A lot of things we endure in life aren’t really as long in duration as we think they are. They seem so at the time because we’re in the moment. We’re attending to anxiety, grief, fear, worry or anger. We can’t seem to remember, or convince ourselves, that in the grand scheme of things, most of the stuff we experience is quite short-lived. So short, that we could hug a bear for that long and not notice his meaty breath.
Shortly after my Boston Terrier, Sally, died, I developed upper abdominal pain. In a week, it had progressed to an attack of acute pancreatitis. This is not a normal condition in a relatively healthy person who doesn’t drink like a sailor on shore leave. An ultrasound and an MRI, done that evening in the ER, introduced me to a mass on my pancreas. Now, weeks later, the specialists think it’s a noncancerous tumor. None of them want to commit to a name for it, so I’m calling it “George.”
The first visit with the surgeon was long, informative and stressful. But we both agreed that the thing is large enough that it must be taken out. Surgery is scheduled for June 19. At this point, I don’t know which organ is going to be given up. Originally, I thought I’d lose a good portion of my pancreas, my gallbladder and, possibly my spleen. But at this point, none of the specialists know what this thing is or where its home is. As far as I’m concerned, I just want the mass removed, and, unless it’s a puppy, I have no desire to see it after the surgery.
Given all the events that preceded the attack, I wonder at times if my poor emotional and mental state caused this small mass of cells to grow to a size that it could no longer be ignored. Were upset, anxiety, anger and depression the fuel that inflamed the tumor? Does unrelenting stress awaken the potential for abnormal growth?
I’m not certain, but I have my suspicions.
Along with recovery from surgery, which will be lengthy, I’ve got a tremendous amount of other things to do—one of which is to start enjoying life. The phrase, “Life is too short” must no longer be a cliché for me. Life is too short to let yourself get caught up in petty hurts and insults, and wallowing in misery and bitterness. As I make changes in my life, some things have to go, some things have to be dusted off and take priority.
One of the first steps I’ve taken is to shut the door on one of the biggest time wasting and unsatisfying activities in my life—I deleted my Facebook account. I didn’t deactivate it; I deleted it.
The Facebook administrators, who’d admonish me at regular intervals for not posting, will have to find some other dull slob to harass. On the deletion page, my comment for leaving was short and sweet: “I hate Facebook.” I didn’t have the energy or desire to say what I wanted to say—that Facebook is a miserable excuse for keeping in touch with friends and family. No social media site, no matter how many bells and whistles it has, no matter how “personal” an experience it tries to disguise itself as, can substitute for making the in-human effort to nurture meaningful relationships. Virtual friendships, as a way of keeping in touch, are like Angel Food cake—they have a hint of flavor, and once experienced, they’re too convenient to pass up for the real thing—homemade sweet biscuits buttered and eaten warm. Real friendships are buttered and warm from the oven—you savor them and you want more.
But worthwhile relationships take some effort, which I’ve barely made in the last few years. It’s no longer a matter of when I have time to focus on them. For me, for anyone, time may cease to be in a day, a week, a month.
After my surgery, I’ll have a nice portion of the year left to get it right. The scar I’ll have after this operation will be a nice reminder to stop wasting time.