Friday, October 3, 2014
This is pretty right on. Though on some days even this to-do list is a little much. Right now, I'm struggling with the fatigue caused by the clinical trial drug pembrolizumab, which I get every 3 weeks. To be precise, I'm struggling with what the fatigue demands: Do Less.
Initially, since the new treatment didn't feel yucky-bad like the summer chemo, I assumed I could be as active and do as much as I felt like. Also, I had just enjoyed an uptick in energy during the few weeks between chemo and the clinical trial, during which I was realtively toxin-free. So when I started getting tired in the afternoon, I really resisted. I was secretly scared of falling lower on the dreaded performance status scale. Took a while to realize it was the medicine, and my body working hard, and that it was pretty common, and that I should just take a nap. So that is how carpe diem became carpe nap.
The new routine became: active in the morning, rest in the afternoon before the kids get home from school. What I still didn't realize was that an activity or two that is particularly vigorous (say, moderate exercise, or even vacuuming), or something that calls for active engagement, focus, and/or concentration (a real conversation, going out to lunch, being at a party), means that later I feel that much more wiped out than usual. Need a longer nap, or have to take it easier the next day. And occasionally a day is just "lost" -- rest, or at least extreme slowness, is needed practically all day. Oy. This low-grade living is not what I had in mind as my lifestyle for the next two years or however many months.
Well, too bad. It is as if the cancer (or something) is saying, "Apparently you did not hear, or understand. I said SLOW the HECK DOWN. NOW! We're not talking 3rd gear here, or even 2nd gear. Try first gear, with occasional cruising in neutral." New challenge: live at T'ai Chi speed, and live well, mindfully and gracefully. Listen for the still small voice of the true self.
As I explained to my daughter at the beginning of the summer, "My full-time job right now is healing. That is why I'm taking time off from work and I'll be home." It's my job. The requirements are not like any requirements I've had before. Throw aside the usual measures, the usual "busy"-ness and tickboxes, ideas about productivity and performance, self-worth related to accomplishments, and hardest of all: attachment to results. This is the Buddhist part coming in. As Treya Wilber described in her husband Ken Wilber's book, Grace and Grit, it's about a balance between doing and being. For me this means, redefine the "doing" part, and amplify the "being" part. And while I'm at it, be kind to myself. Like Treya, my goal is to bring to bear the right balance of energy and effort -- without attachment to results. You try it! That's a lot of unlearning/letting go.
Posted by Elizabeth Randolph