Life as an Extreme Sport

Radio Silence

Although I have been posting here nearly once a day, if you actually look at the content of the posts, I haven’t said anything of personal substance for a week, and a week is a long time when cancer is an unwelcome guest at your table. So why the radio silence?

I suppose I’ve just felt a bit mute since returning to Albany. It’s not just this blog, or the other blogs I write for (where I’ve also been silent); I’ve ceased responding to most email, creating a large backlog, I’ve largely stopped writing for fun or classes, and have even been quite a bit quieter on the various instant messaging services. I’m just at a bit of a loss for what to say.

Writing, a certain kind of writing anyhow (the narrative kind?), requires, for me, a connection to how I’m feeling. Not a knowing of how I’m feeling, but an actual experiencing of that feeling. And for better or worse (alright, definitely worse), I’ve been kind of numb lately. I know what’s going on, but I just don’t have a way to access it, to feel it. It’s like all those emotions are inside a snowglobe, and I can turn it upside down and shake it and watch the glitter swirl, but I can’t get inside it.

My heart as a snowglobe – it’s an evocative image, one that I should feel something towards, and I simply don’t. I just don’t feel.

I know some of it is simply exhaustion. I hit the ground running when I returned from Albany, rather literally; I ran into a colleague at the airport, picking up a job candidate who was on the same flight from O’Hare. We all ended up talking for over an hour, while we waited for confirmation that our bags were off traveling without us. The next day, interviews, Tuesday – I literally slept all day, jet lag traveling a bit slow. Then class, more interviews, working on an indexing project, more interviews (we’re hiring three new faculty, which means an insane interview schedule for the next couple of weeks). I’m not getting a lot of sleep, and not having much real downtime that isn’t me trying to sleep, or falling asleep at inopportune times.

On top of that, I guess it’s been the month for commentary on the blog. I’ve probably received more feedback in these first few days of 2007 than I have in the last few years. And of course it’s been all over the place. Some friends love that they can follow all aspects of my life here, from school to personal to family and so on. Colleagues have written in to tell me they enjoy reading about themselves, or seeing how I’m doing, or just the breadth and depth of what I opt to write about (thank you, and I will write back). Some friends have stopped talking to me over the content – guess not so much with the friends. And then there are the people who question what I write about, if I’m too open, or writing about things best left private, or if I’m using the blog as a form of therapy, and all the suggestions of how I could improve it if I just changed this one thing (that thing varying, of course, from person to person), and then the folks who’re astonished anyone would suggest I change a thing.

So instead of being paralyzed by the knowledge of People Who Matter reading (even if just occasionally), I now seem to have some sort of paralysis-based-on-rampant-public-opinion. Not that I’m going to change how I do things – I don’t want to be like other blogs, or change a thing; I write what and how I want to write. But of course, now I’m aware of the various lenses people are viewing this through, and what their critique is, and I have their voices in the back of my head when I sit down to write anything. (Frankly, I’d rather put you all in a room and have you duke it out, rather than have you doing it in my head. Unfortunately, I sort of suspect that putting everyone into some sort of American Gladiator deathmatch would be bloody, and deprive the world of some academics that it probably needs.)

And I guess the last bit of it is just – what am I supposed to say? I feel horribly guilty that I’m enjoying my time back in Albany, that I am having fun spending so much time with like-minded people, and I’m enjoying seeing people realize that I actually am smart and I know my subject area much, much better than most people here have given me credit for. I should be in Oregon, not here, not enjoying myself, not having fun, not being cut off from the day to day life and process with Mom. I should have been there Thursday to swallow my fear of needles and learn how to give her shots that will boost her production of white blood cells, instead of sitting in a classroom taking on 20 people who don’t think we have any single, agreed upon comprehensive moral doctrine, tilting at windmills just to tilt at them. I shouldn’t have had to have my father call me with the results of the CT scan, or describe the found tumor over the phone, or hear about the restaging in 6 weeks, and my parents not wanting to know what stage she’s at. I should have been there, asking my own questions to the oncologist, bringing my own concerns and fears and support to the table. I should have been there to argue when the nurses kicked my family out of the room Mom was receiving chemo, limiting them to 15 minute visits once an hour.

I should have been there, and I’m not, and I can’t be, and I don’t know how many times or ways to say it.

And so I retreat. I retreat and I stop talking, because the last thing I want to do when people are already commenting left and right on the style and tone and quality of this blog is to be monotonous and repetitive. Silence on my part is a good way to insure silence on the part of others.