Thursday, March 24, 2016

Message in a not-a-bottle

Whew boy.

According to Blogspot, I've made 142 posts... in a row. No breaks. No missed weeks. In. A. Row.

I think that, through the vagaries of Blogspot's counting system, that number has actually gone down more than once, but I'm not sure and even so... Them's a lot of words. And, as I've said before, it's your doing- good, bad or indifferent, there wouldn't have been as many if it wasn't for you with you flippin' complements, your flippin' encouragement and your flippin' obvious interest in what I have to say.

By the way, the use of the word flippin' in these instances is derived from the manner in which the word is used in the Central Lowlands area of Scotland where I grew up. I've been led to believe this is the same way the word is used here on the far East Coast of the United States. Small world, ain't it?

It's no secret that I began writing this blog as part of my own way of dealing with the shock of being diagnosed with cancer. I saw it as an extension of the journaling I have done off and on through the years; a way of putting down these words in the hope that they might lead me to those words that, in the end, better tell what I'm reaching for, better explain how I'm feeling.

And that's true, as far as it goes. But, here's a true truth (and this is where you come in)... if I was still writing it principally for me, there wouldn't have been 143 in. A. Row. I believe I wrote something similar after 56 or so, and after 112 or so, and may well write the same thing again should the string continue.

A couple of paragraphs back, I wrote about the shock of cancer, and if you've had it, regardless of the type, you know that shock is the word. There should be a bigger, more horrifying word, but there isn't, so shock it is. But this type of shock is hardly the exclusive property of people with cancer. I know you've all had a diagnosis of something or other that has shocked you- pregnancies (planned or unplanned), heart ailments, brain ailments, and I can pretty much say from secondhand experience, broken bones.

But once the shock period passes... The writing issue reflects what happens in real life. When first diagnosed, people flock to your side, usually bringing food and offers to do anything they can to help. This phase is crucial for all of us when we're broken, regardless of how... and we need to let people help. It's selfish not to, even though you, like us, were probably brought up to automatically decline any offer of help.

But then, people wander back to their own lives, their own challenges. They're no less willing to help, the offers just become unspoken. The burden of getting help shifts to us because now we have as..as...ask for h...he...help.

You still have the issue, whatever it might be, but much of the time the only person you have to talk about it with is you, and usually in the wee hours of the morning. Look, my wife doesn't like it much when I talk about being alone with my big brain in the middle of the night. She wants... no, expects, me to wake her up and talk about it. But, since she, too, has to live with my cancer every waking moment, I'm unwilling to wake her up just so she can listen to my jumble of unformed thoughts, budding fears and a visit to the crypt of messes that is my brain at 3 am. Man, there are spiders in there! Big ones!

So this creates, for me, the perfect opportunity to skip a week in my writing, especially since so many people read what I have to say in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel where other needs sometimes preclude them from running my column. They have been absolutely wonderful about sharing my work with you and have played a pivotal role in reaching my overall goal: bringing hope and encouragement to as many people as possible. Sometimes, though, there are more important things they want to share with their readers and that makes perfect sense to me.

I have always written a blog, regardless. Again, if I skip once, skipping twice becomes easier. I was shuffling up to another of those decisions this week. I haven't been feeling well, at all, and... what harm could it do to skip a week? Then I get this voicemail (I am paraphrasing some, but never around the intent): “...Sorry you haven't been feeling so well, but there is a lot of support for you out here, even though we don't know you, have never met you. Please keep your blog going.” There was no name. No phone number. Just that heartfelt message.

So... 143.

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