Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Million-dollar question

So this afternoon, I'm wondering... whence cometh the darkness that surrounds me? Exactly what is it that's getting me down?

The Disease? (Too bad I've only got "bold" and "italic," I'd love to set those two words in shaky type) Actually, by itself, no. Things malfunction. That's happened before, for other reasons. Some of it was bound to happen, anyway... human condition, behold all flesh is as the grass, and all that. Sucks, but it happens, and the older you get, the easier it is (usually) to deal with "age," because the older you get, the more experience you get dealing with "sucks, but it happens," in all its forms.

Loss of the ability to manifest things in the world. This, I think, is what's hardest to take. It's that I can't "do" things any more.

I used to do woodworking. It's ok (sort of) to "not have the time," certainly ok if the reason you don't have the time is that you're having fun doing something else... It's ok to have decided "I don't do that any more," but to be unable to do it? To not be able to lift wood onto the bench or the tools, to control it on the table saw, to stand/walk around the tools while they're in operation and operate them safely? I used to build cabinetry. Shelving. Tables. Sets for the high school... I single-handedly built, and scenic-painted, a kitchen as the set for Ibsen's play "Ghosts" in the school's black-box theater. (Well, it's "realism," how much more "real" do you get than a kitchen?) Lord knows there are things in the house that need fixing... but to have woodworking and construction of all kinds removed from my list of "things I can do?" That's hard.

I used to do gardening. I redid several areas of the front yard, I had added some nice granite stones to the rose bed, I had started planting all sorts of camellias (even had created a "formal section" of plants that have "formal" flowers. I regularly grew all sorts of edible goodies—tomatoes, strawberries, unusual seeds like the "black cumin" used in Ethiopian cooking. Now, I can barely water plants in pots on the back porch, and I'm not sure I can manage to deal with the hose simply to water in the front yard. Again, caring for the plants I love has been taken off my list of "things I can do."

Let's not even talk about kyudo. Tote-renshu, barehanded practice, no problem. The bow? Well, I'm only now brave enough to try to draw it again, but to do it standing? The way you're "supposed" to do it? Not a chance.

A perfect storm of other people's retirement. I used to write tons of music for the Caltech theater program. Three shows a year sometimes, always of wildly different styles... and always one Shakespeare play (which was itself always wildly different from previous shows)—for example, "Spring Comes to Arden" for As You Like It, or "Banquo's Ghost" for Macbeth. I even produced a CD of my work with them, and even got it up on iTunes. But alas, I don't do it any more; the director retired, her replacement has his own style, his own ideas about what kinds of plays to produce; he doesn't need me.

I used to write tons of music for a conductor in Orange County. Sometimes I'd write for his church, which on most Sundays used a big brass ensemble, and at least twice a year did major programs with a fifty-piece orchestra; often I'd play percussion or drum set (or both) in whatever group was performing; very often I'd play the organ, and also very often I'd do both (or all three) during the same show. Produced a CD of my work with them, and even got it up on  iTunes. Sometimes I'd write for his college chorus—for example, this setting of "Hail Gladsome Light" (in which you can hear yours truly playing the cymbal crashes—something else I can't do from a standing position any more). Well, this conductor retired too. His replacement was interested in completely different kinds of music, nothing nearly as "classical" as his predecessor; he doesn't need me.

I know that not being needed by people who are interested in things that are different than what I do has nothing to do with "the quality of me." (Took me a while, a painful while, to get there, but I think that's where I'm living right now.) But the disappearance of opportunity... that's hard to take.

Could I still write music like that? Of course. Could I get it performed? Well... I dunno, but certainly not as easily as it once was. Am I motivated to write all sorts of music that'll never be heard, just for the joy of writing it? Ah... That's a very interesting question. And the answer is... no. Not now, at least. Is it because of The Disease? Possibly... but also possibly not. Like so many things M.S.-ical, there may be no knowing the definite answer to that.

A perfect storm at my current employer. I think it's safe to say that we've... grown apart. People change, organizations change, what used to be an at least reasonable fit isn't a fit any more, and that chapter of the story is at an end. Again, I know that not being needed by people who are interested in things that are different than what I offer has nothing to do with the "quality of me." But here it is, another major change, much of it due to The Disease, but much of it also due simply to the vicissitudes of life.

So we see a pattern, here: perfect storm upon perfect storm. At the center of the storm—the disappearance of opportunity. With the disappearance of opportunity has also come the absence of energy to create new beginnings; and because of The Disease, I don't have the energy to seek or create opportunity—I don't even have the physical ability to do simple things that'd give me sunshine and fresh air, like watering the garden.

Now, here's the million-dollar question... so, all this stuff has ended, does that mean I've got the freedom to make a Great New Start? Chronologically, perhaps, but energy to make that new start?

Alas... no. I've got no gumption, no inspiration, no motivation, no nothing. Frankly, I'll be very, very grateful to pack it in and put my major efforts (what few may be available) into recovery. And given my current M.S.-"inspired" state, I think that's actually a very wise thing to do. I look at employment "opportunity" after opportunity, and all I see are lists of things I can't do. Things that I know how to do, yes, but things that I just plain can't, thank you very much, M.S. Hardly a motivation builder, that.

Is this enforced sidelining another gift of M.S.? Being forced to withdraw from the world, and do nothing but seek whatever Truth can only be found by having no other choice but to go within?

That... is the million-dollar question, isn't it?


Katja said...

I don't know the right Zen way to put this, but a period of nothingness right now doesn't mean there will be nothing forever. Something will emerge later. We just don't know what it will be.

Robert Parker said...

I agree with you completely. The M.S. Highway is replete with, if nothing else, unpredictability. Very much like life, that way...

And you said it quite properly Zen-ly, too. Attaching to your projections of the desired, imagined reality is not as Zen-ly as accepting reality as you experience it, in whatever state you experience it.

That's definitely a gift of M.S. Very much like life, too... Funny how that works out, ain't it?

Heidi said...

Well said, man. Sometimes I need to be reminded of the can dos, instead of the cant dos. But, admittedly, it's rough