Today was a low day. A very low day.
In another life, today would have been the day I decided things were too hard to bear and so bleak I’d never see the blue skies again.
I would have left my OBGYN results appointment (from the same woman who raked me internally) knowing she wants me to get my uterus biopsied because she thinks it’s precancerous and knowing she wants me to get on birth-control pills and remembering how she called me a liar just moments before when I showed her my daily food logs and exercise chart, because I’m fat, so I must not be telling her the truth. And how she rolled her eyes at me when I explained how painful the fibroids in my breasts make a mammogram.
I would have placed those thoughts next to the ones from the two rheumatologists who tell me I have lupus and need to take antimalarial drugs and noninflammatory drugs and muscle relaxers and it doesn’t matter what I eat or what drugs I take, my life is going to be painful, however long it lasts.
And then I would have added the words from my psychiatrist who told me I need to up my dose of some things and add other things and that fibromyaligia is mostly all in my head. Because I have bipolar, along with other things.
With those things lined up next to each other to look at, I would have added my guilt at not earning money to pay for all these doctors and tests and how uncomfortable I feel calling my health My Full-time Job right now. And how shameful I feel thinking about applying for disability in case I never have reliable healthcare. And how ashamed I feel that I have such a need for it.
I would have really honed in on that shame and guilt and despair and frustration at my inability to change things to be easier.
Then I would have gone to bed. Maybe fantasized about selfharm. Maybe begun the journey toward the romantic notion of ending it all, because surely that would be better for my family who has to watch and feel helpless and uncomfortable at my flailing. Who must surely feel I am such a burden.
And then the darkness would have been fully descended. Over my eyes, and ears and mouth. Over my brain that couldn’t think straight anymore. And it could have been months before I resurfaced to try again if I hadn’t been successful at terminating my life and never tried again at all.
As I sat in my car, outside the hospital, dizzy with so many thoughts and feelings, I decided to breath. I made a small choice. A very small choice, to open my lungs and take in a breath, and then expel the air with a little force, listening to the sound in my throat. And then I did it again.
I thought of Grandma Jean, who just left us days ago. She fought her way back from a debilitating stroke and learned to live her life again when most people just die who experience that same stroke, it’s so damaging. I thought of her smile and quick laugh, even as her body failed her these past weeks. How she thanked me every time I did anything for her and told me she loved me even when she couldn’t recall who I was, because she knew I loved her.
Grandma had her brushes with depression and contemplating her own death. She didn’t have the knowledge or support I have with managing those symptoms. And she survived for years, decades, from sheer determination. And I’m better for knowing her. I’m so thankful I didn’t miss out on knowing her like I did. Thank you, Grandma Jean, for what you suffered in this life so I could know you.
Then I thought of Phyllis, my mother-in-law, who passed last October. The cancer never won. It was just her time to go. And she was ready. She told me so every day, but it was always with a smile and expectation of meeting her God, not sadness, fear or regret.
I watched her barely able to carry the groceries, mop the floor or move the vacuum, but refusing help because it was her sincere joy to do it. She loved her work. She delighted in doing what she could to care for others. As she told me many times, she loved the work because she loved the people she did it for, and her face would shine when she said it and I knew it was true.
As the cancer grew in her body and ate her alive, she refused to get down or be afraid. She prayed and read and worked at the soup kitchen when she could. She found new recipes and showed me how to cook them. She laughed. She was beautiful always, but when she laughed, her countenance beamed. She laughed all the time and her smile was so genuine and sincere it made you smile and laugh, too. She was a great beauty even as breath left her.
Phyllis was careful what she said and how she said it and said nothing to hurt others. I knew I was safe with her because I never heard her say an unkind thing about anyone else. She taught me so much just by being herself. The year I spent as her companion was so precious. Thank you, Phyllis, for teaching me so much about how to live as you prepared to pass. Thank you for your unconditional love even as I carried my shortcomings around on my back and brought them out to show you on occasion. Thank you for showing me how to love others with the fierce fire of love I also carry in my chest. And thank you most of all for giving birth to and raising a beautiful, caring son who has become my partner and champion. Because even with his few shortcomings and my many, we somehow make a perfect fit and support for each other.
At 3pm today I went to yoga. My Yogini welcomed me and listened while I poured out my heart in a rush and never hurried me when I paused, choking on my words and tears. She placed my body in poses while I cried and she used her own breath to show me how to better breathe out my pain. She soothed my shoulders and neck and witnessed my entire body in sorrow. Her kind and loving touch calmed my fears and sadness and in time, I felt calm and strength in my chest instead of tightness and daggers. With each breath’s inhale and exhale, my body released the old and filled with new strength.
With my eyes closed, breathing deeply, I thought of the women in my life. My daughter. My mother. My friends. My sisters and aunts and grandmas, some of them here with me now and some carried in my heart. I drew on the power of Mother Earth and felt connected to everything and everyone.
The things that are hard in my life didn’t seem so overwhelming in that moment. It felt shared, like a thousand shoulders were carrying my pain and I even felt room on my own shoulders to help carry another’s hurts, should they want or need that.
And I felt a bit of joy in the journey. It was just a bit, but large enough that I think I might find it again.