Voice Over - Some Things Never Change
We’re running out a seedling this week at work about how to thrive and survive in a time of change uncertainty. I could just reprise that here in longer form, but instead I thought I’d instead reflect on how that idea of ‘change uncertainty’ has been driving me ever since Dean was diagnosed.
Let’s be clear. What my husband has is one of those ‘we don’t have a cure’ things… which in 2018 feels wrong. I think all the news we absorb makes us feel that there is a technical solution to all problems, but there just isn’t. So, when we were first grappling with his cancer, I leaned into that understanding and tried to apply every scrap of my knowledge of human behaviour, psychology, and change to hacking my own emotional state out of a panic mode and into a more manageable, sane one.
Then he kinda sorta got better, but not really. Or.
What the f*.
There you go. That’s where I am now.
People ask me on a semi-regular basis, “How’s your husband? How’s Dean?” And for the longest time, I’ve channelled my inner Monty Python with, “Not dead yet.” I mean, what else can I say? Not cured, but not sick. Not getting worse, but not magically miraculously cancer free. Every month that goes by there are new developments in this field, discoveries and new medicines, signs of similar uncurable diseases responding to novel treatments. It becomes increasingly within our grasp that he’ll ‘outlive’ the incurable history of this disease and move into the ‘maintenance’ mode as many have done with HIV or breast cancer or other similar health tsunamis.
Just as myeloma obliterated our long-term plans for ourselves, this weird not-cured-but-not-going-away state annihilated a second, entirely different set of forward plans. I always assumed he similarly must be flummoxed. Not dead yet. Looks like it’s not happening any time soon. Now what? We can’t go back to Plan A, Plan B seems to be off the table for the foreseeable future. What’s Plan C? How do you prepare for a future when you don’t know how long now lasts? When you don’t know who is going to there, where it will be, what everyone will be doing?
I can’t help but view this seedling we’re rolling out and ask myself how well am I modelling this form of change resiliency. How well is he doing? The core principle is to focus your attention on the here, the now, and the unchanging aspects of our lives. I can take pleasure in petting the cat, enjoy our sunrise the view of Rangitoto through leaded glass windows, savour the warm glow of watching people around me at the office nail some big piece of work for which I have been in some small way a contributor.
You know what hasn’t changed? Dean. I don’t know how he’s managing it, but he’s still every bit the man he has always been. He never stops moving, he plays guitar every day, he never does the last damn dish, he doesn’t mind that his side of the bedroom always looks like a bomb went off and never ever takes a hint that mine escaped the blast. I think in his situation, I’d a self-centred, whinging, demanding pain in the ass. But Dean is currently installing the washing machine, after which I suspect he will indulge me in a walk to Devonport, patiently listen to me blather on about how difficult my job is, how much I’m struggling with this little headache virus thing, and what a kerfuffle emotional knot my #2 and I got in over a few university text books. He will nod, listening attentively. Nod some more, still saying virtually nothing. Walk back with me, then dive into another project while I sit my change manager ass back down and flip through another 100 emails.
Dean is clearly the master of this seedling. As we cycled through Plans A, B and C, he went from someone who had our lives planned out to 2050, to a person who focuses on this week, and finally when his science-based, doctor-trained brain recognised he’d be around for a lot longer than we originally thought he moved his plans into a nice mid-range. He returned to researching to identify the better quality, longer lasting items as well as purchasing the printer cartridge we need today along with the one we’ll need when this one runs out. He adapts his planning horizon and focus more or less seamlessly with his best understanding of how long it will last. While I don’t think he’s planning for 2050, he clearly seems to think next year is okay, probably even the one after. We don’t go through printer cartridges very fast.
So now I can think of next year. Because another thing that hasn’t changed? Dean and I are 100% in sync.
“The goal in marriage is not to think alike, but to think together.” ~ Robert C. Dodds
Getting really close to our last week here. Thanks to a recent very generous donation, we’re now on the Step Up team leader board! Please help us maintain this momentum raising money for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer NZ. If Dean starts thinking about 5 years out, you can credit this organisation in part for making that possible.