A friend called this afternoon to discuss my blog. "I was surprised by your blog this week," she said. "It was more... Well less... It's usually quite.... intense."
This was not the comment I feared. What concerned me most was that she might say too hurried, without enough narrative detail, like something you wrote while eating dinner. All night I struggled with myself on the issue of writing a blog every night even if it means writing what strikes me at the moment and laying it out in just a few minutes while sitting at the table with some food versus thoughtfully planning out my entry and writing it over as much time as I need and then posting as often as I can. Last night was an example of the former.
As I've mentioned in several other posts, as liberating as it is in many ways to just write and not worry about where I'm starting and where I'm heading or ultimately how complete the narrative is when I hit post, it also still terrifies me. After so many years of professional editing, it has been hard to give myself the same permission I offer my students and clients which is to write a first draft however it comes. I tend to worry that people will read my material on this blog and wonder: how is it possible that she is a writer and editor? Does she actually get paid for this? I'd call some of my blog writing place holders-- the sketch before you create a fully realized scene or vignette. And while I often want to go back in and add and refine and make the writing just soar, I also want to keep a flow going and so last night after writing my 15 minute clip, I hit publish and let it go out into the world.
Another friend recently shared a post with me written by a man who is passionate that all of our posts should be the best that we can put out, that anything less than a focused effort is short changing our writing, ourselves and our readers. Perhaps I need to have a better balance of what I share on my blog--a combination of immediate and polished. But my friend today was not focused on the quality of my writing, she was focused on the tone.
"Light and shade," I said in response. "I'm trying to offer up a more complete picture of my life, not just the high drama, though that's been here in abundance this week."
"I know. That's what I thought you'd write about. I thought you'd need to."
"Maybe I will."
Maybe I will right now...
This week I realized that Aaron is going to have a bone marrow transplant. I know this sounds strange given it has been months since this scenario became not a terrifying possibility but an unquestionable fact, but it was not until this past week that I truly understood that I belong to this reality and with that realization, the limitless dread began to set in. No longer could I strut around my false bravado, instead I lay on the floor and cried out, mercy please.
Accumulated loss is a mighty force in my life--more creature than concept--and when I am facing new peril, this beast steps out of the shadows to remind me of how much can be stolen and how quickly. This week, the beast took form easily, growing faster and stronger each time I glimpsed Aaron suffering in bed from the new regimen that he began on Monday. The beast reached inside me, reproducing itself many times over, so that there was no longer room for me; I was full with its wretched pain. With each breathe, I exhaled vulnerability, melancholy, horror, death. The grief creature fully in control, I could not escape the fierce sadness and anger I felt that the instability of my childhood seemed to be repeating itself through Aaron's illness.
The week was messy and chaotic and to say that I am not proud of my behavior would be underplaying how much I failed Aaron and myself. How can I explain the utter hopelessness that so quickly diminished me? I was not prepared to see Aaron in such a weakened state, that's certainly true. He has sailed through both rounds of treatment. He worked and exercised throughout and seemed very much himself which allowed me to move the fear to the side and believe that all would be well. The fact that he could not reassure me that he would be fine this time definitely left me not just emotionally wobbly but nearly incapable of feeling anything other than weak and desperate. When he uttered I'm not sure what's going on. I heard: I may be dead any minute. In his presence, I wanted to lose myself in that brief time when I was no longer worried about dying from Huntington's Disease and he had not yet been diagnosed with leukemia. Watching him shuffle from the bed to the bathroom showed me that time had long vanished. Now everything seemed monumentally fragile and unpredictable.
Now Aaron looked sick and acted sick and needed me to care for him. And instead of rising to the occasion and charging down the frantic thoughts with a powerful faith, I was paralyzed. I became the little girl who watched her mother then grandfather waste away and die. I was the girl who bathed and fed and bedded her grandmother and handled her affairs like the capable being I was required to be but never desired to be. All I could do was stare at Aaron collapsed in the bed, his body defeated and betrayed, and think about the life we do not have. All I could do was nudge him and beg him to reassure me that he was not consumed by this illnesss, that he could rise from the constraints at will. And when he couldn't offer me this, I panicked like the child I felt myself to be, not like the woman he needed.
Aaron expects me to be able to do this. Everyone does. You've been through so much. You can handle this. Of course you can. You're so resilient. The expectation is that I have been in some gritty trenches and survived, so naturally I won't lose my spirit in the face of another challenge. The truth is that the emotional wear and tear that I have experienced has not strengthened me. At times I am so lost, I am merely a vessel for worry. And when a potential loss comes up, be it great or small, all of those previous losses pour themselves into this vessel until I am overflowing with the stuff of my nightmares.
The first time Aaron showed signs of the leukemia impacting his health was also not an occasion for the weak of heart. We'd been tracking some shifts in his blood work for weeks when he suddenly crashed. He was in such a feverish incoherent state that I packed him into the car and rushed him to the hospital in one of the worst rain storms we've ever experienced. Our road was flooded along with many others and what should have taken twenty minutes was an hour and a half of taunting anxiety. Upon arrival, he was diagnosed as essentially being completely neutropenic (no functioning immune system), anemic and thrombocytopenic (no platelets to stop him from bleeding internally) and after being admitted to the hospital, I had to listen to infectious disease specialists declare that if they could not get to the bottom of his infection immediately that he would be dead in 24 hours.
I heard the doctors proclamations and warnings, but I did not believe them. I crawled into bed behind Aaron and rubbed his hot head and neck as he grumbled something about pain in his head. I worked my hands over his muscles and offered energy healing and prayed over him and believed. I did not fear he would be lost.
I had to wonder this weekend why I could no longer detect any of that strength. Where was that comforting presence of faith? That conviction that I was meant to live out my life with this man? I didn't know if becoming a mother had made me somehow more vulnerable or that knowing we had failed treatment once and that this is what had brought us to a transplant had heightened the stakes, but no matter how much I tried to bring myself to a place of recognition that his reaction to the current treatment was just a bump in the road, a temporary experience that would get better, I couldn't do it.
In addition to being a writer and editor, I am a multi-certified holistic coach and health practitioner of several modalities. I possess the knowledge and skills to change my thoughts, emotions and beliefs, and to harness healing energy in my body, but this week none of my experience or training helped. I was mentally and physically defeated by fear. I could not push past it. I was caught up in the downfall of our life, projecting forward to a life as a single mom without Aaron, concerned that Sasha would be a fatherless son just as I have been a motherless daughter. This week I had nightmares of my childhood. I was drawn back continually to the home in which I was raised so frequently that I began to inhabit that space instead of soothing Aaron through his drug induced sleepless nights.
And when I didn't wake up in a sweat from the dreams, I awoke with guilt and shame that I responded to this most recent assault with tearful pity and terror. When I found Aaron hardly moving in bed one afternoon after returning from Sasha's one year check-up, I was convinced that he had died in my absence. I slipped across the floor to him and laid my hand upon his back. I left it there for a minute and in that time so fully became the girl who checked on her grandmother every morning in this way that I didn't remember where I was until I heard Sasha call for me.
It wasn't until Aaron turned the corner and was able to communicate with me about where things went wrong this week and how we might better manage this next round coming up in a few weeks that I was able to take a deep breath and regroup mentally. I clearly have a lot of work to do in order to bring myself to a place of fundamental belief in our ability to get through this. I need to believe that our life is about to get better than ever with the illness behind us and a beautiful child to raise.
My readers are going to see me struggle with the small stuff and some big stuff over this next year but I promise that if it gets really dark, I am going to try to lighten it up both on the page and off it. And I hope that you will enjoy my entries even if I am once again just following my thoughts rather than an outline.