This is not the vaccine talking.

I’ve started dreaming about secret rooms again. Rooms that you can’t get to directly when you enter a house; you need a guide or to have already been in the room. It’s been awhile since I dreamed about secret rooms. Last time was not long after my second divorce. It was a time when I was hiding away, nursing my aching heart, because you can’t love like I did without the risk of having your heart shredded. It was shredded alright.

Maybe these secret room dreams are coming to me again because I know, deep down, that I need to move on and finish healing. That I need to take care of myself and not count on anyone else. It’s a sign. I will be moving on. I just have to figure out how to make that move happen. Sometime in early fall, at the latest, I’m packing it all up and moving south. I don’t have it all figured out yet, but I will. I’ve waffled a little on whether to go or not, but I need to rip off the band-aid and do it.

Nearly 12 years ago, my daughter died. In those years, I have moved 7 times. This will be 8. I hope it will be the last one before retirement, but there’s a slight chance it will become 9, if I have to take a rental first while my house sells. So much is up in the air with all of that, but I have faith that it will work out. When I “let go and let God”, as they say, things can and do work out.

I’m so grateful today to have been in one of the earlier groups to get the Covid vaccine. Got my second shot today, so I guess cancer was good for something! It’s been about 12 hours, and I’m feeling sore and very tired. Nothing I can’t handle. We shall see what tomorrow brings! I’m hoping to be able to get up, go to radiation, and work as usual. This is the time when we plan our next six months of work. Today I think I was getting on everyone’s nerves. I must have been talking too much. I can sometimes be like that, but it isn’t because I think everyone else is stupid. It’s because if I don’t blurt out an idea when I have it, I will lose it. It just disappears from my brain. So hopefully no one thinks I was a jerk for popping in with ideas. I had a lot of them today.

On another note, I can’t believe that a week from Saturday is the 12th anniversary of that awful day when we found out that Stephanie had died. In the early years, this time of the year would leave me flat out – on the bed or on the floor sometimes – in great heaving sobs. That first couple of years, I actually prayed for my heart to stop, because what the hell was God thinking? He took my 25-year old BEAUTIFUL daughter and left this old hag. He took Sean’s sister. He took a bright light out of the world. It wasn’t fair and I wasn’t having it! But I gradually came to a place of acceptance, one which I can scarcely believe I arrived at.

The beginning of healing from something like this leaves you guilt-ridden and hollow. You feel like the worst person on the face of the earth. How can you be laughing when your child is dead–never coming back? How can you be hungry when your child can no longer eat a meal? Everything makes you feel guilty, even, sometimes, breathing. But like it or not, the time comes (slowly) when you begin to heal. On their birthday, you remember that time when they started walking or said “Mama” for the first time. You remember the day they entered the world. You smile. You feel guilty. But you smile again, a little sadly.

Then the day comes when you forget that it’s the 3rd of the month (any month) and don’t fall into a crying fit at noon, that very time when you were notified and your world fell apart. The day comes when you can talk about them without feeling the tears coming.

Sometimes now I feel more broken, because tears don’t come easily. These days, I can tell you specifically when I have cried. I cried the day before I went for my biopsy, because I knew. I cried the day I finished chemo, but not until I got to the car and it really hit me that I didn’t have to have anymore of that awful stuff pumped into me. I hear women talking about crying every day they have cancer, at least for the first few months, and I think, “Wow. Then this is the worst thing that ever happened to you.” It doesn’t make me cry. Just the milestones now, i guess. I worry sometimes about the not crying thing, but these days I can even get upset about something in my professional life and not feel the sting of tears. I’m so damned calm. Am I broken? Yeah, maybe I am. Permanently. But this is my normal now.

My brother and his ex-wife are coming up on the first anniversary of their son’s death. His 40th birthday just passed. I wish I could go to my brother and hug him, but he likes to be alone. He doesn’t really want intrusions. I’m here for him, though. I haven’t heard from his ex, but she wasn’t doing so well, last he told me. I feel awful for both of them, because that one year of magical thinking (as Joan Didion refers to it) is almost over. The second-year anniversaries are worse and feel much more final. You start to come out of the fog, and then it really hits you. For me, and for most of the bereaved mothers I know, that second year is a real killer.

Mom lost her very first baby, our brother Eddie (William Edwin Evans). He was alive for three days. I now know why she tried to commit suicide so many times. I understand her a lot better now that it’s too late for me to tell her that. I’m very surprised that most of us just don’t do ourselves in. That’s how bad the pain is.

But there’s a way through that pain. You want to know the secret? You open your eyes in the morning. You get up and breathe in and out. You shower. You dress. You go to work. You MUST work, because work is actually healing. It makes you think about something else for awhile. You can fall apart again after work, but first you need to focus on someone else’s problems for 8 hours or however long you can stand it. Just remember — nothing they can do to you at work will ever top what you’ve been through. You can just turn it off at the end of the day.

Gradually – very gradually – you begin to live again. Ironically, I chose to really live again after I got the cancer diagnosis. Up until then, I had a feeling something was coming, but I was really doing alright. I was living, but I was still hung up on a lot of old stuff. But when I got the diagnosis, I had this weird feeling, like a switch flipped in me. I’m going to beat this, I thought. I’m going to live, damn it.

For me, I don’t think there is going to be another relationship, though. Maybe we get one good relationship in our lives, and I had it. I had it until the death of our daughter finally broke what was already fraying at the edges. No, I’m going to move south, somewhere near enough to my son that we can hang out and have a meal together here and there. He’s my joy, and he is still here with me. I will make local friends. I’ll go see places I haven’t seen. I’ll go on some adventures. I’ll be cancer-free and I’ll live. In spite of everything.

Namaste, J

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About Me

A writer and solitary soul in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

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