Friday, November 28, 2014

driving slowly past crazytown

I’m reading My Body is a Book of Rules (Red Hen Press) by Elissa Washuta, about her life with bipolar disorder, and she includes some journal excerpts. I think her book is a good model for the one I might be writing. It’s fragmented, high-low in its references, complicated and playful. Her dialogue between her date rape experience and an imaginary episode of Law & Order: SVU is genius. It inspired me to write a dialogue between the part of me that feels like a mother-without-a-cause and Facebook. AK was understandably relieved that I didn’t actually post that one.

Like a woman needs a fish in her bathtub.
In December I have two cancer-follow-up doctor’s appointments. Just typing those words, knowing that they will end up on my blog, feels audacious and also embarrassing. When you’ve been in remission for a couple of years, you’re not supposed to rest on your pity laurels. When you’ve been in remission for a couple of years, you wonder how much of your worry is regular cancer survivor* worry and how much is mental illness. Is it 50/50, 70/30, 21/79? What if mental illness is a side effect of cancer? Of life?

The dread has been creeping in, slowly, over the past week-ish. A thing that sucks about being a cerebral type is that when you’re really enjoying life, when you’re really in the moment, your brain will stop to congratulate your healthy little soul on being so healthy.

Hey, right then when you were noticing how lovely the color palette of sidewalks and dry leaves and tile roofs was? That was great!

Then your other brain chimes in: Whoa there, Mary Oliver, let’s not get too caught up in the everyday beauty of life. You might get re-diagnosed with cancer in sixteen days.

Your soul quietly pipes up: But the world is for me. Mostly, though, your soul gets lost in the chatter.

On Monday, I told my therapist that it was probably a good time to watch myself closely, to get enough sleep and all that. He agreed. A little self-care can mean the difference between driving too slowly past Crazytown and purchasing property there.

This is what happens when you do a Google image search for "Crazytown."
Today, at this particular moment, I’m feeling confident. How could I possibly have a recurrence when my micro-metastatic workup came back negative after my surgery? But it’s not a coincidence that I’m having this thought—this world-is-my-oyster/of-course-I-have-a-future thought—the day after I went on a long hike, didn’t overdo it at Thanksgiving dinner, spent the evening watching movies with people who love me and got eleven hours of sleep.

Give me a rough workday, too much time in my head, too much Facebook, a cookie binge and a night where I get five or six hours of sleep, and I’ll be thinking about how bigger tumors increase the risk of recurrence and my tumor was bigger than anyone’s, practically ever.

I could call my memoir How to Lie to Yourself with Statistics.

Statistics are a problem. Narrative is a problem—part of me can always see my good moments as nothing but ironic foreshadowing. Everything that takes us away from our fundamental, in-the-moment selves is a problem, and yet to me the beauty is in the processing too. It’s baby and bathwater stuff.

Resort ruins.
Yesterday AK and I hiked up what I subsequently learned was not Mt. Lowe (it was and is Echo Mountain) to the ruins of the Echo Mountain resort, with Sierra and her Meetup hiking group. I lagged behind, which wasn’t a huge surprise, since I don’t hike a lot and someone has to pick up the rear, but I still felt like a little bit of a lame-o. Angela, one of the women in our group, asked me if it was my fist time hiking, ever.

When I told her she didn’t need to wait for me she said, “Okay, I just wanted to make sure you weren’t scared of lions or anything. When I first started hiking, I was terrified of wild animals.”

It was 9 a.m. and there were about a thousand people on the trail. “I think it might be a little crowded for mountain lions,” I said.

“Oh, my fear defied all logic,” she said.

Resort in its pre-ruined state. I want to go to there.
I was feeling smug about my lack of illogical fears until I realized that I had been thinking of an essay I read titled I had a stroke at 33 and wondering if I, like the author, maybe had a congenital heart defect that was preventing my blood from fully oxygenating. Today, bad hiking. Tomorrow, blood clot in my brain.

I didn’t bring a hat or sunglasses and the light at the top of the mountain was bright and blinding, bouncing off the white cement of the old foundation. My vision felt a little spotty and I tried to decide if I was having a stroke or was just going from shadow to sunlight a lot.

Back in the city, my head started pounding and even an emergency trip to Coffee Bean didn’t help. By the time we got to AK’s family’s house for Thanksgiving, I was achy and feverish. The good news was maybe that explained why I was such a lackluster hiker. The bad news was that I was coming down with something. Even my best hypochondriac efforts couldn’t make it into cancer, although the simple fact of my body being in pain was a kind of flashback. And flu ache felt a little like the boob aches I used to get before my period, back when I had boobs and a period. Back when I was a girl…. Sigh. See how quickly I can go dark?

Love in the time of shoulder pads.
We watched My Cousin Vinny. We watched Heaven is for Real, which was both painfully schmaltzy and curiously touching. I ate some vegan pumpkin pie and Homeboy caramel peach pie, but not too much of either. I Googled “flu vs. ebola.” I have yet to become drenched in sweat, and I think the bruises on my leg are from climbing over our front gate, so I think I don’t have ebola.

I got good sleep—Nyquil good—so I can joke about it. But the creepy, don’t-go-in-the-basement music is always playing in my head, and the basement is always real even if God is as real there as s/he is in the life of a four-year-old pastor’s kid.

*I almost never use this word. I’m so superstitious. Who do I think I am to call myself a survivor? What am I trying to say? Everyone not dead is a survivor, and some of my best friends are dead people.


Claire said...

Driving past crazy town is certainly better than setting up shop there. You could always stop by to say hi though. ;)

Best thoughts to you for your appointments! And here's to keeping the dread at bay with good sleep and self care.

Cheryl said...

Thanks, Claire. And I think that at most you have a summer home in Crazytown.

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