Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Problem with Being You

I had mistaken the soprano-like bird calls as coming from small hawks or even smaller songbirds that had failed to migrate south for the winter. The high-pitched cries just did not suit the stern magnificence of the two bald eagles, calling to each other as they circled before landing atop one of the 60 foot trees behind our home. It was a bone chilling, cloudless day, the temperature hovering near freezing, which meant the recent snowfall had become a crusty white layer on the lawn. The surprising sound of the two birds of prey cut across the brittle landscape, crisp and clear. As I listened again, I wondered to myself, "Perhaps they don't need to sound powerful just because they are powerful".  Still, as I stared at these regal hunters surveying their domain, I could not shake the mental image of a muscle-bound warrior with a squeaky voice. 

Bundled against the freezing gusts of wind, I had just completed vacuuming our swimming pool. Odd, I know, but just as the two eagles seemed to ignore November's blustery weather, so does the collection of windblown leaves, sticks and fir needles at the bottom of the pool. It was ironic to me that I was out in the cold maintaining a facility that would not be used again for at least seven months. I wondered if anyone was watching. I felt as out of place as if I had been hanging Christmas lights in the middle of summer.
Life seems full of inconsistencies, scenes that jar our sensibilities, leaving us pondering the puzzle piece that just doesn't fit. That is the way it is with my Parkinson's disease. In many ways I feel as if I am in the prime years of my life. I have been blessed beyond belief with family, friends and stimulating work that is both helpful to others and rewarding. Life seems to have created a springboard of possibilities. But as promising as the picture may look from a distance, closer examination discloses flaws and limitations, faults and pending failure. It is as if there are two Bobs; one ready for the adventures of the next several decades and the other stumbling along day by day, wondering when weakness will prevail.
I live with a type of schizophrenia; a lack of clear definition as to who I really am. The self-portrait seems to be sketched by two artists; one unstintingly optimistic, smiling and ready for anything, while the other is expressionless, frozen in fear of what is yet to be. There is a problem being "me".  Society dictates that, to the maximum extent possible, one should present a singular persona, preferably one that can be put into perspective at a glance. As Ralph Waldo Emerson affirmed, "…consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…", and we all seem to have little minds.  We have a difficult time seeing the strong being weak, the wise lacking answers, the brave showing fear.

As a result, we suffer a lack of integrity, the state of being whole, and complete or undivided. Our self-concept is confused. We have a problem being who we are because we have a problem knowing who we are. The frightening truth is that I am both characters at once and the presence of Parkinson's disease demands a dynamic self-evaluation of who I really am. It is a moving target. It is not limited by who I feel I am, who I am told I am, who I have been or who I want to be. I am a person in process, partly enigma and partly self-evident. I am a collage of the incongruent. I am learning to live with the problem of being who I am.


  1. Bob, another great post. As far as I know, I do not have Parkinson's, but I relate very much to what you have written. I find my self often trying to reconcile in myself the apparently irreconcilable - confidence and self-doubt, acceptance and self-blame, thankfulness and anxiety.

  2. I love the past, present, and future version of you. You are the most wonderful father a daughter could ever ask for.