Monday, April 07, 2008


Compartmentalize - to seperate into isolated compartments or categories
-Webster's Ninth Collegiate Dictionary

The first time I heard that term was when actor Jennifer Garner (character - double agent Sidney Bristow in the TV series Alias) used it to describe her life working undercover for the CIA while serving as an operative for an illegal rogue organization. Since she led a double life where her father and boyfriend also served as agents for the CIA, she had to hide the truth from her friends and coworkers who unknowingly worked for what they thought was a legit crime cracking sector of the government. The constant scheme was emotionally taxing so how she dealt with the demands for secrecy was to detach her feelings by compartmentalizing her thoughts. Of course this was not always easy and there would be times when emotions ran high to the point of being overwhelming. I reached that apex last Thursday and the hard reality of the situation hit like a boulder falling on one's head.

For the most part, compartmentalizing is how I cope. Prior to my first surgery I was left with feelings of incredible anguish. At times I would be at the gym at very late hours. I am not even sure what time it was but it must have been late as I was one of the very few people if any there. On one occassion I thought I was the only person in the locker room. After sitting on the bench for a few minutes in a dazed stupor, I broke down crying without any tears. Finally, I turned around to find a cleaning lady scurrying around and then was embarassed for fear she might have noticed (and discovered) me.

In order to get through these intense emotions so that I could concentrate on my preparation for surgery, I had to often detach myself personally from what I was going through. When doing research on surgeons and medical procedures and to comprehend the terminology, I took on the perspective of science student as I had learned back in college. Further, due my study of science and then teaching science, I was able to confront my search for a treatment and surgeon the same way I would approach a scientific problem through inquiry. When compiling the questions and attending consultations, my approach was as if I had been given a scientific research project.

After the surgery the focus became training and preparing for the next surgery. So there are always goals and projects to occupy my mind (and body). However, every so often there will be a frustration/an obstacle (such as the impossible task of contacting a government office over the phone to take care of an important matter) which will inflict the painful sting of who I am and what I face. Then for awhile I will be sad and angry about what has been taken, what more there may be to lose, and what limitations have been placed upon me not only making my life challenging but also creating lots of turmoil for Harley to contend with as well (even though he does an excellent job and is a great advocate for me).

It is only inevitable and natural that either of us should hit a ceiling at some point. When it happens we just need time to be human....time to let it pass. For a short bit (such as Thursday morning) I will cry and feel sorry for myself and be angry. Then it will occur to me that I need to experience this phase every now and then to wake up to the reality of what is. In order to become motivated to do something about it, I have to see and understand. If life were just perfect, I would view it through a narrow lens unaware of where help is needed.

It is not fun to live with thoughts of one's own mortality, tumors growing in the brain and body, but the idea of living a shallow and aloof life sickens me.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Oodles of ((HUGS))