Sunday, December 30, 2007

The way opens

We are, once again, closing in on a diagnosis for Robert. On Dec. 18, we saw a new super-specialized neurologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute--she reviewed the latest MRI. This MRI shows further deterioration of his basal ganglia and cerebellum, plus additional problem areas: these mostly seem to point to problems with movement generally as opposed to problems with cognition, although there's certainly cross-over between the two.

They think it points to some sort of genetic disorder that causes the brain to deteriorate, a problem that does not at all sound pleasant. They were also noting that he had involuntary movements, including "writhing" of the upper body, a condition that seems largely to have vanished as we've reduced his sertraline dose. We're gradually going down on the various neurological medications, trying to find the right balance.

After a period of approximately a week, during which time we were in total shock, and during which time he seemed "not him" to us, a process of differentiation brought on by a diagnostic process that seeks to find in him what is atypical and abnormal, he now seems quite normal and very much "him" to us. So this is, then, that same process of logic and rhetoric of "similarity and difference" in which the classic procedure is to locate the slippage between the two terms, which are always closer than one thinks. For example, differences between two noses or two sets of lips remind us that we are dealing with the same general entities. Variation is always pretty subtle, when you really think about it. Difference we use to isolate, and is initially off-putting, but familiarity breeds sameness and the differences disappear.

So it is with Robert.

I keep thinking about a Web article I read recently about a colleague from the Quaker school at which I used to work. He mentioned, in describing the path his life had taken, the Quaker philosophical premise that "the way opens." This is what life seems to me right now. Locked into a certain type of stasis, we are entering a period of profound change. And with change, with difference, comes a sort of realignment, a mixture of things, a recombination.

I am so tired of living my life a certain way because of circumstance: I am longing to live my life a new way, to break free of some old patterns. I keep thinking that the rationales I've had to use to keep my life in its current alignment can't possibly be as iron-clad as I've felt them to be.

I look to sameness for anchors; I look to difference for necessary change.

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