…”it’s possible when necessary to get used to anything.”Haven Kimmel, “She Got Up Off the Couch,” 2006, Simon and Schuster
Y’all. This is madness. Can we just say it? Madness. I must also remind us all that one of the reasons I’m so hyped up is because I’m going to have a radio signal wire hanging out of my body for a few hours tomorrow. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
All the preparing at school, and all the getting ready has been like leading up to any other huge event that you have to plan for: a wedding, a birth, a funeral. I suppose this is like a ritual, where I will be undertaking an experience of which, besides consenting to the object of the ritual (surgery), I have zero control after that. Get the humans involved in the process and there’s little precision. Have you ever been to a scripted wedding? birth? funeral? Me, neither. Rituals have parts and ceremony, but they are not meant to be by the book. However in this ritual of surgery, I’m hoping the surgeons work on my body with swiftness and precision.
On the way home today I was imagining waking up post surgery, and hoping I’d see Jess first. (I don’t know if that’s possible.) Then my amygdala lizard brain immediately thought “WHAT IF WHEN I WAKE UP HE TELLS ME THAT THEY SAW SO MUCH CANCER THAT THEY HAD TO REMOVE MY WHOLE BREAST?”
I don’t know if this is even a thing that would happen…but I am for sure asking my surgeons about it before I go under tomorrow. What if?
Perhaps there’s no use in pondering what if. I have done little to no thinking about the dangers in general of surgery and general anesthesia because I cannot handle adding more to my already Defcon 1 trauma brain.
I’ve been having powerful dreams this week, deeply anticipatory dreams. In the dreams I grab my breast and hold on to it, like armor, like protection. When I wake up I wonder if I have also in reality been holding my breasts close to me, or if it was all in my unsettled wild sleep.
It feels like I’m underwater in another place. I’m not scared of it underwater. I’m a certified scuba diver, so the pressure and peace and other-worldliness of being below the surface is relaxing.
Can I stay underwater? Is that okay? Something about it seems wrong, like I’m choosing coping mechanisms that aren’t entirely healthy or I’m masking my feelings with staying numbed out in my underwater brain meditation.
It’s hard to know what is okay and what is not okay (mentally) when dealing with all of this. I mean, from a psychiatric/mental health perspective, it’s usually not encouraged to just unilaterally numb reality out with a coping mechanism, no matter how innocuous that mechanism may be. I know, I have literally done 25 years of psychotherapy. I’ve spent half of my life trying to deal with my brain and my brain’s particular way of processing trauma. Trust me, there is still a minefield in there, no matter how much work I’ve done. Back to the algorithm, life=joy+pain. Just to remind myself, as I do actually need that reminder. This may end up being a tattoo.
Today around 2 pm I finally put 2:2 together and realized that my co-workers had all gone pink for me today in support of me and my fight with breast cancer. Even the custodian was wearing pink. I was humbled and overwhelmed, and maybe a little bit dim. (THANK YOU.)
After work four women that I just met today met me in the parking lot to pray over me. They are members of the church that is sponsoring our school this year, and sponsoring our cross country team. When I mentioned to one that I could use a prayer in communications about cross country, she activated her troops. They met me next to my truck and we stood in a little circle while each said a prayer, two of them mamas holding babies. I held my breath when one said “Dear Lord, please let Jennifer feel okay with taking help from strangers. Let her accept all the help offered.”
The sheer outpouring of love and support is the tidal wave that sends me down into the underwaterworld to hide a while. I don’t know how to process all this love. It’s so full of beauty, but it is sharply metallic, reminding me of old pain and things I’m still letting go of. It’s as if the resistance to the love and offerings is pushing up against my wall of feelings, and soon there will be so many offerings that they push my wall over and lay it to rest at the bottom of the sea like Atlantis.
Tonight as Jess was giving me another huge hug and holding on to me, reminding me I’m amazing and strong, he said something along the lines of “try not to worry too much tonight. Try to enjoy your antiseptic shower and enjoy the clean sheets.” I assured him I was okay, and that soon this will be over. Then I started to say “then I’ll be back to normal.”
Um. There is literally NO NORMAL IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE. (Was there ever?)
Even if they get every stitch of cancer out of me, I’m still high risk and my treatment is not done. I will carry this experience for the rest of my human existence. And then there’s this Pandemic they’ve got going on. (Using the anachronistic southern way of saying “they’ve got going on” makes me grin. It reminds me of “`O Brother Where Art Thou”)
None of us are going to be “normal” ever again after living through 2020.
So Jess and I decided there is not normal. There is simply life, and we do life. Sometimes life is more challenging, sometimes life is less challenging. The whole lesson of a human life is to just…keep going. Maybe it’s like the teachings of Buddha, or Christ or Muhammad or Yaweh or Krishna…or maybe all and probably none in particular. The teachings we are to experience in this life are particular to us, but also particular to being a human. Our job is to be human and to love. That’s the whole thing. So when this part of my human experience is “over,” I’ll just get to experience more human experiences. Some hard, some joyful. Some just beautifully ordinary.
We are all going to be fine, whatever we define fine to be.
Today I know I can do hard things. Even if for a few hours tomorrow I resemble the bat (voiced by Robin Williams) in Furngully with a radio wire sticking out of my right breast.
It’s gonna be a damn good story.