The time of my life.
Ginny made a really interesting point the other day. “You know I’m very sorry that you’re dying,” she said. “But I’m loving our life. This is the life we always wanted.” She was precisely right. This might well be the most joy-filled time of my life. Yes, there are times when I feel a little green around the gills, but most of the time I’m pretty much OK.
There’s one big reason my life is so good now, and I’ll get to that. But first some of the additional reasons:
Eating can be difficult; food gets stuck and my chest gets tight. But I get a good trade-off for that. Ice cream and pasta and Planters Peanut Bars don’t get stuck—and I can eat all I want of those things without gaining weight. (Cancer speeds up your metabolism, and the fact is, I might be eating higher calorie things, but overall I’m definitely eating much less.) And here’s a bonus: nobody expects me to exercise. Heck, I only floss now when there’s something stuck in my teeth.
Binge TV watching is one of the two best cultural pursuits I’ve discovered in my 65 years. (The other is reading: more on that in an upcoming post.) Ginny and I are completely up to date on The Americans, Game of Thrones, The Fall, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Ray Donovan, Empire Boardwalk, The Killing, House of Cards, Bates Motel, some British and European series, etc. These are all very good to very great shows. And last week I went back and watched the whole Ken Burns Civil War series. We’ve just finished re-watching the first half of the final season of Breaking Bad so we’ll be ready when the last half starts.
When I’m feeling up to it, we go out to movies—and for the first time in memory there have been good summer movies to see. 2 Guns, 20 Feet From Stardom, Star Trek and Pacific Rim were lightweight fun. Filling the Void and Brooklyn Castle were interesting. The Hunt and A Royal Affair were both very good. A Hijacking was definitely worth seeing. Fruitvale Station was extremely good—and The Attack was even better. Much Ado About Nothing was surprisingly good.
We’ve discovered that when I’m feeling crummy, I can take my mind off my discomfort by playing Bananagrams with Ginny. It’s a distraction that’s become an addiction. We combine four sets of tiles to play a ridiculously intense version that we made up. Every word has to have at least four letters. Some of the words that were on the board when we finished yesday’s games: jumbucks, strategies, butyrophenones, zabajone, wiggery, kudzu, rixatrix, obsequiousness. Don’t be too impressed: some of these are “target words” we set out to make—and we allow ourselves to use the Word Lookup app on our iPad during the entire game. We are pretty evenly matched, but because she’s so much quicker than I am, when she beats me, she really crushes me. Last week, Patti, who is also insanely fast, joined us. I set a new scoring record: minus 97. Playing this game is a lot like work, but it does take my mind off whatever I don’t want to be feeling. (Opium—morphine—helps too.)
I average about one visitor a day—and they’re the best people in the world, interesting, funny, good, smart, kind. In her much discussed comedy routine about cancer, Tig Notaro talks about the difficulty in getting people to share small talk when you’re facing a life-threatening illness. Some small talk is fine, but I love it when we can get into heavier subjects. Those conversations energize me. My friends know how to talk about ideas. I have friends who are deeply devout in their religions—that’s a subject that can generates some wonderful heat. If you’re pro-Obama, I’ll take an anti-Obama stand. If you’re anti-, I’m pro-. We talk history and science. So much of the science I learned in school was wrong; why do I believe the scientists now? (And I mostly do—even though I strongly suspect “we” will be proven wrong about a lot of things in the years ahead.)
I’ve finally figured out how to work fewer than 60 hours a week on agency things. Now I probably work a third of that. The Martin Agency graciously encourages me to stay involved when I can, so I weigh in on executive committee matters and I’m mentoring about a half-dozen of the company’s stars. I went to the office last week to see the work going into a new business presentation: it was fabulous. I’ve always enjoyed my job; it’s work I love with people I love. But I’ve never appreciated it all more than now.
While I’m on the subject of the agency, I should say one reason I feel so good these days about the company is the next generation of leadership. With all due respect to John and our formidable partners and predecessors, the top twelve to fifteen people in the company now will clearly comprise the best management team in the organization’s history. And another amazing group is already coming together right behind them. The future is sparkling. New business is on fire. Just some of the new business assignments already announced this year: Oreos, TIAA-CREF, Benjamin Moore, Colonial Williamsburg, Opportunity International, Earth University, Education First, Def Leppard (really) and Timberland PRO. In the days ahead, there will be a couple of new announcements. And there have also been additional assignments from ExxonMobil, GEICO, Mondelez and Kraft.
Of course, the biggest thing making me feel so good about the agency and its future: the work is better than ever. The work will never be everything Joe wants it to be, but it’s got a better feel these days. Thanks to improvements in design and production, the ideas feel more comfortable in their skin.
Those are just some of the reasons life is so good for me right now. But there’s one reason that tops them all. What is it Johnny Cash sang? Flesh and blood need flesh and blood.
I’ve never been closer to Jason and his family. I’ve never been closer to Patti.
And then there’s Ginny. This is the time for the two of us she’s always wanted. I always felt I wanted it, too, but had trouble finding my way clear to embrace it. There was always work. Or this project. Or that project. Besides, if she had me all the time she wanted, wouldn’t she get tired of me? Let’s face it, there were times she wanted to strangle me. (No jury would have convicted her.) Could I be present the way she wanted me present? I didn’t have much faith in myself.
She was right. I was wrong. This is the best. To hell with cancer. I’ve got a life to live—a life that’s definitely worth living.