Friday, January 10, 2014

Is life interesting, or what?

The tragedy is are you gonna spend the rest of your nights with the light on?

Shine the light on all of your friends...

I... I won't worry my life away.

The Remedy (I Won't Worry)

Jason Mraz

I'm not a big believer in coincidences. I believe things happen for a reason, when and how they're supposed to. I've felt that way for a long time, but never more so than in the last four or five years.

If I don't believe that, then I must believe in luck. If I believe in luck, then I have to divide it into good luck and bad luck. If I believe in good luck and bad luck, then I must believe that getting cancer was simply bad luck and that, sisters and brothers, just ain't gonna happen.

I got cancer because I had one malignant cell that became two that became four and so on until not only did I have cancer, but a type of cancer I'd never even heard of before Sept. 6, 2013, when my general practitioner said he was fairly sure I had contracted multiple myeloma and launched me on this journey.

But this belief in things happening for a reason has developed over a long period of time.

If I just look back to, say, 2008, when I lost my job at Wright Express in South Portland. I loved working there and I loved the people I worked with and for. As the last manager hired, when cuts had to be made... My round-trip car trip to work was 160 miles a day. It took, on average, 85 minutes a day. The truth was that my health was suffering because of that alone, but I never would have quit. If you worked with the people there that I did, you'd know why.

Now, little did I know I was going to be out of work for almost years during the worst economy since the Great Depression. Yikes! During that time, my job was finding a job. I interviewed at a lot of places for jobs that weren't really what I wanted to do. I even worked part-time as a volunteer for the U.S. Census. Don't get me started on that one!

Somehow we managed to keep our heads above water financially (smoke and mirrors?, but things were getting pretty desperate and my confidence wasn't what it had been. I don't remember the date, but one morning Sheri and I decided it was time to try to be rehired by the call center where I had worked before Wright Express. I left as a manager, and on good terms. The position I had was cut, so...

I dropped off my application and by the time I got home, an hour or so later, I already had an email saying I was not to fit to be rehired. What? A couple of phone calls solved that mystery. Two of the boxes on my exit paperwork covered whether I was fit to be rehired or not. Yeah, somebody checked the wrong box. And, again, yeah, it would take a few days to fix. Days to fix.

About two hours after all that noise, I got a call from the man who would become my boss at the Kennebec Journal asking if I could come in for a conversation about a position they thought I might be good for. What? Why? Shut the front door. Newspapers have always been my first love, but I thought that ship had sailed.

You're not likely to see a transcript of that interview in ANY book on how to land a job. I hadn't worked in newspapers in 13 years; I had designed pages on computers, but not on the software they had; we'd used PCs not Macs. There wasn't a question asked that I gave the textbook answer to, really. I couldn't. I wasn't going to lie, though it did cross my mind...out of work 2 years, crappy economy, returning to answering phones at a call center? Sue me.

But I got the job and all of a sudden the 2 years made sense, at least to me. It was not a coincidence; it wasn't some sort of cosmic test. It was the time it took for the job to become available and my resume to be noticed.

Then of course, there was my discovering I had cancer. I've told the story before, but I think it bears repeating in this context. The Saturday of Labor Day weekend I was doing some yard work, and it wasn't even on my honey do list. I was attacked by a swarm of wasps, stung 15 times, and cracked one of my ribs either swatting at them or running into something hard in my attempt to get away from them.

The pain from my rib was what got me to the doctor, who sent me for x rays which showed lesions he and the doctor who looked at them felt had likely been caused by multiple myeloma. I have since read that only about 100,000 people in America suffer from it. Was it good luck the doctors recognized it and bad luck that I had it? Feel free to believe it was because maybe it was. Me, I know in my heart that it happened now for a reason.

Lest this turns into another Epistle to the Maininites, let me explain the Jason Mraz quote. I had never watched the show “Storytellers,” but skipping through for something to watch, I saw Jason Mraz was on and I think he's amazing. As the title of the show would suggest, he was telling the stories behind some of his songs. I landed on the channel just as the started to talk about “The Remedy.” Turns out he wrote it for a friend of his who had cancer. People who loved the guy were upset, of course, and worried sick. Mraz noticed the only one who seemed okay about it was his friend who said “I refuse to worry my life away. I'm going to do what the doctors tell me to do, otherwise I'm going to live each day the best I can.” Yeah.

On the surface, a small example, I suppose,.but it actually speaks to the core of my belief in things happening for a reason. There is no way I should have seen that show. The odds against it were astronomical, but I did and it was one of the little encouragements I continue to get each day as long as I continue to look for them.

And, oh yeah... Jason Mraz's friend's cancer had been in remission for ten years at the time the show was recorded.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”