It’s my last full day in Hawaii, and I’m sitting outside the kava bar in the sun with a cup of tea. I’ve been texting with my niece about change. I’m resisting it right now, digging in my heels. I’ve been alternately anxious, sad, and calm about this next chapter in my life, leaving Craig for a month, flying east thousands of miles to Boston to see my family, to attend a writing conference, to give some readings, and of course to see all of my doctors for the six-month ritual. It will be three years since my diagnosis come April.
My mind is somersaulting ahead of me, but my body is very much here on this metal chair, at this red table, wind gusts buffeting me, a green gecko staring me in the eyes. The antidote to anxiety has been, as always, focusing on what’s right in front of me, what’s finding it’s way into my ears. The wind’s making a hollow fluty sound. Some trippy music is playing. A man’s talking about getting ice cream. Life doesn’t actually careen, but proceeds by moments like these. One after another.
This morning, after meditation, I pulled a Zen card from the stack “Mind” was the card I drew. An ugly image of a head filled with mechanical parts. Sometimes oracles can be shockingly plain-spoken, and I’m reminded to be careful what I ask for. “There’s a head trip going on around you,” the text said. “Take a look at yourself; it might be yours.” And it was. My head was tripping over a passel of writing grants I had on my list to apply for, all of them due on March 1, the day I arrive in Boston. And this impossible to-do list was completely interfering with my ability to be present. But a part of me was thinking (and writing on a to-do list) that I would apply to them all, and still take one last run through the gulch, one last walk, have one last dinner with my friends. With one day left here on the island. And so at 2 pm I had to make a choice. Be present here, now, or go into a major stress-mode. Not enough mode. Comparison mode. Scarcity mode. Whatever mode. Craig said, “Well, by waiting until the last minute, you basically made a choice about what is most important to you.” Ouch. True, I suppose. Craig is also a non-word-mincing oracle in my life. But that’s another matter.
There’s something pre-cancerous about that head-trip: not wanting to choose. Wanting it all. The never-enough machine. It’s what makes me hesitate to buy airline tickets, driving Craig mad. If I make a choice, it means I rule out another option. And how will the people in my life react to my choice? What I mean by “pre-cancerous” is partly how I lived my life before cancer, and partly a comparison to the beast itself. Cancer is a disease with a serious “never enough” complex. It can’t stop. It won’t stop. It’s rapacious. Like a badly managed fishery, it runs rampant until the very thing – a body – that sustains it is wiped out.
And I know that I can’t live that way anymore. I had to take a deep breath and let go of those grant proposals. I had to take a deep breath and say yes to this red table, and the writing of this blog post. To saying conscious goodbyes to this place that has nurtured me for two and a half months. “Things keep changing,” I texted my niece. At times like these I feel like I’m floating above my own life, and it’s all slipping away. Months have passed – how? Three years have passed since the day someone said the word “malignant” and the word “cancer” and meant me, my body. So much water has slipped under that bridge that divides my life into before and after. And it IS slipping away, all of it, but I am not floating above anything, or standing upon a bridge watching. I am in it. I am immersed, the flesh on earth muck and thrash of it. I am on the moving walkway. And no matter how hard I dig my heels in, the moving walkway does not stop.
P.S. That's the moon setting in the photo ...