Where that leaves us.

I’ve got a few things on my mind this Friday evening. First, it’s always something. Second, experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want. And finally, where does the road lead now?

Yesterday, I shelled out a few bills to get my house, deck, and windows power-washed. It was sorely needed, since last year I couldn’t really swing it, what with all the expenses of having cancer. A friend of my ex came over last summer and power-washed the front of my house for me. She wouldn’t take a cent for her work. That’s hard for me, since I’m not used to accepting help. It just wasn’t possible for me to pay someone to do it last year. It was a choice between power-washing or gutter cleaning. The gutter cleaning was cheaper and more necessary, since the many leaves and pine needles had choked even the gutter guard things. Those are typical maintenance expenses for me as a homeowner in the neighborhood. I can’t climb up on the ladder or onto the roof to do such things. It has nothing to do with age. It has everything to do with a fear of heights and balance problems. I would be one of those crazy people in the ER with a broken neck if I tried to clean the gutters!

Today, my son cut the jungle of a lawn as a light rain started to fall. I was so grateful that he was able to get out and take care of it before the weekend, because we have some de-cluttering to do tomorrow. I’m planning to get a maid service out here after Sean’s second vaccine dose, but first we have to clear away the boxes. He’s partially packed for his move, and I have leftover Mary Kay products sitting in boxes in my dining room. I have to deal with it all so that the maids will actually have room to get to the corners and clear all the dust bunnies. It’s been more than a year since my house had a deep cleaning, and it needs it. I’m considering getting the ductwork cleaned, too, because my allergies have been in overdrive. Everything costs hundreds of dollars these days, but I cannot do a lot yet. I’m still rather weak, and I tire easily. Until I get more of my strength back (which I will), I have to rely on service people.

After Sean came in from the yard, he shouted up the stairs, “I think this place is cursed!”

Well, there went my concentration on work. “What do you mean,” I shouted back.

He informed me that the door was broken on the shed. There’s a cute little garden shed out back that has the same siding, shutters, and roof as the house. I pictured the door hanging off its hinges or lying in the yard. No. The latch that keeps one door closed and allows both to be shut tightly had broken. He had overly dramatized it. I told him we just need to go get a replacement part. No need for all the omens and curses.

He admitted he just wants me to sell this place and come with him to NC. So any of you who might think I’ve been coddling my son or begging him to stay here with me need to check yourself. I love my kid, but no, I haven’t tried to coerce him into living with me for the rest of his life. He’s a grown man who will do what he wants to do. He just wants me on the same page.

Trust me. After starting to tally up all the things that need to be done here, I’m really tempted. My bestie traveled through NC today on her way to her hometown in GA. She snapped a picture of a big Confederate flag flying atop a large pole just outside Fayetteville. Now that’s an omen, in my book. Not a bad latch!

Another thing that happened yesterday is that I found out I didn’t get the internal job I applied for. Sure, I’d had my hopes up, and I was really excited about the possibility, but I handled the news just fine. During this health crisis, I returned to my faith, and I’m a firm believer that God has me. You can believe in something else, but I felt God’s spirit with me many times while walking this path. I know that whatever I’m meant to do, I’ll do. Whatever is going to work out in my favor and God’s favor will happen no matter how I fight or strain to bend the world to my will. So I’m good. I’ve decided to go ahead and get my certification so that I’m ready if a project management position opens up that is exactly right for me. I’ll just make it part of my overall professional development. Meanwhile, I still have a good job at a good company. Can’t complain!

My friend Pam has always said that experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want. I suppose that is very true. And sometimes, even when you do get what you want, you can find yourself in a position to learn more than you ever thought possible. Since I’ve been with the company (less than 2 years), I have learned so much. My web development skills were practically non-existent, but now I am confident when editing a stylesheet or tweaking the skin for a site. I learn something new at work almost every single day. Who wouldn’t be happy about that?

Applying for that position was the first major life change I’ve attempted since getting cancer. I’ll admit, it was a bit intimidating to go through 3 hours of interviews and talk about parts of my career I haven’t touched in awhile, but I handled it just fine. It was like stretching a muscle that hadn’t been used in awhile.

Speaking of cancer, it occurred to me this week that even though they won’t say “no evidence of disease” yet (they no longer use the term “cancer-free”), I feel the worst of it is far behind me. All I have left are a few infusions of the biologics. By fall, I’ll be completely done with it all. Next stop, survivorship. The oncology nurse practitioner that I see when my oncologist is away told me that as I approach the end of all treatments, I’ll meet with my surgeon again. They will talk with me about survivorship. I’ll get to ask all the questions and get more information about where I go from here.

The thought of no longer having some predictability about all of this is a little unsettling! For a year, I’ve been to appointment after appointment, had numerous tests, seen numerous practitioners, been handled more and more written material about how to do what I’ve done, and have pretty much had my life dictated to me. Now I face an open road with no map. Where do I go from here?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m HAPPY that I’ve done so well with treatment, and I’m even more happy that the worst is in my rearview mirror. But it’s also a little like jumping out of an airplane. You know you have a parachute (which you hope was packed well and is sound) but you also know that the plane was predictable. Once you let go of the wing, you’re freefalling into the unknown. What if you don’t hit your mark, so they can’t find you? What if you plummet into a grove of trees and get skewered by an arm-thick branch? Anything can happen. There will be no one to tell you what step to take next.

I’ve had dreams lately about boats. I’ve had to look for a rowboat to purchase, because there is a pond or lake behind the house I’m in. I mean to put a boat in that water and just rock gently on the surface. The dreams go as wonky as a carnival fun house, and I never quite get the boat in the water. What does it all mean? Is the fact that I can’t get the boat into the water an indication that I won’t have a recurrence? Or does it indicate that I’ll have a recurrence and never make it out of treatment? You see, this is the anxiety of coming out of a very big storm. On the one hand, you’ve made it to safety. On the other hand, the devil you know is gone. What devil will you fight next? It’s a huge question mark.

If you’ve ever wondered why people stay in bad situations, think about that. When you’re fighting the known and holding your own against it, the unknown is that much scarier. Instead of the fight bolstering your confidence, sometimes it just wears you down and leaves you feeling disoriented, unready for the next challenge. Instead, you’re standing there dehydrated, bloodied, and shaking with fatigue. Another challenge might just finish you off.

I trust that I’m going to be okay, but this is a major event in my world. I have to decide what happens next. A chasm yawns before me, and I have to think about each step I take. I’ve been thinking of going back to my therapist to talk through some of this, because it’s existential. I’m at a crossroads.

And as much as I love my house, I have to have some tough conversations with myself. Can I really manage all this on my own while still handling the finances? If I had no student loans, I’d be doing fine. Those loans are killing me. What retirement?

But you know what? I’m alive. Where there is life, there is hope. And hope springs eternal in me.

Peace and happy Mother’s Day all! Jude

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