In my mind’s eye, I am in the middle of a real life movie. The camparible movie that comes to mind is Steel Magnolias, Fried Green Tomatoes, Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Chick flick material.
Jenn and Kate are up at Higgins Lake helping a friend reroof her cabin and garage. It is COVID era and the quarantine was just extended to mid-June, a few more weeks from now. Kate has chosen to not help with the roof and take care of her health. Stepping back and self-care are new things for Kate to exercise. She has come through two rounds of cancer, three surgeries and one round of chemotherapy since July 2018, less than two years ago. Only when the entire world was forced to slow down does Kate embrace the enormity of what her body, mind, spirit, and family have been through.
This would be the trailer for a heartwarming story of life, love of self and others, and family. My loving wife, Jenn, would offer enough humor and levity to broaden the audience of viewers from just the cult of introspective, whoo-whoo types that my storytelling style would draw. That’s one of the many reasons she is my wife.
All I can say is wow. Living after cancer is a thing. I had a few days of crazy anxiety earlier this week.
Thursday morning I ran into a woman who has been through a similar experience to mine. I had reached out to her at the beginning of my journey when I was trying to wrap my head around my new existence with cancer. She was so gracious in her messages to me, at the time I was not prepared for all she had to offer so I did not stay in touch with her or reach out. At that time I could not hear too much of others stories and definitely not support forums or support groups. I was not ready, it made it too real. I just wanted to move forward like normal.
Jenn and I had just pulled up outside of a friends house. We were sitting in the car while I was on the phone. A dog was out on the sidewalk ahead of us and we weren’t sure if he had a home. Jenn got out of the car and walked up to the dog to see if we could help him. Turns out the owner was right there, but behind some bushes so we couldn’t see her. Jenn started chatting with the woman. When I was done with my phone call in the car I walked up to Jenn and this neighbor woman. I recognized her immediately as the woman I had messaged ealy on in my cancer journey. We started catching up and I asked her about her health. She is well. She is years out from her cancer. We realized we go to the same alternative doctor. Which means she eats like I do! This was more exciting than I expected. In this brief exchange I remembered I am not alone. I was not ready before to let her into my circle. She was there the whole time but denial can be sneaky.
I am not in denial because I openly talk about my cancer. Not true. I have wanted desperately for things to go back to “normal”. I am normal with this cancer thing in my past. Kind of like the midwestern “I’m Fine”. I remember wanting things to go back to “normal” right after my divorce. I was trying so hard to jam all the square pegs into the oval holes to MAKE. IT. FEEL. NORMAL. AGAIN. Not this chaotic mess of uncertainty, big feelings and vulnerability.
Normal can also be defined as familiar. Like when people are comfortable in their discontent because it is what they know. Change is hard. New things are hard. The unknown is hard. Sometimes I just don’t want to be in the hard spots. Between work, family, volunteering it has been very easy to pretend like “normal” is where I am. This would be like putting frosting on a pile of do-do. No one should ever do that. The frosting is good but the do-do is still there and now it is touching the frosting and no one wants frosting that has touched do-do. It would probably taste fine but it would have a certain essence that would be a little off.
After chatting with the neighbor woman for a bit, we exchanged phone numbers. I was so excited. About fifteen minutes later texted her about the Muppets In Space movie, where Gonzo realizes he is not alone – there is a whole planet of his kind! I let her know that I felt like Gonzo after talking with her. I kind of exposed my dork soul to a mostly stranger. It was received and she returned with a warm reply of similar sentiments. I knew she was my people.
To look into her eyes and speak of the fear that follows you with every twinge of the body or for no reason at all, with a reply of “I know.” that soothes my anxious soul. She does know. There is something big in that for me. She continues, “It will get better.” and I believe her.
I am very sad for all the suffering and sorrow that has come with the era of COVID-19. There have been some really beautiful things to come of quarantine and this forced global slow down. Personally, I have reconnected with some old friends. I have found lovely new ways of connecting with a few close friends through the Marco Polo app. I appreciate that things are running slow like it is the midwestern suburbs in the 80’s. I love watching people out walking, taking in the world around them. I love that more people in our town are saying hello and stopping to social distance chat on their walks. I appreciate my life slowing down so I could see what I was doing with all the busy static of life. I am learning to stop and take a breath. I am learning to stop and learn to watercolor for no reason. I am learning to stop and do yoga. I am learning to stop and create. I am learning to stop and be with my thoughts.
I do not know what life will be when we go back (what does that mean?) but I do hope that I am able to keep the perspective on life that I am acquiring. I need to actually live in my body and take care of it. I do not know what that means but I am paying attention to what the universe has to offer me as guidance.
Today I meditated at 7am on the dock of Higgins Lake. I took a 50 minute walk. I did yoga. I am writing. I will watercolor for a while and maybe draw. I am watching others work, which is very hard for me, but this is what my body needs.
I will acknowledge the experiences my body, mind, spirit and family are going through. I will give them all the respect they deserve. This is hard and I can do hard things.