Monday, January 23, 2012

What I've Learned/Who am I?

In these past two weeks I’ve learned a great deal about the body’s relationship to the emotions. And to schedules.

First: emotions.

When I came home from the first round of chemo I was pretty beat. I’m being treated with two powerful anti-cancer drugs: ifosamide and adriamycin. Side effects for the ifosamide are the worst. They include destroying the bladder – so you’re given mesna to counteract that. There are also psycho effects. One is psychosis. I asked the doctor about that and he reassured me that I would have to be older and frailer. Good. He promised vivid dreams, and they came.
The night I came home I dreamt a dream of two worlds, one of which was a cartoon version of our world. From that cartoon version of our world I could reach the world behind by paddling a canoe shaped like a shoe. That’s about all I remember of the dream now. At least all that I can articulate that I recall.

The next day I went on an emotional jag. I missed Kris when she went to work and couldn’t wait for her to come home. The kitteh came and sat on me. I cried. I drove the car and thought of Jon and I cried. I put on the gloves my dad wore and thought of him and I cried. I regretted the difficulties I had caused my parents and the physical distance between myself and my children and I cried. Kris came home and I cried.

Of course, all this crying stopped up my sinuses, which gave me a headache I couldn’t control. But I also couldn’t control my emotions. After a few days the kindly Doctor prescribed some Zoloft for the depression and ativan to relax the anxiety and help me sleep. Both are working, though I’m going to stop using them today.

So the extreme of the emotions: that’s due to the chemicals. But the emotions are real. I really do think my kids are something special, and I really do miss them terribly. I really do love my wife as deeply as I have ever loved anything in my life. And I really do regret how difficult I was as a teenager and young adult. I do regret the last several years of my relationship to my mom – she gave up and turned to the wall and waited to die.

This does put me in mind of being drunk or high. I’ve dealt with many emotional drunks, some of whom loved Jesus very deeply and just wanted a little more money to be a little more drunk.
So, how do we relate our emotions to our self?

They seem to be composed of chemicals and situation. Mostly chemicals. And the chemicals seem to be in charge of the self.

The chemicals also seem to be in charge of the body’s physicality.

The poet Delmore Schwartz called this physicality a “heavy bear.” In his poem “the heavy bear who goes with me,” he names the body “a caricature, a swollen shadow,/A stupid clown of the spirit’s motive, . . .” A body undergoing chemo therapy becomes “a stupid clown . . .”

I can no longer predict where and how I’ll need a bathroom. That’s the biggest inconvenience and/or “swollen shadow” of my former life. But I also can’t predict how much I’ll be able to eat when I’m hungry. I can’t taste water and like it. I can’t tell when I’ll fall asleep and when I’ll stay awake – unless I add some chemical to make me sleepy. I’ve also become an insomniac. And then I’m ready to nap in the middle of the afternoon.

What this has all got me thinking about is the “real me.” Which is the real me? The chemically controlled heavy bear? (Schwartz wanted to separate himself from that heavy bear.) The emotion laden weeping husband? Or is there a me that perdures inside the heavy bear and/or weeping husband?

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