In traversing the landscape we call life there are, for most of us, many alternatives from which to choose.  In some cases very simple, straightforward and more so, with clear differentiation between good and bad.  In some cases they are choices between two, seemingly equal, ‘goods’.  In other cases we face two things, two options, neither of which are very salient, both of which, when selected, will cause us some degree of pain.  Within my journey through life I’ve faced many choices, friends, where to live, cancer treatments and relationships.  In many cases the decision is made for us, simple and undeniable, at least as viewed by us.  It was that way for me with my divorce, clearly something that was inevitable, but something decided by my now ex-wife making the decision.  From my perspective it was a good decision, it was, for all intents and purposes, time to part ways, something I realized once the proverbial smoke cleared.  Cancer was certainly not my choice.  Some think my cancer treatments were lofty choices, choices between life and death, between living several years or many.  For me, cancer was easy, it was simply a matter of looking at the facts, reviewing the data and selecting that which, for me, held the greatest promise.  Relationships, like that of my marriage, hold more, much more; they harbor depth of emotion and with that become less about the facts and more about emotions.

Those of us who are older likely remember the duet of Simon and , one of the more prominent folk rock teams of the late sixties and early seventies.  In recalling their music I look to one particular piece, a song called “I am a Rock”; it was, for a large portion of my life, my mantra.  The line, “I’ve built walls, a fortress deep and mighty, that none may penetrate” resonated in my being and protected me from all outside forces, all things that could hurt, and, as it turned out, bring happiness.  In those times life was easier for me because in keeping with the mantra I held few really close relationships and none of the commensurate responsibilities.  Life then offered a straightforward existence, one where I simply lived for myself, owing nothing to anyone.  As it goes with the Lynyrd Skynyrd song, ‘Simple Man’, so was my life.  However, over time, the weather of life eroded my walls, bringing them to crumble and collapse.  While I remain a ‘Simple Man’ at my core. I’ve now layered in relationship complexities and all associated with them.

My recent decision to withdraw from the mainstream, to hunker down and consolidate, to recharge absent all others, I found the solace I sought, at least in part.  It seems that while I attempted to withdraw, others came reaching out to me and my attempts to rebuke them came with mixed responses.  Some accepted, but could not understand my need to withdraw, to find myself in the wake of my disease, of my life, and all they yield.  Others failed to understand or accept, interpreting my withdrawal as building walls, of digressing to earlier days and attempting to bury feelings with raucous humor.  In the end, it came down to none understanding me, none really understanding the ‘simple man’, but rather a series of attempts to impose and apply their own values, their own paradigms into mine.  It was, for the most part, quite revealing of others at the same time, of myself.

Those who know me, know I am often making jokes about my disease, about the probable submission to it and the many inconveniences it imposes on me.  Some see jokes as walls, devices to protect myself from the realities of my disease and the ramifications of its advance.  Nothing could be further from the truth because, in my view, the hideousness of my disease is only explained as being a joke, a colossal joke life played on me.  It came with a vengeance and with no prior warnings; nothing in my familial history suggested prostate cancer as being even a remote possibility, yet here it is and here it is in about as aggressive a form as is possible.  How can one not see my situation as some sort of ‘big joke’, a calamity of sorts.  That is how I see things and how I treat my situation; it makes sense to me and never involved walls.

So here I am, with relationships developed over time, deepened with time and openness.  And so also are the responsibilities to those in my life.  It seems inescapable, that even though I withdraw, that I terminate communications, they linger, they remain present.  As one person pointed out that while communications ceased, they remain in the past, the present and the future; they are, inescapable.      

Prior to my cancer, and more so before my walls eroded, the approach to life was very straightforward – withdraw, reconcile, recalibrate and return whenever ready and if welcomed.  In the past, time was of no real consequence, it mattered not because, sans getting hit by a bus, there was no imminent threat to my life.  In the past there was no question, whether it took 2 months or five years, I would be around to return, that I could reenter the life, or lives, of those left and in some cases, find new lives to enter.  However, life has thrown a bit of a curve to me, it has, perhaps intentionally, made such an escape more challenging, perhaps it is forcing me to work through my issues, to recalibrate while sustaining relationships, to find the balance and to carry on.  Perhaps life is telling me that if I really care for those in my life that, when faced with my own dilemmas or conflicts, or those with others in my life, I will, without bleeding beyond myself, find a way to heal, to reconcile.  I’ve thought about this, considered it for some time now and have, in my way, concluded that if the latter is the case, life is playing another joke by testing the bounds of my limits and, perhaps in some ways, testing the very fabric of my being.  Perhaps all of this is simply the character of life, that by design it finds comedy, in all situations, that it presents irony, perhaps a dilemma, and in doing so chooses to challenge us, to tempt our ability to expand beyond our normal bounds, to, dare I say, evolve.

Happy reading, happy thoughts and happy trails.

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