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August 27, 2011

Only in solitude do we find ourselves; and in finding ourselves, we find in ourselves all our brothers (and sisters) in solitude.

-Miguel de Unanimo-

Love is, above all, the gift of oneself.  

-Jean Anouilh-

Before I begin this post, I just want to thank everyone for all the wonderful birthday wishes. I wish I could send each of you a personal thank you, but even if I didn’t have a terminal illness, I simply wouldn’t have enough time to do that.

Spontaneously, I said to a friend: happy birthday to me … may I have many more. And then I thought; why not … I’ll have one a month, which means I’ll probably outlive everyone … maybe be the oldest person on record … make the Guinness, even … and look very young in the process. Lucky me! Having cancer gives me license for all sorts of kooky notions, eh? I mean, who is going to argue with me, right? Hmmmmm!

Ain’t I a stinker?

Just a little update. The effects of the radiation treatment seem to have worn off for the most part now. As long as I don’t push it too much, my energy seems nearly what it was before my diagnosis, and the pain in my lower lung/liver is very manageable with only the use of ibuprofen so far. Food no longer feels like a brillow-pad scraping an open wound when it passes my lower esophagus, and my appetite seems to be returning (with the help of all the wonderful foods people are packing my fridge with). I have even gained 2 pounds back from the 16 pound loss since early July. I am back to doing my regular exercises, and Thursday was the first day in six weeks that I didn’t have to go anywhere. Yippie!!! I could just stay home, relax, and actually get some chores done … I even swept the kitchen floor, much to the horror of the mutating ecosystems developing down there. Less diversity, I admit, but more security.

Life is good.

And you -my dear friends- are helping to make it so.

Peg and I met with Hospice yesterday for the first time. I originally thought that this program was for people at the end stage, but actually they prefer if people participate as soon as possible after a terminal diagnosis. The only qualification is that one does have a terminal illness, and that one is not going to go through the medical interventions to try and change that fact. Which did beg a question for me! As much as I detest being late for things, I did want to know if they would yell at, or punish me, if I just happened to live longer than appropriate. After much consideration, they said no … they wouldn’t; which sure is a load off my mind I must say … I hate being yelled at, and I usually try to avoid being punished if at all possible.

life is good.

One of the things that the Hospice counselor mentioned is that, in his experience most people start to go over their lives and sort it out during this time. In fact, after he said that, I realized that I have already been doing this. Much of my life was spent evaluating it as I went along, but in the last three years or so there has been an increased momentum toward just that. In fact, and this may sound a little strange to some of you, a part of me knew I didn’t have much time left to wrap some things up in my life!!

Weird, huh?

Particularly in the last year, I have had a few subtle but profound “intuitive” moments that told me my life was closing fast. I didn’t take these all that seriously at the time, but when I got my diagnosis, I was not surprised.

Maybe this isn’t so weird afterall, because my body obviously knew what was going on inside it, and was trying to relay that information to my rather obtuse cognitive brain by agency of my subconscious one, I suppose. I have always been the last to know what is going on with me anyway … so this fits.

What this has resulted in is that I have been unconsciously trying to make up for lost time. As I mentioned in an earlier post; I have been a fairly solitary person much of my life. I was somewhat reclusive, and I didn’t get married to Peg until I was 38. Before that time my intimate relationships were few and far between, and lasted an average of three months or so … just long enough for my partners to realize that they had fallen down a deep hole with a complete idiot. Okay, I exaggerate … the hole wasn’t that deep.

For some reason I was not aware of at the time, the last few years found me desperate to finally reach out and make connections in my life. Not just shallow associations, or casual friendships, or even simple companionships; but -rather- I was looking for deep connections … soul connections. And that’s exactly what I have found.

At the risk of expressing a cliche’, the connections we make in life are what matter most, especially when the coriolis effect takes our life through those last few spins down the drain. This is true even if that information is about as useful to someone who believes they have forever, as it is useful to tell an adolescent to slow down and smell the ozone from their ipad, because life will be speeding up soon enough.

My connections with other people, and my connection with nature are what matter most to me right now, and everything else just seems to be falling away. This clarity and simplicity is a true blessing. This is ecstasy. I am so grateful to realize this when I still have my health and can pursue and enjoy it. I ask myself everyday what I did to deserve this gift of grace, and the answer is always the same: deserve has nothing to do with it. True gifts have nothing to do with deserving them  … they are love packaged as something tangible. But even the true value of a gift can be missed if the person receiving it is looking for something else. I will not make that mistake.

life is good.


10 Comments leave one →
  1. Anacker Faith permalink
    September 9, 2011 8:53 am

    I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling okay.
    Something about this time in human consciousness…I to have been feeling that all that matters is the connections, relationships. In relation to the natural world around us and to each other. Not accomplishments on the physical plane but connectedness.
    Each moment we have opportunity to soak up the mystery. Thank you for sharing the grace, we all could use some coaching on this subject… It is difficult to accept the gifts when we are caught up in culturally endorsed narcissism, the American delusion of self reliance.
    Your journey affirms that when a person looks deeply enough every little thing is relevant and offers a gift of grace. As a group of people (community) learn to recognise communion, with each other doors open, we can see unlimited potential. The gifts of each person become apparent as the trivial idiosyncrasies fall away. May we all give each other permission to accept that we are a part of something more.

  2. MikeL permalink*
    August 30, 2011 8:26 pm

    Another funny and poignant post, brother Rick, but if you think I’m going to shell out for a birthday present every damn month, you’ve got another think coming!!

    • August 31, 2011 6:43 am

      Damn it all, Mike … you really could have kept this realization to yourself. Just think of the STUFF!

  3. August 29, 2011 10:26 pm

    You had a birthday…I didn’t know that, damn.

  4. Jo Stothard permalink
    August 29, 2011 2:30 pm

    Glad you let us know how you are physically feeling too, Rick.

    Hospice will be very helpful to you AND Peg. Sometimes being the caregiver is a bit of a challenge and they will help you both! They also pretty much let you call the shots…(.no pun intended) and let you decide what you would like to do.

    I too remember last Nov. having a similar conversation with you, that Rebecca mentioned…..Kinda wish I got to see you more than once a year. I hope it’s ok, but I requested that your booth be next to mine, at the Winter Arts Festival. That way I can bother you for 2 Solid days!!!

    Life IS Good.


    • August 29, 2011 3:02 pm

      Being bothered by you for two days sounds like heaven to me, Jo. rick

  5. Matthew Schliesman permalink
    August 28, 2011 7:41 pm

    Rick– I’m working through your blog and this “new” news (to me and mine) slowly… that’s what I need to do. However, I have to say that your approach to all this is not surprising in the least, and I add my support and good wishes to the discoveries of this journey– your discoveries and the discoveries that your family and friends will experience with you.

    I would like to schedule a time to visit you and Peg. I’ll correspond with you separately from this forum. Meanwhile– all the Schliesmans and your Aunt Marilyn are more or less in the loop.

    Is there anything I can do for you?

    Take care. –Matt

  6. August 27, 2011 11:08 pm

    I am so glad you hooked up with hospice – they have so much to offer and most people don’t take advantage of their services early enough. And they do have people that outlive their diagnosis, they just take them off hospice for awhile until such time as things change.

    Having my first baby die, I have always kept death on my shoulder. I know there are no guarantees. But it is often only in retrospect that one can look back and say – yes – there were signs. It helps us make meaning out of something that can feel so arbitrary.

    I’m so glad you’ve given yourself permission to focus on what is important to you – like you said, who’s going to argue with you? That said, know that receiving the love and service of your family and friends is important not just for you, but for us. Letting us love and serve you is your gift to us as much as our gift to you.

    I belong to you,

  7. August 27, 2011 11:42 am

    OK, you DO win “the wackiest sense of humor on the planet” award…..that I just made up!

    I love you, dear friend, and I feel sad that I haven’t known you all my life! And I echo what Rebecca says in the last comment…you are a true inspiration to all of us. And you are right….none of us “deserve” grace…it just happens …and you are displaying that grace for all of us to see.

    With great love and appreciation, David

  8. Rebecca Wainscott permalink
    August 27, 2011 10:15 am

    I remember during one of our lunches your commenting on how you were kind of tired of doing photography, and weren’t sure what to do with the rest of your time here, and how you felt you’d had a really good life. As if it somehow it was not going to continue. It didn’t occur to me then that you were saying something more real than anyone knew at the time.

    Such teachers as you, Rick, enable us to learn how to grieve with a greater understanding of and appreciation for the grace of acceptance, and allow us to expand beyond our fear of loss to a place of being able to approach death with the same reverence as we hold for the moment of birth. I think this is the ultimate learning for our species.

    I applaud the courage, humor and humility with which you are carrying this experience into our hearts.

    So glad to hear you’re feeling better in your body.
    Love, Rebecca

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