Chris Bateman’s Lockdown Diary: Chapter 4: Self-sufficiency
Continuing my cancer-evoked theme of gifts coming wrapped in strange packages, it strikes me how proud FaceBook correspondents are of their Covid-19-induced lock-down adjustments and adaptations – call it ‘self-sufficiency-bragging,’ if you will. They almost equal the whiners and false-news peddlers.
As I fill a 10-litre bucket from my 50 000 litre, roof-drained water tank, I feel the satisfaction of knowing that something I did is reducing my water bill. But more than that, it taps into a primal, return-to-basics, pioneering disposition. The schlep of carrying and carefully pouring water into my downstairs toilet flush-tank, (upstairs we use a large, flexible, double-grip shower bucket), is nullified by an overall sense of gratification. Not to mention that I need to piddle at least every two hours from the three litres of water I consume daily to keep my kidney flushed and healthy, diluting my weekly cytotoxic infusions. Before I’m accused of suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Urination Disorder, (OCUD), having lightly and with some amusement flushed this out in an earlier blog, let me turn to matters more cerebral.
As in how I do I feel, faced by Stage One Esophageal Cancer (diagnosed last November and entering my 18th chemotherapy session prior to a four-hour operation, hopefully this June – if my hospital is not overrun, that is, by Covid patients)? A bit driven, actually, is my answer. As in dancing to the wickedly deceptive old tune of, “I have to, or else.”1 My time may be cut short. Am I ready to die or not? Fundamental, diverging paths, sharply presented by a psychologist friend and former journalist. No, I’m not ready, dammit! Even though the former option is hopefully based on a Buddhist (or Christian or Muslim, come to think of it), approach to our existence. Given that I want to live through this, attending to my bucket list, my ways of being and creatively coping, which could slow down that inexorable oncoming train, perhaps sufficient to see me into my old age, my friend suggests. Surely at 63, that’s not too much to ask? Back to my driven-ness, that fly in the sacred ointment, the ever-present shadow, ready to cast itself over me whenever I get reactive to daily small unwelcome events, especially when I’m chemo-fatigued (though that excuse has worn thin)…I mean, just my two pre-teenage daughters coming into my office for the fourth time in as many minutes seeking affirmation or advice, or my wife talking inaudibly to me from some distant part of the house, can get under my skin – if I allow it. And boy, is it tempting!
Don’t they know that;
I ‘have to’ triple my income to cover the zero-cash-flow during the impending two-month operation and recuperation period, “or else – they’ll suffer?’
Or else; ‘we’ll bleed dry the provisional tax savings temporarily servicing my home bond account?” The list is long, tedious and paralyzing. It feeds my fears and I get into this dull, overwhelmed, passive mode; resentful and angry; playing out a victim drama.
Instead of saying; “I choose to, because I am…”2
I choose to call my better healthcare contacts built up over 16 years as a medical reporter, because I am well-liked, respected and have integrity, love my family deeply and have the ability to make this happen. I am innately loving and care deeply for greater equity and connection in the world. My friends, family and contacts can sense this in my language and actions. I could go on, but you get the idea. I even have a crowd-funding Plan B, honestly stating my short-term needs, unhindered by pride, being the main bread-winner, the stigma of not having ‘enough’. Clean fuel for living, versus dirt in the valves, pistons and cylinder walls, not to mention the radiator (sorry, OCUD-speak sneaked in there).
It’s a daily battle. Sometimes I win it, I often lose it. But it’s worth fighting for, because of the kind of father, journalist and person I want to be. I don’t want to wait until my last mortal moment (which my mind omnipotently forecasts will be on the operating table, joking with the surgeons pre-anaesthesia), to start a negotiation with God about how I’ll be if He spares me. Why not seize the day now? And forgive myself when I lose the plot.
Citations; 1 and 2: The More to Life Program; designed by theologians/psychologists with copyright; Drs Bradford Brown and Roy Whitten.