Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Control vs. Choice

Control is an insidious issue in our society today. There may be some societies where control—being in charge of your life, of your domain, of your social circles, of your car, of how and what you do with your life—aren’t as important as they are here. But here, in the US, we seem to see control as an extension of our right to independence. We see control as a tool to get through our days, to keep our lives organized. To make us happy. Yes, if we’re in control, we’re in good shape.

I am no stranger to control issues. I am proud of the skills I’ve formed as I’ve matured. I trust myself to drive competently and well and park well (sometimes to the frustration of Ian, who is my primary chauffeur right now—I seem to have a hard time relinquishing control of the driving, even though I’ve been required to relinquish control of the car). I trust myself to organize events—kayak trips, parties, weekends out to Orcas—and remember the details so people are comfortable and safe and warm and dry and well-fed. I like the system that I use to pay our bills—I’m even a little proud that it’s not too anal—but that I still get things paid on time. I like my system of laundry, I like how we deal with our dogs.

However . . . and this is the big however . . . all it takes is one wrench in the works, and control flies out the window. And when control flies out the window, does choice fly out as well?

This is a big question, actually. What is the difference between choice—between seeing different options and deciding on the best one—and control? It really does seem that there isn’t any difference. But the other big question is this—when we relinquish choice, when we relinquish control—are we actually relinquishing anything at all? Control, and choice, in other words, may just be an illusion.

In the last few days, I have given up control of most things in my life. I can’t drive. My friends have done my cooking and cleaning, including my laundry. I don’t have the energy to take care of the dogs—it was actually quite a coup that I found enough strength last night to take Hoover out for his final pee before bed (and boy was it necessary!). And my life—that part of humanity that is most purely individual—is actually completely out of my control right now. Without even really being aware of it, without even really choosing to give myself over, I have given myself over completely to experts.

As my brother pointed out today when he came to mop up the doughnuts, I may have taken a year and a half off from seeing Western doctors, but I’m sure making up for it right now.

It’s true. I’ve seen an MD every day this weekend, I see my oncologist tomorrow, I see my radiation oncologist again on Friday. I finished 5 days of radiation this morning (pic of the very, very lovely mask coming soon), I get a port placed and start chemo on Thursday, I have a spinal MRI on Friday. I don’t even pretend any longer to have anything scheduled that’s not related to what doctors want from me—I just say “sure, tomorrow at ten sounds good,” and mark my calendar.

Given the choice, I would hesitate a bit on all the bombardment I’m getting. I’m sure I’m close to glowing in the dark, if I don’t already. I would maybe want fewer CTs, fewer markered iodine MRIs, less ozone-and-blue-light full-brain radiation. From everything I’ve read and believe about the health of the human body . . . these barrages are not good. And yet, I don’t really have a choice. That is, as I said a while ago, I could choose nothing and probably be dead in a couple months, or I could do what I have done: choose to trust these experts, follow their path, and choose to let them control my life for the time being.

I'm surprised to report that I'm finding it liberating.


Andrienne said...

Calin, the one thing I know for sure is that you have always glowed. Radiation, light, dark, circumstances, those are the illusions compared to you.


SF Scott said...

Hey Calin - Your spirit is truly unmatched. I enjoy reading the updates daily, and you're in our (my family and friends) thoughts and prayers. Glow in the dark? Mask? You have a HUGE leg up on best costume for Halloween!! :)


Erik said...

Life is a choice.

It is a choice and journey that you The Dilettante Traveler have actively engaged in with flair and verve. A choice that you continue to engage in albeit with a little less planning and control.

When you're shooting rapids it's staying in the boat that's most important.

Sassy Glasses Girl said...

I love Erik's comment: When you're shooting rapids, it's staying in the boat that's most important.

Of course, you don't just stay in the boat. You also smile and wave to the rest of us. :)

You enlighten and inspire us, Calin.