I think the greatest challenge in fighting cancer is getting out of bed in the morning. It is the pivotal moment of life. The bed is warm and with nights of little sleep, rest still seduces you to stay, but to no point. If I even stand, the war begins.
If I don’t stand and stay in bed, there will be no more sleep. If sleep came only in small pieces during a dark and peaceful night, it will not come at all with the sunlight streaming in through the windows and the noises of day seeping in from under the physical doors and through the air from the electronic windows out to the world.
It becomes an issue of purpose. We only get out of bed with an impetus; to get ready for work, to go to a career, to build something, to write something, or to change the world in incremental points.
Where there are no longer purposes, no careers, things to build that will only rot, things to write, that no one will read, what is the point? Why do we stand up?
At one juncture, there was an illusion that I could get up to fight this fire that burns within my bones. I can’t see the fire, but I feel the smoke. It is suffocating me. The smoke is everywhere, robbing me of feeling well and of the stamina I need to do anything. But how do I fight it? I keep hoping that I will awaken to a new day with less smoke, but it never happens. There seems to be no healing.
I fought hard for months, doing everything I could, exercise, diet, rest, and research, and it gained me nothing. The fat, Twinkies-eating, smokers and drinkers, who laid on their couches and did nothing, fared better than me. So, what’s the point anymore? How do you fight an illusive fire that you can’t see, that no buckets of water can find, a fire with a determined mind of its own? Is prayer the only thing left? If so, it is done just as well, if not better, from beneath the blankets and lying on one’s back and avoiding the war for another moment.
But there are dishes and clothes to wash, floors to sweep, dogs to pet, coffee to drink, vistas to perceive, and sunbeams to feel. But is that it? Did the writer of Ecclesiastes understand what we never do?
You can have long “to do” lists, and still no purpose. Adding to the list adds nothing to your life, except the regret of being further behind in chores. There are plenty of people willing to give you a purpose, to serve their needs, but it too does not help. Mike
8 responses to “Ramblings: A Morning Thought on Purpose”
So well crafted. Thoughts on purpose coming from a place of despair and vulnerability articulate the essence of purpose so much better than coming from a place of strength and comfort. May I share your thoughts with students in one of my classes as we wrestle with the concept of purpose?
Wishing you an extra measure of grace for the day, Mike.
Sure. The purpose in Houghton is to survive, yet, another winter.
So well written Mike. I think many struggle with those same feelings with less problems than what you are going through. I sure wish you could catch a break and have the tides turn
So true, and yet, we may feel differently in an hour, day, week. I’m glad you feel safe enough to share these thoughts here. Personally I didn’t think I had an existential cell in my body (much less a bone) until I was diagnosed with cancer. I was not pleased at first, but I have to admit that I finally feel more normal after hearing others lament on this over the years and it has changed me…mostly for the better. Hope you can come to a positive spot, if not permanently, mostly. All my love,
I hesitate to post, since my ‘suffering’ doesn’t begin to compare with yours, Mike…you articulate thoughts similar those I’ve had since going on disability. I’m really not too ill to do certain work—yet too ill (and too OLD) to be able to woo an employer who would understand my need to lie down once in a while…and bound by burocratic rules (biased toward preventing abuse & fraud, rather than constructively helping those in need) which keep me from attempting to become my own employer—too great a risk of losing precious benefits altogether by inconsistently earning too much, yet not enough to live on—especially Medicare+Medicaid—not to mention FOOD (and hopefully soon: HOUSING. Just *managing* these benefits can feel like a part-time job). I have sought out volunteer opportunities to give a little back to society (but more so seeking structure for my days), yet the fatigue has inopportunely struck just as I was starting out on such ventures…[sigh].
I feel the irony, too: with so many substance abusers who seemingly get away with it (so far, at least)…and I’ve never done any illicit drugs, never smoked, used extremely little alcohol…yet I get the autoimmune equivalent of a wino…(and 3 yrs. ago, out of the blue: RCC…thankfully detected early due to the close scrutiny I receive, and successfully removed!).
Not sure I should mention this, either (good news for *others*): the friend from church with MDS had an apparently successful stem cell transplant (from an overseas donor!) and is now home with her husband & kids, beginning 3 months of quarantine.
I’m so sorry Mike that feel so sad, which you have every right to do. You have been given a gift of writing, which I thank you for sharing. I pray you find peace that passes all understanding. Hugs to you and Denise.
Reid and I are on our way to Texas for a couple of weeks. When we get back, can Reid and I bring a meal over for you and Denise and perhaps hang for an hour? I miss you…. and miss hugging your wife.
I am sorry we have been MIA. We just have not been in town.
We think about you often. You are fighting the good fight. Even if that is just getting our of bed in the morning. You have a victory early on.
Ann Ann Hutchinson Meyers, Ph.D. Annmeyers@gmail.com 210-213-0320
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mike your writing is so elegant. And it expresses so well the emotions that I am sure is shared by so many. God has blessed you with so many talents. Only praying that someday soon you can write a message of joy and relief. God bless you and your wonderful wife.