“Let go of your ego.
Send it up up and away!
For a while, anyway.”
Opening my each
Of my eyes I wonder
Did anyone even notice
I’d gone up
Ascending into the clouds
Like a bird or a plane.
I’m looking down
At unmapped topography.
Memories of me:
Images of a wolf running
Through unknown forests
Below the tree canopy;
A blue heron
Flying from the pine tops
Without much energy.
Alone I melt
Like ice cream
In a root beer float.
Red polkadot swim suit,
Yellow rubber bathing cap
Careful eyes look out
Upon blue pools.
Back in the days
When the evening news
Was on paper and
When a date meant
Sipping from the same
Soda with two straws
Across a white and
Gold booth table.
As our eyes lock over the
Last sip, how the
At the tips of your
Tongue and fingers.
I search for my
Self in the daily mirror
But the image is
Backwards and not
Of me. So I peek behind
The frame for a part
Of myself I’d left for dead.
Forgetting to write up
The homework of my experience
Innocence in ink,
Double spaced on lined paper:
My interview and questions.
I won’t forget to
Acknowledge and thank
you in my notes.
But the postcards sit
Unstamped and unposted
I’m at home, heart forever
Elevated above my head.
Bing bong bing bong bong bong bing bong (Big Ben chimes doorbell)
Me: who is it?
Depression: oh an old friend!
Me: [excited because I’ve been isolated for seven months, opens door expectantly] Oh, no. It’s you. How did you get our new address?
Depression: I can find you anywhere at any time in anyplace so anyway I’d like to talk to your husband.
Me: [through a barely opened door crack] It seems you’ve already been talking to him behind my back!
Depression: Oh, he he, yeah that. Well, I’m always around…in the garage, the workshop, sitting in his office. He and I have a pact. If he’s laying down I come visit him and ruminate along with him, kind of like meditation.
Me: I was under the impression he is meditating, at least that’s what he’s been telling me.
Depression: HA! That’s funny. He tells you he’s meditating? Oh, good one. He’s finally learned, goodness he’s a stubborn one. He’s meditating alright. Rumination, meditation, what’s the difference?
Me: I’m very disappointed, let me come out there on the front porch, I’d prefer he not know you’re here. I love him and love is stronger than darkness and depression. [I try abc hold back my nearly audible angry tears…not again I say to myself.]
Depression: Well, I got news for ya toots, he’s been cheating on you with me.
[I slip out the front door and quietly shut it behind me careful not to let it see our new house.]
Now out in front of the house:
Depression: Oh very nice inside, I’ve already seen it, been around during those inexplicable arguments, when he tells you to “leave him alone” it’s because I’m there. I’m just good at hiding. You never do see me coming do you?
Me: Oh, I think you’re not as smart as you believe. That’s when I try my best to show him love and caring, make sure he knows I’m here for him. Love heals depression. Well…That and his psychiatrist and his medication.
Depression: Well, when was the last time he had his meds adjusted or saw his psychiatrist? And if you really believe love can beat me, you’re sorely mistaken.
Me: You don’t stand a chance in hell against me. Our trust will see us through. He knows you’re lying to him he just can’t always find the strength to remember sometimes and he pushes me away for a while, but I’m stronger than you. And I know all too well when you’re around.
Depression: Ha. Stupid woman. Drugs may have worked for a while, but I think you’re really overstating your importance. More like impotence aren’t you. I know your sex life goes down the tubes so to speak when I’m around, just like his hygiene. Haha haha. Stinks, doesn’t it?
Me: you’re an asshole. Is your partner anxiety with you?
Depression: Of course, didn’t you notice he was here last week. You were at your oncologist appointment and he knew you would be gone for enough time – didn’t his son push the right buttons while you, poor thing, were getting poked and prodded three hours away. Oh, we also have a contact at your oncologist’s office.
Me: Why can’t you just pick on someone else? No, let me take that back – no one deserves to feel this way. Why don’t you just piss off and die, both of you?
Depression: Oh we wouldn’t do that, and besides we are having a great time during Covid. Lots of new recruits to play with. I mean, we can’t seem to get through to you, but there’s thousands if not millions of people who have a really hard time with isolation and not seeing friends or the people they love. Covid has taken over the hardest part of our job!
Me: This won’t go on forever – you’ll have to go back to working twice as hard again. And by the way some of us are just not going to let you in, since we have no proclivity for being depressed.
Depression: Don’t worry we are not giving up. We will eventually get in your door too. Besides there are plenty better candidates than you for now. Lots more people with cancer who will relent to that negative self talk “why me?” “What did I do to deserve cancer?” “I’m such a loser I can’t even get better with chemotherapy.” “Where did all my friends go? Why am I so alone and afraid?” Oh those are my cues to put a dark veil over their minds, let them sleep all the time, and if the cancer doesn’t kill them…
Me: You’re a sick sick thing. Go away, he’s calling me and I don’t want him knowing you’re here. I’m going to hug him and put on some of his favorite music and get him out in the sunshine today.
Depression: [nearly invisible and hardly audible] Shit, no wonder we can’t get in, he’s a little stronger and you know what we are allergic to…but I’m always around…gasp…cough…I’ll see you soon…gasp…I promise you…wheeze cough…I…
Slipping inside I slam shut and lock the front door and go to wake up my crabby morning hubby. “Honey let’s get out today I’ll make us some lattes. Take a shower and shave so I can kiss your handsome face, and let’s sing and play guitar for a while. I’m gonna put on some music.”
Meanwhile the 70 degree temperature and bright blue sky along with the birds coming to bathe in the fountain in front of the house remind me that the world is full of memories not yet made and there’s much to be thankful for. I remember that love, patience, guidance and above all a commitment to my gratitude to having our happiness uninterrupted by this other disease that lives silently in the dark corners of our life isn’t going to visit us today and I hope not for a long time to come.
May you find peace and hope in these strange and difficult days.
Ilene, may you find it in your heart to forgive me. It’s harder to forget than forgive for you, yet you may be better off, if you cannot forgive, to forget. Some wounds become scars. Do your best to forget the scars, some of which only you can see. They’re not from your cancer but the way your life changes because of your cancer.
The people you love will fall away, but they don’t know how to see you anymore. They feel guilty talking about their problems with you. Its guilt that stems from what they realize is pettiness. But you can’t hang onto those people no matter how hard you try. Letting go gives you a more solid foundation on which to heal. It’s hard enough with negativity and trying to explain your situation. Some will believe it’s based on something you did or did not do. Neither is true and there’s absolutely no point in wasting time.
Time is the commodity you have so little of, but don’t worry. You’ll have exactly as much as you need. Don’t waste it waiting for that is the one thing you’ll regret.
It’s not your fault -ironically – you’ll forget a lot in five years. For instance I’m so late in writing this letter to you because I’ve forgotten so many times. I meant to sit and write it 100 times but I forgot or time slipped away from me. And you’re the most important person in my life and you know me better than anyone, don’t you? Please forgive me for not writing this long ago. I’m still as distracted as ever maybe more so. Don’t worry the cancer’s not gotten to your brain yet. We are doing pretty well all things being equal given five hospital stays, five types of chemo and five different oncologists. You have a lot to look forward to.
But there’s a few things I want to tell you. It’s been about five years since the diagnosis came down on you like a boulder even Sisyphus hadn’t the strength to keep pushing up that hill. Do you recall Albert Camus’ version of the myth of Sisyphus? Ridiculously, because he has accepted his fate, he’s happy. His punishment is only horrible if hope of a better life enters his thinking. If he continues to focus on his absurd task then he cannot fear the punishment, extreme given its grounded in of his lack of trust in his widow left behind to carry out his wishes upon his death, but he’s dead. No longer in charge of what happens to anyone whos alive. Camus grinds his pencil point to a sharp by alluding to Oedipus and that, although both situations are absurdly tragic, both Sisyphus and Oedipus are ultimately happy. But how can a boy kill his father, marry his mother and live with all that guilt?
They both “conclude that all is well.” And all is well. You’ll use this to mediate countless times in the coming years but you’ll never leave hope out of your thoughts. I’m doing well so all can’t be that bad.
The moment you give up, the stone will roll back and crush you. Don’t give up hope because all is well. I never break promises to you. I promise this is true.
You’ll keep dreaming of bigger better things. Throw away your lists of things to do before you die. You can hardly count on making a phone call these days why then put a constant state of anxiety upon yourself for what you’re not getting don’t – when you’re achieving so much? I say this to you with all your expectations boiled it down to ONE SINGLE thing… the northern lights. Don’t forget that’s the one thing you’ve dreamed of your whole life. Find a way to go!
If you get to Scotland and Britain, awesome. You must try to hug those amazing people who have loved and supported you from afar.
However it would be great if your friends and one or two family members who physically can – would find a plane ticket to come out and see you??
There isn’t a lot left except loving more fully and learning to accept love better and know when to let go. There are a couple of places I’ve not been yet and maybe learn to fly or horseback ride. But I’ve not seen these as regrets but just life and living and finding the budget. I realized tonight in fact that if not another thing I wanted to do happened, if not one single trip to see and photograph the Aurora Borealis never came to be…my life would be a success.
This life is all you get and not having died as an infant, toddler, teen, or any other age is certainly an accomplishment as noted by our current global health crisis.
I loved with all my heart.
That’s the life you wanted.
I continue to live with love as the guide for my actions. You know by now all that’s mattered until this point is love and by shining your light you’ll attract amazing people to help support you through the most difficult time you’ll ever know. Leading the emotional rollercoaster is uncertainty, and coming in at a nose to nose tie is fear.
I was fortunate to meet people and travel and learn and become a success in my career and break a lot of glass so other women wouldn’t understand the shards that stay under your skin, I took the bullet. Many women around my age +/- 20 years did too.
In general I’m happy.
But most of all…there was and is LOVE. Einstein even was quoted as saying e=LOVE. A joke, but you get my sense of humor.
He and other scientists, ancient and later in the end said love mattered most.
“Tell your son to stop trying to fill your head with science – for to fill your heart with love is enough.” Richard Feynman
Frees us of all the weight and pain of life:
That word is love.” Sophocles
I suppose that’s about it for now. More later but remember one thing, I love you.