Confession: I did not work on my book today. But, I have a very good excuse. Last week I was in what Hannah Marcotti calls a “shit warp.” So this morning, instead of working on my book, I was walking my dogs in a light snow, then at the laundromat with Eric doing last week’s laundry, after that buying a new washing machine, and finally, taking a three hour nap.
A month ago, when I was at my annual exam with my OBGYN, she was doing a breast exam and said “that’s weird.” These are not the words you want to hear in those circumstances, in that context. We ultimately convinced ourselves that it was simply a dense spot that was mirrored by a similar one on the other side. However, as cancer obsessed as I am (I’ve lost too many, known too much, am still living out some trauma around it, so when there’s anything “weird,” I go there), I kept checking it, and last weekend, I found a definite lump, on the same day our washing machine stopped working.
I made an appointment for a diagnostic mammogram, but would have to wait a week. During that same week, Dexter got a hot spot on his leg (a spot that’s bothering him, most likely allergies or arthritis, that he licks the hair off, licks it raw if he worries on it enough–he’s done it for four other years in a row before this, taking last year off), and Sam hurt his toe, kept licking at it, which meant I was worried about both boys all week. Then three days ago, Dexter’s nose started to bleed again, (just small, thin, pink drips from time to time, especially when he’s lying down or when he sneezes). Remember the maybe might be probably fatal cancer? Yep, that’s clearly doing it’s work, and is now a bit more than a maybe.
Work was also so busy it almost hurt, and there was one other family thing that I won’t talk about here that brings its own sadness and worry, so: shit warp. But it’s lifting, shifting, settling, and revealing so much kindness and love. Yesterday, after two mammograms and an ultrasound, they determined that the lump I found is fibrous tissue, not a tumor. The women who work at the diagnostic center were so nice to me (I was there for three hours, and up until the last five minutes, I was sure it was cancer), and as I left, I felt so much compassion for the other women there with me, especially the ones who didn’t get such good news, and for all the many women over the years who’ve faced that, felt all that fear, suffered and had to make hard choices.
Eric was waiting in the parking lot for me–he’d wanted to come with me, but I wouldn’t let him, as it would have made me too nervous, but he’d come from work and driven around the parking lot until he found my car, parked and waited for me. As soon as I saw him, I started to cry, but was luckily able to pretty quickly choke out “I’m okay” so he didn’t get the wrong idea. He told me later that the whole thing had made him realize that he could stand to lose everything else, as long as he still had me. Our 19th wedding anniversary is next week, we’ve been together 20 years now, and I feel the same about him.
There was so much kindness showered on me by others last week. One friend requested a blessing of sorts that was offered to me by another, the sweetest message of comfort. It came with a recording of the Dalai Lama chanting that I’ve been listening to constantly since I got it. When I emailed and asked her if she knew what he was chanting (it’s something in Sanskrit and I can’t quite make it out to translate it) and she didn’t know either, she offered her own paragraph of translation that was at once brilliant and simple, the message essentially that while things can be hard sometimes, there is love and joy, all is okay and we are not alone. As I so often say, life is both beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible.
Another offered a response to Dexter’s trouble that was exactly what I wanted, needed to hear: “Dexter will know what to do. His body will keep working as long as it needs to for him to be here on this earth. He loves you.” My meditation instructor had offered something similar a while ago, assuring me that I know what to do, that I am a being with basic, fundamental wisdom and compassion, and when the time comes, I will know what to do. You see, kind and gentle reader, I don’t need him to be “okay.” I know from having lost Obi that no matter how it happens or when, it’s always too soon and too sad, and having more time with them doesn’t necessarily make it any easier, doesn’t make you more ready or willing to let go. What I want is exactly what this friend suggested, that he’ll be happy and well for as long as there is, and then if we need to, we can help him because it will be clear that it’s time, and we love each other so much, he’s had such a good life, that it will be as okay as it can be.
I received so much kindness and support, and today I was noticing all the little ways I offer it. At the laundromat, there were simple things: holding the door for someone carrying a basket of laundry, wiping my feet on the rug at the door so I didn’t track in too much water, telling a women unloading a washer that the dryer we were done with still had 20 minutes left she could use, saying thank you to the person working there. Then later, busing our own table at the place we stopped for breakfast and thanking the cook, being patient when the purchase of the new washing machine got complicated and took a really long time. Then I gave myself the kindness of a long nap (I haven’t slept that well this week), sunk down and turned in, but noticed when Eric and the dogs got back from their walk how my heart woke up and immediately turned, reached out to them.
“If we don’t allow ourselves to experience joy and love, we will definitely miss out on filling our reservoir with what we need when. . . . hard things happen.” ~Brené Brown