For a while now, I’ve been going through stuff, trying to pare down. As I noted in another blog,
There are two reasons for my concern with my own accumulation of things, although they do merge at a future point. First is the rational goal of simplifying my life. Owning fewer possessions, wanting less, living a smaller life, being happy with less, eschewing acquisitiveness, spending less, preparing for a less “thing-filled” aging. Preparing for a simpler life leads quite naturally to the impending task of preparing for my death.
So, of course, as I go through ‘stuff’ I’ve come across dozens of small notebooks, filled with musings, which are mostly headed for the trash heap, but which contain a few lines worth saving. It startles me, although it shouldn’t, not really, that I have had a consistent way of viewing life, death, and the rest of it, pretty much the same for many decades. Here is a passage in which I wonder how a person with cancer goes through the machine that is the medical system. It was about 2002, and I was going through the mass-market experience of having a breast biopsy at the time.
Another view of my left breast
Is there a small window where they talk to you or is the whole experience spent alone, wondering what’s next? Today I don’t believe I have cancer, I’m just needing a routine biopsy. But why would I need a biopsy if everything were ‘routine’. It seems impossible that everyone in this place could be so casual about cancer. Yet there is a subtle undercurrent in which I hear the ambiguity of everything they are doing–they just don’t have a clue. Someone says, It could very well be something. So if ‘something’ is cancer and ‘nothing’ is not cancer, that what else could this experience represent? Why does no one talk to me? Even the ones who make chit-chat aren’t actually talking with me.
It could be that they talk to you when you are being treated for cancer, in those infusion rooms, or in the oncologist’s office, when a diagnosis is in hand and hope exists within the system for your survival. Then they probably stop talking again when treatment begins to fail. They don’t have much to say then.
Don’t I talk to my patients when they are dying? Of course I do. I never ever didn’t talk to my patients. But of course, these people who don’t talk aren’t attached to me in the way I allow myself to become attached to my patients.
On the other hand, I have spoken to exactly no one about this biopsy. I feel that there is nothing to say. If I have cancer, I would want to think I would talk about it openly with everyone and write about it as well. But the ambiguity in the system appears to be muzzling me as well as it muzzles them. And if they won’t tell me anything, what is there to say?
again, i am moved by this frank discussion of what the biopsy may mean. the analysis of the medical machine: the way the cogs move when there is hope, stop when there isn’t. & then suddenly the patient’s voice becomes the doctor’s voice: do i talk to my patients when they are dying? this clearing the way for an attachment-free death, for passage from this container, this body, this house of stuff to another realm. thank you.