Five years post

I covered the bulk of what needs to be covered about this two years after my surgery, but at 5 years something new happens, so I wanted to mark this spot with a few words.

As I was at two years out, today I’m struggling (read: failing) to find a working strategy for fixing my weight and my fitness level, my creative output, my personal and professional goals. I’m astonished, though at this point I shouldn’t be, at how little difference even huge events in life – a diagnosis of cancer, the passing of loved ones, the curing(ish) of mental illness, and even a proposal of marriage – make in determining how easily one can overcome one’s weaknesses. I’m pessimistically optimistic about the chances of someday overcoming the patterns of a lifetime, which is to say I think that it’s very possible, and that I probably won’t be the person who forges possibility into reality.

I’ve thought a lot, in the years since the last post, about the difference between an excuse and a reason. Some people toss out the word excuse when someone fails to fix the things that are wrong in their lives.

To the person on the receiving end – to me – this is a dismissal of the particular struggles that a specific person faces. It elides all of the specific challenges, the details, of scheduling a day or week or month or a life so that one has time for life, love, profession, hobbies and the inexhaustible supply of curveballs thrown by the world at large.

To the person on the accusing end, this is some form of responsibilitarianism, tough love, maybe even that least coherent (in my view, at least) of political stripes, libertarianism; the accusation is meant to strike a blow for “reality” and personal accountability.

Neither person is wrong in that exchange, any more than socialism and capitalism are wrong in their ideal forms. Reason and excuse are indistinguishable except as refracted through experience. The reasons I have for my failure are the excuses I provide to those who’d judge my failures wanting.

At five years out, I’m now part of the statistic. I’ve made it. 13% of those in my situation didn’t. And if I didn’t get lucky the first time around, my odds would have been worse, and there’s a strong chance I’d be on the other side of that number. It’s a sobering thing to reflect on.

No matter what your reasons, no matter whether they’re excuses or not, reflecting  is one of those things that might actually make a difference. On reflection, I’ve underutilized it. I don’t know that I’ll do better about that, but five years out I’m seeing good reasons to do more of it.