Thursday, July 29, 2010

Now What?

So I finally did it.

Today, I quit my job. I was struggling with it this morning, and I just couldn't see my way around it. I don't understand it, I can't explain it. But it felt right to type up my resignation and take it in to my supervisor.

He was in with his supervisor when I found him. I presented him with the letter, and after he read it, he suggested that I shut the door to the office that we were in. He handed the letter to his boss and she read it. And then we talked for a bit, about the same stuff, all the avenues I've tried and been helped by but none have corrected the problem. The problem is bigger than me, bigger than the City, bigger than my illness. Bigger than all that.

The problem is me.

So I got out from under the rock I've been stuck at, next to the hard place I'm well accustomed to, and I got on top of reality for a bit. I see what I need to fix. And it's me. And the rest of all that-- the job that stresses, demands, polarizes, and irritates; my bipolar disorder that scrambles, tars, slows and degrades my self confidence and my very thinking; the world that churns out lipstick and toilet paper and chewing gum and romance novels but can't get food to the starving... I can't fix any of it unless I fix myself.

So I'm going under the knife.

Time to get fixed.

No, no. Well. Maybe. I don't know. Truth is, I need to see my medical doctor and get checked out. It's time that I have an examination to make sure that I don't have early onset prostate cancer, like my father did. But I also need to get real about my weight, my diet, my exercising. Because I'm not getting any younger.

Or richer.

There's got to be a way, here. I'm taking a leap of faith. Tama Kieves, author of "This Time I Dance," responded to my comment on her post on Facebook earlier today, and it was positive. And that's how it feels. It's exhilarating, really. Not in a sunshine, smiley face, singin' in the rain sort of happy-- I'm grieving the loss of many things because of my decision to quit-- but in a confidence building, get back to basics, first steps on the right path sort of way. Spiritually. With wisdom.

I don't know what else to say. There is hope that I will write more. Hope that I will find a way to do the things that I enjoy and make a living doing it. But I don't know.

The security blanket is gone.

This time, I want to dance.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Relay Wrap-Up

There was ambulating. There was somnambulating. There was decorating, donating, and masticating. We walked. We cried. We made our goals.

We endured.

The Relay For Life of Cupertino, 2010, was a great success. I received another donation today (thank you very much!). The books don’t close until August 31, 2010, so check your couch cushions– there’s still time to donate.

As a team, ETC, ETC (Embracing The Challenge, Enabling The Cure) made Gold level, raising over $5000. As a Relay, we met fundraising goals, participation level goals, number of team goals… we achieved “Trail Blazer” qualification and may have even accomplished “Purple Pace Setter”, when the dust settles. Overall, a great success.

And yet…

We catch our breath, and begin to plan for the next one.

My wife will be the Event Chair next year. I’ll most likely do the Offline Donations Verification Chair again, and be the unofficial co-chair, filling in where I’m needed. I seem to do a lot of signage for these events. And schlepping everything from water to pizzas. No complaints– I do it because I can and I actually enjoy it, at the end of the day.

We still need to iron out some details. I think we need a cheer-leading sort of speaker, if any speaker at all, at the launch of Opening Ceremonies and the start of the Survivor lap. We get the energy up, along with the excitement, initiating the event, and then get bogged down with speakers. There’s the Mayor, then the council members… actually only the Mayor spoke this year. Then there was a speaker who went too long– with everybody standing around, waiting for the start of the Relay. It snuffed the energy.

But we finally got started, just well behind schedule. There was some unrest in many of my team members, not knowing how this would affect the schedule, when they would be asked to walk. But once we got started walking, things settled in.

My sister-in-law was our team’s representative Survivor. Her husband came by and walked with her in the Survivor’s lap. He summed up the goings on with the speaker before the commencement of the Survivor’s lap as being “a chick flick from Hell.” But if you knew him, you’d expect some such quip.

We set up camp– pop-tent and pop-chairs; card tables and coolers, pup-tent and sleeping air mattress. We set out our on-site fundraisers, as they arrived– scarves that my mom crocheted, Chex-mix individually wrapped by yet another sister-in-law, brownies, and cupcakes made by my mother-in-law.

I soon had to make a run to Park Place restaurant to pick up several tons of breakfast burritos (the bags were heavy, but maybe not that heavy…) for the Survivor breakfast. Although they smelled very good, and I was sure there would be plenty enough for everyone, I did not partake.

The day consisted of a lot of directing traffic, mainly towards my wife. Or at least where I thought she might be. Bands played, kids tossed frisbees, I even saw a couple guys playing catch with a baseball and gloves. It had the feel of an outdoor festival. Because it was!

As dusk fell, the bagpipes player began walking the track, playing Amazing Grace. This is always the most moving and emotional time for me. All along, as we prepared our individual team camps, honored our Survivors, and played catch and the like, the luminaria team was fastidiously working on the setting of the luminaria around the track and surrounding bleachers.

This year, a new theme was introduced. “A world without cancer is a world with more birthdays.” This is especially true of Survivors who typically count the date of their remission as a birthday. My dad considers the day of his successful prostatectomy to be another birthday. He celebrated 11 years cancer free earlier this year.

It was fascinating to see the luminaria team work. First they spelled out Hope. Then they changed it to Cure. They did it so quickly and masterfully that I didn’t get a picture of it. Well, that’s part of the reason. The fact that they pulled off spelling out “More Birthdays”– with real candles– truly distracted me. It was quite a show-stopper. It makes a nice marquis on my blog, don’t you think?

Next came the speaker, who was quite succinct and effective. Then, the reading of the names. My brother-in-law read the names for our team. It’s unfortunate that the list was incomplete, and so several of our team’s names were not read. But hopefully that will be rectified next year.

Soon it was time to go on a pizza run. How I made it back to Relay with all six pizzas intact, I don’t know. I guess I had gotten enough to eat at dinner– a Mo-Go short-rib burrito and a spicy pork quesadilla filled me up, thank you very much.

Another brother-in-law brought his telescope and set up in the middle of the football field to hold an impromptu astronomy lesson. It was a popular activity that we hadn’t planned on. The college kids really liked it.

Then it was time to try and sleep. I used my iPod to drown out the noise of our neighboring camp, who have rambunctious discussions about work into the wee hours of the morning (well, they usually crawl off to bed around “closing time” as if they are being kicked out of the bars…) Because I hadn’t slept much the night before, it was imperative that I get some sleep. And it also affected me when I did finally fall asleep– I “crashed” and was snoring loud enough that the neighboring camps made note.

I woke up and got up when it started getting light. I got some walking in with my mom and aunt and watched as the camps woke up and “stirred”.

I was happy that my family could participate, although I wished they could have stayed longer. I wished that there was a way to have my dad participate, especially in the Survivor ceremonies. I wished that there had been more time to take photos. I wished for a lot of things– more cooperation, better and stronger community.

But really, what I most wish for is a world without cancer.

And that’d be a world with more birthdays. (That’s my nephew, celebrating.) It’s a wonderful dream. Hope it manifests from our hope and our effort.

Thanks for reading. Blessings to you all.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Update: We're Beating

Just an update, now that I've completed both batons and have pictures to share... To the right, the Team ETC, ETC Sharpie. It's over 13" long and features a functioning cap. Purple is the color that identifies the Relay For Life and cancer in general. (Other specific types of cancer have their own specific colors.)
Detail of Team ETC, ETC Baton
To the left you can see some of the detail in this mock Sharpie. I used my new set of inking pens to draw these out. Now I'm thinking I should have used a Sharpie :) The base color for the pen is a "dove gray" poster paint that made it easier to write on (less bleeding than the raw wood...)
The Energizer award baton to the right is just under a foot long. It does not transmit any energy. But I think it looks pretty snazzy, or "electric." (groan) The blank space to the right of the Energizer logo is reserved for our participant's name and other geographical info.
In other news, we made it up to Scotts Valley for their Relay last Saturday. We were impressed. Nice turnout and organization from this group of first-timers. They had plenty of activities for kids and adults alike, even though they were unable to use the football field (they were restricted to the track and outlying areas of dirt and weed alike).
Keep off the grass
There were bean bag tossing games, a "jumpy" for the kids, and lots of live music-- a soulful Blues/Rock band played while we were there, meeting with Jennifer and her husband Steve. Jennifer was the event chair and had met my wife, Suzy, not only at an earlier Relay training event, but also during events with Special Olympics, where they both coach. And they both have full time jobs to boot, sandal, or loafer. If you know what I mean.
A little shoe humor never hurt anyone, right? It's not like I threw them at the president or anything.
They had also fashioned their own balloon arch out of raw materials from the hardware store and fastidiously hand-blown balloons-- no helium-- that they festooned to two 20-foot lengths of PVC pipe. The result was impressive, not only in practice and visual but as a cost-saving measure. A professionally constructed and deployed balloon arch with helium balloons usually costs a couple hundred dollars. They supplied the labor, invested about 50 bucks, and really hit a home-run.
Nice work, Relay For Life of Scotts Valley!
Now let's hope that we can pull of a great event as well. Let the count down begin-- less than a week now, we'll be full on, in the throes.
My colorful wife Suzy
What do you say, Suzy?
I say bring it on.
Should be a lot of fun. Maybe we'll see some of you there. It's a great party-- lots of food, fun, music, and magic.
And we clean up after ourselves.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

We Endure to Beat It

I'm making a "model" pen out of doweling and paint and stuff... It will be our baton for the upcoming Relay For Life of Cupertino (see banner at top of blog). Whoever is walking the track during the 24-hour event will be carrying our team baton.

Baton in Training

I chose the pen metaphor because it's slick-- and I hadn't even thought of the whole "pen is mightier than the sword" angle. The pen will be a model of a Sharpie, but instead of the word "Sharpie", ours will have our team name: ETC, ETC (which stands for Embracing the Challenge, Enabling the Cure). Also, instead of "FINE POINT", ours will say "FINE CAUSE". And instead of it being a "Permanent Marker" it will be a "Permanent Difference Maker".

I originally was thinking along the lines of "Making our mark on cancer," but it continues to morph. Taking into account our team name, I like the idea that "We Endure," that we endure to beat cancer.

Tomorrow, we check out Relay For Life of Scotts Valley, a brand new infant of a relay. It's their first year in existence and we're gonna go and see if we can help out a bit. Maybe we'll learn a thing or two. Besides, it's beautiful country up there. And close enough that we might be able to work in a trip to Santa Cruz for some clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, and maybe some communal meditation with the ocean.

But then we'll be back to preparing for our own relay next weekend. I like to think of myself as one who is doing the little things to make a difference. My team is the etc., etc. that keeps going and going, like the Ener

gizer bunny. (Incidentally, I'm making another baton of an Energizer battery as a prize for the relay participant who has pledged to run for the entire 24-hours of the event. And we know he can do it-- he did it last year. Amazing.)

I suppose there will be pictures. After all, they endur

e too. Memories. They add up to be larger and farther and greater than cancer. We endure to make a permanent mark on cancer, make the next step towards its eradication. And our memories of our loved ones who battle this disease live on in our hearts and minds.

Feel free to check out my fundraising page and make a pledge if you're so inclined. I'm in 4th place right now, only $30 from "the bronze", so I'd appreciate any consideration. We can do luminaria bags to honor somebody you know who is battling cancer right now, or in memory of somebody dear who has passed. Or you can donate a gift in someone's name. Please help us in this struggle, if you can. Thank you.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Return to the Journal Jar

A bit of a respite from revisiting Greece, we’ll be traveling at the speed of dreams today, thanks to our prompt from the jarful– a gift from my mother of a jar full of prompts to get you writing about something, no matter what. Thanks again, Mom!

PROMPT: Did you dream last night? What do you remember?

I remember that yes, I did dream last night, as I do most nights. But that’s about it. If the dream isn’t thought about consciously, right after I awake, then it is lost to the subconscious again. Most of it slips back into the soup anyway, but if I am feeling remarkable when I wake up, I usually remember quite a bit about the dream, at least for the first few moments of being awake again.

Dreams have always been very powerful in affecting my waking life. As I’ve gained intellect and vocabulary and explored my physical world, it’s gotten more complicated, but I still have a regular experience of wordless emotion and euphoric realization while dreaming, about once a month or so. Some are more prominent than others, but the emotions are very real and exhilarating. I wrote about one recently, in my blog entry called “The Dream of Life,” that I felt was a strong source of clarity and cleansing. I had the experience of being fully awake in the dream, fully aware that I was dreaming. But the awareness was fleeting; I remember questioning if I was alive or dead or dying, if this was my moment of truth where my life flashes before my eyes just before I am taken from life as I think I know it. It was exponentially intense.

One time I was dreaming that I had been a “bad boy” and was being chased by my Dad. He was about to break the door down, so I went to climb out the window. This coincided with me lunging out of bed and slamming my forehead into the bronze bust of a young man’s head that sat on the nightstand beside my bed. I head-butted the over 20 lb. bust clear off the

Haig Patigian, 1912

nightstand. In the dream, I thought that I had put my head through the old-fashioned plate-glass window and was surrounded by broken glass shards that could slice my jugular if I moved even a little bit. My wife was awake by then and turned on the light, allowing “reality” to settle in on me. I had to ice my head to get the swelling down on the knot– it was the size of a racquetball.

Not all of my dreams are that exciting, thank goodness.

I hope that I dream tonight so that I can expound on this topic. I’ll try and remember to get up immediately and write down at least some notes. Sounds like a fun assignment for the subconscious, doesn’t it?