I’m not going to lie, it’s been a rough week, for a number of reasons, not least being that I’m coming up to one year since my surgery for prostate cancer. Right now I’m in the clear, but you’re never entirely in the clear with cancer.
The thing is, I anticipated that I might feel weird around this time. But knowing the train is coming doesn’t make it any easier when you’re tied to the track.
It’s been a year of adjusting to changes in my body, a daily reminder that I’m the same, just different.
This is particularly true in my perceptions of my masculinity (such as it is). It’s as though my dog ran away. The doctors assure me, “Oh, your dog will come back. It just might take a while. But he’ll come back.” But what if he doesn’t? I mean, it’s been a year. I haven’t had a dog in a year. I loved that dog. I played with that dog all the time. Just loved taking that dog out. Poor dog.
The anniversary also coincides with my birthday, and getting older is turning out to be a lot less fun than I thought it would be. Maybe I’ll feel better once those senior discounts kick in, because I may not be young but I’m cheap.
So I’ve been blue. Moody. I’ve been having trouble concentrating. I’m tired. I’m cold. Is this February? No, it’s only November. Sigh…
And you know what? It’s okay. I have to tell myself that. It’s okay to be sad. It doesn’t feel good, but sadness is part of being human. We hate to experience it, and we certainly hate to be around it. (“How was the funeral?” “So-o-o-o fun!”) But we shouldn’t dismiss it as a failing. It’s normal to get sad.
Besides, we need the darkness sometimes to appreciate the light.
Earlier this week (when I was feeling low), I opened up the Poem of the Day from the Poetry Foundation. It was called “Happiness” by Jane Kenyon. It begins:
There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.
And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.
And so a year has passed and I’m another year older. With any sadness that brings, I turn to a very simple, happy fact: I’m another year older. I’m another year older!
And I think of all that I’ve accomplished in that year.
I directed my original play, and people came to see it, and they liked it.
I went to the ocean, which, like subscribing to the Poem of the Day, I highly recommend.
I set a writing goal for myself to get published again on my favourite humour site, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. And I did! Four times! Plus, one of my McSweeney’s pieces is included in their 3-pound, gilt-edged anniversary collection, Keep Scrolling Until You Feel Something.
I was in a play, acting foolish and forgetting myself for awhile. People saw it, people laughed and forgot themselves for awhile.
I saw The National in concert.
I published a new collection, A Jerk in Progress, although it’s selling terribly, so get with it people!
Abby graduated high school, James is a Gaiter, Em and Katie are happy city girls.
Deb brought me a warm chocolate chip cookie in the bath that time.
I’ve enjoyed more baths than is especially seemly but there it is.
I’ve been writing, working on a thing. It’s quite terrible, but I’m writing.
I’ve come up with a number of “that’s what she said” jokes for someone in my condition. For example: “There now, that’s not so hard, is it?” And “So I go into this bar, and against the wall is this beautiful Hammond B3: shining mahogany, gleaming keyboard, fully intact. I sit down to play, turn on the power: nothing. Turns out all the electronics in the back have been torn out, hollow. What a useless organ!”
So, you see? It hasn’t been a total bust.
I am sorry you are feeling so blue. Cancer of any kind, is scary shit! I hope, for your sake, your dog comes back, wagging his tail😉. In the meantime, sending you good vibes for continued good health and the better days ahead.💕
Thanks. I appreciate it. It felt weird to post this because I know people in far worse situations.
Sometimes it’s good to just unload that emotion & be done with it somehow. Your situation is real & challenging to you and for what it’s worth, I think it’s important to share.😉
This is a perfect place to unload your feelings. We follow you for a reason, and whether your posts are upbeat or not we always hear what you are saying. Wishing you continued good health, happy birthday and hoping your dog is close to returning home. 😉
Thanks. It’s a kind of venting, yes.
And well-deserved venting. I feel more comfortable sharing some things on my blog than I do talking to my friends about it. It’s why I love writing so much.
Your humour is intact. 🙂 And I snickered at the ‘is this February’ comment…ugh. It really is ONLY November. Gonna be a while before we get warm and sun again.
Keep writing. Even terrible writing is writing (or so I tell myself all the time as I collect rejection after rejection).
I’m a thin-skinned person in general, I realize, but (with exceptions) rejections don’t destroy me, especially if I’m happy with the work. I recently got a rejection, stood back and said, “They are absolutely correct.”
This post is absolutely wonderful from beginning to end. Serious reflections told in a humorous way. You’ve had quite the year, and I wish you happy, successful, and healthy months ahead!
Thank you. I think the poem should take most of the credit in this post. I recommend reading the whole thing.
Permission granted! Absolutely! I don’t buy into those arguments that just because another’s experience is worse it means you don’t have the right to express your feelings that are neither inappropriate nor overblown.
Anniversaries are a mine field. Especially ones that fall in the, um, fall. When it’s darker. And sadder. And especially unhappy ones that coincide with brighter events, like a birthday. Sorta eclipses the shine on the fun occasion, right?
Continue to count the blessings, Ross. and keep writing.
I will do my best. Thanks, Maggie.
I’m sorry to hear you’ve got the understandable blues. I feel them for all sorts of reasons. You nailed it on the head though when you said that you are another year older. For the first year after my ordeal, I was scared poopyless; and because I have aches and pains and will be seeing my surgical oncologist next week, I tend to be scared again each time these appointments come up. That said, at some point, you will learn to stop being so freaked out. It is a process that takes time. Celebrate the little and big things. Continue to share how you feel. You never know who is out there with a kind word.
Your doggy will make his way home again, and when he does, pet him vigorously and give him all the attention he needs. In the meantime, try to be positive. Sounds silly, but it helps!
Hi Joy. I made it sound like my head’s in the oven, but it’s not that bad. My testing is spread out further and further, and each one comes with slightly less anxiety as odds improve over time, as you know. So, yes, I’m mostly positive and thankful, though probably not enough on a day to day. Thanks for checking in. Hoping only good news for you next week. RM
Even your sadness is a striking success. Very uplifting. Stand your ground against what makes you sad and give it a shot.
Damn right. Thanks, Fran.
I signed up for the poem of the day. So you see, we actually do listen to you. Sometimes, we regret that, like when you’ve now made us feel a bit weird about having pets, but generally speaking, I’m glad to read your thoughts. I go on my way, feeling happier, and more normal by comparison. Most of us are pretty prodigal with our time, and totting up the blessings you’ve listed, it seems in many ways like quite a 2-ton gilt-edged year. I wish you many happy returns.
Thanks, Robert Parker, esq. I really appreciate your regular check-ins and your comments. This weird neither-world is one of the good things in my life, one among many.
If there’s one thing I do appreciate in others, it’s their willingness to be genuine, to be open about all the crappy stuff in life. Being sad is normal and necessary to learn and grow and find true inner peace and…Okay, I’ll stop…now I sound like a Hallmark Christmas movie…
…anyway, this is coming from someone who isn’t struggling with a cancer diagnosis, but I do know what it feels like to “lose” your “inner oomph” (total hysterectomy years ago). I felt somehow an empty shell of my former self, if that makes sense. However, I’m happy to say that now I do have my mojo back, baby! (Austin Powers), it took some time and it’s a bit different now, but it’s definitely there. Wishing you peace and health and happiness (mixed with a healthy dose of melancholy) this holiday season, Ross!
Thanks, Darla. This platform has exposed me to all sorts of people who have gone through so many different struggles, and yet here we all are. It’s a lovely community, and I appreciate it.
Two of my favs. Great writers, both, and been through the wringer and survived. Humanity is lucky to have you guys on its side. Huzzah. A birthday cake for you both.
Thanks, Mark. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
it’s legit and okay to feel blue at times, any honest human will tell you they have those moments. it sounds like you’ve done a hell of a lot in one year’s time, and while you’ve changed, you’ve clearly grown as well. happy to say you’re here on your birthday and that is something in itself. happy birthday and prostate anniversary.
Thanks. I actually looked back on the decade, as everyone is tending to do, and it’s been pretty significant. So I shouldn’t complain.
Keep going. Small beauties in each day, you’ve named a lot of them here already. And laughter. Keep going.
Thanks. I appreciate it.
I just want to say that I am really happy that you are another year older. I think all of US, your readers, are. We would totally miss you if you missed this birthday. You make us laugh even as we sit here facing into the “what if’s” that your experience brings to life for us. That is a gift Ross. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Thank you so much.