A Strange Life
Sorry I haven’t blogged in awhile. I haven’t had much to report lately. I also have been getting back to some of the projects I was working on before the diagnosis and they have been very time consuming. I’m rapidly approaching a year since the diagnosis and took some time to reflect on that…Thanks for staying with me on this tumultuous journey.
It’s a strange life I’m living these days. I feel fatigued a lot (by fatigue I don’t mean “tired”, I mean that I feel like I was hit by a car most days), every eight weeks I have to lay in a narrow tube for an hour, every four weeks I take a pill that if ever broken would require Hazmat to come out and decontaminate the premises, and for the last two months I’ve known someone who has died every ten days or so. These are not “normal” things to do or deal with, especially compared to most of my peers. I’ve been thinking a lot about the line in The Dark Knight when the Joker reveals himself during the bank heist in the beginning of the film, “I believe that whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you str…anger!”. I find myself resonating with that sentiment a lot lately. Now, I’m not saying that I’m going to put on clown make up and ensue chaos around Gotham City (and I certainly don’t want to just see the world burn). I’m merely saying that calling the blog “The New Normal” has reached it’s true meaning in my life. The “New” Normal = A “Strange” Life. I’ve come to realize that living a “strange” life isn’t a bad thing and it’s not like it’s something totally new to me. Even though I’ve always been good at making friends, there have been a lot of moments in my life where I feel estranged from others or like an outsider or loner (it’s called the human condition) . With the experiences I’ve had this past year, I’ve had times where I want to distance myself from others, because when you enter the world of living with a life threatening illness, you find yourself not being able to relate to others as easily. That is…if you let the disease define you, which by the Grace of God, I haven’t. Instead I’ve allowed the disease to take me on an adventure of a lifetime.
I watched the movie “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” starring Jason Segal, Susan Sarandon, and Ed Helms today and if you’re someone who is bothered by language, I wouldn’t recommend it to you, but if you don’t care, then I would highly recommend it to you. It’s kinda ironic because the very first feature film I ever wrote called “One Night in LA” dealt with very similar themes and if I were to try to make it today I probably would get accused of ripping off “Jeff…” . Both movies deal with the ideas of fate and what it means to grow up. Jeff, played by Jason Segal is a “slacker” who still lives with his mom and is obsessed with the movie “Signs”. He receives a phone call from someone looking for somebody named Kevin. Most people would assume that it was just a wrong number but Jeff chooses to see it as a sign. Long story short, it leads him on a day of seemingly random encounters that in the end…not to spoil it…don’t appear to be random at all. The biggest thing that struck me right away about the movie is that Jeff lost his dad when he was around the same age I was when I lost my dad. What was interesting to me is that the main way I got through that experience was to see that there was purpose behind it, a lot like Jeff has done with his life. It’s hard for me to think about how my life would be different if my dad was still alive because over half my life has been without him and now this past year has been yet another defining time and it is pretty difficult to imagine my life any differently. I have chosen to take the same attitude of seeing purpose in the midst of this trial and was grateful to see that by the end of the movie, the way Jeff perceives the world is portrayed in a positive light and as wisdom that the other characters gain from. An important distinction that I want to make though is that there is a big difference between knowing your purpose and knowing that you have purpose. I like to focus on the latter because if I think too much about the former I might actually go insane and start wearing a purple suit and clown make up and steal money from mobsters.
To me, seeing your life as strange but with purpose, is the best way to view life. The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard puts it another way, he calls it “the strength of the absurd”. He uses the story of Abraham and Isaac as an example of how we can’t pretend to know God’s purpose for our lives but that our lives do in fact have purpose. God makes it very clear that “we shall not kill” but at the same time he tells Abraham to essentially kill his son. Not only is that seemingly contradictory but it is, as Kierkegaard puts it, “completely absurd”. In the end, it is Abraham’s trust (obedience) that God wanted, and not Isaac’s death. The biggest thing I take from that story is that Abraham had to be pushed to very edge of his own humanity to know what God was seeking, or to put it another way…for Abraham to know his life had purpose. (Something to keep in mind, is that this all happened after Abraham kept trying to “stupidly” take his purpose/destiny into his own hands…I mean c’mon, prostituting out your wife? Twice? What kinda creep are you Abe?). I know now that through my experiences this past year, I have been pushed to the very edge of my own humanity and no matter how strange or “absurd” my life gets, like Kierkegaard, I have discovered that there is enormous strength in it. One of the things that someone said to me early on that was very healing for me was, “Alex, you’re the least deserving person to have to go through something like this.” I needed that because I was dealing with a lot of guilt at the time. Now having accepted that I really had no choice in the matter, it has only lead me down the yellow brick road of fearlessness, compassion, freedom, kindness, patience, and most importantly hope. Hope is now my home, it’s where I dwell, it’s where I like to entertain, and it’s where I invite people over to visit. The good news is that hope is not just my home, it can be your home too, in fact it’s waiting for you, your hope has all the amenities and decor you like. I can’t tell you how to get there though, that’s your journey, but like Jeff, I encourage you to look for the “signs”. Like one of the greatest myths of all time, “The Odyssey”, I’ve been trying to get home forever, but now I’m finally there and let me tell you what a great adventure it is/has been and I want to thank you for being my ally. I like what my buddy Michael Sieverts says when dealing with the “strangeness” of this disease, “being on this path is just Real”. No more BS. No more denial. No more compromising or appeasing. No more masks…just straight up authentic living…and just so YOU know, MY door is always open.
Thanks for reading and listening,
P.S. Start next cycle of Chemo on Friday. Only a few more cycles to go.