“Two Guns” Part III (final) – Guest Blog by Mario Sikora


Mario's sons

Mario’s sons

Mario Sikora is an Enneagram 8, an Asserter type. This is one of the stories in Chapter 8 on Asserters in “The Enneagram of Death– Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear and Dying” by Elizabeth Wagele. In parts I & II on this site, we found out Mario’s cardiologist had said, “It could be no big deal, or it could be something like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

I often travel on business. Once, toward the end of a three-week trip, Alexei, son number three, said, “Mommy, I’m starting to forget what Daddy looks like a little.” Alexei is five now but he was only three during those twelve days. After three weeks the memory gets a little fuzzy; what happens in three years, or ten?

Sure, I could make one of those “dying-dad” videos, but I always imagine they end up in a closet somewhere, unwatched, or watched as something obligatory and oddly historical. My wife would tell them fond stories for a while, but life would go on and the stories would become less and less frequent and eventually stop. What terrified me was that I had not had enough time with them to leave my mark on these four little boys who I cherished, that I wouldn’t be there to guide them and shape them, to pick them up and dust them off when they fell, to hold them when they needed it or push them when they didn’t think they could go on.

One afternoon Warren Zevon’s Keep Me in Your Heart shuffled onto my iPod in the car. At the line, “If I leave you it doesn’t mean I love you any less,” the dam broke. They wouldn’t understand and I feared they would hate me for not being there.

I feared my kami would wander alone, unbeckoned and unnoticed.

When the diagnosis arrived, it too was anti-climactic: enlarged lymph nodes, non-cancerous, consistent with sarcoidosis. I had a condition with no known cause and no known cure. “It can be fatal in African-Americans,” my pulmonologist said, “but typically it just shows up in some people and in a year or two it goes away. You’ll be fine. Stay away from saw dust and talcum powder.”

I have a scar at the base of my throat (which I jokingly tell people was from a knife fight if they ask). I saw the hospital bill that my insurance company paid. A quarter of a million dollars.

“Stay away from talcum powder.”

Six months later, the symptoms were gone.

I wish I could say something was different, that having stared into the abyss and survived I had some profound insight or made a significant change in the way I live my life. But life goes on pretty much as it did before.

My one aim, my one straight and true goal, is to last long enough to matter to my sons. I don’t feel an urgency to mold them like clay (St Paul’s potter I am not), but I’m acutely aware that every inadvertent moment leaves a mark, and gives the kami breath.

The quartet

The quartet

So every once in a while in the midst of the chaos when everyone is yelling and we’re in a hurry to get them out the door to school and son number one can’t find his shoes and son number four is flailing on the floor because he wants the car that son number three is playing with and son number two realizes he forgot to do his homework and says you know I don’t like jelly on my sandwiches, I take a moment to remember Sisyphus. I feel my muscles brought alive by the weight of the rock and my heels digging in to the dirt so as not to lose traction. I take a slow breath and I press my cheek against the cool, rough surface, losing awareness of where the rock stops and I start. In such moments all sounds are muffled, and everything happens—briefly—in slow motion. I look down the hill and see a long way to the bottom; I look ahead and see a long way to the top.

Feeling momentarily in on the joke, I raise my face to the gods and I smile.

Mario Sikora is an executive coach. He is the 2011-2012 president of the International Enneagram Association and he has an Enneagram certification program for professional users. Visit him at http://www.enneagramlearning.com/ and www.youtube.com/user/mariosikora

Please visit Elizabeth’s improved Famous types page and subscribe to this and her Psychology Today blog.

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“Two Guns,” Part II, Guest Blog by Mario Sikora


Mario's sons

Mario’s sons

Mario Sikora is an Enneagram 8, an Asserter type.

This is one of the stories in Chapter 8 on Asserters in The Enneagram of Death – Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear and Dying by Elizabeth Wagele.

I hadn’t gotten used to the fact that there was someone in the world who I was calling “my cardiologist;” by Saturday afternoon I had an oncologist and a pulmonologist as well.

Five days in the hospital and seven more waiting for the results of the biopsy of the nodes scraped from my chest through an incision at the base of my neck. This provided a lot of time to think. Twelve days is a long time when you’re waiting for that kind of news.

My thoughts didn’t turn to the afterlife; I’d long ago stopped speculating on such things. The threat of hell and enticement of heaven had lost their efficacy when I was twenty. There is a certain appeal to Eastern notions of the dance of Shiva or recycling through continuing stages or of somehow becoming one with some universal consciousness, but we’re adults, right? So let’s be serious.

Drawing by Elizabeth Wagele

Drawing by Elizabeth Wagele

I can’t count the times I’ve read Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus.” Camus takes what others see as the bleakest of fates—Sisyphus condemned to endlessly push a rock up a hill only to let it roll back down and do it again—and turns it into something noble. Like each of us must do, Camus’ Sisyphus has come to terms with his fate, and thus “one must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

My view of the life after death had settled into what I like to think of as a mildly Shinto-istic existentialism: that we leave a mark on those things and people we interact with; they carry our memory, they are reshaped by our having come into contact. While our lights may go out when that last electrical spark emits from the brain, others carry us with them and the way we shaped them lingers on, and thus do we. Like Shinto’s “kami,” or spirits, the memory of us lurks in those we have touched, longing to be seen.

I met a man once who was wearing the shoes of his son who had died five years prior. I always thought of those shoes as the most sacred of shrines, an intimacy beyond the comprehension of most of us. Speculations on the afterlife feel hollow in the face of such acts.

On the occasion or two that thoughts about what happens next did cross my mind over the course of those twelve days, they passed quickly. Pascal’s Wager had always seemed a coward’s ploy to me and I wasn’t going to blink now.

So here were the choices–it could be no big deal, or I could be in for a long sickness and unpleasant treatment or I could be dying. The pain in my chest and shortness of breath that sent me to the doctor in the first place were real. They weren’t stress—sure I have stress, I’m self-employed, our fourth son had been born a few months earlier, but I’m not that way. So maybe it was no big deal, but it was something.

For the most part, I put it out of my mind. It seems like they shouldn’t, but the events of the day go on–and it is surprisingly easy to fill up the time and be distracted.

But I’ll let you in on something; I’ll tell you what woke me up at night, what filled me with terror and heartache and despair, what made me get in the car by myself and drive fast and scream until nothing more would come out and I thought my throat would bleed: the knowledge that my sons would forget me.

Read Part III (the final) of Two Guns Tuesday October 30.

Mario Sikora is an executive coach and the 2011-2012 president of the International Enneagram Association, and he has an Enneagram certification program for professional users. Visit him at http://www.enneagramlearning.com/ and www.youtube.com/user/mariosikora

 

Please visit Elizabeth’s improved Famous types page and subscribe to this and her Psychology Today blog.

“Two Guns,” Part I Guest Blog by Mario Sikora


Mario Now

Mario twenty years after the first gun incident.
Photo by Tanya Sikora.

 

 

This is one of the stories in Chapter 8 on Asserters in The Enneagram of Death – Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear and Dying by Elizabeth Wagele. Among other things Mario can’t control he copes with the possibility his sons will not be old enough to remember him if he dies now. Mario Sikora is an Enneagram 8, an Asserter type.

It sticks in your mind, I can tell you, the first time someone points a gun at you in anger.

More than twenty years ago but it feels like last night; the feel of the carpet under my bare feet, and smell of the bourbon on his breath. John, my housemate’s brother who was sleeping on the sofa until he got back on his feet, had been on the short-end of a bar fight and came back for his brother’s gun with the intention of settling the score. Roused from bed by his girlfriend’s screams, I went downstairs to see what was going on. When I got between him and the door he pointed the Browning Hi-Power 9 mm, a gun I well knew to be loaded, directly at my nose.

As I said, it sticks in your mind.

I wish I could say I had a more profound thought at that moment. Oddly enough, I’m writing this at an outdoor cafe off Boulevard des Philosophes in Geneva, home of Rousseau and Calvin, a long way from that Southwest Philly row home. Perhaps an insight on civility and society in honor of Rousseau, or more apropos, something on the perseverance of the saints or the ramifications of God’s hand in human affairs in honor of Calvin. (“Hath not the potter power over the clay…” as St. Paul wrote to the Romans.)

But all I could think at the time was: I refuse to die at the hands of this idiot.

I was younger then, of course. Fast and good with my hands. John was drunk so his reactions would be a little slow, maybe giving me a slight edge. But he was a bad drunk and I didn’t know how much time I had and I wasn’t waiting around to see which way things would go. I had coiled my legs just a little to get some spring and I was trying to shift my angle ever so slightly to see whether John had released the safety when he lowered the gun and eventually calmed down.

Anti-climactic, perhaps, but not when it’s you. I went to bed a little dizzy and wondering if I would have felt the impact of the bullet or if the lights just would have gone out.

Mario and his family

Mario and his family

The second gun pointed at me was metaphorical.

“It could be no big deal, or it could be something like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” my cardiologist said. “But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. On Monday I’ll call a pulmonologist I know–he’s very good–and we’ll get you in to see him as soon as we can.”

It was late on a Friday afternoon. Five minutes after I hung up I called him back.

“Doc, I’m not a sit-and-wait kind of guy. I won’t make it through the weekend just waiting. I need to do something today. Right now. This hour.”

I had gotten to know him over the preceding weeks, as one test after another had shown nothing to be wrong with my heart. But my symptoms were “troubling” to him and he kept looking. A CAT scan the previous day had proved irregular. Probably an Asserter himself, my cardiologist said, “Okay, go to the hospital, I’ll admit you. We’ll get some tests done over the weekend.”

Read Part II of Two Guns here Tuesday October 23.

Mario Sikora is an executive coach and the 2011-2012 president of the International Enneagram Association, and he has an Enneagram certification program for professional users. Visit him at http://www.enneagramlearning.com/ and www.youtube.com/user/mariosikora

Please visit Elizabeth’s improved Famous People page and subscribe to this and her other blog on Psychology Today.