Friday, May 7, 2010

God’s time zone

How am I now to live?

I admit to being puzzled over what exactly I’m to do now that I’m back semi-officially into a period of remission. While I could relapse at any time, which would take nothing more than the discovery of another subcutaneous met or two, I also might be into a longer stretch of time during which I show no evidence of disease.

I can’t help but wonder when that other shoe will drop. You don’t get to stage four and suddenly expect your cancer to take a permanent vacation.

My son Nick is studying at Oxford University this fall, and he and I have talked about traveling together in the U.K. before he hits the books. I know it would be a wonderful trip. If we do it, we’ll be flying to London in about 16 weeks. Unfortunately, it’s a bigger challenge than you might imagine for me to plan something that far ahead. Of necessity, I’ve happily adapted to living, if not exactly in the moment, at least in the day and week. I’ve learned to live kairos time, instead of chronos. I highly recommend this “fullness of time” approach to life, although it’s sadly impractical for anyone who actually expects to hold a job.

So I dither over the trip to the U.K. Since I have an appointment with my oncologist on the 18th, I’ve deferred a decision until then. If he thinks I’m a lunatic for spending $1300 for a plane ticket I might never use, then I’ll probably proceed with the plan. If, on the other hand, he says I should go, then I’ll need to think it over. To say that I don’t always trust the judgment of my doctors is an understatement. Still, I want to hear what he has to say. There's at least a chance I might learn something.

I’m also weighing the offer of a half-time teaching job that would run through the next academic year. Taking on a commitment that would last until at least June 2011 could be construed as the victory of blind hope over reason, or possibly the best thing I could do. Either way, it would certainly jerk me out of this mellow kairos time warp I’ve been enjoying.

What I face is a version of the proverbial question, “What would you do if you knew you only had 18 months to live?” Before you jump to conclusions about what you think I should do, ask yourself what you would do. Take that trip to Europe with your son or daughter or friend, and work hard at the job you love (or hate) until the day you drop—or take time to not only smell the roses, but plant, prune, water and fertilize them? A garden is a great place to be when you’re not wearing a watch.

I don’t have an answer—yet. And if I don’t have an answer, then I suspect you don’t either. What I do know is that I want to live with the end in sight. I don’t mean that morbidly, but holistically. It’s every bit as foolish to live as if you’re going to live forever as it is to become paralyzed by fear of death. I like the idea of living with a clear recollection of where I’ve been, an appreciation for where I am at the moment, and at least a notion of what I want to do before my life is over. I will err on the side of being a rosarian.

So regardless of the time I have, I sense that it will be all the time I need. I trust that the seemingly big decisions I have before me will sort themselves out in the best possible way in the fullness of time.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

At this point in the chronos of my life working at being a rosarian would seem to be preferable to my current occupations. But learning to live in kairos time would take a lot of practice. Plan on going to the U.K.!
Keith

Steve said...

I vote Europe, too--

Anonymous said...

Peter,
I won't even attempt to tell you what you should decide. I just wanted to say that I really appreciate your blog and I was really struck by the memory of wher I've been, theapprceiation of where I am, and a notion of What to do before I'm done. (My paraphrase of your last paragraph). Do you suppose this is what Paul meant by being content in what ever state I am?

Mark

Shelly said...

Buy travel insurance and go for it. Decide then as the time gets closer.
Shelly
(just went stage 4 with lungs mets and pleura metastisis)
Europe is great!

Doug said...

Last week I looked at that very$1300 August ticket to Heathrow Peter. Was thinking how nice it would be to see all my mates and colleagues from 24 years ago in Coventry as I celebrate my 60th this summer. I remember you and Ellen were visiting London then and you came up to see me. Right?
How wonderful that Nick will get to study at Oxford. I love that place. We were in the Bodleian Library in '04 checking out Roen's mum's thesis from the mid 50's.
I hope it works out for ya to go. Make a pilgrimage to CS. Lewis. I just saw the 1985 British TV version of Shadowlands, the better version IMO. Am crossing fingers for ya on all counts.