North Star

Prior to the beginning of this Great Cancer Adventure, we had a pretty good North Star to follow.  It was your standard life-adventure stuff:  expand brain via school, make baby, enhance career and enjoy family – all age-appropriate goals that would push us into middle age fat and happy with family.  And more than enough to keep us busy.  Then, blam!  We were blind-sided by this truck called The Cancer.  Now while the car we were riding in was spinning around wildly, tossed from the impact with broken glass a’ flyin’ we managed to complete that first step: expand brain via school.  But now that the car has come to a rest, the ambulance and fire truck folks have done their jobs and most of the broken glass has been swept up, I’m still a little dizzy and can’t find my North Star.

The North Star we were following was ours.  I was excited about the trip and terribly excited to be traveling with my travel companion.  Now, I’m back to traveling alone and that particular star doesn’t really make sense anymore.  So, old North Star out!  New North Star in!  But I’m having some difficulties find that new North Star.  I’ve kinda lost my direction.  Maybe it’s just too soon to expect that type of clarity or maybe I’m not pushing hard enough to find my answers.  I’m not sure.  I know this for certain – I’ve been trying to pack as many fun things into one day as I can find.  I feel an intense need to be social, smile, laugh, and have fun.  Maybe this is part of me trying to compensate for some lost moments or push the Grand Scale of Life back into the “balanced” category.  Or maybe I’m still playing out the tough lesson taught to me slowly and painfully over the last few years:  live right here and right now, with intensity.

Nothing screams “Pay Attention!” like the near death of your loved one.  No matter how far your head may be stuck into the future, it’ll snap right back to front and center at a breakneck speed.  When all this started back in January 2007 my head was so far into the future I typically didn’t know what day it was.  We had plans – BIG plans!  Goals and carefully laid out milestones, all worked out.  No time to waste!  We had stuff to do to get getting!

My head was snapped crisply back to present with that phone call January 5, 2007 and it stayed on point for some time.  Sleeping on hospital beds tends to have that effect.  But soon, after the “crisis” was over and the rhythmic nature of The Cancer took over, it was easy to let my head float back into the future, like a wisp of smoke following a light breeze on a spring day.  Years of thinking about and planning for the future had installed that light breeze.  You know, the whole “think good thoughts and good actions will follow” bit.  Well, I always thought about the future.  I liked the future.  It was a future full of us.

Life:  “Future-thinking Chris, meet The Cancer.  The Cancer, meet future-thinking Chris.”
The Cancer: “Chris, we need to do something about all this future thinking stuff you are doing.  It doesn’t meet my needs.” 
Chris:  “Kiss my ass, Cancer!”
The Cancer: “How about if we go at this easy and you only have to be present in the ‘right here, right now’ occasionally?  Will that work out for you?”
Chris:  “Kiss my ass, Cancer!”
The Cancer: “Look, I’m trying to be nice but this is serious stuff.  You are going to have to adjust your attitude.  Here, let me show a little taste of what’s coming….”
Chris:  “Kiss my…. Oh, crap!  What the hell?  Hey, back off, buddy!  You better leave my wife alone or I’m gonna…”
The Cancer:  “Gonna what?  You have no control over me so just settle down, please.  But that’s just a little sample.  So, now, can we work out some details on how you need to change your way of thinking to be more ‘right here, right now’ focused?  It’s important you learn this.”
Chris:  “Uh…  Wait a minute.  How am I supposed to pull off ‘right here, right now’ when we’ve got all these plans, these goals, and these milestones?”
The Cancer:  “Plans, goals and milestones?  What are those?  Pay attention!!  Here’s another taster…”
Chris:  “Oh, crap!!”

And so it went until I had been retrained with a new mind, firmly focused on the “right here, right now.”  My focused had been forcibly moved from the horizon to my finger tips.  Through that change, I’ve lost track of my North Star.

Weekends I stay the busiest because that’s when everyone else can play.  Weekdays drag because I spend so much time by myself.  Lunches, happy hours and supper plans are what I look forward to most of all since they get me out of the house with people.  I keep a fairly rigid workout schedule, which I’m enjoying, so that occupies some of my time.  Otherwise, I wondering what’s next?  Where should I go?  What should I do?

In the geekiest of terms, my reset button has been pressed, I loaded BIOS, just got through the POST, and now the little cursor is sitting there, blinking, trying to figure out what OS to run.  Or maybe it’s sitting there saying “No operating system found.”  Dunno. But that’s where I’m….  Hey, look!  Something fun to do….

37 thoughts on “North Star

  1. Chris, I’m hoping and praying for things to get better for you day by day. Wishing I could say or do something that would help, but you know, I told you that I’m no good with words. Just know I’m thinking of you all day, every day. With all my heart and love. Meme

  2. Chris
    I kinda understand what you mean by trying to find your north star to follow. Sometimes I feel like this whole life is predecided and whatever is meant to be will happen. I know that is somewhat of a defeatist attitude and putting the blame or burden on somebody or something else, but it is one belief that sometimes gives me solace. Life has a sneaky way to take you along where you are meant to go even without realizing.. so just live your life one day at a time and someday you will look back and it all makes sense and you can connect the dots.

  3. Chris you’re doing great. Remember you just told me the other day you don’t know what that new Chris looks like?
    I think that’s the star to follow that you’re talking about.
    It’s just a one foot in front of the other process and the clarity will come. And seeing as my job hunting is going nowhere, I’m up for a cool dark theater this week.
    Much Love!

  4. Like the man said “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” Which reminds me, you should take some of that time and get back into your music. Practice, write, record, jam with people. You’re in the perfect city for it and it’s amazing therapy.

  5. Chris,
    I’ve read your blog religiously for the past few months. I found it before you lost your wife, for which I am profoundly sorry, and continue to read it now.I have no cancer or terminal disease connection but find your story horrible and wonderful and beautiful and amazingly relatable.

    I’m not one to normally comment on blog. In fact this is my comment cherry but after reading your story I imagine you can figure your life out without my uninsightful insight. But in relation to this post I’d like to say you need not worry about finding a North star.

    When its time it will find you, or maybe you will find it but until then try and enjoy the float. I’m sure you have been on the Comal in a tube before. Let the current take you where it will for a while. I bet it will lead to great times. Even if it takes you to some rough spots you are strong enough to paddle out.

    Ok enough with the bad tubing analogies. I don’t now you at all but for some reason I hope and pray you are well (or are getting well). Via con Dios mi amigo. I think it sounds so much cooler in Spanish

  6. live right here and right now, with intensity. me gusta. i’m adding this line of yours to my mantra.

  7. Chris, have you found any useful online bereavement support groups? I’m trying to find one specifically aimed at young people that have lost a spouse. Thanks, Fiona.

  8. Boy Chris, You hit that nail right on the head! I to had a north star and a bright future with my wife too. To my suprise, guess who knocked on my door? Cancer! Stage 4 colon, mets to the liver and lungs, and now bones. My wife was diagnosed Christmas eve past. Yesterday was suppose to be “Spa Treatment” no.12, and then off 1 month, and pet scans. Lo and behold, cancer knocked on the door again, and let us know that he has decided he likes the pelvis and spine better. So 8 more rounds and lot more scans. I love the blog Chris, it really has helped me along the way.

    1. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your wife and family, Rusty. Thank you for sharing you struggles and story. It really “helps” (if you can call hearing about others who are fighting this battle) to know that my family is not alone.

      1. We are in the ER for the 2nd time in less than 24hrs. Avastin has really taken a toll on my “Smooch”. I think this time they are gonna admit her.

        I think today it’s time to have the ole heart to heart with the oncologist. Been putting this off as long as I can for her sake.

        1. Rusty, So sorry for your situation. You and your “Smooch” are in my thoughts and prayers. Meme (Chris’s grandmother).

    2. Rusty, I’m so sorry you and your wife are dealing with this horrid disease! I wouldn’t wish cancer on my very worst enemy. I hope for you both easier days in the very near future, peace and healing in the weeks, months, and years to come.

  9. What happened to your entrepreneurial/engineering drive? It should come back if it hasn’t yet. There is just something wonderfully satisfying about watching something spinning, beeping, blinking and generally working, that hasn’t been beeping or even existing before, and realizing that it’s because of your efforts.

    Have you ever seen, in a real time, a web server log, after months of idleness spent during development, sparkle into life when the VERY FIRST real user comes to a site you’ve built? Your heartbeat will shoot up to 120 as you’ll be watching him/her navigating from page to page. Heck, I bet even driving your very own Taco Truck can bring a lot of joy by watching people enjoying your tacos!

    Life revolves around surprisingly simple things IMO. Doing 15 pull-ups instead of usual 14, fixing a challenging software bug, having a good beer, finding an emergency place to pee in Paris on New Years eve and so on. Actually I’m starting to believe that Big Plans mostly make us unhappy: they have natural tendency of forming endless chains and bring only two flavors of feeling: short-lasting pleasure of accomplishment and a long-lasting feeling of a long and boring running track behind you, which is supposed to be your life.

  10. Maggie’s Aunt, Pat Valente

    Hi, Chris!

    Have you ever been to Lake Tahoe in CA and NV? Well, my mother are here this week. That would be a nice thing for diversion with some of your friends, and I don’t mean for much gambling. Just rent a cabin or motel room for a few days’ vacation and enjoy the beautiful scenery. We come up here every year and stay at the Stateline in South Lake Tahoe. I rent bikes, walk, use the library, spend some time in Virgina City, Carson City and more in our “Second Home”!

    Well. hope you are enjoying some of your summer too.

    Love and regards,

    Pat Valente

    1. Chris, I am actually heading there in a few weeks. My family has been going to Lake Tahoe several times a year since before I was born; it is definitely our “second home” as well, and Stateline is the best area. If you ever have the urge to go out there, let me know, and I will see if I can help! My favorite time is the summer (colors of the lake are more visible, and weather is more agreeable) but the winter is pretty, too. Great outdoor activities – peaceful, but yet still people/things to do all around.

      Still thinking of and praying for you! Let me know if there is anything I can do.

  11. Chris,

    You are one of the most intelligent people I know. Whether you choose to write a book, start yet another company or even open a new wings bar (Austin could use another good one=) I have no doubt that you will be successful.

    Michelle H.

  12. Loved the post. Don’t rush on finding your north star… You’ll find it….
    All the computer analogies gave me a headache. 🙂

  13. Chris,
    You were so very happy with your North Star. You were completely secure and immersed in the perfect bliss of it all…. before The Cancer. Like so many, your Star needed to be brought back up to the Heavens along with its immense beauty and powerful illumination that was like no other.

    But consider perhaps, you do not necessarily need to search out your new star…. but a new and completely different star will shoot through the sky and fall to you when the timing is perfect. When the heart has let go of the past goals, plans, feelings and life/love it cherished. Once that process happens (could be tomorrow ~ could be years from now) but whenever it happens, it is the right timing. And the star will float gently, like a snowflake, into your life and light up your life in a different, new, and exciting way that you never could have anticipated.

    But for now, enjoy having fun, staying busy and letting the pain in as often or as scarce as you see fit. Only you know how this tremendous loss can feel and only you, can know how much to let that pain be felt in each new passing day.

    I send strength, wisdom and ultimately peace to you Chris, because as you know, I am going through the same.


  14. Some of you are really pathetic. These are the same people who never say excuse me, throw elbows, cut people off, don’t smile at strangers and then come here every night to give some guy all your sympathy on a comment board so that you can feel like a good person. Then you go off on comments you don’t like not trying to understand where other people are coming from. Just remember when you are off this board, you are all still responsible and have a chance to be empathetic out in the real world. Be nice. And I do know some of you.

  15. Chris,

    I never met you & I only went to high school with Maggie.

    If you ever want to talk to someone on the phone, no matter what time it is, you can call me.

    I hesitate to leave my phone number on the Tubes, but if you ever want a person to talk to about all this, get in touch with me for my number.

    Best wishes for you in navigating your new path to a new star,

  16. Dear Chris,
    I am happy that you have decided to make this into a book.
    I have made a comment before, and I am sure many other people have said it to you as well.
    I am healthy, and so is my husband and my kids.
    But your story, your gift of writting – you help more people that you know. not just those who suffer, or who watch their partners or parents go though illness. but you open eyes to all of us, those who have helth. you teach us to love, love love every day, every minute. to be good.
    you know there are just so many coples in this world that never experience the depth of love you had?
    it might sound crazy, but i caught myself thinking… i wish i was loved the way you love Maggie. I wish every husbabnd and wife were able to give, pour an endless love. You were the greatest husband Maggie could have had.
    thank you for being.

  17. i love my family, and i am happy. yet i complain… i seam not to be able to enjoy what i have and keep looking asking for more….your story brings us to the core of life. brings a new level of understanding what love really is to me. and how we must never take for granted what we have.
    God Bless you.

  18. Hi Chris…I hope your heart is healing…even just a little bit. Take care of yourself. I hope you know what a true light of hope you and Maggie have been for me and so many others.
    With love and thanks,

  19. Hi Chris… I just became a “club member” on July 5th. I have been reading your blog for many months as were travelling on a similar path. It’s almost scary to read your posts and think,”that’s MY life too!
    I continue to read your blog for understanding through this next phase. Chris you have an amazing ability to communicate and I look forward to “the book”. Cancer really SUCKS.

  20. Correction to my post…
    We officially got the “member” status on September 2004. I guess I never wanted to be considered a member through this nearly 5 year journey. I always hoped it would be differ4ent for us. Somehow we would be lucky.

    -Mary Kay

  21. Mary Kay-this is not your life. YOUR life is yours alone and the future outcome has yet to be written by anyone. I wish the best and all the strength in the world.

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