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I am 47 and thriving in Southern California. One day at a time.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010


i took latin for two years in high school.

but much like german, where the only sentence i can recall is ,"ein glas wasser, bitte";  i can only recall a handful of phrases. "semper fi", "in vino veritas", and "magnum opus".



today, i lived the manifestation of a 4.5 creatinine. last night and this morning, i dry heaved on and off. stomach cramped with nausea; i endured a long night of discomfort and little sleep. and today, i have been in bed all day.

[with a little imagination, crackers and celery can be simply scrumptious!]

i won't lie. i'm relieved the 13th has passed. it could be 2 years, the now 32 years, or 102 years; but the anniversary of my father's death will always take my breath away. i don't think i'll ever be one of those people that LOVES christmas time, but at least i can release my 10 year-old self's desperate clutch on my heart and breathe more deeply.

but, i do find myself flip-flopping between two of the five stages of grief. my emotional metronome swings between anger and depression. kubler ross advocates these stages as coping tools, and not sequential stops on a psychological subway line. there's no linear pathway to healing...

although acceptance has always seemed like the end of the line.

[where's the express train?]

and then i watched "invictus".

as newly elected president of the RSA, mandela (morgan freeman) astutely realizes that, instead of instigating name, emblem and uniform changes to the national rugby team, the sprongbok's, it is bonding over an existing passion that will lay the foundation for tolerance and compassion and respect in his fragmented country.

things he was never shown. but without which, the cycle of fear will only continue.

holy forgiveness, batman.

over tea with francois pienaar (matt damon), who plays the rugby team's captain, mandela speaks of a singular poem that he would read at robben island. read to himself. read to fellow inmates. and read to get him to simply stand up, when all he wanted to do was lie down.

"invictus", by william ernest henley.

i had studied this poem at u of t, but i don't know that i ever knew henley's backstory.

he wrote "invictus" from a hospital bed when he was just 25. he had lost a son, and had his leg amputated just below his knee. he must have felt cheated, angry and defeated.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

despite his physically compromised circumstance, there remains a great power within him. bravely vulnerable to his fears, he is still grateful for the autonomy he possesses. he is accepting, or perhaps simply cognizant, of the years of potential physical and emotional suffering ahead. but, his redemption comes in embracing his power over his heart, mind and soul...

i spent much of today broken. mourning all that is gone, and all that we hope is only "on hold". 

it can get very, very dark in my world. henley and mandela also wandered lost in shadowy moods, but it only made them stronger. because they did not allow their stories to dictate their lives. 

their souls were at the command.

tomorrow, my transplant team at cedars-sinai presents my case for evaluation. if i am approved, my case is presented to blue shield, so they can "deign" to approve a transplant.

and then...well, let's take it one step at a time.

my father was a rugby player when he was in medical school. 

living in a high fire zone in the california hills, kevin and i have discussed what we would take if we ever had to evacuate. [definitely an interesting conversation...] for me, i would only need to take this one photo.
london, england. guy's hospital medical school. 1960.

for me, this photo represents more than my father playing his favorite sport. i see passion, commitment, physical strength and pure joy.

[what a tackle...apparently, rugby is coined the hooligan's sport played by gentlemen....]

and then there came a day when this gentleman could no longer play. when henley could no longer walk. and mandela suffered 27 years of incarceration.

yet, to me, they are all heroes. 

for even the most talented, intelligent, shining examples of humanity are flawed. they plunge the cold pool of insecurities, fears and transgressions, and come up shivering and sputtering, just like the rest of us.

heroes are not the untouchables. the glistening bodied, shellacked mannequin, impossibly witty, problem solving geniuses...

heroes are the ones who are scared, and still tunnel through their torment. then through admission, reclaim their battered souls and emerge as inspiration personified.

and when you bear witness, you are given permission to find the hero in yourself. because i don't want to live through my story. i want to live through my soul...

so perhaps one day soon i will find the joie de vivre my father had into his final days. the full physical life that henley still enjoyed into his 50's, and mandela's impossible capacity to forgive. 

i am still undefeated.


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