Out taking a walk I hear the dribble dribble of a basketball; it’s actually warm enough in January in Massachusetts to be out in the driveway shooting some hoops. I see a kid, a teenager, in a white sweatshirt with the hood up, jeans and sneakers and it looks like he’s just entertaining himself on a Sunday afternoon the way my brother used to when he was that age.
All of a sudden tears unexpectedly well up in my eyes and I think about my nuclear family. Sometimes it strikes me as absurd and strange that in our American culture many of us grow up so closely with our parents and siblings and then when we leave the house, everything becomes so different and we become so spread apart. (Especially after people get married and have kids). I think about the sound of the basketball on the pavement back on Moran Circle where we lived until I was 9 and my brother was 13; about how the backboard and hoop got stolen one night on our quiet little suburban street, and we couldn’t believe that our dog Benji didn’t even give us a little bark to let us know. I think about the vacations that my parents took us on; eating pineapple in Hawaii and drinking tea in Moscow and having a picnic not far from Rainbow Bridge in Utah. There was cross-country skiing in Concord, dinners with my Grandma at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, and watching the little planes take off and land in Marlboro while eating mint-chocolate chip ice cream. My Dad started me off early collecting things like bottle caps and pins that said “I love the piano” and my jean jacket just couldn’t hold them all. My Mom and I would spend summers when I returned home from camp doing errands together (I loved it) and playing jacks on our cold tile floor. I remember my brother and I videotaped by my Dad as we told each other secrets and took long walks on the beach, lying on rocks like salamanders and soaking up that Cape Cod sun. Us!
There are seven of us now, including spouses and kids, and we’re probably all together three times a year. (Sometimes we get lucky and it’s four). I know for a lot of families it’s way less, depending upon how far you live from everybody (and for some of you it’s way more). But with geographical distance and jobs and health and kids, our time together is limited. (And OK, maybe we get along better because we don’t see each other every weekend? I can feel people nodding their heads. You get it. You would protect your family from a lion but you don’t necessarily want to do a Sunday brunch every weekend!). And still, it just strikes me as funny, and a little bit sad, that I went from those family of four vacations to us being together only a few times a year.
As I continued to walk, I started to think about time, and relationships, and faith. I have faith in my family, that they’ll never abandon me, that they’ll never stop loving me, that they’ll always tolerate my “mess.” (And I’m not just talking about that nuclear family anymore; now my husband, sister-in-law and nephew are my family too. And then I remember that things are supposed to change and shift and evolve and now, instead of just the four of us, we have SHL and my SIL and my nephew and how could we ever life without them now? — We couldn’t!).
But lately, I’ve had faith in little more than that. For only the second time since I was diagnosed, after coping with some side-effects that bring about more doctors appointments, change, and unknown, did I tell myself recently that I can understand how somebody with a chronic illness could, at some point, want to give up.
And as I walk I think about those who have worries, but who basically live a “normal life”, and I feel more separated from you than ever. My insides ache not knowing or remembering what that feels like. I feel as though I have a huge knot in my brain that is tied up in fear and everything else…well everything else just feels sort of foggy. I long to unravel the ties that make up this fear, but every time I make a little progress gently undoing what has been done, another piece comes along and adds itself to the creation of chaos.
I’ve worked so hard over the last 3 + years on authenticity, managing my disease, trying to live life to the fullest, working hard on my perception of food and cancer and challenges and movement. I’ve had days where I couldn’t get out of bed, and I’ve had days where I’ve knocked it out of the park at work and slept in SHL’s arms. This is life, I understand, the motion of the waves, the wavering faith (if you’ve ever had anything bad happen to you), the broken heart that fills up with gold in those cracks where it has been broken, just as the Japanese believe that is the best way to mend a broken object. They believe that if something has suffered damage and has a history, it is more beautiful.
I long to remember the beauty in my own life; I know it is there. And I know that gold must course through those shards, so many of them living within me. It is just so hard to see and feel the beauty right now, through the unknowns and the fear and the injustice of it all.
I think about how I had no say in this at all, and then I remember how much more I’ve learned to love life since all of this happened. I like to think that I have no control, but my words carefully remind me that I’ve had many choices, that I have chosen to make my life better even while living with tumors.
I continue to go to my mat and sometimes that helps, imaging cords of love and compassion between myself and the world, between myself and the cancer. I see a rose-gold energy that twinkles and encompasses my body and keeps me safe; and yet, outside of that meditation time, it does not keep me safe from everything. What am I to believe?
Gabby Bernstein always says that the “Universe has your back,” and I used to believe it, until one bad thing after another happened. If you believe in the law of attraction than my mindset needs to change shape because I don’t want to call negativity into my life either. I want to face the suffering (as much as I really don’t), only in the hopes of being able to mend my own broken objects, my heart, my faith, my confidence. Can you understand the dilemma just festering in my heart?
I understand that trying to face suffering while trying to let go seems impossible, but in the end again my words help me to understand that they actually fit together. And so, I will find my way back, I will let the course take me where it needs to. I will get through this because I have to, because my work and love is not yet done.
I can’t wait until I can tell you all that yes, the universe really does have my back. And in the meantime, I need to have my own.