"It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubborness of the inorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed." - Albert Einstein

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I aspire to a stubbornly incorrigible nonconformity. The degree to which I have achieved my aspiration I leave in the capable hands of those whose wisdom and humilty exceed my own.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Storyteller Lives On To Tell Another Tale

As a result of the treatment for my throat cancer, I am gradually losing the ability to speak clearly and forecefully. How ironic, the professional storyteller, inspirational speaker, and workshop facilitator who never ever smoked gets throat cancer and gradually loses his ability to speak. I must have generated some seriously bad karma in an earlier life!

Consequently, I have closed my business, Whispering Circles, and am no longer a professional storyteller, inspirational speaker, or workshop facilitator. It was a hugely difficult decision for me to make, but in the end between my lack of energy and my gradually deteriorating voice I had to admit that charging people money for what I can do just did not seem right.

But today I have been asked to tell the Story For All Ages in Church. And I was asked by people who know how I speak today. What a gift. I've been rehearsing for the past week so I could tell the story in the best possible way. I can't tell you how excited I am to be asked to tell a story again.

It is interesting how much value I place on my self image as a "professional" storyteller. The word amateur comes from a Latin root that means one who does something for the love of it. And that certainly describes my status as a storyteller, even when I considered myself a professional.

How good might it be for me to adopt and be proud of my amateur status in all things of importance? I think that I shall make a commitment to cultivate an attitude of living and being and doing each moment of my life with a love for the moment.

Friday, February 24, 2012

I am trying to adjust and accept my new role. A role that I did not seek and do not want. I have never been a person much attached to the workplace rituals and traditions, but I am finding that as I enter this new phase of my life, retirement, I am grieving my losses of job and professional position and reputation. And I am also missing the rituals that usually accompany transitions to retirement.

Actually, it all happened so abruptly and without any expectation, that I think I have not yet started to grieve. I am still in the denial stage of grief.

Through all of this my wife, daughter, extended family, and friends, including my co-workers and supervisor, have been so spectacularly supportive. I know that all of this would be and could be much more challenging without that support.

Reluctant Retirement

I am a reluctant retiree, or at least in the process of becoming one. On February 2, 2012 I went to work at a job I love. I was a social worker with the Washington State Children's Administration. I had worked there for thirteen years in a variety of capacities including investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect and providing direct services to children and families. I was very good at my job and I love it. After cancer in 2004 I found that work too stressful and as much as I hated it, I adopted new duties including conducting home studies of relatives for placement of dependent children and facilitating interdisciplinary planning meetings. I grew to love this job as well.

When I went to work on February 2, 2012 I had two meetings scheduled. Both meetings were cancelled by the other parties and I wasn't feeling too good, so I went home. Later that afternoon I finally agreed with my wife and daughter to go to the doctor, who admitted me to the hospital with aspiration pneumonia.

I was hospitalized for twelve days during which time the doctors decided to alter my GTube for a JTube, directly into my small intestine. That means that because of the smaller space, I can no longer feed myself on my schedule, but am attached to a portable pump about twenty hours a day.

I have not been back to work since then and I don't anticipate ever going back. My doctor, who I just love, says I am disabled and unable to perform my job duties. I reluctantly agree with him, but it is a challenge. I am in the process of applying for disability so now it is up to government employees to determine if I am really disabled or not.

In one day I lost my sense of my professional self and my status as a professional in the community. I am no longer a child welfare social worker. People no longer come to me for my opinion or assistance with a particularly challenging case. My days are my own to fill as I can, which at least so far has been easy with all the medical appointments and managing my medical technology with which I have to become accustomed.

This is not at all the way I envisioned my career ending. I wanted to finish out my work life at the same desk I abandonned on February 2, 2012 and walk out the door. I anticipated a retirement party where people would say all manner of nice things about me and I would get the state equivalent of a gold watch, which is probably a fancy ball point pen.
I am trying to adjust and accept my new role. A role

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Technology Woes

I had my first significant problems with my enteral pump today. It took a couple of hours of trying to sort it out on my own and a telephone call to the customer service representative to get it working again. It seems like it is working now.

All fo this brings to mind how little I like the idea of being so dependent on technology, even if that technology keeps me sitting upright and sucking air. It seems un-American to be dependent on a machine. It violates my myth of self-reliance and independence.

But all of that is a myth that we collectinvely and individually hold in common. The reality is that we are all dependent on each other and on the technology that surrounds us. We just don't like to admit it. We don't live in isolation from the universe, we inter-be with the universe, including all sentient beings and non-sentient beings.

I realize, again and brand new for today, that I have a choice. Every moment I have choices to make. The truth is that I am the author of every next moment. I may not be able to choose what happens, but I can and do choose how I will inter-be with it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Remembering Kathy

I have been thinking about my friend Kathy a lot the last few days. When I was first diagnosed with throat cancer one of the first people I knew I had to talk to was Kathy. She was living in Oceanside California and I was in Wenatchee, but we were still very close. Before I could even tell Kathy that I had throat cancer she told me that she had Non Hodgekin's Lymphoma.

Kathy and I literally went through cancer treatment together separated by a lot of miles. We talked, texted, and emailed often. When Kathy relapsed and I was in a good space with my treatment, I visited her for a week. It was one of the best deecisions of my life. Nothing could substitute for being present to and with Kathy.

Kathy and I agreed that when we ever got got better we would meet in Las Vegas so we could go and eat at Mario Battali's restaurant. That never happened and now it never will.

Kathy relapsed again and died. And a little bit of me died too.

I thought about going to Las Vegas and having that meal but I just couldn't bear it without Kathy. It seemed like some kind of betrayal.

And then, I lost the ability to swallow and eat and now I am on a pump about twenty hours a day to get my nutrition. I will never again get to taste food.

I realize now I really needed to go to Mario's restaurant to honor both Kathy and myself. And now it all just seems pointless and I want to go now more than ever.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tube Guy

I am just out of the hospital after almost two weeks for aspiration pneumonia. I generally get aspiration pneumonia every three or four months and end up being hospitalized. This time the docs decided to swap out my PEG Tube for a JTube. The JTube cannot handle anywhere near the same rate as the PEG tube and consequently, I am on a pump for about twenty hours a day now. I am still learning to negotiate the use of the pump and feel comfortable about it. The good news is that the pump is relatively small and completely portable. I wear it in a small backpack; however, the tube is usually visible so it is not completely hidden from public view. I yearn for the day when my family and friends don't ask me how my health is doing. I yearn for the day when my health is not the major topic of conversation. It is getting better.

I spent the evening last night with really good friends watching "Moneyball." It was good to be in a relaxed setting with friends who didn't feel the need to make my health issues the central topic of the evening.

I'm getting ready to go to Church this morning, where I will do some speaking. Public speaking is a passion of mine and I am looking forward to getting another opportunity to be more "normal."