When we’re in pain, we often assume that if we're just skilled enough or healthy-minded enough, we can move ourselves back into ease or comfort; that it's not "normal" to feel pain for longer than a few minutes and we want OUT. And this may be true if we’re talking about the disappointment of a friend forgetting our birthday or not landing that interview. But when it comes to the heavy hitters - a cancer diagnosis, losing a job, grieving a loss, experiencing divorce - there’s no pushing fast forward on being in the hard place. There’s not an “I’m OK now” category we can switch into via self-help techniques or meditation. Sometimes it’s just really, really hard.
A new friend of mine was recently diagnosed with the “really bad” breast cancer. The aggressive kind that doesn’t respond to treatment and starts showing up all over. This woman is 3 years older than me, a sassy college professor, and Mom to a 6 and 14 yr old. She just let them know she has less than a year to live.
This situation has completely unraveled me. I have grieved more for this person that I hardly know than anyone I have ever lost in my life. I’m also a Mom, I’m her neighbor, and her story feels one second removed from what could be mine. She is living the worst nightmare any parent could ever imagine. And the existential weight of remaining present and alive for the last few months of an existence seems an impossible experiment. How does she not vacate in the face of letting it all go? How is it possible to remain open to all the tender beauty till the end?
I think about her as I fall asleep catching glimpses of stars out my window; what it would be like to say goodbye to that simple marvel so early in life. I think about her when I imagine my children eventually finding people who love them well, and it crushes my heart to know she won’t see this unfold.
Imagining her process is just so hard to grasp and feel the enormity of. But honestly, the less I fight these moments of total despair, and the more I let the tears stream when they hit, the calmer and more reflective I become. When I let it ride full circle, I can breathe again; I can wipe the tears and move on through my day... to momming, walking the dog, seeing my clients, to wondering when the hell my kids will be back in school, to wiping the kitchen sink....
Oh for this messy, beautiful life.