Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Superheroes and secrets

She lays the cards down, face up in front of me, in some layout that means something to her, but nothing to me. Laying runes she's plucked from a purple velvet bag on top of each card, she tells me what she sees.

"You are focusing too much on the negative," she says gently, warmth and understanding in her eyes. She knows what went on last year, why I am now fucked up, unknown to myself, and lost. I wonder what she means. How am I focusing on the negative? I'm happy, I'm making plans, moving forward. I'm trying to integrate these experiences but I feel stuck.

After a thorough reading I pay her and thank her, and I leave, chewing gently on her statement. I don't get it. I know she's on to something because I can't stop thinking about it, but I can't figure it out.

That night someone I'm chatting with me asks me how I'm doing and I start to answer in my head (because I don't say it to everyone), I'm fucked up.

It hits me- I am not fucked up. There's nothing wrong with me. I'm finding my way through this heavy forest with prickly foliage, but I am not broken. I am still moving forward, finding my path, and carving one where there's no path to be seen. I am not fucked up.

At the cancer support group I went to one of the facilitators lent me Crazy Sexy Cancer. I had thought about getting this book when I had cancer but I didn't have the courage to do it. My friend Valerie and I had gone on a shopping trip a few years ago when our friend Whitney, at age 24, was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. We bought her this book and all kinds of goodies. Whitney died a couple of years ago. Getting this book reminded me of her, so I couldn't do it.

I got through having cancer but there was a lot I didn't have as I went through it. I had no desire to overwhelm myself with data, and I certainly didn't want other people (who didn't have cancer, or who had survived cancer, so.. pretty much anyone) telling me how to have or deal with having cancer. I was the one who had to wake up breathing every day, I was the one who had to get through needle biopsies that hurt and scared me, and I was the one who had to wait in the purgatory between a test and the results. I couldn't handle the idea of a book that somehow glamorized or simplified or prettied up cancer.

Now I've cracked this book and I find I'm cracking in other ways, too. I climbed into my bed tonight for a few moments to decompress from an incredibly busy day, and grabbed it. I read that the author tells her father that she has tumors on her liver and he says, "I will be strong for you."

I don't have parents to be strong for me. I had to be strong for my mother, and I have no relationship with my father, so I had no parent to say, "I will hold your hand through this. I will be your strength. Fall into me, I am safe, and steady, and I will hold you."

I've asked myself probably millions of times, "Why do people need parents?" When I was going through cancer I didn't feel that I needed parents, I didn't wish that I had that element in my life. Now, looking back, I see that it could have been different, that I might not have had to be so strong, wrapped in the lap of the person who woudl love me unconditionally, and who would always want my best interest first.

As I start to look at my cancer journey, I realize that I am now starting to poke at it and not from the place of being 'fucked up', but from someone who survived cancer and is just very, simply, changed by it. Nothing more. I am changed. I don't know the scope of that, I don't know where that ends. I don't know when I'll want to stop talking about it. I don't know when I will stop reaping the gifts of discovering a new facet of myself, thank you cancer- I don't know. I just know that right now, for the first time in my life, cancer has shown me what it feels like to need a parent in my life - even the tiniest glimpse. It's more than I've ever felt.

My friend made Leah and me capes we can wear, capes that show we are strong, superheros, survivors of cancer. Leah talked about how good it felt to put hers on when she was feeling weak, or down, or struggling with anxiety. It's something tangible that reminds her of how far she's come, and who she is. I thought, "I've not worn mine like that, yet." I wore mine to show it off, to be sassy. I did not wear it because I needed comfort.

A few days ago I wrapped my cape around my shoulders and I just breathed in, and breathed out. I felt vulnerable and strong, I felt like I was in my body. I felt like my cape told a part of my story, and it offered protection, too. My crazy Beatles cape, made by my friend who generously sent us these gifts out of love and support - makes me feel not like a superhero, but that I know something special.

I am not fucked up. I laugh now, that I thought it, even for a moment, much less for months and months. I thought I was broken, that I could not be repaired. I thought the best I could hope for was a bad patch job that would just hold the parts of me together long enough that I could keep moving forward, far away from these experiences. Instead I find that this is just a new phase of me, this is me, too. This is me. It's okay that I don't recognize myself- what is life but an adventure in self discovery?

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