My Sister-in-healing, Leah, asks me how I'm doing. We keep running into each other around town and when I see her face, the way she stands with one shoulder down and both kind of rolled forward, the smile cracking across her face but not fully, it's like seeing myself in another body, another time, another cancer. We see each other and we both laugh because we always circle unknowingly around each other, we keep bumping into each other, and the timing is always just right.
"My cancer-versary is coming up." I am standing in the middle of the Olympic College student center and I start to cry, even though I never cry. Crying is hard, but somehow with Leah it never fails to be easy. "I don't know how I am."
It's so much more than just that I'm about to reach one year of knowing I had cancer, the day that this blog started unfolding, the day that I died right on the spot and have had to be reborn anew, over and over ever since. It's so much more than that.
I go back and forth between wondering if I'm broken, unfixable, if I'm different now from who I was and if I will ever know that girl again. She feels young and naive to me, the Before-Cancer-Kristina, and far away and in a way, fictional. Today I feel darker, grittier, like I am holding on with my teeth and swinging with my fists. Sometimes I feel like I am lost in the Underworld and will never find my way back out, and other times I revel that this is the new normal and that maybe this normal can be as delightful as the old one was.
These last few days, I feel that the layers of myself are being peeled back by an invisible hand. I spent the weekend with people for whom I care very much at the Oregon coast. The raw beach landscape covered with basalt, ancient lava flows that carve and shape the edge of the world. In a way I feel that this is a physical manifestation of me, something that will be strong enough to hold, but will cut you at the same time, with the never ending facelift the ocean provides so that I am always renewed, dead and reborn. There was a moment when I had about 45 minutes alone and I realized how taxed I'd felt, pouring out energy all weekend long. I realized how much I wanted to climb back into myself, into quiet and safety and retreat, and that startled me.
Ever since I notice how much less I want to talk, and how much less I want to be around the energy of others. I find myself turning inward like an introvert, a word I'd never dreamed would ever, ever be associated with me, and yet here it is. Groups tax me. Intimate interactions require a lot of me. My dream life is vivid and intense. I want to be in the woods with the quiet strength of the trees and I fear if I cry that someone might hear me and step in. I want to be able to say that I'm going crazy without someone saying, "Oh no, you are not crazy." I am crazy, which isn't a bad thing, but it's true.
I look around and I realize I do not know myself, I do not recognize this person who is more masculine, who angers easily, who grows irritated with people and situations for reasons I can't figure out no matter how hard I try, who doesn't over think nearly as much and figures that people will either get me or they won't, and that it's their job to pursue clarity, not mine to preemptively offer it. It's like I've been flipped inside out in a way.
Whenever I think about a situation in a new way, a post-2012 kind of way, it makes me angry for a while. Who is this person, this new Kristina? I still don't know. I still have familiar traits but I wonder what the people around me who have known me on either side of last year truly think about who I am now. Do they grieve who I was the way I do? Do I seem overly distracted with this? Do they think I'm being dramatic or silly or making a mountain out of a molehill? And do I fucking care? Actually.. not really.
As every day passes I am not actually thinking too much about May 23rd. Its sort of hovering around my tender edges. When I talk about things, I go instantly to the heart and I cry, right in the restaurants I'm sitting in. Today I talked about how I know I need to get help taking care of myself, because we aren't meant to take care of ourselves alone, and I started to cry because I don't know how to do anything but that. I don't know how to let other people in their skills care for me. I don't know how to lay on a table, vulnerable, and trust someone to touch my body in a healing way, to be in my space. It terrifies me and makes me feel like I will come apart at the seams, or disassociate, or break, and that it will be too much for me, and for them. I justify staying ill (in my head, in my body) because it's too scary to get well. It's scary to lose weight. It's scary to see my body change, to let go of the insulation that this body provides me from the emotions of others, and from being as big outside as I feel inside.
In a way I knew that if I ever felt the anger that was inside, if I ever let it out, someone would literally cease to exist, they would blink out of this life. The Universe could not hold my anger without a cost. That proved to be true, but in reverse- the life was taken and the the anger came, and I can't stop it. It has left me rough around my edges, people bump up against me and walk away bruised and cut sometimes, and I can be indifferent to that because in some way, this is life. It hurts. Maybe I am one of those things, where I never was before, that leaves a mark and challenges your coping skills, or maybe I am broken in half and you slide between my sharp edges. I don't know.
I just know that it still feels like it's awkward to talk about it all. It feels hard to reach out to someone who could actually probably really help me. It feels terrifying to think about healing, because it's a place I don't know and I'm just starting to get my bearings here.
How am I doing? I'm doing. That's all I know.