Many mental threads shuttling through my mental loom this week. Following one of them, travel back with me to last Thursday and the waiting area at my local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Of the 200 or so of us sitting there, each waiting to hear our number called to the counter, there was a little kid and his mom. Seeing his insatiable curiosity about words, the two of them were in the midst of a game of ‘see it, spell it, say it’. Having tutored dozens of non-English speakers in the years before his death, I thought of my Uncle Paul and smiled as I played cards on my phone in an effort to lessen the pain of waiting.
Mom asks, “What’s the man doing on his phone?”
“Playing cards. C-A-R…”
“No, what’s the name of the game he’s playing. It’s like the one I have on my phone.”
Unable to ignore them, I watched the tiny scholar puzzling out of the corner of my eye while trying to act like I didn’t know I was the temporary focus of their attention. He paused for a minute and broke out into a big smile. In his best outside voice, he confidently proclaimed, “S-O-L-I-T-A-I-R-E. Solitary.”
Reeking with cute points, I watched his mom stifle her laughter as she skillfully made the correction while moving the two of them onto the next word. The source of his confidence? Her belief in him. Note to file.
Like DMV, I am reminded how doctor’s offices, labs and hospital rooms all share a common element of ‘waiting’ with lots of time to practice in between doing it. That’s life. We are all confronted with problems of loss, loneliness and trying to solve for a sense of our place in it all. If practice makes perfect, I must nearly be there…but I’m not. So while me being on my phone playing card games may not seem all that unusual to 94.7% of you fair readers assembled here today, you’d be wrong.
Life has a way of putting our feet to the fire. In this instance, the boredom of waiting in the midst of all the other chaos has compelled my surrender to finding new ways of distracting myself by activating the Solitaire and Free Cell apps on my phone. To lessen the shot to my purist pride at having caved to using my phone for something other than calling someone, I tell myself the problem-solving involved with playing one of the games is a good way to keep myself mentally sharp while lowering the volume of the fear thumping in my gut.
Now being post-operative (Phase I), I am again reminded how healing is the hard work you don’t see. And ultimately? You do it alone. The flip side is while I do, I wait. The waiting is driving me up the wall. Boredom is not my friend.
After all this time and in the face of my stubbornness, the twist of irony and her dagger is having to learn what I already know – all over again. Why does it seem these lessons never take root for long?
While grateful to have short term medical leave to fall back on, I’m looking forward to going back to work in early February. Getting back to what I do for a living promises to give me a welcome relief from being preoccupied by what I know is coming next. Chemo. More chemo.
This may not make sense to those looking in from the outside, but after my last rounds, I have only recently admitted to myself I am more afraid of the planned chemo than the cancer the chemical cocktail is designed to kill. There are some games that just can’t be won, but is mine one of them? (And just for the record, the urban myth that every game of solitaire is solvable is just that, it is a myth. Look it up.)
Countering my internal demons, the people around me say “No. You can beat this”.
During my hospital stays (aka The Spa), the nursing staffs, the doctors, their residents, the lab techs and even the people in Radiology who take the CAT scans all say, “No. You can beat this”.
In the last few weeks since I’ve been home, the home nursing crew and their team have surrounded me in similar fashion. “You can do this.”
Same thing at home…Rick, my cousins and my friends, all of them have been unflagging in both their belief and support – the deed kind, not just the word version. Just being there.
Yesterday I went looking for my yellow pad to put some of these thoughts down into words when I ran across a reference to W. Clement Stone and his take on problems. When people would come to him and tell him they had problems, he’d say “Great”. No, you don’t understand. I’ve got really big problems. “Even better”. His broader guidance?
Always ask what’s good about a problem.
The answer will teach you things.
So there it is. As in Life, my job in each new chapter of the evolving treatment plan is to be the student; an active, engaged participant in searching for what I need to learn next and then, applying it. Who knows? Maybe my tiny scholar from the DMV was on to something. Could it be the answers aren’t nearly as important as what I learn in the solitary process of spelling out the questions and saying them out loud?
Join me this week in standing in front of the mirror. Tell yourself you b-e-l-i-e-v-e. Then, join the Resistance and tell someone else the same thing. “I believe in you”.
As you can tell, I’m in awe of those who’ve surrounded me in fighting my cancer. This week, I rely on an obscure performance you may not have heard in awhile as I struggle to find a way to thank my home nurses, my hospital crews and my lead doc along with the rest of the larger medical team she’s assembled around me. Friends and family are in there too. Governments may shut down, Love never does.
Don Williams ~ “I Believe in You”
Elsie, Rick’s mom, first turned me onto this one morning on our way to work. Written by Roger Cook and Sam Hogin and released in August 1980, it was the first single and title track from Williams’ album I Believe in You.
Solitaire Screen Shot: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.freekidsgames.solitaire.klondikesolitairegame; W Clement Stone: http://www.quotationof.com/bio/w-clement-stone.html; See N Say: https://www.etsy.com/listing/72649405/mattel-see-n-say-the-bee-says-pull.