Jay Lake: Writer

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[Cancer, Personal]

[personal|cancer] Getting through another tough night

and I are off to Seattle shortly, for ‘s party, then social time with and . A whirlwind tour, back to Portland tomorrow afternoon, then she flies home to San Francisco at 0:dark:stupid Monday. and I will follow on Boxing Day.

Difficult night last night for me in cancerland. I’ve been oversleeping and napping a lot, as part of the healing process. My body decided about 1 am that it had had enough sleep, and I spent a couple of hours rattling around. Both sides are extremely uncomfortable to lie on, due to the two recent surgeries, so I tend to go to my back, which is an unnatural sleeping position. I wound up in the lounger in the living room, where I could at least cradle my body in a more comfortable position. I’m not in a lot of pain, but the discomfort borders on the extreme.

Awake, I was having weird anxiety thoughts. Last night, had been reading about one of my high school classmates in The New Yorker. I’d said something mopey about never being famous enough for The New Yorker, she gave me a funny look and pointed out we never would have met if I hadn’t been a well-known public person, given that we met at a conference she came to in part to work with me as an instructor. I had to laugh at that. Still, the thoughts came back to me in the night. I’d given up reading my high school almuni newsletter in my mid-twenties, when I was a low level grunt in the advertising field, and my classmates were making their debut on the London stage or becoming directors of investment banks in the Caymans or whatever. That’s the thing about going to a very academically competitive, very exclusive private school — most of the folks around you are loaded with privilege and brains, which is a hell of a combination. Frankly, I’m loaded with both too, not pleading any kind of poverty here, but the ladder runs much higher than my rung, and we all have that human tendency to look up.

So look up I did last night, and feel somewhat sad and sorry for myself. Add to this the string of minor domestic disasters of late (the moth infestation, the plumbing problems, the burning of the garlic bread last night, the hidden water somewhere in my car…) and I have plenty to be grumpy about if I let myself. This morning on our walk, and I discussed that line of thought. I am, of course, prima facie an idiot. My social media presence reaches about 5,000 people every day. Tens of thousands of people read my fiction. The me of ten years ago would have gazed in envious awe at the career I have today. Human nature being what it is, we always stand at the center as the world moves around us. I often need to be reminded that I am special. She does this for me, brilliantly.

Meanwhile, when I did sleep, I had some pretty classic anxiety dreams. My brother had died, in my dream, of a rather strange accident, and I was so drug-addled I kept forgetting this. My parents were trying to keep it together for me in my cancer-ridden state. And so we went round in a little parade of misery, most of this theatre of the emotion taking place on the Portland MAX train in my dreamland. Then my teeth started falling out unexpectedly.

I don’t need a Joseph to interpret that dream. Oneiromancy is second nature to any competent writer, it’s what we do on the page after all. Still, that was interwoven with my anxieties about my life. When I finally did give up and rise from the chair, everything hurt. Luckily, my temperament and lifestyle have equipped me to think in layers without unhealthy compartmentalization, so I am able to recognize that except for the pain in my left and right chest, I feel pretty good, and respond accordingly. Part of the journey of cancer is managing the things that pop into my head, and keeping myself on track.

Seattle beckons now, and we are close to being later than we mean, so I am off. I will see some of you later today. Regular blogging service may be interrupted tomorrow, due to traveling back, but we shall see. In any event, y’all play nice while I’m gone.

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