Most of us are familiar with the old saying, “When it rains, it pours.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about that adage recently because there’s been quite a lot of pouring rain in my life over the past few months.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about needing to take a leave of absence from writing for this blog after being diagnosed with a degenerative condition. I was vague in my original post. I’m now willing to tell you that I have been diagnosed with Macular Degeneration. (There’s plenty of stuff on the internet if you want to know more about this sickness of the eyes.) By the way, if you’ve been diagnosed with this disease and are willing to talk about your situation and maybe meet someone who has what you have, I’d love to hear from you. Please reach out.
By the way, I am not ashamed to admit that I have this malady. Getting sick is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s not an indication of any kind of moral failing.
So, I was depressed about this diagnosis for a few weeks during the first couple of months of 2023. Then, suddenly, I lost twenty-two pounds during February and March. Ironically, I was wanting to lose a little weight, but when I went to my doctor and he looked at my charts, he was alarmed by this dramatic loss. He immediately ordered a few tests. When the results came in, there were clear indications that something was wrong with my thyroid.
I was referred to an imaging center that would provide sonographic pictures of the gland in question. The results came back and three growths were found. The doctors felt like one of the “nodules” needed to be biopsied, so they did a procedure called a “Fine Needle Aspiration.”
The biopsy was done and then I waited several days.
Luckily, the results came back two days ago and there were no indications of cancer. Honestly, I was never worried, not because I was certain that the test would turn out the way it did. I wasn’t worried because I’m getting older and have been mentally prepping myself for years for this precise sort of occurrence.
You should know that I’m not the sort of person to shake my fist at the sky and ask “Why me?” when things happen. I’m more the “Why not me?” type.
In the overall scheme of things, why would cancer (or whatever scary thing you can think of) not happen to me? There is nothing about me that is special. I’m made of flesh and blood and bone just like everyone else. Things can easily go wrong with me; horrible things go wrong with people (who are better and nicer than I am) every single day.
This has been an interesting experience for a lot of reasons. I had family members who would get upset with me when I would say, for example, “It could easily be cancer.” They felt like I was being too negative, that I was surrendering, that I needed to muster the power of positive thinking.
I sometimes think there is very little difference between positive thinking and wishful thinking. The great Barbara Ehrenreich wrote an interesting and renowned book called Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America, which made this same argue several years ago. (Call me a contrarian if you want. I don’t mind.)
Don’t get me wrong. Positive thinking is better than gloom and doom. But we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about and think about endings that aren’t “Happily ever after.”
What I see in many Americans—the same is likely true of people elsewhere—is this need to suppress thoughts related to scary things like death, dying, and mortality. I hope I don’t shock anyone when I say this: We are all going to die.
I can see the Stoic in me is coming out strong in this one.
I’d like to finish with a recommendation. If you haven’t already done so, read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, one of the great Stoic writers and thinkers. On just about every page, Aurelius reminds us that our time on this earth is short and that our bodies and minds are in a constant state of decay. He doesn’t write these words to be morbid or to depress; he hopes his words motivate us to make as much as we can with the time that we have.
39 thoughts on “It’s Been Pouring”
You sound like a realist to me. Some people seem to need to always inject a positive slant on to things – toxic positivity – which, at times, could be interpreted as ‘denial’ and is downright dangerous. You seem to be facing your illness square on, bravo! I’m sorry I have no personal knowledge of macular degeneration – have you thought of the American Macular Degeneration Foundation for support? https://www.macular.org/about-us
I agree, it’s important that we cherish life as we know it and make the most of every day. Since losing a close friend to dementia and another who has been in a care home for the last 5 years post surgery for a brain tumour, I tell myself the same on a daily basis.
Thank you for telling it as it is 🙏🏼
I tend to tell folks that I’m not sick, I’m just not fully well.
That’s a good one. I’ll remember that. Thanks!
Troy, you’ve exhibited Stoic resolve through and through. I love that you said you have been prepping for this time for many years. Would that we were all better prepared for those times, not with positive thinking, but with tenacious hope and a dose of reality. We, your readers, will walk through the journey with you as best we can, if you are willing to continue to share. Thanks for your insights and encouragement to live. Aurelius is on my nightstand, an ever-present reminder before bed and when I wake, to remember we die (memento mori). This is not negative, but empowering, for me to embrace each day with vigor and resolve. Again, thank you.
Thank you for the kind words. I hope you and your family are doing well and that you’re making good progress on your PhD. My copy of Meditations is marked up like crazy with notes in several different colors of ink. It’s about time for me to go back through it again. I very much appreciate the comment.
I’m glad you took time to adjust to the news of your eye condition. I think, where our health is concerned, it’s important to be realistic as well as being positive. If we are prepared that the outcomes can be bad we’re more able to move forward and adjust to living with health conditions.
Thanks for the wise words. I look forward to reading your first post here. Cheers!
Thanks. Hoping to share that today
Troy, I’ve often been struck by the degree to which contemporary American culture seems determined to avoid any thought, or acceptance, of death and mortality. Especially when contrasted with the way some traditions such as Stoicism and Buddhism teach us to confront and accept these. It’s much healthier and probably, in the big picture, happier, to do as you’ve done and come to terms with their ever present possibility. Maybe that even allows us to think “positive” differently, in ways that aren’t a deluded positivity.
Hey, SeekerFive! I know we’ve talked about Stoicism in the past and have very similar views on the sorts of things I wrote about in my blog. Yes, Stoicism and Buddhism are amazingly similar, aren’t they? I appreciate hearing from you and receiving such supportive comments. Thanks so much.
Sorry to hear about your health issues. Years ago I worked for a low vision clinic in Tucson, AZ, and I learned that there are different aids to help a person perform different tasks. We always recommended to patients to practice using the peripheral vision to strengthen their abilities and give themselves more abilities to navigate life. One does this by turning the head slightly and practice using the edges of the vision field.
Thanks for the great tips on dealing with macular degeneration. I’ll keep your suggestions in mind as my disease progresses.
Actually, the sooner the better!
My prayers for you to recover. But I love your practical and expectation-free life. The world goes, man goes and the river goes. We have to live the life as it is. Let us discuss more on your articles in future.
Hi, Pragash. Thank you for your very poetic comment. I’d be happy to discuss all my blog posts with you. May the river go and flow…
I wish you well, Troy. It’s not easy to share one’s journey especially when the challenges are health related. I pray that you are able to take each day as it comes and continue to live your life fully with the wisdom and thinking that propels you forward. Take care.
Thanks for the kind words. I find it very liberating to talk openly about my struggles. Societal expectations are that we keep our troubles to ourselves and keep a stiff upper lip in the process. It’s that sort of thing that makes people fall into despair. Why not speak your greatest fear out loud? Why not confess those things that are most troubling to you? Living openly and honestly confers a kind of power on the person who lives this way, don’t you think?
I completely agree, Troy. I’m trying to follow this too. Take care and wish you the very best.
My heart goes out to your Troy. It’s been a rough old year for you so far. I’m deeply impressed by your resolve and completely agree with your thoughts about death. I tend to think the closer we are to death the closer we are to life. It sobers us up to present. Speaking of which it was Aurelius who said,
“The present is the same for everyone; its loss is the same for everyone; and it should be clear that a brief instant is all that is lost. For you can’t lose either the past or the future; how could you lose what you don’t have?”
I love that quote. It reminds me that all we really have – all we ever have – is the present moment. We should savour it. None of us know when the gig will be truly up. Thanks for the wonderful post Troy. Let’s speak soon.
Hey, AP2! Thanks for the kind and supportive words. You’ve chosen a great Aurelius quote to include in your comment. There’s so much wisdom in those words and in the entire book. Yes, let’s speak soon. Cheers!
It’s great to read from you Troy😃
Chinua Achebe once wrote: “An old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb.”
His way of scoffing at the natural human propensity to avoid/ignore the worst.
I am encouraged that unlike the old woman, you choose to invite the mention of dry bones. Marcus Aurelius was spot on when writing of the inevitable human fate.
An acceptance of our lot, is perhaps the most peaceful action of the human spirit.
I wish you courage, clarity and peace on this journey, rafiki.
Billy, I always look to you for wisdom, and you never disappoint! Thanks for the kind and supportive words. And thanks for the great Achebe quote! And courage, clarity, and peace to you, my friend.
I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been going through some stuff Troy- I hope that trend ends. But I do agree with your observation that too many people are fixated on painting an overly rosy picture of everything. It’s dishonest and can even be counterproductive. Positive thinking is important too, but there is a balance.
Hey, Todd. How did your half-marathon go? Thanks for the kind and supportive words. Yes, always looking through rose-colored glasses just provides a distorted view of things.
Hey Troy ! Thanks for asking about the half-marathon. I’ll keep it short and say it was not a great outing but I did finish and they did have beer and pizza afterwards 😂
One of the great fringe benefits out working out is that it makes you feel less bad about things like pizza and beer. You certainly needed some good carbs after your run and it sounds like you got some good carbs.
We did! 🙂
Thank you for sharing, Troy.
Indeed, our bodies are in constant decline.
I anticipate reading more about your journey.
Hi, Kevin, and thanks! Do you blog? If so, provide me with a link so I can see some of your stuff.
Thank you, Troy for reading my blog. It would be much appreciated. I must say, I am truly a beginner writer, blogger. A hobby I thought I’d try my hand at after retiring.
I will certainly check it out. Thanks.
Troy, you are a real Stoic! I also tend to get ready for the worst. I had a friend who died of a rare brain cancer some years and I asked her sister if she thought she was happy with her life. And apparently she was. I think that this is the most important thing. Try to get the most and the best from our life, as it is, also when harder times come, as it has been for you recently. Bon courage, as they say in French (I love this expression)
Hi, Crisbiecoach! I guess we have the same sort of approach to living life. I hope to become a real Stoic. I am still learning and practicing. Stoicism is the closest thing to a religion for me. Bon courage to both of us! Thanks for reading and commenting.
when i’m sick, i often feel grateful and ready to face death. then i realized i was adapting to existentialism without noticing. i hope you’re doing well and that u have a support system beside u, stay safe!!
Hi. Thanks for the comment. If you are an adherent to existentialist thinking, you should read the Stoics. I think you’ll find much wisdom there. I do have a great support system, and I’m certainly not dead yet. I hope I didn’t give the impression that I was about to kick the bucket. I wish you all the best, too.
Do you write stories? Why not ;post a link to your site here so we can have a look?
hello, i write about things that my faith, life and my love of fashion. and thank you for asking. here’s a link of my blog https://storiesbyrhy.wordpress.com
I will check it out! Thanks.
Troy, I hope you are feeling better and are finding treatment to slow macular degeneration down. My mother took “eye vitamins” prescribed by her doctor. All the best! <3
Reminds me of the quote: ‘life isn’t about avoiding the storm: it’s about learning to dance in the rain’. Of course, that’s not always easy to practice. Thanks for sharing x