It took me almost two days to find the word “inconclusive” and then I didn’t even use it. That was because by then my mind had lost the sentence I would be using it in, just as it had lost the word before. This is important because creative writing is an enormous part of my work. But it didn’t stop the writing; I found that I just wrote something completely different… without thinking about it.
Now… for all the 3.7 people that actually read this blog, let me say that if you feel that you have something beyond “chemobrain”, you probably do, and are: (1) Not alone, and (2) Not crazy. “Chemobrain” is too trite. “Cognitive impairment” is incomplete.
My changes are more fundamental than short-term memory loss. Let’s call it what it is: brain damage. That means either loss of function or rewiring, and the rewiring part has been the adventure. I know for a fact that neurophysiology has changed. For example, I regained my partially lost sense of smell, and I can now smell roses for the first time in ten years. Also, my preferences have changed. I’ve held hammers and screwdrivers as an extension of my hands since the age of four. My natural mechanical abilities and desires guided my life, created my homes, were integral to past adventures. But now, I have a true aversion to any mechanical task. Although it still seems a necessity for my lifestyle, I pray to never hold a wrench again. My tastes are different, as is my sense of humor, or what remains of it. But it’s the new vocabulary that is most interesting. It is diminished, but as I speak and write, new words come out of me like little surprises. And that has made me a novelty to myself, which is really just weird, but at least it’s entertaining.
Changes in personality are suggested in the scientific literature on this subject, but they don’t note how unnerving it is to live a perpetual out-of-body experience. I imagine it must be uncomfortable for friends and family. At least they wake up with themselves each day. And it is not about some divine gratitude that comes from survival against the odds. I didn’t need leukemia to have an unusually deep appreciation for life.
So here is the message. One can pine for the lost soul or just ride the crazy train and see what comes up next. Like Rod Stewart sang in 1971, you didn’t ask to come here anyway. What I don’t embrace I at least accept, because either a thing is or it is not. Whatever. Everything is out of character anyway.
Adapt or die. The basis of mindfulness teachings and Ecology 101. I should know this, given that I teach that second item for a living.
After successfully completing the Rota Vicentina through southern Portugal, the responsibilities of my particular life story meant a semi-emergency, sleepless 38-hour journey back to the United States. No onward travel to Spain or Morocco as planned. Instead, an absolutely anti-exotic turn of circumstances.
I am left with another satisfying physical accomplishment … with an aftertaste of failure. The fact is that my life is a collage of responsibilities and limitations that I cannot seem to negotiate away.
It is true that I have moved beyond Daily Epics (which are still essential), and now have the ability to take short hops into the outer world. Still, in a previous life I would be racked with despair at this seemingly “limited” situation. But now I have all that wisdom gained through the transformative power of soul-altering amounts of suffering, so I should know to just leverage any circumstance. Right.
So work and other deferred life stuff can now be handled before spring. With unusually decent weather in California, I am tackling more upgrades and maintenance on the Airstream. (It is 66 years old.) No doubt, it is a great time to take the old slug out to the desert, only a long day’s drive away, and search for wildlife and hot springs. Besides, Phoenix and Tucson have international airports that will take me to any landscape I want.
I have to remember that every day of my fractured and beautiful life is an adventure. This is my right now, and I am still knee deep in it. I just get over it and move on. Anything else is a waste of time.