Friday, April 5, 2013

WYSIWYG…or not.

I’m living proof that the old adage, ‘what you see is what you get,’ is just…wrong. Maybe you ascribe to the converse, ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover,’ which I also say is wrong, but what I do say about both of these pithy little sayings is yet another expression: ‘there’s more to it than meets the eye.’ After all, I walked into a hospital without a symptom that neither the doctor nor I could really put a finger on and say that I had a life-threatening illness, yet there was something neither of us could see that said otherwise.

Now that I’ve gone through two rounds of chemotherapy, I can tell you unequivocally that what you see with leukemia is not necessarily what you get. That’s mostly because all you can see other than lab reports of course, in my case, is the incredible shrinking waistline. Jenny Craig ain’t got nothin’ on the fabulous Leukemia Weight Loss® plan! I started my little odyssey in December, exercising regularly, eating sensibly and losing about a pound a week in the process.  I weighed 201 the week of Thanksgiving with a comfortable 36” waist. The day I was admitted to the hospital, I registered 185 and was proud of the fact that I needed to buy a 34” waist pair of jeans because of the exercise regimen I was engaged in. They fit perfectly and I felt great.  Just ask the doctor who read me the riot act about the pathologist’s report that I had 50% cancerous cells in my marrow and wanted to make me really sick with toxic chemicals! Today, I weighed in at 170 and had to buy another new pair of jeans that are a bit loose on me with a 32” waist line and a new belt because all the belts I have don’t have a hole for a 32.
I have typically ridden the line between a large and extra-large in shirts depending on the cut because I’ve lifted weights and while I’ve never been a gym rat, I had enough upper body to make clothing a challenge to fit well on occasion. Today, out of curiosity, I tried on a medium and it fit just fine. So, you can imagine my disappointment. I think it’s realistic to expect that my transplant will shrink me down as much as another 30 pounds if the experience of others I’ve spoken to is any indicator. The other side of this coin is that I’ll gain a good amount of it back and I’ve got some physical therapists and trainers lined up toj help me do it intelligently so I don't overextend myself in the zeal to get back to being less ... sickly? Ego, don't fail me now! Besides, I have a century ride to train for...and a lot of things on that growing bucket list to tick off, right?

If there’s anything I’ve learned up to this point in my treatment, it is that being in good physical shape has made an incredible difference, in terms of both time and degree, in how my body has responded to the chemotherapy. I don’t plan on doing this again (who does?), but should I find myself either injured due to no fault of my own or sick with something else, I need to stack the deck in my favor.  Good physical shape, good diet, and good attitude are all things we should have as part of our lives anyway, but to be sure, I’m again living proof that it matters for reasons totally unseen and certainly unforeseen.  What you see is not what you get.  In this case, it’s what was internal that made the difference on what was external. And isn't that often the case on so many levels?

I want to close out today by adding one other point about something you *do* see that reflects something internal – a smile. Everyone has something they physically look at that tells them whether or not they want to get to know someone else. Admittedly, in our sex sells culture, eyes typically wander, but in all honesty, the first thing that I look for in someone I want to get to know anymore is quite simply their smile. It tells me more in one glance than anything else because it feels like the rest of the face follows.  You can’t fake a smile that is full of joy, but if you’re smiling out of guile, it also betrays what's underneath and the rest of your features scream what your voice doesn't. This quote from the Dalai Lama seemed to encapsulate the things I was thinking.
I love smiles. Because of this I have the problem of knowing how to make more friends and how to get more smiles, in particular, genuine smiles. For there are many kinds of smile, such as sarcastic, artificial or diplomatic smiles. Many smiles produce no feeling of satisfaction, and sometimes they can even create suspicion or fear, can't they? But a genuine smile really gives us a feeling of freshness and is, I believe, unique to human beings. If these are the smiles we want, then we ourselves must create the reasons for them to appear.      
So, here’s my point. There’s a lot going on in all of us that we’re pretty good at concealing. What you see isn’t necessarily true and neither is the external a reliable indicator of what is happening underneath. This erstwhile sailor will throw out yet another saying for consideration, “Still waters run deep” to prove the point. There’s always something that we are incapable of hiding that betrays us to ourselves and others. Perhaps it’s something in a pathology report, maybe it’s a smile, or it could be a new pair of jeans. Who knows? We’re more open books than we realize and becoming comfortable in our own skins (even if they’re shrinking or wrinkling…or both!) makes what others see, more of what they do, in fact, get. In a word, it’s being authentic and it’s a very freeing thing...because you never know who's watching! So, smile :)

Music for today –  naturally it would be Nat King Cole, “Smile”
Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though its breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile.

Be well, stay strong, and much love to you all...(insert smile here).