I fell down a well a couple weeks ago. It was cold, dark, damp and uncomfortable. Sting wasn’t available to dig me out (obscure simpsons reference) so I was left to luck and my own devices to myself get out. I was limited by the well’s steep walls and my insurmountable physical anemia. People could yell down to me and I could hear their words bounce and echo all around my cylindrical tomb, but it didn’t help the loneliness. One day, to my chagrin, I felt raindrops being sucked into my tiny hole in the world. The rain kept falling and the water started to rise at my feet. At first I was too tired, ill and depressed to do anything but passively float. The water continued to fill the well and lift me up with it. Eventually I couldn’t just float anymore and I had to start treading water. I was an active participate now on my skyward ride to freedom. When I climbed out of the top of the well I saw all of the people in my life who support me were standing around holding buckets and hoses. The sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
That’s my attempt to allegorically explain my uncharacteristic silence over the last few weeks. The first session of my outpatient chemo hit me hard. It took a couple of weeks but my body started to react to the chemical warfare brigade. The regimen is designed to destroy cells that replicate quickly like hair follicles, stomach lining and cancer. This left me with the silky smooth legs of a professional model and the bulimia symptoms of a professional model and the negative body self image of a professional model and the life crushing depression of a professional model. Add to this the debilitating pain I felt in my entire central nervous system as a result of one too many intrathecal chemo injections. For those of you that don’t remember, that’s when they tap my spine and spray chemo drugs inside of it. The headaches became so bad that I couldn’t stand up without experiencing migraine caliber pain.
It was a bad couple of weeks. I spent a lot of time in a fetal position on the couch and a lot of time treating my toilet as kleenex and blowing my runny butt into it with the frequency of a head cold. I couldn’t walk up the stairs without having to lie down once I reached the top to catch my breath, nor could I fry an egg until completion before I had to sit on a stool to recoup. I was physically useless and my limitations started to fester in my brain. I began to get upset with myself and the situation and became grumpy and depressed. I did not want to be down in that well, but I was at the point where I couldn’t get out on my own.
It was a pretty bad time to be down there, too. My life was just starting to get back to normal, which means it was getting busy as hell. In the span of three weeks I moved into our new house, returned to work full time from home, had to plan the Everybody Get’s Leucky fundraiser party and organize the adult sports league that I operate. I was too busy to be folded between the cushions of my couch or suctioned to a terlet.
At first I neglected my duties and allowed myself to float along with the rising water. Thankfully Liana was there to help keep my head above water otherwise I probably would have drowned. She had to work twice as hard during our move because I was about as physically useful as overcooked pasta. I’m endlessly thankful that she was there to help me, but also terrified of the payback in the event that she gets pregnant. There will be more pampers than at the diaper factory.
It might have appeared that the water in my allegory was actually the support of my friends and family, but it actually represents something more important and helpful to me: my obligations to them. Sending support down the well would have been dropping pillows and sandwiches to make my stay liveable and slightly more tolerable, but it would have done nothing to get me out.
A person who has no obligation to anything other than himself has no reason to live. We need to be productive to something other than ourselves. This urge governs our desire to reproduce, to be creative, to care for others and to participate in society in general.
This reminds me of one of the scariest experiences I’ve ever had. It happened while I was coming out of my cognitive episode in the hospital in early March. My brain had to relearn the world as the parts of it that had previously checked out during the frontal lobe governed crisis mode turned back on. I remember trying to make sense of where I was and what I was doing. At one point I truly believed that I was dead or at least in a coma in which my consciousness was doomed to live only in my small hospital room. When I tried to test the limits and leave my room, I was told by the nurse that I wasn’t allowed to do so. I asked her what I was supposed to do, and answered “stay here until you get better.”
She had no idea that I was struggling to understand the basic principles of reality at the time, so she didn’t understand that this would make me believe that I was actually in a coma and that the world that she and I were inhabiting was a limited simulacrum of reality. I thought I would live in that eternal loop without the ability to contact the outside world and thus sit there with no purpose for eternity. My subjectivity was trapped by the limitations of the room, and I only had my one nurse in there for company, though she was just an extension of the room itself. It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever thought. I thought I was the only thing that existed, and thus I had no desire to exist.
The allegory fits into my previously established subjective existentialism worldview in which you are able to choose your perspective and values for your own benefit. It’s somewhat selfish at it’s core, but at our core we are all singular subjective beings so there is no option other than being selfish! I value my obligations to other people because it proves to me that I add value to something other than myself. These values are the basic building blocks of human society and the reason why anybody gets anything done.
The next time you find yourself just floating in your own well, have somebody dump some water in there and force yourself to swim out. You may swim out with a new raison d’etre or joie de virve or at least some foie gras.