It began as a simple sit-down in the office of my neighbor at work. I was feeling a little anxious, and so he offered me a chair. I didn’t have anything specific on my mind, at least nothing I was aware of, and we just chatted. Looking around his office, I noted the many personal items that made the place where he spends half of his day comfortable: a painting, a fridge, a floor-standing lamp giving off warm light, a small, woven tapestry of sorts, picture. I then considered the paltry decor of my own office. No paintings, no plants to thrive by the window, pictures of family present but at some point knocked-over. Basically, I could move out of my office at a moment’s notice with a simple push-cart, something I’ve done numerous times over the years as I bounced around without a permanent spot. My nomadic existence had as much to do with my being in and out of work while undergoing treatment as it did the scarcity of available offices in my place of work. But probably two years ago now, I was given an office (with an officemate) and, with the immunotherapy of the past year and a half, my time at work has been much more consistent. And yet, I’ve done no decorating, prompting another office neighbor to poke his head into the room and declare jokingly, “I love what you’ve done with the place.” Wise guy.
As I sat in my friend’s office and peered at his personal effects, I realized something, and I explained to him that I often feel like a consultant at my full-time job, a place where I’ve worked for almost 16 years, though only the last 5 years in my current department. There’s a much longer story to this, but suffice to say, I was diagnosed mere weeks after transitioning full-time into my current position. As I mentioned, I was a bit of a nomad in terms of my workspace for the first few years, but I also see that the uncertainty of my future also caused me to mostly superficially belong here, like a consultant, never fulling investing myself personally, relationally. So, seemingly out of nowhere, I remarked to my friend, “why spend the time decorating your office if you don’t know if you’re going to be alive in six months?” To this, he calmly asked, “is there something concerning you?”
Words began leaking out. I explained to him how I remain on the immunotherapy regimen that has been effective in controlling my disease since September of 2016. However, with the growth and subsequent removal of the mass in my small bowel in January and with the modest, though noted as stable, growth of the mass in my rectum (of which I was informed at my last visit), it could be that my disease is progressing. In surprisingly clinical fashion, I was informed that the decision to stay on the current regimen was mine and that I might need to sign a waver. And yet, the oncologist wasn’t too worried. All I could do was nod.
My family and I are taking a vacation next week to California to visit San Francisco, Yosemite, and Muir Woods. We are very excited, but the trip will cause me to miss my next infusion therapy. I wonder how my body will hold up with all of the walking and if it is unwise to miss another treatment. When we return, I will head to Nashville for a follow-up CT scan. We will know then whether it is appropriate to remain on the current treatment or to change to something else. What that would be I have no idea. I’m not on standard therapy, so it would likely be something else experimental. As my kids would phrase it, I’m low-key nervous about these things.
So, thank you, Mark, I guess these things have been weighing on my mind.
Honestly, I’ve wanted to give that update here, but I’ve hesitated. I think I’m putting pressure on myself because of my long-held dream of being a real writer. I confess to desiring to be a voice like a C.S. Lewis or a Frederich Buechner, not just a blogger about my personal life. With that goal in mind, I’ve started many posts that remain unpublished drafts because I have lost the drive to finish them, finding them too dry and impersonal and not very good. I think people mostly want to read stories, not my philosophies or theology, though that is acceptable, I think, in the context of how I deal with present circumstances. Regardless, it has become difficult for me to simply write a short post describing my current health condition and asking for prayers, fearing these stories have become boringly repetitive, CT scan after CT scan. But I still feel the desire to write; I just haven’t had worthy words recently.
In the quiet after I answered his question, the image of a kite, high in the air, suddenly struck me. As best as I can explain it, the kite represents my elevated ideal of writing. It’s as if I’ve let the ordinary get away from me, like a kite flown on a beach vacation where I’ve let out so much string that it floats in place high above the ground — the kite has a grand view, yes, but not so much with the details of life below. And I, not imagining anything moving to write about, have tied the line to my lounge chair to stare at the ocean, whiling away these times of typical turbulence. So much has happened, so many details divulged in previous posts, without new, life-changing events to write about, that kite remains unmoved in the steady wind. I think I need to reel in some line and bring the kite back down to earth, to write about my view of the simple stuff.
So, as God would have it, this impromptu conversation with a coworker opened my eyes to see how tentative I can be sometimes. That’s not a testimony to living by faith.
Apparently, He wasn’t done, either. I awoke in the middle of the night and suddenly imagined myself pulling the kite from the sky. As I bring it closer, the classic, red, elongated diamond comes into view, and I’m dumbfounded by the shape formed by the crossing rods to which the string is attached. The kite’s fabric is weathered, but it is the frame that reminds me of where I must continue to place my trust–the cross. It’s 2am, people. Something inside me continues to assure me that it is the inescapable truth. The Holy Spirit? And then I see that the image has become more than about me and my simple words, as complex as they might get; life itself is a kite in the wind, held firmly by an unbreakable faith in Christ, tethered to a God that won’t tire and won’t let go. And there’s no reason for me to fear crashing into the grave. So why be tentative? This truth is the means to freely live.
It’s simple, and it may sound silly, but after Spring Break, I’m going to decorate my office. I hope the other guy likes what I do with the place.
(Thanks Carlton, for the weathered kite image)