Today . . . is the first in a series of personal "anniversaries" marking the beginning of my cancer diagnosis and treatment. Much as I try to put these dates and events out of my mind, they tend to make their presence known . . . down at my very core.
And especially in September.
So forgive me while I revisit these ghosts of my past . . . and try to make sense of my experience seven years ago. (It seems to happen every year in September.)
Recently, I read a rather wonderful analogy of personal crisis (be it a cancer diagnosis - or any one of the myriad other Things That Go Wrong). The author suggested that "catastrophes provide a pair of parentheses in which to live apart from real life, depositing you rather abruptly on the sidelines for a bit while normal life continues to eddy downstream."*
This description completely resonates with me. When I was first diagnosed with cancer, and then for the long months of chemo, I craved only one thing: my normal life. All I wanted was to live outside those parentheses again! Back then, in the midst of treatment . . . I swore I'd never take the ordinary-ness of my days - the normal stuff- for granted again. I looked forward to celebrating the little inconveniences of every day life.
And - for a time - after treatment, I did. Because cancer is a very good teacher teacher. It forces you to face up to what you should have known all along: that life is fleeting, there is little time, and no room for regrets.
At first, after treatment, I felt . . . shiny and new, sanded and polished, incredibly fragile. I knew - for sure - that I would never experience life in quite the same way again. While I stepped lightly - but purposefully - away from The Edge, the colors seemed brighter and the boundaries sharper -- and everything tasted much, much fresher. I took more risks, I reached out, I tried new things, and I spoke out louder and sooner than ever before.
But then one day . . . I was stuck in traffic. I got impatient. I yelled in frustration. And then I realized . . . that I had gotten normal back. I had moved away from The Edge, and out of the shadow of my cancer ordeal. I was - once again - cranky about a routine traffic jam, something absolutely unimportant!
I had moved outside the parentheses -- away from the catastrophe and back to normal life. (It's amazing how resilient we really are.) But sometimes, it's good to revisit those lessons we learn inside the parentheses.
That's where I am right now.
It is September, after all. . .
*Lynn Darling in Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfinding