Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Last Pre-Surgery Post

I always had the sneaking suspicion it would take a near-death experience to get me to live my life courageously.Though I don't actually know if the near-death experience was finding out about the aneurysm, if it will be the surgery to remove the aneurysm, or neither of the above. I don't know if my second chance comes after tomorrow or if it was the last three months.

(By the way, I also hope my near-death experience can serve as your own.)

During the first week after my diagnosis, I felt like I had nitro-glycerin in my head. Everything I did was coupled with the thought, "This could be the last time I..." And every time my photo album screen saver started, I had to quickly move the mouse and stop it. Felt too much like my life flashing before my eyes.

I also was motivated to "live in the now" and carpe the diem. I considered doing crazy things (some very sedentary but crazy things) and blaming them on the aneurysm.That didn't really pan out. But I woke up every day a little surprised. I savored every moment. I remember a very specific moment, when I was changing the kitchen garbage bag, thinking, "This might be the last time I change the kitchen garbage bag." What kind of last act would that be? I should have been grabbing life, not stretching an ill-fitting plastic bag, with both hands.

But I also realized that Hedonism is completely impractical. Someone has to change the garbage bag. Usually, it's Jamie. But that's beside the point.

Anyway, thinking about the time-bomb in my head, I was also very calm. I had found a Zen-like state, where I wasn't sweating the small stuff. Though there's a fine line between Zen and being emotionally unavailable. Still, I've been trying not to sweat the small stuff, while also acknowledging that the best things in life are small. Usually, they are moments. So we need to appreciate some small stuff while ignoring others. It's all about priorities and perspective.

If it isn't readily apparent, I so want to take something away from this experience. I don't want it to go to waste or lead to bitterness. I hope the same for you all. Call it clarity, call it purpose. But hopefully call it lasting and meaningful. It's so easy to get sucked back into the bad minutia, all the while neglecting the good minutia. Over these three months, I've definitely felt myself wax and wane between clarity of purpose and the blinders of everyday living.

I've cried twice, once at the beginning of this ordeal, once during the past few days. Which is really saying something, since I hadn't had a real cry in a good thirty years. I have to say, I don't like the sound it makes. I don't like feeling that out of control. It was way too visceral. I applaud anyone who can do so on a regular basis and remain a functioning member of society. Both times I cried, I was thinking about leaving my kids behind. I do not want to do that. I am going to do everything I can to prevent that.

But I've also seen how blessed I am by everything I have now. Never mind what I haven't yet accomplished. I have a ton now. I appreciate everything everyone has done or said for me and my family. All the well wishes, positive energy, prayers, whatever you want to call them. I'm not a religious person. I could follow that with, "but I do consider myself a spiritual person." I'm actually not sure I do. But I am a devout agnostic. There are too many unanswered questions to believe otherwise (like, what's on the other side of an expanding or contracting universe?).

You've made me feel accomplished -- knowing that I've touched people's lives in a positive way more often than not.

Hopefully, there will be more to come, more to say. But if things don't go well, I only ask that you continue to put positive energy (and deeds) toward my family. Lend them the support they'll need, as much as you are able. Of course, everyone still has their own lives to live.

My other request would simply be that you live your lives appreciating what you have. And, if you don't appreciate what you have, please do something to remedy that, would you please? If there's something you've been meaning to say or do, do it now. There will always be tomorrow, but not always for you. Of course, that's pretty limiting -- to only have grand ambitions and desires you can achieve in a moment. It's okay to plan for the future and work gradually toward a goal. Just make sure it's the goal you truly want. So even if there is no tomorrow, for you, you'll head off to... wherever... knowing that you lived your life on your terms. And so everyone else you leave behind will remember to do the same.

And please watch Cougartown (Wednesdays on ABC) and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (when it comes to DVD). They've both enriched my life; perhaps they'll do the same for you.


  1. OK, Ken. It's a deal. I adore you and I'm so glad you've been writing more. I'm thinking of you, all the time. EFS

  2. Kenny, thank you for writing this and sharing it with all of us tonight. I've been thinking of you and your family and will keep sending you all my best hopes and well wishes. - Gail/Haruko

  3. Tess says you're a shit head, and she loves you you fuckwad

  4. Ken, you've enriched my life. Before, during, and after this ordeal.

    I'll see you on the flip side of your surgery.

    Dan A

  5. Humbled & inspired..... thank you!


  6. Your stories remind me of the movie Pay it Forward - where people do good deeds for others, all in the spirit of passing the goodness along to others. I have heard so many people talk about how you have inspired them, helped them, made them appreciate all that they have, and that they have even shared your stories with people that don't even know you, all because you have moved us to a point where we just can't stop thinking about you, talking about you and appreciating you. I am one that believes that things happen for a reason Ken, and maybe the reason this horrible ordeal has happened to you is so that you can inspire us all to be better people that live in the moment and appreciate all that we have. I am just a work acquaitance Ken, but I am so thankful to be part of your life. Peace and hope...

  7. Wow...that is powerful. You never cease to amaze me Ken. I can't wait to see you soon.

  8. jill.portland@yahoo.com9:05 PM, September 29, 2010

    Sending lots of love to you and your family.

  9. Ken, I'm a little behind the curve here. Saw Katherine Belsey's post on Facebook and found your blog through that. I wish that you will return soon to full health, and I send prayers of support to you and your family.

    Meanwhile, your blog is a-ma-zing. I read the whole thing tonight. I laughed out loud at the book idea for "I Got Your Nose and Other Practical Jokes to Play on Children". And with my dry sense of humor, it's really saying something when I laugh out loud. Usually I just smile and say "That's funny".

    You are such a gifted writer (which is something I still remember from our freshman year of college - I don't remember much from those years, but I do recall a paper you wrote that seemed to me to be perfect).

    So, I send all good wishes to you and your loved ones. Get well soon and keep writing.

    All the best,
    Elyse (your classmate from Brown)