September 12, 2009:
Thursday was a day of major conclusions and equally important beginnings.
The conclusions: At two in the afternoon, I went to my Thank You party hosted by my boss and co-workers at PG&E. It celebrated the end of my contract at the utility as well as the end of my career as a corporate writer. That's what I did over the past thirty years: corporate writing. I started as a technical writer, moved into training development, then system testing and finally I spent the past several years as a business analyst. All of these were writing jobs whether the result was a user manual, lesson modules, test scripts or requirements for new systems.
Jim Sterling started the party by talking about how he first met me at American President Lines back in 1984. I felt honored by his sincerity and enthusiasm; it's always been a grounding experience to work with Jim and to support his outside interests in Japanese culture, the growth of his family, his devotion to his friends. My boss Michael Wong talked about how much he had learned from me in the past months as I combined my illness with my continued effort at work.
Then it was my turn to talk about what the contract at PG&E had meant to me. First, how dedicated I felt about bringing standardized requirements to the business. To someone outside the world of information technology, this may sound esoteric, but it really means having clear agreements about what would be included in a new piece of software. Without these agreements, chaos is guaranteed. The other praise in my speech was to say how much I felt supported as a sick person at work. No one ever made me feel less-than or unwanted. During the last year I've had a hip replacement and cancer treatments. I went through chemo and the loss of my hair. I traveled to Southern California to detox from the chemo. I was not able to work full time, but no matter. During this year, I produced some of the very best work of my long career. I was treated as if I had worth, and I delivered value.
Finally, we concluded with a long session of stories that I told about people in the room. They retaliated with stories about me. All this was fueled with intense chocolate cupcakes from Boulette's Larder! What a surprise. I believe it was my friend Nil Taspinar who contacted Boulette's and asked them to cater the treats for the party. As it turned out, the whole party was a prolonged treat.
The beginnings: Earlier in the day, I talked with Daniel Hill, the intake coordinator at Maitri. I had written to him and my doctors over the previous weekend, saying that I was ready to move into the residence. My friend Margaret Hess read that blog entry and promptly called me saying, "I totally support your decision to move from your apartment. It's all about feeling safe." That summarized it for me: the move to Maitri is about creating the new level of safety that I need in my life. I need daily pain management and my meals prepared and no home to maintain.
I called Daniel and we talked about the room that will become available in the last week of September. It's room number 5, and it looks out onto the non-smoking garden in the Maitri atrium. It has good light (as do all the rooms). As soon as I heard that the room didn't face the street and wouldn't receive street noise, I said, "I'll take it." As I said that, I felt a huge, silent door swing inside me. I am leaving my apartment of the past 16 years, and I'm moving into my final home. I deeply, deeply want to do this. At this point in my life, the best way I can take care of myself is to let others take care of me. And I want to be taken care of. It's such a fundamental act of respect.
My date to move into Maitri is scheduled for September 30th. By then, my room will be painted and I'll know the furniture--bed, armoire, TV, etc--that awaits me. I will have selected the pieces that I want to take with me from my apartment. Of course, I have no intention of completely moving in the next two weeks. Here's the beauty of what will happen. I can start living at Maitri at the end of this month. I can sleep there, I can eat there, I can start to know other residents. Most days, I can come over to my apartment to pack things and be here when people come to pick them up. I won't live in my apartment as it disintegrates around me. I will come to the apartment as if I were going to a job. Indeed, it will be a job. I think this will lessen the sadness of seeing this home unravel.
Since making this agreement with Daniel on Thursday, I've had all manner of never-before thoughts bubble up for me. In the kitchen, I look at my diminishing supply of fabulous olive oil and I think, "Hey, there's enough to last me for the next two weeks. I'll never have to buy olive oil again." For the past forty years, I've thought, "What's the best olive oil I can find?" There will be many, many such realizations over the next two weeks, and I promise not to document them all in these postings.
My thought for the day was given to me a few minutes ago by Georgia Fuller. We were talking on the phone and I was telling her about my decision to pick a room and set a date for moving into Maitri. "Well," she said, "Your work isn't done there."