Sunday, September 01, 2013

To Be a Light, Not A Shadow

A New Voyage
Here are the money quotes from one of the all-time good news/bad news letters I've ever received.
After reviewing all of the information carefully, we have decided that your health has improved since we last reviewed your case and you are now able to work... We realize that your condition prevents you from doing any of your past work, but it does not prevent you from doing work which is less demanding... You are no longer disabled... your last payment will be for 10/2013.
Well, then. Here's a new adventure for Pennsy. Thanks to my Social Security Disability Insurance, I was able to continue to have an income throughout my recovery from cancer. I have been able to devote myself and my energy to learning a new profession, and to building my body far beyond the strength and endurance I ever knew as a young man. During my recent mental health crisis and separation from my wife, SSDI has been the only thing keeping me off of the charity roles. I would have had no medical insurance this summer without it. I am grateful. But in a few weeks, that part of my life will come to an end.

The good news: As of today, I am officially no longer "Disabled." Many people never live to say that. My doctors report that I am strong enough to return to full time work. I've been to enough funerals this year to know how lucky I am to hear those words, too. I have the opportunity to begin a new voyage, and I have two months grace to get under weigh.

The bad news: I have yet to prove that I can actually work a full time job without physical or mental collapse. And I have 8 weeks to convince somebody (and myself) that I can be a productive and valuable employee who is worth at least the money I've been getting from SSDI for the past three years. The people who know me best, know only too well how very far and hard I can fall.

My initial response to the news was powerful and violent. Was this the last straw? Had life finally broken my heart? Was it time to give in and let the depression win? I though long and hard about what would happen to me when there was no more money. As it has done so many times before, my depression whispered "suicide" in my ear. For a while, it seemed like the best solution; the only solution; but the thought of Mrs P discovering me after days of silence and the phone call she would have to make to my mother changed my mind. They don't deserve that. Both have fought too hard and for too many years to keep me alive through both cancer and mental illness. And I thought of the kids at the Y. The kids I run with. the people in the classes I teach. Who would have to explain to them that Mr. Bob had done such a thing? What about the people who believed in me at the Y when any other employer would have been glad to be rid of me? I thought of the Strong Eight: the women who fought cancer beside me as we laid the foundation for the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program together, two summers ago. We trusted one another with our hearts. How could I do this thing that would almost certainly break theirs?

And if there were enough people in my life who cared that much... people who mattered that much to me... surely there was a reason for me to keep on fighting for my life.

You know who you are. I woke up Saturday morning because of your love. It's as simple as that.

Yesterday, on Facebook, after a long, long sleep, I posted "I finally have the will. Lord, show me the way." And that is my prayer. God made me wait a long time, but I at last have a reason to live. I will be a light in this world, not a shadow. I don't know how I'll be making money on November 1. But I know what I'll be doing.

Somehow, somewhere, I'll be helping people to fight for their lives, as I must do, as we all must. "The ones who give up... they all die," the doctor said. Physiology and personal loss be damned. I'm not giving up on my people... or on myself.

I'm going to work. That's my next voyage.


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