I’ve been trying to come up with a metaphor or image to describe how I’ve been feeling the last couple of weeks. The one that seems to sum things up the best is the classic scene in animated cartoons when a character runs too far off the cliff and is suspended in mid-air. There is that split second where they defy gravity. And then they look down and inevitably fall.
I’ve been asking myself, “Am I living with cancer or dying of cancer? Am I an optimist or a pessimist, is my life running to empty or does it have the right amount of fuel to keep going?”
Caitlyn, one of my stand partners in the Chautauqua Symphony, would tell you I’m an Eeyore. I am the first to admit that I expect the worst and I’m always pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t happen. No one knowing my family history should be surprised to hear me say this. But I am not a pessimist.
Often when people gasp after I’ve told them my sad story I try to kid them about the advantages of my situation. “If I wake up and get out of bed in the morning” I’ll tell them, “I’m doing better than all the other males in my family”. This is a very low bar and some might find it a very pessimistic statement. I personally find it life affirming. No matter how crappy I feel, how awful my circumstances, I am still here. I am alive and bad feelings are still better than no feelings. Life isn’t always easy but, I’ll choose life over the alternative every time.
This weekend Kristina and I went to Dallas. We went because months ago in October I registered for a Go Tournament held in the Big D. At that time nobody knew if I would be alive and able to attend. For those of you who don’t know the game of Go; it is an ancient Asian game played on a 19×19 grid with black and white “stones”. The rules are very simple but the game itself is very complex and requires much strategy (see usgo.org for more info). I was very consistent and lost all my games. I found myself awake in the middle of the night berating myself for stupid moves and wondering why I even bothered to show up to the tournament. I eventually got back to sleep, woke up the next morning and realized that it didn’t matter whether I won or lost so long as I kept playing the game. Go itself has a philosophy to it that has much to do with yin and yang which is why I chose to persevere.
So, am I a pessimistic-optimist, an optimistic-pessimist? In the end it doesn’t really matter. What matters right now is seeing the wonder of this world while I am still here. To plan for the future the best I can knowing full well I will leave many things unresolved. To know that my time here is finite but not be fearful of the end. To love even when it hurts and to love the hurt as part of the whole. Hey, I haven’t looked down yet.