Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Winter thoughts

I'm in a strange place in life right now; I have a constant sense of an impending change. I don't know what to call it; restlessness? Boredom? Mid-life crisis?

Like so many other people in the world, I am not really sure what I want out of life. Some days, we talk about buying a house and settling down; some days, we talk about signing up for Doctor Without Borders. Most days, we aren't sure where in the world we will be in a few years.

Something big happened the other day. Out of nowhere, my Ex-wife told me that we could have Natali for another year. I had been worried sick about what she would say, and suddenly she made up her mind. I should have been happier than I was. Natali getting a chance to experience Denmark, is the best thing about being here. I was happy, sure, but at the same time it represented the fact that we are staying here for, at least, another school year.

There is nothing wrong with staying here; we both have good, interesting jobs. The kids are thriving. The Lorax takes gymnastics and music classes, where all the parents arrive in their matching cars and dress their kids in expensive, organic clothes. Natali has friends over, who all think the same beautiful open-minded thoughts, while silently expressing "you better act like us, or else".

Life is uniformly safe and predictable. Denmark is a perfect, intensely boring paradise.

Don't think I haven't thought about why I am feeling this minor dysthymia. It's odd that I was an overworked resident, whose wife left him, and still felt okay. So many people were worried about me, but those days almost felt like an adventure. I had a glorious sense of no one has ever done this before. Which of course was nonsense, but that's what it felt like. On paper, that life sucked. I had no money; I worked all the time. I had zero wiggle room, even compared to now. So why am I feeling trapped now, in this life with plenty of money, lots of spare time, with a great wife and kids?

There are a few theories, that I would like to share:

1) Leaving my son. I don't think about him constantly, but there is an undeniable sense that my life isn't complete here without him. Sometimes, it feels like my present life is an interlude, and that I will soon get back to seeing him every day. Even as I am writing this, it is difficult for me to accept that there is no day in sight, when I will be living with him, or even near him, on a permanent basis.

2. Death all around me. Working with critically ill patients may be harder on me than I think. When I meet a patient for the first time, it usually involves me delivering bad news. It bothers me more and more how much pain and humiliation these people go through in the hospital. I think we give too much chemo and too little comfort. Every day, I think about the fact that I, the Girl, the kids or someone else, could get sick and transform into one of those poor unfortunate souls with cancer.

3. We have no 5-year plan. My whole life, I have lived by 5-year plans. Do this; get through this. Work hard, and it will all work out. The question now beckons, have I arrived? Good job? Check. Beautiful fantasy wife? Check. Economic safety? Check.

Satisfied? Not so sure.


Danni said...

Maybe you just need Vitamin D :-)

I think your feelings are pretty common -- too much time to think maybe? Perhaps you need to busy yourself more. Sounds stupid but it's true. When you're occupied you don't have as much time to worry about life's great questions.

sea legs girl said...

Yes! Vitamin D! Sunshine. Exactly what I said, Danni. While it may not solve everything, it may at least make you THINK everything is solved.

SteveQ said...

Must be the season for introspection. I certainly did a navel-gazing post today.

olga said...

I think when we are not satisfied it means we have room to grow. And we better have this room, otherwise we kind of die, if we settle in. At least I think so, although I am aware of most people who strive to settle in. That is really boring.
I know how you feel about going through difficulties. It is kind of adventerous, if tough. I know somebody told me a few times (a few people too) that I seek difficulties and create them. May be. After all, ultrarunning is one of those "seeking". Boring steady life is that - boring. Safe, nothing changing, yes, great family, good job, social security, nice kids...where is life? We watched "ski porn" last night (wild skiing in the mountain), I finished 3 books on climbing high mountains, read backpacker magazine...my life is boring, and I want to live! Feel the wins, the danger, the excitement! I know, I have responsibilities towards kids...You think you're stuck in Denmark because Natali is with you? You can still move with her! I am stuck in Austin because Larry will never go anywhere from his son. Don't take me wrong, I likke Austin a whole bunch, but stuck for the next 10 years? I don't think I have ever being somewhere 10 years in a row! Especially without deep forests and mountains...
I was talking about you guys last night. I remember how you wrote of your divorce, and passion you found for SLG. How you laid in bed, looking into each other eyes and being happy you found each other. I hope you still do that.
Does passion go with time because routine comes and takes over? I am always so scared of that...
How are others live? Are they satisfied with every day life without any "shaking up"? Is it truly ok with them? What do we know about a neighbour? Are they wondering what to do else besides go to work, cook, eat and play board games?
Can we stop this crazy thinking??

Anonymous said...

On your thoughts of "death all around you":
You will not necessarily have to move geographically - you could try to move your focus? Working on one's professional focus is really as challenging as moving to another country.
I have been one of those poor unfortunate souls with cancer. With a bad, aggressive hemathological disease: Burkitt's Lymphoma - treated aggresively with high dose chemotherapy. I am still running, climbing, biking and hiking. In my experience hemathologists showed a heavy focus on chemotherapy and death, and a lack of focus on life. I mean - you treat us with agressive chemotherapy, but no one focus on the time after. Quite a lot of us survive, actually. And there is a life both during and after chemotherapy.
Why not use your experience as an athlete and a runner for the benefit of your patients? I kept up quite a bit of training during my chemotherapy, and I have been training very dedicated ever since.

Do you know "Krop og Kræft" on Rigshospitalet? Even if very few of your patients can join them, they can do as inspiration. We are just starting a sportsassociation for cancer patients, their relatives and other interested, MotionsPacten. We don't have a website yet, but you or others can contact me through my website www.paatoppen.com

See you out there on the running trails
Best regards