October 30th, 2009:
In order to get used to the personal time that I've scheduled for two hours each day in the month of November, I started setting aside an hour during the remaining days of October. Last Saturday I lay on my bed for an hour. Some fifteen minutes into that time of rest and no thoughts I quietly heard this phrase: A Guide to Our Dying. When I asked, "What does this mean?" I heard that it was the working title for a book that was available to me, if I wanted to write it. "Tell me more," I said.
Over the next forty or so minutes, I felt a download of information about how people in various stages of end-of-life illnesses can manage their friendship communities. Many of the outreaches are things I've already done: blog, memorial CD, telephone trees, etc. Many of the ideas were not on my list of connective methods. At a certain point, the information suddenly stopped. I picked up a pad and pen and took notes. The next day, I built a file with chapter headings, generated a table of contents and started working on the Introduction as well as some chapter details. It was a LOT of fun to suddenly jump into book production.
A couple of nights ago deep into the darkness of 4:30 a.m., I suddenly realized that I might not have enough time to finish this new book. This thought of being cheated by a narcissistic tumor whose only agenda was to grow and diminish my health filled me with rage against the tumor. After over two months of co-habiting my body with this tumor and having no discernible conversation, I was suddenly FURIOUS that my effort might be taken from me. Stepping back a bit, this is basic bargaining, where I decide: "I'll create a worthwhile book, and I will be given the time to complete it." These contracts are made daily, and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross lists them as one of the five major phases in the dying process.
I realized that I might not only die sooner than I thought, but there would also be time needed to die. I won't be healthy right up to the end. I will need time to decline. As night ended and the day began, a series of visits helped to metabolize this fear and anger. Sabrina, the Maitri nurse gave me valuable pointers about the indicators toward dying. Lack of interest in the newspaper, eating, and other worldly connections. Well, I'm not there yet. My friend Geol visited and we talked about how we set up projects and move into completing them. Then I took the first yoga class of my stay at Maitri. Already, the day is swinging into widening directions. Then therapy with Susan in mid-afternoon.
By this time, I am more settled into my options. I can drop the project and not be disappointed by not completing it. I can move forward and work on chapters because the tasks give me pleasure. If I do move forward, I will remember that I have used a lifetime of doing to avoid the deeper feelings that have been churning through me for a very long time, feelings buried so deep that I did not acknowledge their existence. And probably other options as well. Point being, I have moved back to that freedom: I have options. I am not being cheated by death unless I hold that as my only alternative.