I am currently wrapped up in my fluffy, white, down comforter, a warm cloud of soft protection. I hear my fourteen year old son reading a Magic Tree House book about the Titanic in the next room. He is reading to the seven year old who is uncharacteristically quiet. I see the stack of work items sitting beside me on the bed. Something about their neat, but also slightly off-kilter, pile feels comforting to me.
I work from my bedroom most of the time, now, locking the door and turning on the air filter as white noise when I’m in virtual sessions with clients. Today is Saturday, so the house is not constricted with the stress of virtual school.
That is a relief.
My husband is downstairs, I think. He is likely resting or fast asleep after another night of being jerked awake by the pain of the tumor in his neck pressing against his spinal chord. His moans and writhing in his sleep woke the both of us at 3 am and 6 am.
Nothing in my life looks the same anymore. Even the things that are exactly the same. The view from the edge of the world is different. There is little room for pettiness or trivial arguments here. My body rebels against them with an immediate headache and a brick wall blocking all cohesive thought. Here, there is more beauty in daily moments than I ever realized, and I was one of those mindfulness nuts bent on living in the moment.
Like the rest of the country, I am existing with a sort of baseline of uncertainty these days. The cancer in my love’s head – the cancer that seems defiantly resistant to all of our efforts – is adding a new level of uncer
tainty that leaves me unsteady, confused, and depleted at times yet full of wonder, focus, and capacity for deep emotional healing at other times.
Would you kindly let me share my thoughts from this precarious precipice?
I have realized lately, that something about me cries out for a witness. Perhaps others in the middle of a slow trauma can relate, can help me map the terrain of this unexpected path.
I can remember standing on the outside of other people’s devastating stories. I “could not imagine” what they were going through, the pain they were experiencing. I guess I did have some unidentified expectations, though, because it’s different here on the inside than I expected it to be.
Often, when I have the chance to answer questions or communicate with the ones who love me most, I cannot find the deep words. I either respond with the practiced responses or talk very little. Like everything in my life right now, my body has a wisdom and a plan, and I don’t know what it is until it comes over me.
My body immediately knows when it’s hungry and what it will tolerate eating. Regular meal times seem ridiculous. My body knows when it’s tired, needs to dance, needs to spend the morning listening to the same song over and over while crying. It’s the same with the words and insights. They come when they come, and they seem completely gone when it would be the appropriate time to use them.
This sounds like I’m incapable of regular living, but that is not true at all. My body is often compelled to move, to accomplish. The laundry gets folded and the meals cooked for the children. I still love my work for creating space for other people who are in health crises or who are also living at the edge of the world. In fact, I feel a greater capacity for it many days.
Still, the ability to articulate this experience comes in bits and pieces. I am unsure if anyone is interested, but I know that my body wants to write. My son’s voice reading about the Titanic lingers in my mind. This is not the Titanic, but it is certainly the hardest thing I’ve ever faced in my undeniably privileged life.
The thought cyclones swirl about even now. This one bit I can isolate: We need each other. In every way that you, that I, can love more gently, more actively, less judgmentally, more freely, with less withholding – let’s do that. Time is limited, imagination is our best tool, and all our lives depend on it. Act, speak, encourage, witness, hug those you can hug. Tenderness is not the same as weakness.
Also, here is a poem I wrote not long after the cancer returned in the Spring.