Today promises to be a tough day for Democrats. Henry A. Giroux, writing a scary op-ed last week in truthout, compares the likely results this midterm election with the advent of a new Gilded Age. He says:
Poised now to take over either one or two houses of Congress, the exorbitantly rich along with their conservative ideologues wax nostalgically for a chance to once again emulate that period in 19th century American history when corporations ruled political, economic and social life, and an allegedly rugged entrepreneurial spirit prevailed unchecked by the power of government regulations. Wild West, casino capitalism, unhampered by either ethical considerations or social costs, has reinvented itself and become the politics of choice in this election year. Enthusiasm runs high as billions of dollars flow from hidden coffers into the hands of anti-public politicians, whose only allegiance is to power and the accumulation of capital.
Today I write as a college professor who is returning to work routines I left behind last May when I taught my last class and began a wonderful summer-plus-a-semester on sabbatical. Er-, pardon me, a “research leave.” We don’t really do sabbaticals anymore. Leaves are these days only granted for work-related activities, and mine was given to complete a couple of book projects (Counter-Narrative: How Progressive Academics Can Challenge Extremists and Promote Social Justice; and, with Jeffry Halverson and Steve Corman, Master Narratives of Islamic Extremism), both of which are now out; write an article or two (done); start my blog (hurrah!); and otherwise enjoy traveling, reading, writing, and learning. I am happy to report that it was grand success, no doubt due in large part to my excellent traveling companion and lovely wife, the unflappable master planner and fun bunny, Sandra.
Did I mention that she also completed most of her doctoral dissertation during this time? That she delighted in the archives of merry ol’ England and New England, and that, as a result, she is about to rock Atlantic World thought about the Puritans? Well, she is.
But today I return to work. To the routines of work. I return to what some folks call “the life of the mind,” but, for those of us who live it—even those such as myself who enjoy it and cannot imagine living any other way—it often feels less like a life of the mind that one of an almost neurotic busy-ness haunted by the feeling that we are never fully caught up, never fully prepared, hardly ever appreciated, and never fully rested, either.
One of the surprising things about living with cancer is how normal, how very ordinary, I feel on a daily basis. I thought it would be different. I’m glad it’s not. At least, not yet.
There are important differences between my life before the diagnosis and now, and just as surely there will be other differences, meaner ones, between now and the end of life as I have known it. But for now, aside from the bi-monthly chemo treatments, the everyday differences are manageable and mostly involve remembering to take pills.
There are other differences that are less manageable and that I do not fully understand—from the sudden recurring emotional sadness that wells up inside of me for no good reason and resists any attempt to control it, to this week’s inability to come into contact with friends because I have to worry at least a little bit about my low white blood count—but all in all, it’s not too bad.
I have cancer. What did I expect? What do you expect?
Today I feel fine. I realize that it won’t last forever. So in response to a question that I know is out there—“what is it like?”—I am devoting this blog to a typical day. Later, when things change, I will probably do this same sort of entry again. But I thought it might be useful to readers to see how we live now. Think of it as an autoethnographic baseline of an ordinary day.
Today is Saturday. It is the end of a very good health week for me and there is much to be thankful for, from San, Nic, and Alyssa’s company, love, and care, to the laughter in our living room watching Max play “Ready, Set ... Go!” to the final triumph of good over evil in the Harry Potter movie that we saw on Thursday. I am dreaming again. Even the weather has cooperated, with cooler temperatures in the early morning for our Max walk to an absence of the dreaded summer haboobs like the one that blew in on us two weeks ago. (Note to self: what is the plural of haboob? Haboobs sounds hilariously wrong, and yes, sometimes I have the sense of humor of a thirteen year-old boy. But even the singular “haboob” sounds like something you’d call an adult you didn’t like who was also not very intelligent: You haboob, you!)
Put that aside for now. I know it may not seem related to French onion soup, but you’ll see.
Why French onion soup? Because later today, or maybe tomorrow if I get sidetracked by email or Facebook, I plan to make French onion soup from a Tyler Florence recipe that takes a little time but is going to be well worth it. One improvement this recipe has over traditional versions is that in addition to carmelizing the onions, you add red wine and cook the mixture down until the onions are almost dry, a process that seals into onions a winey sweetness while imparting richness to the overall flavor of this beef broth based soup. Tyler Florence also teaches us the value of broiling baguette slices with the Gruyere on top and then cutting the slices into square croutons, which makes a much easier way to manage the cheesy goo that can otherwise turn a French onion soup feast into a French onion soup mess.
Try it yourself. If you don’t like the result, well, something may be wrong with you, haboob.
That last line was intended to bring a smile to your face. But because today’s blog is about dealing with small challenges to our sensibilities, I’d like you to pretend to be offended by it. So much so that you feel the need to respond to it, not calling on what Lincoln named as “the better angels” of our natures, but instead . . . well, read on.
Yesterday we got supremely good news from Doc Scott! For anyone who is reading this blog but may have missed the earlier post on FB, here it is:
Radiation 10 and we are at the end,
That tumor that pressed pain against the nerves along my spine
is now shrunk to nothing.
The word "nothing" never made me quite so happy.
Doc Scott says the cancer along the back is also "eradicated,"
And though there is still some pain - hey - there are also these little white pills to control it.
Good news! Yes! It really couldn't be much better.