Year 1, Week 11: Back in Ottawa

1:11

An uneventful trip back to Ottawa, flights not full, but still wore a mask to reduce the risk.

The focus this week was getting my book launched with both mass and targeted distribution of the press release (here) and a ‘click-based’ campaign on Goodreads. Some signs that search engines are reflecting this but the sales uptick takes a bit longer – at least am in double digits! Not surprisingly, iBookstore and Amazon are where things are happening; Kobo is just not as mature and popular a platform.

Some good interest on the part of my medical team. While I had thought the last thing they would want is yet more reading about cancer, lymphoma and transplants, I was pleasantly surprised by their enthusiasm and interest in the book. Gratifying, and of course, I am interested in how they react to one patient’s account of his journey. I may get some initial feedback at clinic next week but I suspect that some of their enthusiasm and interest reflects their happiness at a patient who has emerged with enough energy to get a book out.

One of my readers suggested The Spirituality of Imperfection by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketchum. A survey of spiritualism, ranging from the Abrahamic to the Eastern religions, and including modern variants such as the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. The anchor that our imperfection is part of our essence of being human, and it is better to be open and accepting of our imperfection, rather than striving for what is not to be, is powerful. The book draws from a number of stories from the various religious traditions to underline the points, reflecting another fundamental truth, that much of what we learn, we learn best from stories.

Some quotes to give the flavour:

The spirituality of imperfection is a spirituality of ‘not having all the answers.’ For those who have come to expect an answer to every question, a solution to every problem, and an end to every beginning, such an approach may be disconcerting at first. …

The core paradox that underlies spirituality is the haunting sense of incompleteness, of being somehow unfinished, that comes from the reality of living on this earth as part  and yet also not-part of it. For to be human is to be incomplete, yet earn for completion; it is to be uncertain, yet long for certainty; to be imperfect, yet long for perfection, to be broken, yet crave wholeness. All these yearnings remain necessarily unsatisfied, for perfection, completion, certainty, and wholeness are impossible precisely because we are imperfectly human – or better, because we are perfectly human, which is to say humanly imperfect. …

Spirituality begins in suffering because to suffer means first ‘to undergo,’ and the essence of suffering lies in the reality that it is undergone, that it has to do with not being in control, that if must be endured. We may endure patiently or impatiently, but because we are human beings, because we are not at each and every moment in ultimate control, we will suffer. …

… the question ‘Who am I?’ carries within itself another, even more important question: ‘Where do I belong?’ We find self – ourselves – only through the actual practice of locating ourselves within the community of our fellow human beings. Discovering community and becoming aware of our ‘location’ within that community involves the experience of ‘Fitting.’ Real ‘feeling good,’ the ‘feeling good’ that comes only from ‘being good,’ involves ‘fitting in’ with others who are engaged in the quest for answers to their most anguished questions.

On the flight back, finally saw Deepa Mehta’s Water, a story about widows in India and how their life ends when they become widows, forced to live largely in an isolated ‘widow community’ until the day they die, set in the context of India’s struggle for independence. Visually beautiful, and powerful, capturing some of the ongoing legacies of Hindu traditionalism, at a time of change in India. Not a hopeful film, despite the ending, and a reminder of the lot of women in many developing countries.

I am looking forward next week to seeing her film of Midnight’s Children; although film adaptations of novels are always risky (and funny how the more cinematic the novel, the harder the adaptation), the screenplay was written by Salman Rushdie and, just as with The English Patient novel and film, interesting to see how the core story is captured in both forms.

I also watched Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus, a reminder of just how enduring Shakespeare is, as the film has a contemporary setting, much of the more harrowing scenes shot in post-Balkan war Serbia. While some critics have remarked that the beauty of the language has been lost in the ‘action scenes,’ I did not find it so; the lines, whether in the heat of battle or the midst of political intrigues, are timeless. With a very strong cast, led by Fiennes in the title role.

It is a bit strange being back in our house alone. With our daughter off at university and my wife still with her mother-in-law in Geneva, our cat and I have been bonding more than in the past. Fortunately, with Skype and cheap calling cards, easy to keep in contact but I miss the presence, the being, the normal background sounds that make a house a home.

I have been catching up with friends, always enjoyable, as well as attending to the normal house maintenance (less enjoyable!) and occasional surprise (dead battery on both cars).

Next week I have my clinic visit, largely routine, although I may get the go ahead to phase out Prednisone and Septra (and get some feedback on my book). I also need to get my flu shot – hopefully my doctor has the non-Novartis one recalled recently.

Next weekend takes me to Toronto to see our kids, who I miss so much.

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5 thoughts on “Year 1, Week 11: Back in Ottawa

  1. I was going to write how happy I am to see such interest being shown in your work, and then I came to the part where you mentioned the cat….cats do wonders for the soul!! :)

    Best,

    Sunny and Take Back Teal

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