Again, there are limitations on the extent to which I can be creative or insightful with this entry. The real good stuff takes time to distill… me sitting at a keyboard, staring at the screen, juggling words and ideas in my head like plastic balls in a bingo machine… until they land on the page where I arrange and rearrange until they make sense… As mentioned before, these days I must ration my words. Rather, I can only sit and stare and type for so long before my joints begin to decay and my muscles grow moss. They go rigid like tree bark, and it gets that much harder for me to move any at all.
And right now I need to be moving. Doctor Joel says movement is life. My physical therapist says my job is to under do it, but to under do it everyday. On this point these two warring factions (physical therapy and chiropractic therapy) agree: a rolling stone gathers no moss – even if it’s rolling, ever so slowly, uphill.
The general trajectory as of late has been pleasantly upward. In spite of some recent setbacks, there seems to be some notable progress in how much energy I have to spend and the things I am able to spend it on. Most significantly, I spent the better part of two days this past weekend alone at home with my boys, who collectively burn more calories in an hour than I burn in a whole day. What’s more, I actually enjoyed it (though I’m recovering from the activity, still).
This is a mark of progress more valued than any medical test might give me. One of the more difficult things these past years has been the extent to which I’ve been unable to be “dad” and “husband” for my busy young family. It’s one thing to be absent and unable, it’s quite another to be here everyday with my hands tied.
And there’s more to say about that, but not right now. There’s too much else. And my hands are only given so many letters.
I spent what letters I had between the last posting and this one on preparations for a talk I gave at the Roseau County Fair grandstand a week back. It’s a neat deal. Apparently forty years ago a guy on the fair board proposed having the fair initiated every year with a grandstand event called “Church Night at the Fair.” Every church in the county is invited. They’ve been doing it ever since.
There were two things particularly special about the evening this year for me, besides the fact that I was the guy speaking. The first was that I shared the stage with lifelong friend Tami Fugleberg (now Osweiler) and her singing group, Sweetwater Revival (her Star Spangled Banner made me cry). The second was that I was speaking to what seemed like half the population of my hometown. More specifically, these folks knew more of my story than most, and many of them had played a part in it at one time or another – most many years ago.
It was a bit difficult deciding which message and which testimony to give for such a crowd. So many things to say, so little time to say them, and the desire, of course, to say them well (add to that chemo brain and it’s really a wonder I made any sense at all).
All said (and there’s always more to say), if it was communicated that suffering and death are really bad; that Jesus did something profoundly great by stepping into it and dying himself; that resurrection is real and really good; that we partake of God’s salvation by humbly asking for and gratefully accepting the help we need (in Christ and through others), and that we participate in God’s salvation by giving the help we can, then… I think I said enough.
I hope it was also clear (as I told so little of my story and touched upon it so briefly when I did) that Jen and I both are genuinely and deeply grateful for the love and support we’ve received from those folks… you folks… thank you.
And I am disappointed we didn’t have the opportunity to chat with as many of you as I had hoped to. Still the few conversations, glances, headnods, hugs, and handshakes that happened were good. Real good. Like the first bite from a box of chocolates: good in itself, but best because there’s so much more to be had.
Speaking of talk and chocolates, there is an application of self-discipline that is new to me these days. Much self-discipline is packaged as an avoidance of something bad for the pursuit of something good (Subway instead of McDonalds). But most self-discipline in my life has been a regulating of good things so as to keep the good things good (eating a bite of chocolate in one sitting is good/eating a box of chocolate in one sitting is bad… too much of a good thing, anybody?).
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me that I have to nearly give up writing and reading – even healthy conversation (the eternal kind that makes time irrelevant) – these days if I am ever again to enjoy them at all. It seems my sedentary lifestyle prior to cancer (driving, recording, writing, reading, playing guitar and piano) has teamed up with the inactivity of the past two years and rendered the whole of my body in real bad shape.
Way back when, I may’ve been in no shape for softball, but I could still drive around and play music. Then when I wasn’t fit enough to regularly perform, at least I could sit and write or record. And when that became difficult, at least I could lie in bed and read. Now all these things are difficult – almost impossible – for any significant length of time, without incredible amounts of pain.
Or if they aren’t (topical analgesics and caffeine go a long way), the end result robs me of any justification. It’s hardly worth it.
Last Saturday night the Worship Circle (100 Portraits, et al.) was in Minneapolis doing an outdoor thing at the Fallout. They had hand drums set up all over in front of the stage for anyone who wanted to pound out a rhythm during the show. I stoically refrained for about an hour. Then the spirit moved, I cracked, and whacked a djembe, then a conga. Five minutes maybe. And it hurt like crazy, and it was so much fun. But as soon as it was over, I regretted it. I regretted doing something I so love to do. Like I’ll regret spending the better part of three days typing out this update. This isn’t fun.
Artists in general want to be carried away by whatever it is they’re doing (except whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing). I am no exception to this (I love getting lost in a book, conversation, making music, watching a movie, mowing the lawn… just about anything). Which means that if I am to heal and be strong again, considering the amount of attention I must give to the healing, there can be little else. The fewer potential distractions, the better.
I’ve always preferred physical activity to be a peripheral activity – like the optional add-on at the end of a good day of cerebral busyness. But these days, to be able to do much of anything that requires sitting or standing in one place for a while, I must first spend the better part of every day moving, stretching, swimming, walking, and driving between clinics. Moving, and moving the right way and for the right amount of time (not playing a djembe or chucking suitcases or toddlers), is primary.
If I’m not proactively healing, I’m not only not getting better, I’m getting worse. There’s no such thing as coasting… yet. Like pedaling a bicycle down a dirt road: as long as I’m just crawling along, I can’t stop pushing. But if I keep pumping, I’ll likely pick up enough speed to coast for a while without slowing to a standstill.
And so even writing this is an indulgence, a distraction. But I write now mostly to point out that although I am pedaling uphill, I am picking up speed, nonetheless. And the ride down the other side is bound to be a rush, as long as I keep pedaling.
I think I’ve found a routine – a regimen that works – and as long as I keep all those gears spinning I continue to feel better. Physical therapy, pool therapy, massage therapy, and regular realignments with Doctor Joel, bolstered by consistent sleep habits and decent nutrition (and a cupful of supplements and vitamins everyday) give me the momentum needed to heal. You might imagine how difficult this is to keep at with the blessed interruptions of toddlerhood and the unpredictable impulses of an artist. Whenever I fall out of rhythm, it takes some time to recover, like I’ve got to make up for lost ground.
Our one week trip to the northland was that: the car ride both ways, the time at a computer screen tapping out a message, the standing (or sitting) and yapping with old friends at the fair or in town, and the carefree (if not careless) running around the yard with my boys and their cousin Julia. But it was worth it. It was real good spending time with family at home. And I’m not nearly as shot as I’ve found myself many times after such activity in recent years.
But it’s time to be pedaling again, and it’s a bit difficult hitting stride.
So as much as I’d like to write until I happen upon something clever or profound, it’s more necessary that I hang it up before my hands turn to branches and my hair to leaves.
Being it’s likely I won’t get to this again for another couple of weeks, I’d better briefly mention just a few more things:
1) Uncle (I’ve been uncle-ed three times over this year…). But I mean I give up. I think I’ve been convinced to get one of those voice recognition programs to “write” with (it’ll at least keep the ball rolling). I use an Apple, so the options are limited. iListen is $300. Anybody know of anything cheaper? Write me.
2) I’ll be speaking the first three Sundays in August at Living Hope Church in St. Michael. It’s a series on Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. Pray the prep goes smooth, the truth would be clear and received, and that the record button will work. I’ve given this package three times now, but this is the first time for an entire congregation, and not just the students. I’m really excited about this, but can’t spend as much time at the computer putting it together as I’d like to.
3) I get a root canal tomorrow.
Grateful I can still yap. At least when nobody’s got their fingers in my mouth.
P.S. I turned 31. I did. Special thanks to Jenn Olson/Spadine for the night at Bandana Square for my Jen and me. And to Erika and Danka for the ridiculously yummy German Chocolate Cake. I just ate the last piece yesterday. It was STILL incredible. How about another root canal…
P.P.S. More rants to come. I haven’t said much yet about Chemo Brain. I will… when I can remember what it was I was going to say.