Speaking Through T-Shirts
Before we started the blog we had a few cool experiences that we’ve wanted to share here but haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet and we thought we’d share one of them with you now. Many of you who we’ve had the pleasure of seeing face to face have probably heard this story but for the rest of you this was a breakthrough moment for us and we’re excited to share it with you.
I had just gotten out of the hospital after my first surgery and being home in our apartment wasn’t as peaceful and restful as we had hoped. There was something about being in a familiar place but with all new circumstances including the trauma of what had happened there a week prior that was deeply affecting both Amy and I. One of the things I’ve heard that a lot of Cancer patients struggle with is feeling a lot of guilt or feeling like a giant burden to their caregivers etc. and by being outside of the bubble of the hospital, those feelings were starting to rear their ugly head inside me. We all knew that I needed to make a lot of changes in order for me to get healthy but the realities and challenges of making those changes were finally becoming clear to me. All these factors plus the reality of having to actually face my own mortality having just entered my early “thirties” lead to me having what could best be described as a meltdown. While the meltdown started happening I realized that I had not even had one second alone since I first woke up in the hospital after the seizure so my immediate solution was to go for a walk all by myself.
I just stormed out of the apartment not saying a word to Amy or my mom. I could only imagine the looks on their faces as I bolted out of there considering the whole experience for all of us up to that point felt like bringing a newborn home. As I walked around our neighborhood in the sweltering heat, I was having that cliche internal conversation that we all have when we’re faced with a serious challenge, “Why me?”, “What did I do to deserve this?”, “Not fair!”, etc. I was just wandering with no direction until I finally got the idea of going to a nearby Barnes and Noble to look for a book someone had recommended to me in the hospital. There is a little bridge that you can take to cross the L.A. “River” (I use quotations because everyone from L.A. knows that it’s a drainage ditch not a river) to get to Ventura Blvd where the B&N was.
I’ve never had a good sense of direction (the brain surgery didn’t help) so I got a little turned around and as I started heading for the bridge I heard the pitter patter of feet behind me. I looked back and saw Amy running towards me with a very concerned look on her face, she had followed me and was staying far enough behind so I wouldn’t notice her, but after she saw that I looked disoriented, she ran up to me. When she got to me she threw her arms around me and said, “Honey, it’s going to be okay…We’re going to be okay! We just need to trust God!”, I managed to resist her irresistibly innocent charm because I felt very strongly that I needed to be alone, I told her to go back home and she responded, “Can I just follow you? I’ll stay far enough back so that you don’t notice me…I just would feel better if I could keep an eye on you.” I then gently pushed her away and said, “Don’t worry. I’m going to be okay. You just need to trust God!” She finally was able to let me go so I headed for the bridge and got to Ventura and as I crossed the street to where B&N was I heard a voice in my head say “look up” (I’m a bit of a “head down” walker…don’t know why) and I looked up and saw this hipster dude wearing a t-shirt that said, “Keep Your Soul Together”. The shirt was referring to “soul music” and an obvious play on the phrase “Keep your sh@% together”. After some more research I discovered that it’s actually a reference to a jazz funk album recorded by trumpeter Freddie Hubbard in the 1970’s, but as soon as I noticed the shirt, I immediately knew what was troubling me so much, I wasn’t taking care of what matters most…my soul. I was so wrapped up in dealing with the things that I believed or at the very least perceived I had some control over in my life and thought were important, but even the most “rational” person won’t deny the existence and importance of feeding one’s soul. Ever since that moment, my main focus has been on doing just that, whether it’s through spending time alone in prayer and meditation, hanging out with people I love, journaling, blogging, listening to music I love, watching movies, lots of rest, and yes, even playing video games (“Arkham City” is siiiiicckkk). By doing all that I’ve been able to have a tremendous peace about the whole situation and I think it’s played a huge role in my success thus far. After my second surgery, one of the neurologists that was keeping an eye on me was so amazed with how well I was doing that he said “I wish all my patients would do as well as you, Alex”. We’ve clung to those words in times when we’ve needed a little extra hope and the t-shirt experience as a reminder that there is definitely someone looking out for us.