December 7, 2011:
Western medicine says Nada, 'til you're really sick. There's nothing we can do now.
I don't accept that response as final.
December 16, 2011:
Good thing I didn't! I received blood lab results yesterday that indicate a small turn for the better. I didn't wait with dread ... I simply waited. I didn't know what to expect ... so I expected nothing. What a refreshing, relieving place to be in!
What's the point of expecting anything? We simply cannot know with complete certainty that anyone or anything will do what we want them to do. Half the time, anyway, we're not sure of what it is that we want. We are paradoxical creatures ...
... I did feel certain. A pure resolve arose in me last night while I stood at my kitchen counter, waiting for my tea to steep. For the first time in my adult life, I'd received hard biological evidence of a condition that could be fatal, and six weeks later, more hard biological evidence: a change for the better. It is the most significant, positive medical news I've been given in nearly four years.
What have I done? -- It was that resolve. Four nights ago, while I was sitting at my desk, I despaired. I was still waiting for the lab results, and given the decline I've experienced over the last year, I wondered if it was all downhill from here on ... like an avalanche. Was my life on a threshold of irrevokable illness? My skin crawled with dread and I wondered if this Christmas, like my grandmother used to declare every December 25th from her place at the head of the table, might be my last.
I recall grabbing the edge of my desk, jutting my head to the left, and growling. Low in the throat, and raw. Thinking No. There is such seduction in a thought of suicide -- Rest, at last.
No. As I clutch, my heart does something it's never done before. It bangs -- once -- with brutal force. I double over. I'm in my fifties now, so there's no fooling around with a banging heart.
Heart attack? Stroke? What --
I lay both palms over my chest and press hard -- inward -- holding it in ... holding my heart and saying Live. Live. My heart had sounded -- It was a jolt, inward to out -- Listen up! -- like a great drum, struck just under the ear --
... It went like this: A moment before the banging heart, a swell of mourning blew up from the depths and I thought, God -- I feel like I've just begun to grieve ... Life, into the second year after a catastrophic loss, is a continual absorption of the way things are now: everything changed -- and many things, never again --
The phantom-pain of amputation comes on ... the very real pain of the phantom who was you, before the loss ...
No. No more of this -- Too much hurt -- urge to be done with it; to die -- no other way out of this kind of pain --
The heart explodes ... remains intact. Body doubles over the chest; both hands press and press to the sternum and solar plexus.
A growl, deep in the throat: feral, furious. A voice: I WANT TO LIVE!
Words, and deep, solemn breaths: I want to live. I want to live. I want to live --
Sylvia Plath comes to mind -- fragments of a poem:
I listened to the old brag of my heart
I am --
Then my voice again, or the voice of Life within me ... I have to cry -- I have to cry -- I have to cry -- I have to lie down -- Holy shit, that was my heart --
... but before I can lie down, there are things to be done. I have to pee, and that means getting the cat off my lap, and I have to clean the litter box and feed the cats ... get a glass of water, and check the cats' water bowls ... bring some toilet paper into the bedroom for my cry --
I end up bringing the roll of TP to my bedside before I pee, so once I'm seated on the loo, I realize that I've got no TP here and now. Pants up, grab the roll, back to the loo. My cats come in and nag me for food, for pats, for me to stay alive. I give in to them, like I always do.
By the time I've done everything to ensure an uninterrupted cry, I no longer feel the need to mourn. I've become too engaged in other things, in the usual minutae that saves my life ... again.
I'm hungry ... so I eat. I lie down on my bed ... and one of my cats settles down on my chest. He kneads and purrs ... and I soften. We melt. My body's beginning to warm: being soothed, slowed, tended, quieted.
More words come to mind: Release my trapped heart, from a Christian psalm ... Cup your hands around my becoming, recalled and tweaked from Rainer Maria Rilke ... Anointing rhythms ... the warm palm of mercy ... gentle, gentle ... and suddenly, from I don't know where: We have an inner bell -- the tapping of the heart!
I turn onto my side, cradle my heart, and cry ... in release ... in resurgence.
Art credit: 'Fire heart' by arghus, via deviantart.com