts are written well in advance of the time they appear.
My writing comes in fits and starts. Sometimes, when the moon is just right and the stars are aligned, the words come through me like a cool breeze and with just a touch of editing they are ready to go. But frankly, that almost never happens. Most often, the post starts with an idea, a title perhaps, or an observation, and then I struggle to write something coherent about it. And struggle and struggle.
All of the posts you have read since August (except this one) were written in August while my wife and I were up in Point Arena, where we have been fortunate enough to escape the Southern California heat for the last few years. I was able to finish about 6 to 8 posts there, sometimes writing only three lines a day, and due to the wonders of the internet I was able to schedule those posts to appear at the rate of once every two weeks through November.
While I try to write in ways that have some significance, I fear that much of what I say are platitudes. In the face of real pain, real suffering, words have little meaning. Real suffering has a life of its own, and each of us responds in our ways to the various acts of kindness we hopefully receive.
The last post, for example, was written on the topic of dealing with crosswinds, and refers to a crosswind landing I was particularly happy to make in Nevada. Within that post there are all the intended inferences to life’s crosswinds, but I can tell you very clearly that flying is not life and life is not flying. Life’s crosswinds don’t always end up well.
I say all this because I have been royally grounded. Not due to the kind of weather you encounter when you step out the front door, but the kind of inclement weather that resides within us, and can release itself into the most terrifying kind of thunderstorm.
Here is what I wrote yesterday, on the day the crosswind post came out: I am writing this in a place I would rather have never gotten to see in my life, on the infusion unit at City of Hope, where I am receiving my first infusion of chemotherapy that will hopefully begin to shrink the cancer that is growing rapidly on the base of my tongue and in my trigeminal nerve.
It has been a few weeks since I received the diagnosis, confirmed by biopsies and every kind of scan imaginable. It probably started months, even years earlier, and was not symptomatic so I had no idea it was there. In retrospect, there were minor signs, but they were minor, and I have had many regular physicals that couldn’t catch it.
Staying in the flying metaphor, I have performed all my scheduled maintenances, done all my pre-flights, but even still, things can go terribly wrong.
Although I know that flying can and even has been terrifying at times, and even though that terror stems from what appears to be imminent death, there is nothing in the flying world that I have encountered that comes close to the abject terror I have felt once I learned of my cancer diagnosis.
To some degree, terror is terror, and in the panic of terror our frame of reference narrows, our thoughts become unreasonable and constricted, our hearts race uncontrollably, and our minds wander to the worst case scenarios.
My tumor is large, and I try to judge by looking into the physicians’ eyes how hopeful or hopeless the situation is. The best doctors seem to have the best poker faces: they typically repeat, “I don’t know,” when it comes to any statement about the future. Occasionally they leak something that is not encouraging, but I have little choice to go with the program. I have trust and faith in my doctors, and I have an extraordinary family and friends surrounding me, researching for me, sticking close by my side.
One thing that is clear is that I may never fly again; if I do, I will be one fortunate bastard. I have looked back a bit at some of my earlier posts, and I realize at once how silly some of them are, how trivial, but also forgive myself because my intent is also to entertain. Occasionally I take something away, like the post I wrote about flying through the crash. There is so much more to say here, but I am well over my self-imposed limit of 700 words. One thing I feel strongly about is this: I am deeply grateful for those of you who take the time to read these posts. I know most of you have better things to do with your time, and it is an odd way to feel connected to someone. But without you, this practice of writing would be merely a therapeutic exercise, rather than one of connection. And I do believe, to some extent, there is healing in that.