There was a time when I saw music in my head. As I fell asleep at night, I would listen to my iPod. I had a special “Sleeping Playlist” that I listened to each night. I became so familiar with the songs that I could see the music as I listened. Notes would dance across my closed eyes as I fell asleep. Their gentle movement up and down the staff lulled me to sleep. I drifted off as I became part of the music. My mind was clear, troubling thoughts rarely intruded to interrupt my slumber. It was just me and the music. I was at peace with myself and the world around me. That allowed me to appreciate the beauty and the composition of the music.
That hasn’t happened in at least three years, probably much longer.
I haven’t written in weeks. I haven’t been able to write. The words wouldn’t come. My thoughts were jumbled and unclear. The January doldrums are weighing heavily on me. I am lethargic and dragging. I have been dealing with health issues and haven’t felt my best. My energy level has tanked. I’m not surprised by any of it. Who would be? Prolonged stress is a fairly common cause of health problems, but that’s not what this blog is about. I don’t want to talk (or write) about what is wrong with me. In the grand scheme of life, my problems are just a blip on the radar.
I spent the bulk of last week in Chicago. I couldn’t really get into my usual conference socializing and networking. Most nights, I found myself in bed before 10:00 p.m. I had dinner one night alone at the hotel, declining the opportunity to dine with friends. Pam has been spending some time with Pam lately. I’ve been soaking in the quiet and moments alone. There were bright spots during my time in Chicago. I spent some time with my son as his schedule allowed. Even our time together was quiet. We sat at a piano bar speaking quietly, remembering times from his childhood. We laughed, talked, and listened to the music together.
On my last night in the city, I received a text from a co-worker informing me of something terrible. Really terrible. A mutual friend had been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. It is inoperable and has also metastasized to his lungs. Having just been diagnosed, he is not expected to live out the year. She sent me a link to a private video blog he had begun that day. His intention was to chart his journey, to relieve his wife from having to repeat his status over and over each day to well-meaning, concerned family and friends, and so that some day his young children would be able to see their father’s strength as he fought for each day that remained.
I cried as I watched my friend relate his pain, multiple misdiagnoses, and finally a diagnosis that was the worst case scenario. He has begun intensive chemotherapy in a valiant, long-shot effort to reduce the tumor to an operable size. The doctors are not optimistic, but he is a fighter. He’s fighting for his wife and their four kids. He has promised them not to give up.
His fight and the pain his family is experiencing, are breaking my heart. I spoke to him this morning. Part of my job will be to organize a benefit for him and his family. That is my job, but it will be a labor of love. Today, I spent several hours making calls, asking for assistance, and sadly, informing people that a wonderful asset to our community is in a grave situation. I feel exhausted and emotionally drained, and ashamed for feeling those things. I want to slap my own face and say, “Look around you. Gather in your blessings. Thank God for the life ahead of you. Appreciate the good.”
These weeks of quiet and peaceful introspection have been good for me. I have needed some time to listen to the world around me and to seek out moments of calm. This quiet needs to be protected and continue.