Peter Parker’s Spider Bite

Some people believe that life is suffering. They philosophically proffer an antidote to suffering: dispassion. While I certainly agree the person who doesn’t care about anything can’t be hurt, (no brain no pain) that strikes me as a psychopathic take on life. Not caring equals not hurting, and also not caring equals not living, not loving, not laving (as in no washing over or against, no crumbling.) No small agitated waves. No lapping on sandy shores. No erosion. No gentle softening of sharp edges. Dispassion is more solidly stoic than bona fide Stoicism.

Decades of caring have worn borders off of me. I consider what remains of my left breast. Not for vanity. It’s the vacancy, a disturbing thought. Decay may be normal, change inevitable, alteration unavoidable but my disintegrate, catches me off guard. It’s so sudden. I didn’t know the fatigue of loving others day after day, year after year, causes more than faint scent of magnolia; the fatigue causes Cancer-producing-stress. If you really need to avoid Cancer, (and who doesn’t?) one must avoid having stress ten years ago. I swear I don’t make this shit up.

What stresses me verses what stresses you is as individual as our taste in music (or people or jobs.) I like to point out that whatever a person experiences in childhood sets up her baseline for defining “normal.” My childhood is medium chaotic. I can’t go into specifics except to say only in my 40s, as I go through my second divorce, do I fully realize that my tolerance for shenanigans is absurdly high. Where did I get such a huge tolerance for difficult people,  wild circumstances and goofiness? My medium chaotic childhood but of course, coupled with a desire for curious adventure.

Amazingly I thought the gift of a difficult childhood must be a high tolerance for stress. As if. I imagine I’m the calm at the eye of the storm until my second divorce earthquakes my foundation. oops. And then? And then I realize there’s more to meditation than just assuming nothing is real. The unreal is apparently, real as well. Stress is real even when I’m relaxed because there’s more than one layer to reality. Here’s me, continuing to pay the price for my poor evaluations on day 8 with 25 radiation treatments to go. I take this photo for my GoFundMe page.

The hardest part about asking for help is not the asking, although that is pretty stiff. The hardest part is realizing I need help. Despite everything I’m sort of a naif. I go through life like it’s “Kumari’s Big Adventure,” without proper appreciation for the consequences. Before I start treatment, for example, I thought radiation would make me feel stronger. I’m imagining it’ll be like the time Peter Parker got bit by the radioactive spider. I figure I’ll fill with waves of white hot heat. The reality causes nausea and a sensation not unlike staring through a three foot thick mirage. Oh. Wow. Did not see that coming.

Although I spend the better part of last week in bed, with nightmares when I’m sleeping and worries when I’m awake the GoFundMe campaign alleviates the present problem of that last MRI. The relief strengthens me enough to get back out there in the real world. I take halting steps, jogging for the first time in a month. The activity counter-intuitively clears my brain temporarily, counter-acting one of the side effects of radiation therapy. While some people might slate Cancer as non-stop suffering it has had it’s moments of blissful satisfice. When GoFundMe reaches $2,301 – the cost of the last MRI I breathe, with continuing gratitude to all who support me.

Sometimes I wonder that people are asking the wrong question. Instead of asking “How can I avoid all this suffering?” Which in essence is so simple: shoot yerself in the head. Ask instead, “How can I avoid all this drama?” and see if that don’t cover it. Evading drama is not nearly so easy, but far more satisfying. A life without introspection is needlessly difficult. Socrates may have so famously said, “An unexamined life is not worth living” but I would suggest an unexamined life is livable enough, people do it – just really, really frustrating. The feedback loop keeps repeating the same data.

Eradicating “drama” in lieu of erasing “suffering” means I can retain feelings, my emotions, the me that is me. The me that certainly suffers loss, personally and individually, without dissolving into the nameless, faceless, birthless/deathless Reality. If you consider “maya” as projection instead of illusion it’s much easier to understand why most people can’t walk through walls, despite all that atomic empty space.  If we don’t always see things as they “are,” it’s quite often because what “is” reminds me of what “was.” Like a hamster on a wheel, in a furious feedback loop we keep reacting instead of responding, regrouping, recalibrating.

Something like Cancer knocks the stuffing right out of that Hamster Habitat. Doesn’t have to be Cancer. The death of a loved one, a war, a major financial loss, or a weird weather related disaster will all do. This sort of stuff isn’t fake news, isn’t delusion any more than religion. False information is real to people who believe. The classic coiled rope that looks like a snake causes actual fear despite being harmless. Or worse, what about the coiled snake that looks like a rope? causing real harm despite failing to frighten?

The emotional individual is forced to conclude that our senses fool us all the time. We consistently both overestimate and underestimate the joys and sorrow of this world. I for one, am really, really glad I did not hide from my diagnosis. That run on SpaceRock, last October was priceless, and the trip to Crete? Twenty-four hours of travel was pretty grueling back then, it’d be impossible now. Do all you can with what you have when you can, screw dispassion – have some cares in this world. In this way you will have no regrets.

If the stress of loving difficult people is what causes my Cancer, in conclusion I’ve come to this: the mistake was not in loving, it was in loving those specific difficult people. A mistake easily remedied without going all dispassionate on you.

Now y’all play nice.

Sat Nam!





Leave a Reply