And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
I’ve been staring at the blank page for about five minutes now. One of the things I’ve pushed on myself with this blog is absolute honesty. Readers have told me that what draws them in is the rawness, the realness, the truth of experience that I write about. I’ve thought about that a lot this week and I’ve also thought about how last year, when I vowed that I would write one moment of happiness a day for a year, there was only one day that I wasn’t able to do it. I wondered if this would be another one of those days.
It’s been a very difficult week, for a number of reasons.
*Yesterday was the anniversary of my partial mastectomy. As these anniversaries have arrived – one year since bad mammogram, one year since diagnosis, one year since surgery – I expected to feel celebratory. I don’t. Instead, it’s as if all the emotions I held at bay then in order to get myself through the whole breast cancer crisis without falling completely apart are washing over me now.
*A situation happened at the grocery store where Michael works. We’ve been waiting for the last 48 hours to find out if he still has a job (again), and subsequently, if we will have the health insurance we thought we’d have by September 1st. If he doesn’t, and we don’t, then the mammogram and bloodwork I was to have to make sure the cancer hasn’t recurred will not happen. I will go off the prescription I take to squash my estrogen, which keeps the cancer away. I will not pay for any more COBRA insurance. I simply can’t. It is exorbitant, it is ridiculous, and when it comes down to a choice between paying for the place that houses my family and my business or paying for overpriced insurance for overpriced medical care, the home will win every time. My international students tell me that if I lived in their countries, all my healthcare for breast cancer would be free. Imagine living in a country that values the health and well-being of its residents over the wallets of the insurance and medical industries. But…this is where I live.
*A friend lost his child to suicide.
I didn’t think I was going to find a moment of happiness this week.
That last item has been preying on my mind and heart. And the thing is, I know that I’m not doing what most are, thinking such thoughts as How could the child do it? Why would the child do it? I’m not asking those questions because I know the answers. Too well.
I am a five-time survivor of suicide attempts. Years and years ago now. But certainly fresh in my memory this week.
Now usually, when I say this (which is rare), I laugh and add, “Obviously, I’m pretty inept at that sort of thing.” And I was. I’m me, you know, and I’m not known for taking the easy way out. Some think that suicide is the easy way out. It’s not. And even as a child, I identified as a writer and I had to find the metaphor in everything. So my attempts were also symbols. And I have to tell you, I’m laughing as I type this, even though I wasn’t laughing those five times. My attempts were creative, artful, colorful, definitely not cliché…and failures.
But now, after that admission that I rarely make, I am adding something new.
I’m beyond grateful that I failed. Five times. I’m grateful that I was inept.
And so there’s the moment of happiness I didn’t think I was going to have this week. There’s also the realization that maybe I was so inept because there was a grain in me somewhere that has always wanted to survive.
I have survived. Many things. And I’m happy to be here.
There is also, of course, the moment of irony. Now that I’m happy to be here, I might not be able to continue to have the medical involvement that helps to keep me here.
I will admit that I am down, down, down. Earlier this week, I brought a hammer upstairs to my office. I took the sand dollars, the one given to me by the man in the fog back in 2015 and the one the ocean placed at my feet a few weeks ago when I asked for a sand dollar to show me that I was going to be okay, down from my wall. I took them out on the deck, laid them on the floor and raised the hammer to smash them both to smithereens.
But I didn’t. I cried instead. And then I hung them both back on the wall.
I was told, I believe, that I would be okay. Okay doesn’t mean that I will have health insurance and continued treatment. Okay means that I will be okay with or without it.
Though I sure would prefer to be with it.
This week, I also handed in all the material for my poetry chapbook, When You Finally Said No, due out in February from Finishing Line Press. I had to write the dedication. This is what I wrote:
To all of us in this sisterhood that no one would ever choose to join.
There is light.
This week’s moment of happiness: I am grateful I survived. Then and now. I am happy to be here.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.