“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” –Helen Keller
If you follow me on social media, you already know that my mama is one of my best friends and my life-long rock of support. Three weeks ago she had an emergency hysterectomy and was diagnosed with Stage 3 uterine cancer. Her oncologist called the cancer aggressive, and in the span of six days, all of our plans for the future and her life as we knew it fell into disarray. I felt like a fish thrown that had been thrown on to the bank of a river; I lay there gasping, unable to catch my breath or my bearings. The entire landscape of my life had changed in the blink of my eye.
Next week, my daughter will have surgery for a heart condition that she has had since birth. She certainly doesn’t act like a kid with a heart problem, but doctors have advised that we need to fix it now to avoid bigger problems down the road. We live near one of the best research hospitals in the US, and everyone’s hope is that this surgery will be her only one. Despite all the good that will come of it, the anguish I feel watching my baby undergo this process makes me want to rant and rave at the unfairness of the universe. Mama was supposed to make the eight hour trip to be with us during the surgery, but now it will be me and my beloved sir keeping vigil while Mama says her prayers from home.
Most days I consider myself an optimistic person, but this trifecta of challenges (my mama’s cancer, my child’s operation, and my sir’s imminent departure) have knocked me low. Like that stranded fish, I feel like I’m flopping every which way to try and find my way back into familiar waters. The things I drew comfort from in my various roles as daughter, mother, and slave now feel as if they’re in jeopardy. On my darker days, I fear that everything lies on the precipice of disaster.
If I could, I would take my mama, and child, and sir, and bind them all tightly to me so I could keep them with me and safe. Why is it that the three people most important to me are all undergoing huge life challenges while I can only sit beside them, hug them tight, and tell them that I’ll be there no matter what? Thomas Moore coined it “the dark nights of the soul” and let me tell you, darling readers, it is dark in these parts.
Being in this dark place makes it challenging for me to reach out to others. When someone asks how I am, the honest answer would be “well, I’m crying for the third time this morning, and my life is changing so fast I’m getting seasick.” Who wants to hear that? I certainly don’t want to hear those words AGAIN, so I shut my mouth tight and wrap steel bands of control around myself to keep everything in place so I can work, be a good mom, and a decent partner. Trying to keep the tidal wave dammed up never works for long, of course. I find myself acting out with sir; being willful and bratty. And the slightest unexpected change to my schedule sends me into a tailspin. The worst part is feeling insecure in my relationship with him. I’ve never felt so raw or vulnerable, and I begin to jump at shadows, thinking that every approaching person or potential play partner will be the undoing of our relationship. Logically I know that I’m being irrational, and yet, I can’t stop the feelings rolling through me. I would like to get off the emotional roller coaster now please, but I don’t think my ride is over yet.
I used to be confident about the path my life was taking, but now I’m afraid to trust the ‘everything will be all right in the end’ sentiment. Happiness is now distilled into single moments: my child’s voice lifted in song, my mama’s laughter on the other end of the phone, the strength of sir’s arms around me at night. Love fiercely, I tell myself. You have this moment now. Through the tempest of these changes, I will know my heart at least. I know who it belongs to. And my love for my mama, my daughter, and my sir shines as its own guiding light. Of that I am certain.