Thursday, August 23, 2012

Picking Up the Pieces

It's now, exactly five months post-transplant, that I'm starting to realize how sick I was... not just in body, but in mind and spirit as much. It's hard for me to synthesize this new feeling that I am well and can start to act that way, doing much more with my time than I was capable of before. Indeed, I was able to hold down my job and volunteer work up until just a week before hospitalization, but I'm not sure I should have. Perhaps I should have taken time to slow down and try to process what was happening to me, but at the time I found that indulgent and ultimately pointless.

We all have different ways of dealing with tragedy, and perhaps mine has been through the recording of this blog. It has, for several years now, been a conversational way for me to meditate and process through words the ills that befell me and my loved ones. And, finally, a conduit for me to share and hopefully inspire people to search for light in the face of darkness, and to find healing through kindness to others.

Doing much more than I was capable of before... what does that mean exactly? Surely not just the promise of more energy and time spent in service to mankind. I'm committed to my new purpose with Pat's Promise, and it drives me each day. Or is it more focus and greater achievement at work, where I know I now can have real impact in the success of our business through my new position and increased responsibility? It's all these, to be sure, but more than that it's saying yes to the smaller things... the ones that affect the people who gave so much of themselves to help me through all this turmoil. Little things like doing the dishes, taking out the trash, taking Amanda shopping, calling mom. I'm certainly not perfect, and I'm struggling with it. Even as I write this, I'm thinking of all the loved ones that I do need to give more attention to, and somehow tend to pass over in my day-to-day thoughts and sentiments.

It hurt a lot when my dad died last year, but what hurt more was the fact that we had really stopped communicating years before that. We didn't know the extent of his brain injury at the time, and that it would take years to truly manifest the horrors that befell him physically and mentally. Instead, we saw a man who for some reason stopped communicating effectively with those around him, and in my youth and inexperience, I did not know why. I only felt hurt and abandoned when I needed him more than ever, when my own illness and challenges in my life were becoming more serious. I know it was not his fault, and I fortunately got what I needed from his final words to me. But I also know that I never want to repeat that disconnect from my loved ones in my own life if at all possible. So I try. I screw up constantly. I attempt to learn from it, and hopefully change for the better every day. A call from a lifelong friend to hang out the other day reminded me of this. I wasn't able to meet him out at the time, and now I regret that I wasn't couldn't because I sense he's been going through some tough stuff that he's too proud to talk about.

How broken is broken? How much of our healing are we personally responsible for? I'm reassembling the pieces of the last ten years of my life and am able to finally find no remorse for the decisions I made, no matter how far off the path I may have gotten. I know now that I was unable to cope with much of the pain I was feeling, and did the best that I could with what I had. Now, after all the excitement and hoopla of transplant has died down, I am having to learn to simply appreciate the fact that the sky isn't falling, or a piano is not about to drop on my head around the next corner, if you get my meaning. I am reassembled with a new message of hope, and it's hard for me to actually believe it myself.

The great thing about having been broken is that we can reassemble ourselves. It just takes a little glue, and we have to find that ourselves. In a sense, having quite literally died, been torn apart, and put back together with new parts, I do feel a commonality with the shamanic tradition. I have been given a new message and the tools to deliver it to help those who need it. More than anything now, this sense of responsibility drives me. I have to make this second life worth the sacrifice that my donor gave me when he died. That's why it's easy for me now to walk away from booze or any other distractions that create static in the line of communication with pure potential. In the old days, I could have cared less about my own welfare. I thought I was done for anyway, and I was ready to give up. And yet I did not, and now I have a sense of duty much stronger to the person who died and saved me than I ever did to myself, for some damn reason. Fine with me. It works. Every day is a gift to me now, and it truly feels amazing. I never could have imagined this level of joy in my life.

Because I suck at Maths, I thought today was six months post-transplant. It was actually five. I told myself I was going to start hitting the gym at six months, but I went anyway despite my screwup. I finally get was the Endorphin thing is all about, as I didn't have any bullshit liver disease or beta blockers putting the foot down on my energy level. So I got off on it, and I want more. Fortunately I did not rip my scar open, eviscerate myself, or get a hernia. As mach as I love my Baylor nurses, I'll have to wait to see them again until the transplant reunion.

So, here we are just two weeks out from the first-ever Pat's Promise event. I'm so fortunate to have such an amazingly talented group of friends who have committed to helping me launch this much-needed mission. There's still a few things left to do, but even if the event went ahead with what we've already done I know it would be a huge success. We'll start here in getting our message out, educate a new crowd of ambassadors, and start to spread our message into further communities and demographics in the very near future. I pray that we save even one life someday as a result.

I took one photo post-workout, as a "before" reference. Note the weak nebbish-like arms. Now say goodbye, f*%#ers! Bout to rock this thang. Now  if I could just stop eating horrible foods. On my lunch break today, I ran a few errands and then ran out of time to go sit down for a healthy lunch somewhere. The next thing I knew I found myself in the Dairy Queen line... how did I get here? How was I going to get out? Before my muscles would respond to my brain, another car pulled in behind me, squashing any chance of escape. So I just went for it and got a Beltbuster, fries, and some frozen red drank. Guilty, I walked back in to work with my dubious prize, surreptitiously waiting until several other co-workers went in ahead, lest I be caught. Unseen, I finally managed to get back to my desk and start devouring my horrid purchase, rivers of hot fat shooting down my throat and gagging me. Horrified and wrought with self-condemnation, I felt a single tear form in the corner of my eye and run down my face onto the greasy patty. I was unable to choke down my shameful repast before a fellow co-worker discovered my secret and asked, "Should you really be eating that shit?"

No, no I shouldn't. I'm sorry, new liver. I'm not perfect. Will you still lurb me tomorrow?

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