Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The REAL 3G Network

Two Weeks.  

That's how much longer the oncologist thinks I will have a mother. 

I realized yesterday that Young Girl hadn't seen her grandmother in weeks, and that each needed time with the other.  So, last night, YG accompanied me when I went over to put Mother to bed.

I've never felt more like a fulcrum.

I held two hands: one gnarled and cool, the other smooth and warm.

I stoked two heads: one bald, the other covered in thick, lustrous curls.

I rested my head on two shoulders: one bony and brittle, the other round and strong.

This is the true 3Generation network.

While it is painful to be in the middle, it's a blessed pain.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

And The Hits Just Keep On Coming.....

Posts may be few and far between over the next couple of weeks.

My sister's been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, and my mother is rapidly deteriorating and can no longer be left alone. 

My calendar is a tangle of medical appointments and personal responsibilities. As I try to weigh the needs of my original family against the needs of my second, blogging slips ever lower on the ladder of priorities.

Give me time to balance this seesaw and I will be back.

Thank to all of you who have sent messages of support.  They help more than you know.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jargon Riff -- Part Two

I suspect the reason I'm so miffed about jargon right now is my need - with so much serious illness and upheaval in my life - to pare things down to the bone. 

I've always been fond of sparse, precise prose. "Be precise,"  I say, over and over and over again, to my writing students. In fact, my own precision hang-up is the number one driver of my on-going writer's block.


So imagine my miffed-ness when I looked up at coffee shop television (blessedly muted) and saw the following bullet point:

Fear of Risk Aversion

Just what does that mean? Am I supposed to be afraid of "risk aversion" or am I supposed to be averse to "fear of risk"?

Literally, both form a kind of emotional double negative and connote bravery in the face of risk. 

When I googled the phrase, however, I found the following quote:

Can GM overcome the fear of risk aversion so many American consumers have about its brand, regardless of the actual reliability and competitiveness of its cars and trucks? That's a hard question to answer, and one only the consumer, over time, will be able to answer.

This poses another interpretation, in which "fear of risk" modifies "aversion" (i.e. What kind of aversion? The kind that fears risk, of course!). Such sloppy modification drives me nuts.

But this version, posing perception against reality, offers a lesson far removed from current economic crises.

What is depression (both economic and personal) if not fear of risk? Of change? What is it if not paralysis of courage?

I want to be clear: I do not see depression as cowardice or even as something that can be alleviated by a change in perception; neurotransmitters don't respond to will, after all. Clinical depression is a medical issue, and it's not what I'm about in this post.

A "fear of risk" aversion - just like "process management" - keeps us from living fully and authentically. 

Here's hoping all of us can put such aversion aside and stride out into the messy chaos of life.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jargon Riff - Part One

It's a cold misty day outside, perfectly suited to my current activity: Drinking a cafe' au lait at the coffee shop in front of one of the better fake fires I've seen in a long time. 

I'm doing my best these worrisome days just to be, to enjoy what the day brings, and to be mindful of my good fortune.

And thank the universe that I'm not part of the jargon-filled world that surrounds me.

My understanding of the need to sit with my life crystallized this week when, making my daily drive past various plants and office buildings, I happened to glimpse - literally - the writing on the wall.

"Wait," I thought, "How do you manage a process? Why would you want to? Isn't 'process management' an oxymoron?"

A little googling alerted me to the "true" meaning of that word duo (PM even has its own international journal), and I slapped right up against what I miss the least from my days in university administration: jargon. I flashed back to those horrid meetings - program evaluation, task forces, assessment reports, and mission statement creation. I can feel my pulse rate increasing as I type those words.

As a writer, I was constantly frustrated with the clunky diction and obfuscation such gatherings generated. I'd take my pen in hand and eviscerate cumbersome paragraphs, peeling them down to their essence; sometimes I'd prevail, but often others clung to catchphrases or worried that a pared down version didn't sound "smart enough." Insert graphic of me virtually banging my head against the wall. Why couldn't we just stop and go back to our work with students? Back to true process, which tended to manage itself on its own timetable?

But back to the present.

What are our lives if not process? What are our days if not process

All around, I see pain and difficulty as people try to manage their process down to the last tiny detail and attempt to control events and individuals.

Granted, some planning is necessary. But isn't the joy of life to be found in its unfolding? Its unfolding, not our attempts to shape circumstances to fit our needs.

Every time I drive by that building, proudly broadcasting its commitment to total control, I pledge to remind myself to let go. To just be.

Stepping away can be the best process management tool I know. 

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Trees Aren't Always Trees

All around me, trees welcome spring. Normally I love to watch this process, but this year is different.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know of my mother’s amazing cancer journey and how it is drawing to a close. You may not know that my oldest sister died, at 55, of ovarian cancer in 2000. And now my remaining sister has discovered suspicious lumps; her doctors are rushing her through tests and plan to excise two lumps this Thursday for biopsy

I, thankfully, remain healthy.

Back to those trees. I’m stuck in a metaphor loop.

Dark branches against the sky are lungs. Bronchi. Bronchioles. Alveoli. All reaching toward the sky in a gasp for air.

Dark branches against the sky are the blue veins visible under the milky white skin of a breast.

Dark branches against the sky are the circulatory system.

Dark branches against the sky are the lymphatic conduits that run throughout our bodies.

Dark branches against the sky take the shape of a brain, tracing the folds and valleys, mimicking the neuron. Axon. Soma. Dendrite.

The tangled nests of squirrels are tumors. The small nests of birds are tumors. Fruit trees bloom with disease. The green buds are tumors, coursing their way though lymph, blood, and tissue.

The process of spring, which should mean growth and blooming and change, has become malignant.

Photo credit: Tiny Topaz

3/12/09 update: My sister's simple biopsy turned into a general anesthesia, tangerine-sized lump removal, chest drain kind of thing.  Pathology should be in on Monday. Send white light.
3/17/09 update: Both the tumor and the scalene lymph nodes were malignant.