October 1st, 2009:
Every day, I'm settling in more at Maitri and every other day, I give away the contents of my apartment. Gaetano and I have been able to create a rhythm of scheduling people for pickups on alternate days. It's very reassuring to have "a day off" every second day. Frankly, I need the pacing. Showing up to meet people at my apartment is relatively easy. I do virtually no lifting, and I am certainly not running up and down the stairs. And yet, even though we're at the apartment for three hours on a long day, once I'm back at Maitri, an exhaustion kicks in that is fueled by seeing the apartment dissolve before my eyes. I don't have specific feelings of loss, anger, regret. But I do have emotional fatigue. Knowing that the next day I'll be able to stay at Maitri is reassuring. It helps get me through.
The full time days at Maitri are starting to acquire a color and pattern that is very exciting. And I've only just begun to explore the new dimensions of the life I want to move into. A friend wrote a lovely poem that expresses her hopes for how this time at Maitri can be spent. It echos many of my most fervent wishes and expectations. It reads:
I don't want to walk fast with you.
With you I want to stroll and be slow,
To drink you in like a single malt on a fog ridden night
The lazy smokiness of peat fires,
Your smile just a warm honey glow --
A moment sipped to linger on my lips like the sparkle of your light.
I don't want to move fast with you.
With you I want to be slow.
I don't think that anyone has likened spending time with me to savoring a single malt Scotch, but I certainly agree with the sentiment of not rushing, of taking time. That's how I see myself creating closer contact with people who visit me during the next months. As the apartment empties and the once-daunting task of clearing away my contents sifts down to the last big pick up day (tomorrow, Saturday, October 2nd), I'm openly envisioning what's next. Key words are: spacious, slow, reflective, sweet, meandering.
Also, my team of end-of-life professionals are now settling into place in the course of a week. It's amazing what's available in San Francisco. There's the Maitri team of daily care and social work which supports my life here. The nurses and other staff check in regularly to see how I'm adjusting. Am I connecting with other residents? Do I have complaints or concerns? Then there's a contract agency--Hospice by the Bay--that supplies the pain management guru as well as a social worker worker who asks about my support groups and how well I am held by my community. Today a new resource jumped aboard: a guide to explore how I'm grounded in my spiritual beliefs. I brought my own team of professionals: my therapist who visits twice a week; my primary care physician and oncologist who I see on an as-needed basis. Finally, I have a twice-a-month call with a teacher who is guiding me through the meaning of the chakras, and today I set up my first appointment with my past-life regression hypnotherapist. I am quite excited about doing more past life regressions.
Amazingly, there is no overlap between all this support. I am such a lucky guy to have all this attention and help available. To people who reply, "You are the one who creates the luck," I quickly reply, "Sure, Who could resist all this quality assistance? Not me."
Ever since I was in my mid-teens, if someone asked me how I would hope to die, I would answer with absolute clarity, "I'd like to die of cancer. I'd like to have time to be reflective before I die. I don't want to die suddenly in my sleep, and I certainly don't want to die violently in a car accident or war. Cancer would give me time to talk with people about what's happening and summarize what my life's encompassed." Of course, that's just what I want, but I've wanted it for a very long time. It's still the most desired path for me. And, it looks like that's what will happen.
This afternoon, I gave a 30-day notice that I would be vacating my apartment. This is another step into full-time Maitri life. Visits from friends, visits from end-of-life professionals. Less tasks and more open time. I've claimed for months that I plan to spend more time watching TV and DVDs. The plan is to bring a good flat screen TV into my room either tomorrow or Tuesday. We'll see if the new screen inspires me to start turning on the set or if I'll continue in my known path of reading and listening to music. These are nice choices to face.