Last year, when I felt like I needed to remember the good things in what was sure to be a shitty year to come, I wrote up a long list of the good things that had happened just to show myself how it dwarfed the short list of shit.
A friend recently introduced me to Austin Kleon's blog -- and I've been down a rabbit hole on it lately, it's so great -- and he does a similar thing, with this 100 things that made my year (2017) posting. I thought I would do one myself but 100 is like, A LOT. So here are my top 50.
I remember thinking was how nice it was that they gave us mimosas. They wanted to thank everyone for their hard work before the Christmas holidays began. I took a sip, looked at my phone and saw K was calling, the taste of champagne still on my tongue. Unusual to call instead of text but not unheard of. I picked up and walked away from everyone, settling myself on a step of the stairwell. The MRI K had gotten the week before -- he'd sneezed as he was walking down the stairs and threw his back out -- the results were back and they were concerning. The radiologist's report said he thought there were metastatic masses along his spine and he recommended his doctor's search for the primary site. It was a few days before I had worked out what this meant; that he thought K had late-stage metastatic cancer and that the doctor's had better figure out the source. That looks obvious to me now when I read the words, but they were nearly unintelligible at the time.
We spent Christmas worried K had only weeks or months to live. It was four full weeks before we got a proper diagnosis. It was good news considering that radiologist's report. But not good news, good news. The masses were not metastisized cancer but a rare blood cancer called multiple myeloma. An incurable cancer, but very treatable. And the treatments are getting better everyday, says the oncologist, a bright-eyed man whose staff are constantly teasing him about his bedside manner. (They're wrong about that -- I fucking love him and his bedside manner.) Everyone's different, Dr. B says, but the prognosis right now is seven years. Better than a few months but not enough. I want more.
I fucked up today.
I had a whole lucious afternoon to myself to read. I moved between the gray suede spinning chair and the couch, first lying on top of and then under a red and white cotton blanket. Socks on. Coffee. Coffee. Tea. Tea. Socks off. Bottled water. A quick lunch break and then back to reading.
It was good.
The rain fell outside the window, straight down at first and then sideways and then in big heavy drops that looked almost like snow.
I was reading a memoir*, one that takes place in a world foreign to me -- pregnancy and miscarriage, divorce and deception -- and I got lost in the story, right up to the end. I finished the last pages and sighed, and then I spent a few minutes reflecting on the book. I rated it on Goodreads, marked it as read on my Reading Challenge, and then I realized the fuck up. It was 3pm on Sunday afternoon and I had nothing else to read. I was holding a kindle with more than a thousand books on it, at least a dozen of which I hadn't yet read, and was surrounded on three walls with books from floor to ceiling, but I hadn't taken that crucial step of lining up a book to get to next. I was still too absorbed in the story I'd just finished to shop for a new book. It was too late to really do anything else with the day and too early to wrap it up and start on dinner. Rookie mistake.
* The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
We're only 5 days into the new year and I've already read three books on cancer.
I am a book person. Whenever something big happens in my life I turn to books first for information and direction and hold their content above almost anything I read online. So as soon as Keith was diagnosed with multiple myeloma I went to Amazon and started putting together a reading list. Our oncologist actually recommended Tom Brokaw's memoir about his own multiple myeloma so that's where I started.
The memoir is a good, quick read. Tom Brokaw seems like a very nice man. He's a great writer and a thoughtful person. He talks about his experience being diagnosed with multiple myeloma and the ups and downs of his treatment and recovery, interspersed with some great memories of his really extraordinarily lucky life. He writes touchingly about how angry he was at the diagnosis, about how the cancer threatened the future he and his family had imagined, and is thoughtful about the fact that so few people have access to the resources he does. It's worth reading.
But, here's the thing. But he was diagnosed with myeloma at 72. 72! 72 is not young. It is not the prime of one's life. You don't hear that a 72 year old is diagnosed with cancer and think "Oh, the injustice!" You probably think, "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that", "I wish that weren't true", "I hope you have a full recovery". But you are not surprised.
72 is 25 years older than Keith is right now. Twenty five more years of good health.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that a 72 year old should just give up on life. A 72 year old American male today is still ten years away from his average life expectancy and someone as healthy as Mr. Brokaw could reasonably expect to squeeze out even more years. He was totally justified in his anger and disbelief over his diagnosis and he was right to fight so hard and I wish him twenty or thirty more years of health and happiness.
But you know, also, fuck you, Tom Brokaw.
A few years ago, when I was right in the midst of my corporate whore days, I started giving myself the same kind of goals personally every January 1 that I gave myself professionally, meaning SMART goals -- you know, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding, and Time-bound. These goals were aggressive and I gave myself many of them. I probably had twenty goals that first year. This sounds a little crazy in hindsight but it was all self-inflicted and to be honest, I really love a good goal. I think that you achieve more if you have big goals that really stretch you, and that nothing bad has to happen if you don't achieve those goals so there's no harm in making them big. There's magic in just putting them out into the universe.
This year I started thinking about my new year's resolutions back in November, and I wrote a whole bunch of them down. This was before we knew Keith was sick, before we knew that this year wasn't going to be like any the years before. So here it is, January first, and I want to put my goals out there in the universe. But I'm not naive, I know that these aren't going to be easy, or even important to me in the coming months. In all likelihood this is going to be a very hard year. But I still want them out there.
vgriff's 2017 resolutions
So there you go, universe. Let's try to make 2017 suck as little as possible.
Good to great stuff that happened this year:
Shit things that happened this year:
This is how I will get through this. I remember to balance all of the good with the shit. And I will keep moving.