Planning to Live

[UPDATE: edited for clarity and to follow site rules. If your comments have disappeared, sole responsibility lies with the author, who expresses sincere apologies.]

Good news on one small front. No more Cipro until Tuesday, 2 hours before the biopsy. Nasty infection cured.

But one immediate obstacle down doesn't take away the uncertainty of my condition. That's why I am planning to live.

Do you remember the film "Scent of a Woman?" A certain scene, the 'inquisition,' from that 1992 movie has played in my mind frequently during the last few weeks. Here it is, cut and transcribed:

Slade: ...He doesn't need to labeled: "Still worthy of being a 'Baird Man.'" What the ** is that? What is your motto here? "Boys, inform on your classmates, save your hide" -- anything short of that we're gonna burn you at the stake? Well, gentlemen, when the ** hits the fan some guys run and some guys stay. Here's Charlie facing the fire; and there's George hidin' in big Daddy's pocket. And what are you doin'? You're gonna reward George and destroy Charlie.


Slade: Outta order? I'll show you outta order! You don't know what outta order is, Mr. Trask! I'd show you but I'm too old; I'm too tired; I'm too f*** blind. If I were the man I was five years ago I'd take a FLAME-THROWER to this place! Outta order. Who the hell you think you're talkin' to? I've been around, you know? There was a time I could see. And I have seen boys like these, younger than these, their arms torn out, their legs ripped off. But there isn't nothin' like the sight of an amputated spirit; there is no prosthetic for that. You think you're merely sendin' this splendid foot-soldier back home to Oregon with his tail between his legs, but I say you are executin' his SOUL!! And why?! Because he's not a Baird man!


Slade: I'm not a judge or jury. But I can tell you this: he won't sell anybody out to buy his future!! And that, my friends, is called integrity! That's called courage! Now that's the stuff leaders should be made of. Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew. But I never took it. You know why? It was too d*** hard. Now here's Charlie. He's come to the crossroads. He has chosen a path. It's the right path. It's a path made of principle -- that leads to character. Let him continue on his journey.

This scene always moves me. I know I've taken that easy wrong path many, if not most times.

But not today. today I plan to live.

Ever seen someone take the easy way out? Certainly you have. I don't know if you've ever seen either a person or an animal grievously or mortally wounded that just kept.on.struggling for life. I've seen animals, one being this mutt/pitbull/amstaff doggie fight and fight and fight after getting struck by a car.

I've never had an animal give up, actually, unless you count animals terminally ill with either failed kidneys who left on the "long, permanent walk."

But I have seen humans give up. Decide it was too difficult to keep struggling for that next breath, or to stay awake to avoid dying from shock.

I plan to live.

I don't know how bad this cancer is-- there's that one percent chance it's benign. I can live with those odds. If it's malignant, I don't care which stage it has made it to.

I plan to live.

Later this month I'm flying to Colombia to take my child back to his mother. But I have more plans than simply dropping my child off.

I'll be visiting two universities and two high schools while I'm there, looking for work.

This will not be my last visit to Colombia. I got inspired by TL member Observed to look for an expatriate teaching position. Why not look where my child lives based on my conception of family and self?

Of course, I can only expect to make 500-700 dollars per month in my profession. But so what?

What are my priorities?

A) to live.

B) to see my son more often-- if not daily, then multiple times weekly.

C) Everything else is gravy.

This turn is even further away from the US accumulation norm. But I don't care. What's the use of capital accumulation by me if it means my progeny become Plutocrats?

My family comes from peasants and the proletariat. Maybe my ex-wife's family doesn't, but I certainly fall into those categories. Plutocracy doesn't excite me since I know I'll have to bow and scrape to the captains of capital.

Facing this biopsy is mind-clearing. I love it. The Market drops 300-400 points today? I don't care because it doesn't matter in my life except as an intellectual question.  Sure I'd like some explanations, but only because I like to think. I like to understand what goes on beneath the surface.

And I plan to live. I plan to move to Colombia and join the faculty of some university, or high school, or open my own English school. Maybe do some online teaching. But that's not important. Planning to do so means I haven't given up.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs might need to be revisited. People feel energized when faced by death or possible death. I think this describes self-actualization.

Turn the pyramid upside down, inside out. We know who we are and what we need long before we get hungry or need shelter. It's called character. Integrity. When secure in ourselves, esteem becomes irrelevant.

Heck, let me list Jeffinalabama's hierarchy of needs:

1. Self-actualization. We reach this point early in life-- by 6-8 years old. We continue to develop who we are, make changes, add, subtract, remove... but we are who we are. Outside actors influence us, but by golly, they don't control us, our minds, or our sense of self.

2.Esteem needs-- throw this one out. When we reverse the process and make our own esteem, our own self-worth, this part gets subsumed by my level one.

3 & 4. Social and safety needs. We are social creatures, and we always will be. Level 2, social. Safety needs? Safety is an illusion. there is no safety. Look at what happened to one of our posters just a few days ago, spider bites. How does living in an advanced, postindustrial society aid safety?

5. Physiological needs. Top of the pyramid, or right after self-actualization. At least in modern society.

When do these needs become important? Only when they are absent! Not only that, but we delude ourselves to our actual physiological needs. Touching other humans, love, emotions, without these we don't become human. But even with these, we don't necessarily stay human.

Does society consider a person living in a box under a bridge as completely human?  How about someone who has, say, brown skin, black hair and speaks Spanish only, but lives here in the United States?

Throw out the pyramid and make your own. Who am I to tell you how to live or what to do? It doesn't matter, does it? We know ourselves, we know what we're capable of, and what we won't tolerate.

As for me, during the last three or so years here at TalkLeft, I've grown. I've come to understand just WHERE I stand. And that, much like Martin Luther and Ghandi, I'm not concerned with disagreement in personal philosophy. Why? Because I'm correct. I often don't follow the correct path, but I know what it is. My path, however, may be different from yours.

And beginning today, I plan to continue stating that I plan to live. I can do this by whatever means necessary. If I find that I get gutted, but after recuperating it doesn't hurt? I'm alive.

If I find I will never have an erection again, or if I become permanently erect, it is of no consequence. It becomes a tailoring issue, not a life issue.

Living consists of much more than just existing. I have been blessed with another challenge to overcome. I can continue becoming my self-actualizing being.

I'm an independent actor, although I embrace my interdependence. Those things that I want or think I need? That's the system fooling me to consume more than necessary.

Discussing religion or faith makes me uncomfortable.I'm not trying to start a new religion here. Ideally, my mind and my belief clusters now try to move beyond religion, politics, capitalism, communism, or any other such labels.

I don't know what the new label ought to be.  All I can say is,

I plan to live.

Thanks for reading.

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    Made me cry (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 11:26:31 AM EST

    Love, courage, clarity

    Gives me a shot at a do over... (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by kdog on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 07:44:03 AM EST
    at my heirarchy of needs...disclaimer, I don't know Maslow from Mike Matusow, and I'm having difficulty grasping "self-actualization" at all really.  A human being's natural goal is to live as long as it can, and I think that's it. To do that I think ya need 3 things. It's the human mind and life experiences that complicates the matter.

    #1 Health and Sustenance...without these needs being met, we can have no other needs.  By health I don't mean perfect health, but healthy enough to have emotional needs and be happy.

    #2 Emotional Needs aka love.  Paraphrase Mick & Keith, we all need someone we can lean on, and someone who can lean on us.  Mileage can vary, I think some have more emotional needs than others, social butterflies and loners. And some can easily support other's lean but struggle with leaning, and vice versa.

    #3 I'll call it joy for lack of a better term.  Under this umbrella are individual liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the inalienable right to pursue it. To go to the Mick and Keith well again, "I need a love to keep me happy". I'm not gonna argue with The Human Riff, in the track I think it is assumed Keith had a meat pie in him before filling the need for a love to fulfill the need to be happy...and then he's golden....don't need money, don't need acceptance or status from society at large.

    Now I'm thinking of my pops, and why he choose to stop seeking fulfillment of these needs.  Or anybody who throws in the towel on life.  

    In my dad's case, his version of health and sustenance meant strength, physical and mental.  It required strength. And he drew his mental strength from his physical strength. I think prison did this to him in some way, cuz I don't see it the same way. He told us how they used to play cards for push-ups in the joint, and when he got there he couldn't do 10.  Thoroughly embarassed & shamed him.  When he got out he could do push-ups like I take steps...and he never stopped.  He played this solataire-type card game for push-ups by himself all my life...an obsession.  He never backed down from a fight, and he went looking for a few in his day.  When he was 55, 25 year olds wouldn't step to him.  He was intimidating.  And when age starting creepin' in, sh*t old age barely cracked the door, it's like it froze him like a deer in the headlights.  True paralyzing fear.  He couldn't grasp that after so many years of family and friends leaning on him, it was ok to lean on others, let others provide for and defend him.  He somehow equated that with death...like going to prison again and not being able to do 10 push-ups to pay his card-playing debts, with no way to crack 10 no matter what he did.

    He died one year after my niece was born with CDH, a birth defect that was a death sentence up until 30 years ago.  He said things like it would be better if my niece had died, natural selection blah blah blah, crazy sh*t...he was back on the booze hard by then.  Really hurt my sister, the bastard:) I guess in his mind my niece would never have the health required to get past #1 on my list, or even fulfill #1.  He was wrong of course, she just turned 7 and is a happy, spunky kid, and only mildly physically challenged (thank you modern medicine!). Smart as a whip, already a master negotiator who gets what she wants by smarts:) This illustrates my dad's beliefs on health and sustenance....like if ya couldn't hunt or gather you were as good as dead anyway...or the city slicker version, if ya couldn't shoplift a meal and outrun the security guard.

    Summation...we need 3 things, but our big brains and life experiences can get it seriously twisted.  What is "full potential" but something we made up? Does a squirrel think "I need to self-actualize my full potential and gather 500 nuts for winter."?  Hell no, I think the squirrel finds as many as it finds and rolls with it day by day.  I try to be like that squirell, I don't think about and obsess over amassing a million dollars so I can retire one day, I think about health and sustenance today to love today and know joy today...or try, we all can get it twisted:)

    Oh...gotta link "The Jerk" again, as an example of getting it twisted, and because it's a great scene.  

    KDog, "self-actualization" has (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by gyrfalcon on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 07:17:15 PM EST
    something to do with your sense of identity, of who you are, and of being able to live day to day in a way that's compatible with that.

    It sounds to me like what happened with your dad is very much the same as what happened with my mother in her last years.  Because of her increasing physical infirmities, she could no longer be any of the things that made up her sense of herself-- a writer, a cook, a homemaker, a gardener, and worst of all for her, I think, a mother.

    She was very willing to accept the help from me that she needed, but that role reversal really did her in more than almost anything else.  Her last Christmas, when she couldn't even see well enough to write out a check herself for us to buy our own Christmas presents but I had to do it for her, she was just flattened.  Bad enough she couldn't choose gifts she knew we'd like and needed, she couldn't even write a darn check.

    A lot of people, particularly men of the older generations, define themselves by their roles in life.  When they can't take those roles anymore, they feel like they can't be themselves anymore.

    I don't define myself by roles much, and most likely neither do you.  But your pops and my mom sure did, and that's why both of them just threw in the towel at a certain point.


    The concept is a little clearer now... (none / 0) (#12)
    by kdog on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 09:06:54 PM EST
    and you're right, I don't define myself that way at all, or feel any kind of human need to have or find a role.  That's taking Shakespeare a bit far isn't it?

    All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players.

    Does that make us weird G? Or just able to adapt to the role we need or want to play at any given time?


    You're moving from psychology to sociology... (none / 0) (#14)
    by jeffinalabama on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 09:15:52 PM EST
    Check out "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life," by Erving Goffman. Then follow it with "Frame Analysis."

    Brilliant guy. Doesn't get enough credit, even though he gets a lot of credit.

    Also, a good enough writer to read for pleasure.


    Not weird, but (none / 0) (#15)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 08:54:46 AM EST
    different than many of our parents, that's for sure.

    I think fewer and fewer people, actually, are defining themselves by their roles because the way our society/economy has been going the last 20 years or so, you really can't.  People used to do the same job for the same employer for their entire lives, and that's no longer the case.  Women used to be stay-at-home moms their entire lives.  No longer the case.

    So the "roles" people play have been subject to regular upheaval and folks have had to find some other way of defining themselves.

    I think the real core of "self-actualization" is exactly that you no longer need a role by which to define yourself, you just are who you are, and roles are just things you do at various times in your life.

    That's my take anyway.


    Somehow... (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by kdog on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 03:57:26 PM EST
    I think my self-diagnosed Peter Pan complex plays in here...how I'm not quite sure:)

    kdog, thanks for your well written (none / 0) (#8)
    by jeffinalabama on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 05:49:24 PM EST
    and deeply personal reply. I'm not surprised by the depth of your wisdom, but instead made joyous by it. Your friends, co-workers, family, us here, and that lovely lady south of the border are lucky, blessed, to know you, even if it's only by web.

    Joy... I've re-discovered joy at the smallest things... the taste of a single Miller High Life, a joke made up by my son, my hilarious at times dog... If a doorbell rings on television, in a movie, cartoon, or commercial, he wakes up barking and growling, and runs to the door. Then he returns to his spot with a sheepish look (yes, i'm anthropomorphizing)growls a few times as though he's grumbling, and goes back to sleep.

    The small things that give us joy get taken for granted too often. Just like the hard work your dads did to get in shape and stay in shape.

    That clip from The Jerk? my second favorite-- the first comes early on, and I think it has been cut somewhere along the line. His black dad says, "Boy, you don't know sh*t from Shinola. Now this is sh*t, and this is Shinola."


    The small things (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by gyrfalcon on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 07:07:39 PM EST
    have always been what keeps me going.  No matter what life is doing to me at the moment, those first few glugs of coffee in the morning, the silky feel of my cat's fur, the way the light hits the big sugar maples at the foot of my drive, the song of a bird I can't see, the drop-dead beauty of a light snowfall on a crisp winter day.... I could go on and on.

    The big stuff in life-- relationships, career, financial security, politics, physical health-- can turn on you and break your heart with no notice, but the small stuff endures.

    By the very number of them, too, they're sort of self-insulating.  OK, bummer, my favorite coffee has been discontined, but there's still the cat, the bird, the sunshine, the tracks of a bobcat in the snow on my driveway.  There are always new ones.


    The big stuff you mention... (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by kdog on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 09:14:54 PM EST
    is also beyond our control...relationships involve the heart and free will of another being, our finances can be determined by dumb luck and circumstance, politics forget about it.

    But the bountiful simple joys and beauty found on this playground called earth, they're right there all the time no matter what the "big stuff" is doing.


    Bravo, my friend (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Dadler on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 09:48:41 AM EST
    My you and your son be in each other's lives as much as possible, as soon as possible.  Kid's got a greater dad than he'll ever know.  Or hopefully not, hopefully he WILL know.

    And don't forget to laugh, as much as you can, as often as you can.  Seek it out.  Google your favorite clips.  Discover new ones.  Laugh and laugh and laugh.  The cliche about it being the best medicine is not far off the mark.  The physical benefits to the body are profound.  And what better way to heal yourself?  Well, except for, you know, wink wink, nudge nudge, say n'more...

    MAY you and your son... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Dadler on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 09:49:45 AM EST
    Jaysus, the very first word I flub up.  Why waste time, I guess.

    I'm doing a lot of laughing, Dadler... (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by jeffinalabama on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 05:50:48 PM EST
    watching funny clips, reading jokes, and by golly, I think this mood does permeate my physical self.

    Jeff, I know tomorrow you (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by caseyOR on Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 09:40:56 PM EST
    go in for the biopsy. I have no words of wisdom to offer. I do have my thoughts and my concern, though.

    So, tomorrow I will be thinking good, supportive, healthy thoughts that will, through some miracle that no doubt involves a rift in the time-space continuum, make their way from me in Oregon to you in Alabama.

    Whatever the result, your determination to not only survive, but to livewill serve you well.

    I'm hoping for the best, matey, whatever the best turns out to be.

    Jeff I want you to know that this discussion (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by CST on Tue Aug 09, 2011 at 04:22:53 PM EST
    prompted a discussion with my sister this weekend in our real life as well.  Basically it was "how do we, as human beings, respond to personal crisis".

    A little background, her personal "crisis" moment was an internal crisis, being unhappy with who she was and where she was in her life. The "crisis" for me was more external, there was just a lot of bad $hit going on, death, sickness, job insecurity, etc...  This is especially relevant as her personality is to always feed off and react to things going on outside of herself in her life, she is very much a product of her environment, whatever that environment is.  For me, I tend to react to life from a strong sense of personal emotional control, in ways I rationalize my emotional responses.  That is to say, I feel because I think, not I think because I feel.  So for her to experiance an internal crisis and me to experience an external crisis, it forced us both to reflect on our lives in ways we aren't use to dealing with.  She no longer had anything to react to but herself, and I was dealing with things that were completely beyond my personal control, there was no decision to be made or action to take, all I could do was feel because I felt.

    When her life was in upheaval, my sister found religion.  A structure that provided both the why and the how to live.  Something to focus on, something to provide strength of self.  In her words "I was always Muslim I just didn't know what to call it until then".  But in my mind, she has always needed something to "call it", or at least a stable place to center herself and find answers.  It made her capable of dealing with herself because she finally had something to respond to.

    When my life shattered I found joy.  I don't know what else to call it really.  I started walking all over the city, wandering to get nowhere, just for the sake of breathing and living.  Or sitting on a beach just staring at waves crashing with the force of the earth behind them.  But ultimately, I "decided"/"felt" that the only way I could respond to life beyond my control was with pure joy and gratefullness to be alive, no matter what the circumstances.  It made me capable of dealing with the world again.

    And that's what this post reminds me of.  You respond to personal crisis with pure love of living and breathing.  It's not religion, because you don't need another "why" or "how".  Or maybe it's just a different kind of religion, because life itself is the why and the how.

    Oh and p.s. this is kind of similar to the "9 different posts I didn't post" in the original thread.  It's just that this weekend's discussion with my sister let me think out more what I was feeling.

    Wow. I want to read more and comment more. (none / 0) (#19)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Aug 09, 2011 at 06:34:30 PM EST
    But as I said in the open thread, I'm whipped tonight.

    Thank you for sharing. I found your post both inciteful and moving, and I hope for the best for you and your sister.

    I never thought my musings on cancer and what I'm going through would mean much to anyone but me. I thought these diaries would just be a catharsis of sorts.

    YOu folks make me want to be better at writing, and to write more!


    As one whose comments (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by oculus on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 09:15:15 AM EST
    got disappeared, I must say the current comments are very much more meaty. Is it Tues.
    yet in Alabama?  How goes it, Jeff?  

    I'm still weak from the biopsy. (none / 0) (#21)
    by jeffinalabama on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 10:48:44 AM EST
    No heavy lifting or straining for two days, and then back to normal. I hope to get results on Friday. If not then, Monday. But back to the gym Wednesday!

    Mad sympathy... (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by kdog on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 11:01:58 AM EST
    for the gross violations of the nether regions.  I love ya but I gots no empathy..I just can't put myself there in that awful assumed position.  Brutal.

    Kdog, get a PSA test at least. (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by jeffinalabama on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 12:41:17 PM EST
    It's a blood test, not a prostate test, for the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) that will let you know if you're at risk.

    My brother just had his checked, and it's 0.47...0-5 no worries.

    Mine went from 5-19 in 6 months, then 19-28 in a week.

    Get a baseline, and keep an eye on things. 35-44 year olds who get prostate cancer are much more likely to die from it than older folks... the more aggressive cancers present early, usually. Not the case with Tim Leary or Dennis Hopper, but Dan Fogelberg and Johnny Ramone.

    Please get the blood drawn for the PSA. It's just a needle in the arm. Check to see if Columbia Prespyterian has any studies going on... might be free!


    Good to see such PMA, (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by oculus on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 11:20:02 AM EST
    i.e., Positive Mental Attitude.

    Good thing... (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by kdog on Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 01:36:44 PM EST
    you spelled out that acronym...lots of ways that coulda been interpreted ending in "A".

    for all the folks whose comments (none / 0) (#2)
    by jeffinalabama on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 12:44:42 PM EST
    disappeared, I apologize again.

    You'll just have to volunteer again (none / 0) (#3)
    by MO Blue on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 02:12:35 PM EST
    to be the photographer for kdog and I when we start shooting spider webs.

    That was funny.


    The offer stands! (none / 0) (#4)
    by jeffinalabama on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 07:11:41 PM EST
    Site Violator! (none / 0) (#27)
    by Zorba on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 12:12:01 PM EST