Monday, February 22, 2010

One More Storm

A late February afternoon. The last inch of coffee quickly growing cold in my cup. I won't finish it. I never do. The quiet house creaking with the noise of the wind. Yet another oncoming winter snow storm about to erupt. The curtains move as the windows leak the angry winds. My body aches with the unending pain that plagues my soul. Fresh off the narcotics that seem to only take the edge off, I am numb with my thoughts. A pain only those in my position understand and others try to comprehend. A pain not confined to the physical world. A mind tortured by emotional twinges, memory lapses, broken concentration, a new dependence on others, unfamiliar isolation. The pain frustrates me to pure anger. A primitive and childish anger.

The winter days match my mood and present journey. My hair has begun to grow back, but it is an ugly attempt I am compelled to keep hidden. My patches of stubble are covered like a dead grass covered by the snow waiting to show its lushness in the spring. Though I have a wide selection of beautiful scarves, I am resigned to my comfy scull cap at home. I don't feel beautiful. I no longer care. Underneath the winter clothes, I am scarred and deformed.  I don't want to think about more surgery.  I don't make the effort to leave the house put together anymore. I am not a vain woman, but the outside always represented what was within. My dignity borrowed, my self-respect worn down. I care not to change the clothes I dare not wear out of the house. The brightness in my eyes is slowly returning, masking the twinges of depression below the surface. My body is attempting to return, but it is still plagued by a premature age brought on by desperate remedy. Temporary panaceas battling a monster that cowers back into its cave for now. Sooner or later I fear, the dragon may wake to breathe its fire testing my mortality and perseverance.

My previous positive attitude and energy have become a fake momentum for others to see. Inside I want to quit, but I know secretly I must not. If I do, my body will give in. Those that are the closest to me see my scratched paint and my efforts to cover up the rust underneath. On my worst days I hide and run away telling others that I am fine, when in fact I yearn for comfort and quiet consoling company. Like a child, I want to be held, but instead I must hold my head high. My pride masks my fear. Secretly, I want to protect them from this darkness within. I need their light to guide me past this point. It is my effort to not let them see me falling apart, yet it is with them I take out my anger. It is this place I am now that I feared months ago. Who I am is lost and covered by rust. Will those that love me forget who I am? Do they know this is not me? Do they know I am buried under the snow? The heavy thick snow penetrates deep into my soul where I cannot reach weakening with new born rust. I wait for the sun and the fresh air. Will my mind ever clear? Will I forget this pain that doesn't go away? I can't hear the world. The social dance I once maneuvered has gone quiet. A new stealth takes hold with my physical changes as I have become unrecognized in my absence. I have become isolated in the job of healing. I have transformed from a butterfly back to the caterpillar, unnatural and upside down.  I feel ugly.  I never knew I would miss what I used to see in the mirror.  My long thick hair, my perfect eyebrows and long eye lashes that received so many compliments.  Privately I do not want to look in the mirror when I take my clothes off to get into the shower, because it reveals more of what I morn.  I do not want to look down.  I change my clothes no longer in front of my husband and I turn away when he enters the room.

There are family members that have grown silent and distant in their discomfort of my condition. They know not how to continue supporting me. They are burdened by my new identity. What has happened to me makes them sad and I cannot comfort them. They cannot provide me with any sunshine as they have settled into their own darkness from my illness. It is the old rules they cannot bypass. Young people cannot die first. Deep down I know they are overcome with sadness and helplessness, yet outwardly they are emotionally cold. I have become a strange creature to them. In an effort to protect their already heavy hearts, I keep their concern at bay with vagueness as they have become a burden to me. They want to care, but they don't know how to display comfort or encouragement. Soup, article clippings, and occasional cards are the gifts of lamentable concern, but tiring and uncomforting to my strong independent soul. They want me to know they love me, but they do not know how to touch me. Their intentions do not penetrate. I can no longer show a positive self to them or console their hearts burdened by a sick young woman. I am too tired to smile over the phone. I am a vague misunderstood story to tell in their made up minds of comfortable creation to those inquisitive strangers. They steal the comfort meant for me as the reality penetrates their hearts for only a moment. They are hundreds of miles away. A conveinient tool of denial. They accept flowers and gifts of comfort from their friends meant to cheer their sad hearts.  It encourages me that they have found comfort elsewhere, but in their effort to understand, they listen to the stories of others. They become more disconnected with my reality and focus on what comforts their own souls.

It is an irony that this is the second time the dragon has made an appearance in my family. Tragedy has struck these genes already. Though my father too, is a cancer survivor, they do not seem to have a road map to deal with me. His cancer was found early, late in life. He went through very little treatment. Incomparable, our experiences different, yet I must accept that they do not have the emotional compass to find their way. He was also stuck hard with Polio as a young boy, crippled for a lifetime. These times of illness don't always prepare one to deal with others. I cared for my father during his down time with cancer.  When aging parents fall ill, the adult children gather and fuss. When it is the other way around, the pages in the rule book are blank.

I want not to waste a moment. I want to be inspiring and positive. I want others to know it is good to love even while hurting. I have lost my momentum. My flame flickers as it struggles to find oxygen.

The petals of the roses my husband gave me a week ago are falling onto the counter. They have reached the end of their beauty. Their aroma grows sour and the water they sit in grows cloudy and rancid. Soon they will be returned to the earth to nourish new things in the spring. I feel like those thorny stems sipping on ill water, petals falling. I cry to be taken out and laid on top of the snow. The pain muffled by its quiet softness. The bulbs of the crocus are buried deep in the ground beneath the snow waiting for their time to seek the sunshine. No one is thinking about their sleeping beauty. As yet another storm approaches, so many complain of more snow, more cold, more darkness. They know not what darkness is. They do not understand the cold and the change it triggers underneath. It is what survives past the wind and snow that shows strength. The same branches that strain under the ice in the wind will show a temporary beauty marveled in the spring. All that is black and white will become bright with color. The rain will wash the dirt away and make the air sweet with budding perfume. Spring will come before people can finish complaining.

My bones are straining under the weight of the ice. I find little relief in the cold part of this journey. Like winter it has become monotonous and colorless. My husband manages to find the energy to support me and love me despite my paleness of life and joy. I crave his energy and company. I love him with my soul and I do not want to use him up on this part of my life. He is strong, and I really trust and let go. I had worried that he would crumble, but he has shown a devotion and strength to take over what I can no longer do. He accepts my silence, my psychotic ramblings and disconnected mind. I am not alone on this journey as he is my companion indomitable by the medical traffic in my life. Yet at times, I hide my real pain from him and want to suffer alone because my secret depression needs released before it consumes me. I quietly plan for long isolation so my dark side may have its time to live, but it does not belong in my soul and leaves quickly as its opposing energy resists mine. It is the brighter shades of life that we focus on while maneuvering through my tasks of healing. It requires less energy than the darker side, but with light, there is shadow.

My husband assures me he has not forgotten who I am as he knows me the best and reminds me "this too shall pass". He reminds me of who I was by forgetting the things I usually have in order. He takes over and reminds me of all I was capable of doing as he struggles to take my place in life in addition to his own. He has been on this journey of life with me from nearly the beginning, long before the dragon came. It is he who knows who I was with depth and time. We are left undefined without each other's history. He knows my darkness inside and gives me permission to hold on. He has had to learn how to hold his once unfaltering wife. It is all a painful illusion.

My children have grown stronger and self-sufficient under the weight of my dependence on them. Their love is unconditional and patient. I can't help but feel guilty that my limitations shape their choices. No soccer this season for them because I am too ill to take them.  No skating parties or birthday parties because I cannot drive.  I am hopeful that though they too see the rust, they will grow up having known that the soul underneath hid transcendental joy. We have shared the sweet bliss of innocent moments, but they are young and forgetful. I leave notes of memory in the art I create. If I can stay for their childhood, it is I who receives the greatest gift. My life is full with them in my heart. I am reminded that losses will produce strength. The cold white snow covers the flaws. It absorbs the noise of the air giving way to a peaceful pure clean calm before the chaotic storms of spring. My oldest son measures my budding new hair in place of the ritual we shared of sitting together with a book while he twirled my long hair in his fingers. And as it attempts to grow, it continues to fall out.  He reminds me he hasn't forgotten the mom he knew by expressing he misses me as he strokes my wounded head. He is young. He is resilient. He is perpetual spring. Everything always new, growing, pushing through the snow.

There are things I want to do. I am impatient for spring, but for reasons beyond others' fatigue of the snow. I used to listen to people as they preached that winter was a season of death, after things went dormant in the fall. Symbolic for them perhaps, lurid in pious transformation. Contrived representations in an effort to relate. As down as I have felt this winter, that thought is even too depressing for me. It is an interpretation created by those annoyed with a season who misunderstand its purpose and beauty. As they are covered in layers of snow, the bulbs are growing and multiplying. Abundant life, not death. Not a resurrection, but a wakening of new strength. Sleep repairs the wounds of the fall. They will show their best efforts soon. The great expectation is that they will be brighter and fuller than the year past. They did not die. They grew and multiplied. The ice will soon melt and the weighted sleeping grass will lift skyward ready for grooming and playing children. The trees bang against the house letting me know the storm is coming. One more storm to endure. The days are growing longer. Each day there is more light. Soon the white colorless snow will be replaced with bright patches of yellow, pink, purple and green. The days will grow longer and brighter and the air will smell sweet and warm. It will come quickly. The color will appear first on the ground when the crocus arrive. As the last snow melts, the ground will be purple before its green. The forgotten color will return, a sure sign of brighter days to come.

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