Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Epilogue two

It's four o'clock and all's not well in my private circle of hell
Through a Long and Sleepless Night - The Divine Comedy

Middle age spread

Myeloma typically interrupts jobs and careers. Being self employed, that was a little different for me. But it has had significant effect on my work none the less. Firstly it has caused long gaps when I have been unable to work at all. I haven’t worked since September last year, and I don’t think I’ll be ready for anything until somewhere in the spring, so this time round it has cost me 18 months. Secondly, maybe more importantly, it has made me think again about the work I want to do.

Our holiday this summer gave me plenty of time sitting on the terrace of a hotel, beside the beach, under a blue sky. It reminded me of so many places I have worked in the past; running training courses, or facilitating workshops. Those jobs I loved at the time, and I like to think I was pretty good at them too. But it is 10 years since that was the bread and butter of my work, and I cannot imagine going back to a time when that would be the core of what I did. In fact, I’m old enough to look at my career and see a progression of things I have done and moved on from. What matters more than anything is having a sense of where one is now, and where one is going. When I set up my business, I wrote on my website that “Yesterday is history… Largely irrelevant.” Partly, that was aimed at offending a few history grads, but it also expressed a truth. We have only today, and our hopes for tomorrow.

It’s not just work. Up until the point of starting a family, life’s goals seem obvious. Somewhere after all the nappies, once the children are at school and emerging as people in their own right, one faces the realisation that there’s still living to be done, but you’ve reached the edge of the map. It’s the stuff of midlife crises, I guess.

Our holiday resort this summer ran a regular series of cycling events, in order to attract a specific demographic of holidaymakers. As a result there were quite a few MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra) around. I don’t think I’d have been in any danger of becoming one of those, even without myeloma, and it would be easy to mock the tendency to overdevelop hobbies. But I do recognise that it is one way people find of resolving the riddle.

I don’t have a solution to offer. I’m working on it for myself. But certainly not going to pretend I have achieved any kind of life-guru enlightenment where I think I have anything much to tell anyone else about how to grow old, if not gracefully, then at least interestingly.

What I can say though, is that I’ve learned that it’s no good blaming everything that befalls me, in particular the search for meaning, on my myeloma. It is a thing, admittedly a big thing, but still just one thing, in my life. Many of the questions I find myself facing, would have been asked of me anyway. To credit any disease with complete influence over one’s life would be to give it far too much power. It helps, often, to remember that, and put the cancer in its place.

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