We’ve been traveling some steep emotional waves of late. Saying “we” is only true because I include us by our respective roles — me, who escalates the winds, and Gordy, who sets the sails accordingly. I quit school. There it is, smack out loud. I quit in the seventh and one-half week of a nine week term. Quit, as in walked away from all of the damn good work I had done and, just as importantly, from the remaining pile of work still expected. There are half a dozen acceptable ways to tell that story, dependent on the audience, but in most of those tellings the problem still rests with me; well, me and my ever-present shadow, cancer.
You see, I am marching into my one year markers — the day I found the lump, my first doctor’s appointment (a year ago today), the follow-up ultrasound, and so on. It isn’t even a year counting from the very beginning and only a few months counting from the end of what has been one long, uncomfortably eventful treatment and reconstruction process. There is a reason why good advice says don’t make any major decisions for one year in the wake of a traumatic event: You are not yourself and you don’t know yet the you who will be. Best to let a whole lot of river flow by before getting back in the current. I didn’t. I made the commitment to school in that glorious honeymoon period created when I found out I could choose to forego chemo and the whole act of reconstruction was still just a cluster of words on paper. I thought I had dodged a bullet and wanted to spend my good fortune immediately.
But the reconstructive process was not kind to me; quite the opposite. It pushed and bullied me around and, at one point, seriously tried to kill me. There is something so incongruent about being attacked by the process that is meant to heal you — not unlike the chemo I had blessedly avoided. No time to sort that out though. Just time to get my feet back under me and put myself in the chair that had my name on it. Hello, school, and a programmed future life for Lisa.
It sounds so obvious in retrospect, the inevitable danger of it failing, of me not being in the right head space for a reinvention of myself. I wish a giant guard rail had swung down and stopped me from stepping across those train tracks. Stay back. Stay alive. But sadly, I am more of a learn-by-experiencing-it kind of girl. An I-can-handle-this-even-it-means-figuring-it-out-later kind of girl. A step-on-the-tracks-and-get-flattened kind of girl.
I am recovering. Slowly. I am peeling back the layers of this last year, scraping off any bite-sized pieces of wisdom that I can. I am confused and unclear and uncertain a great deal of the time. I cry more than I like. I wanted to grow my wings back as quickly as I could but that isn’t how the Universe responded and that is hard to bear. Sometimes, I feel willing to give up, to tip myself into hopelessness about finding my way through this, needing a great deal more latitude than I ever imagined possible. I have mostly, but not completely, given myself latitude sufficient to heal my physical body, to learn how to operate it, replacement parts included. I have not given myself sufficient latitude for the extraordinary emotional levels at which I am and am not (ah, denial and suppression) processing what has happened. I am crushed by that awareness. It is true — anything less than self-care is self-violence.
So, first I am giving myself permission to say these things aloud: I am not perfectly well. I don’t have to be perfectly well. Who would be perfectly well after this asshole of a year? Also, I will not be perfectly well until I slog through a whole lot of emotional crap, so lower your expectations of me, please. Next, I am desperate for the intimate expressions of myself — the way I am with the animals, the creative flow of forging something beautiful from raw pieces of fiber or fabric, the deep attentiveness given to the ones I love. And I want to be seen and respected, or at least acknowledged, for these expressions. So, if you are genuinely able, tell me that what I make is beautiful and you are amazed at my talent. Tell me you adore seeing the animals through my eyes. Call me and have a deeply satisfying dialogue about the powerful forces brewing in you. My spark is low and needs oxygen I cannot myself provide. Be my oxygen.
I will help get this started. Here is the quilt I made for the guest bedroom. It is beautiful in person. It is based on a vintage quilt pattern from the late 1800’s. I did everything myself, including the quilting. I am new at this so that is pretty impressive. Well, that’s not quite true because Gordy and Griff helped me put the whole sandwich (the top, batting, and backing) together!
I also finished a wall-hanging of dragonflies.
And then there are these magical moments proving just how great life with seven dogs can be.
As my friend, Shannon, says — one day, this will all make a great story. Just keep pushing forward, gaining distance and perspective and then, oh yes then, one day you will be able to tell the story and in a way that makes you laugh. I’m practicing for that day, but mostly I am providing myself with a strong dose of emotional latitude to let it be the less-than-perfect story it is right now. One day though….