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Don’t Know Why

Saturday, October 12, 2013, 05:42 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

I used to laugh at people, usually of middle age or older, who swore off caffeine after 3pm. “I can’t have that Snapple/Coke/second cup of coffee or I’ll be awake all night.” I thought it was all in their heads: if they dwelled on it like that, of course they’d be awake all night. Besides, I used to consume ridiculous amounts of caffeine (before my doctor told me to cut waaaay back for medical reasons) and I always slept like a baby.

Now I’m lying in bed, less than two hours before sunrise, having been awake since about 2:30am and not knowing why. Then I remembered the two+ cans of Coke I had before/during/after supper last night at my father’s day-after-birthday dinner. It was as if a giant cosmic finger pointed itself at me and said, “Aha!” Our bodies change as we age and crap like that starts to happen, apparently even to me. Though I don’t understand the physiological reason, it’s nice to know there is one. The universe feels more orderly when I know why.

I believe that everything has a reason. For every effect, there is a cause. I’m not talking about great philosophical questions (Google “Ellen Degeneres Phone Call to God” for a humorous take). I’m talking about something more basic, something simple like a rattle in my car caused by something loose. And when I can’t find it, it’s annoying as hell.

I recently learned that one of my high school classmates, a breast cancer survivor since 2006, has suffered a recurrence with metastases to liver, spine, sternum, skull, both femurs, and both lungs. It took seven months to find. Then earlier this week she learned that some funky visual disturbances that just started were due to mets to her left eye.

This woman did everything right the first time she was diagnosed. She had all the right treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation), took a well-known breast cancer drug for five years afterwards to reduce the risk of relapse, ate healthy food, kept herself in shape by—get this—climbing mountains, and diligently (but not obsessively) consulted her doctor when she didn’t feel well. It didn’t help. Why? What caused that cancer to come roaring back, and why didn’t it show up on the blood tests, x-rays, or MRIs?

Meanwhile, my niece’s boyfriend’s father (got that?) is in the hospital after being hit by a car while changing a tire. He had several broken ribs, broken legs, and spine fractures (fortunately non-displaced, and so no spinal cord damage). He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it sucks. But we know the cause. A guy had an apparent attack of vertigo, lost control of his vehicle, and drove into someone else. Cause and effect. It may not be fair, but it’s orderly.

Sometimes we know the cause of something but we don’t accept it. My alcoholic cousin, who has been in and out of recovery more times than I can count, told me at a family reunion last summer, “I want to be normal. I want to be able to have a beer like everybody else and not end up wasted and sick and in jail because I did something stupid.” But he knows he isn’t normal. He can’t have just one beer. Not that he doesn’t try, repeatedly, even though he knows the cause and the effect. In Alcoholics Anonymous, they call that insanity: doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result.

But I digress. I’m treading toward the philosophical, or perhaps the psychological. In any event, suddenly I’m drowsy. If I don’t get some sleep (cause), I’ll be too tired (effect) to enjoy my Saturday activities.

Order. I love it.

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