Matrix

Matrix, Photo howtogeek.com

I can’t stop the numbers. They trill down my field of vision — awake, asleep, involved or staring into space, alone or with the ones I love. I’m not even certain if I’m seeing real numbers spewed like actuary tables of my years left on the planet, or colors like I’ll use to paint the remaining days, or simply a disconnect, as if all the trains are leaving the station at once and I can’t read the numbers fast enough to know which handle to grab for hoisting myself onto this ride.

Even though I love a metaphor, and this one certainly fits, I hate the numbers. I’m not given to panic attacks, but even in the heart of my quiet moments, I find myself not breathing, or breathing too much, or stopped in my tracks wondering how to breathe, and of course I blame this all on the numbers.

I am awash with numbers. Statistics, probabilities, centimeters, directions, weights and measurements, years, months, days, recovery times, usable hours in a day, fractions for dividing available time into necessary tasks, blueprints for the time I have left. I’m not a numbers girl, and I want them to go away.

As days go, I’ve been a little better lately — more time with family and a few friends, more emails answered and a more manageable pile of things left undone. And I’ve been a little worse — more in need of two bodies that will pin me between them on the sofa in the evenings, laughing at nothing and making sure I stay upright and intact. For every bit of normal-ness I wear in a day, I carry three times the weight of embryonic panic.

And so I stare a lot more now, looking for that steady place in my soul that keeps me still. Trying to find the balance in breath, which is shockingly difficult when you’re off kilter. Trying to live the truth that what’s “important” will vary on a daily (hourly) basis, and that it doesn’t matter if others don’t understand.

In a former life a coworker said, “Every time I look over, she’s just staring out the window,” and another said, “She’s not just staring, she’s designing — that’s how they do it.” And I hope (and believe, in a very small way just now) that I’m designing. I hope that my staring and breathing is giving (new) life to the balance of my days. I hope soon the numbers will stop and the design will begin to make sense in a way that I can recognize and welcome and begin to play with like fingerpaints, when everything is possible and there are no lines or graphs to fit into.

But for now, there are still the running, screaming numbers. Surgery in nine days. Anticipated one week recovery. Anticipated three to four weeks healing. Hoped-for one week balloon radiation; otherwise five – seven weeks of daily radiation. Five years (1,825 days) taking an estrogen-sucking drug (“If you want to live,” said doctor #1) or (“Your choice,” said doctor #2).

And Poof! Over. Done with. On with your life.

But I will never be the same. And it will take a lot of staring and holding and breathing to get me to the next place.

Looking at Trees

Costa Rica Tree, by Pamela Goode

When the kids were young and we lived in a small town in South Carolina, I was briefly a biker. I’d hop on my Wal-Mart Special every afternoon, plug in Jason’s walkman and pedal as hard as I could, asking questions and listening for answers in the music. After the requisite number of laps around the park by the bay, I’d coast into the historic district and walk my bike into the cemetery at Prince George, laying my body flat on the weathered stone that covered one of the raised tombs beneath the dogwoods. Music off now, I’d stare through the leaves, lime or forest or claret as the seasons changed, peering beyond them to watch dark birds so far beyond my eyes etching circles into the blue. I didn’t think, and I didn’t need to think — the watching filled my heart and soul and soothed my limbs and made the way seem easy. Sometimes I’d let a question lie beside me on the stone in quiet co-existence. More often than not, I walked back to my bike and headed for home with a fresh view. I made friends with the issues, and the issues were usually content to fall away.

Some days I need more trees. I need to be able to stand on the sand near the bay, or sit on the gritty picnic table in salty jeans with my face upturned and listen to the trees talking each to each, the wind singing by on tiptoe or deep-throated, grabbing me by the ears and rouging my cheeks and urging me to join the dance, to hear, to grasp, to run, to yelp with joy or sorrow or passion or fear or laughter but to pull out of myself and join in the sound of the pines and the sky and the circling birds. I haven’t been there in a while.

I once wondered if I listened hard enough, or well enough, or often enough, if I could learn the words or the tune or the meaning of treesong. Outside of Harry Potter and, was it Babes in Toyland? — I’ve never seen an evil tree. Trees are universally comforting. They shelter, cradle, feed, and dance and soothe us with a sense of permanence and balletic invincibility. I need to take myself back there.

Some days the best thing that happens is the kindness of a stranger with grandma hair and warm hands, making sure she looks you in the eye when she speaks so you can feel her words even if you can’t hear them. Some days it hurts to reach because you have a hole in your flesh big enough to pass a pair of tweezers through. Some days those you adore want to be with you every minute, because they need to hold on to the love and make it real enough to stand as a fortress. Some days are made of nothing but hours and the ticking of second hands, because nothing exists between the tweezers and the call. Some days there is nothing better than holding hands, and nothing that heals as much as looking at trees.

The Summer We Waited

Waiting, c. Pamela Goode

Between the idea / And the reality / Between the motion / And the act / Falls the Shadow ~ T.S. Eliot

Am I going to fail my Zen test because I can’t love the shadow? I’m trying, really I am. I know good things will come, that fruition takes time, but . . . .  Good things come to he who waits is, I’m sorry, crap. Sitting around waiting never got anyone anywhere.  Good things come to those who DO.  But . . . do what? Where do you go when there’s nowhere to go?

I hate waiting. Of course this is a pointless comment — does anyone like waiting? Waiting eats our time, our patience, our resolve, our certainty, our energy. Waiting sucks, quite literally, and I am sucked out.

The spring seemed (was) rife with possibilities. I worked to schedule my time to accommodate them all, made lists and guides and proposals, gathered supplies and references, made contacts  and pursued leads. And then I moved on to take care of everything else — all the things that don’t wait while we’re waiting.

And it was good, but then . . . nothing.

Patience, patience, all good things take time. Deadlines pass. Excuses made. New deadlines created that will then pass and more waiting, more setting aside new chunks of more focused time to complete what you offered to committed to wanted to complete even though the game keeps changing. And the waiting gets a little less enchanting, a little less hopeful, a little less patient.

I fully believe that for change to occur, we must make the space for it. We must empty ourselves of pre-conceived ideas, old habits, tired ways, and the blindness born of always seeing things in the same fashion. But even being open to change isn’t enough — we have to empty the closets if we want change to stay for a while. But how long do you wait? How long to you wait and believe, with that damn shadow pulling out every sneaky trick in the book to become your new best friend? At what point will I morph from the being-who-welcomes-my-full-destiny to the-lady-with-so-much-time-that-she’s-making-macaroni-mosaics?

Too-abundant and so-rarely-productive surplus of time, I hate you. I want to love you, but I don’t. I want what I’ve worked for, and I want it now. Or even tomorrow, but I’ve had it up to here with this flapping in the breeze.

It’s a funny thing about waiting. Funny in that f***you sort of way. Because in the interim, time does what times does best: it changes us. Not the change we planned for hoped for made space for welcomed, but in some Other way, a way that’s a bit harder to pinpoint, speaking with a softer voice and holding out a very blurry map, but helping herself to my closet space nonetheless.

*This is not the post I meant to write, but this is the post that came out. I meant to point you toward my two newest blogs (that’s what too much time will get you): Wild Hair Adventures, a compilation of my travel essays and photographs (toddler stage), and Ormolulu, a blog to celebrate junking excursions (still quite an infant). Hope you like.