“There’s nothing more fragile than being alive.”Natasha Richardson
One year ago: in the midst of cycle 2 of 6 for my non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The ground is still shifting – daily.
Nine months ago: done with treatment. I expect to be crazy full of joy the last day. Instead, I sit wailing in my car for 25 minutes.
Six months ago: my first post-treatment checkup. Blood drawn. CT scan. All is well. I am getting stronger.
Three months ago: my second post-treatment checkup. Blood drawn. CT scan. All is well. My hematologist is giddy with delight. I am relieved. I am getting stronger.
Five weeks ago: my second case of shingles, despite having taken the Shingrix shots between the two. I am afraid. I survive and avoid the worst.
Ten days ago: my nine-month checkup. Blood drawn. CT scan. All is well. The nurse practitioner says that at 80 and having had cancer, my immune system is especially challenged even now and will continue to be. No expiration date. I will need to be careful despite vaccines. I am discouraged.
Nine days ago: I have a low-grade temperature, chills and unusual fatigue. I am surprisingly calm, but alert. I call my internist’s office and a nurse runs through the triage questions for COVID. At 4:30 pm I am tested, up both nostrils. I remain calm, knowing the results will not come until the next day. At midnight, I check my email and there is a message from Mayo already. “SARS-COV-2RNA: Undetected.” I am encouraged.
Today: I had to have work done on my internet connection by a technician. In my home. We both masked up. I hate masks more than ever! The Pandemic is still a growling presence. I am impatient. But I am not afraid.
“There’s nothing more fragile than being alive.”
All of the fear and fragility of this past year, however, has found me impatient, bored, low on energy and occasionally depressed in recent weeks. Sleep has been a challenge once again, and I’ve been reminded of the years after my beloved died. Making it through the grief journey.
There is some grief here that has been hiding quietly with the moments of more recent calm and relief and encouragement.
Grief that being alive means being fragile. Grief that I have much less control over what happens to me than I do. That certainty is fleeting and unwanted change may arrive in my next breath.
I do wish that I could always be courageous. But even when I am not, I do know that courage is not far away. And it will look and sound different in its time.
Then I remember John O’Donohue’s poem:
“You are in this time of the interim / Where everything seems withheld. / The path you took to get here has washed out; / The way forward is still concealed from you./…Do not allow your confusion to squander / This call which is loosening / Your roots in false ground, / That you might come free / From all you have outgrown.”John O’Donohue, “For the Interim Time,” from To Bless the Space Between Us
And I was reminded this week of a meaningful prayer, using the image of God sitting at the potter’s wheel, and I, the clay. Some of it especially struck deep:
Help me, God, commit to the process, not the outcome. / Help me embrace this messy middle time / when I must make space for shifts and questions…/ You hum a tune of possibility / and potential as you work. / With each move of your hand, / you mutter, / “Beautiful.” / “Beautiful.” / “Beautiful.”Arianna Braithwaite Lehn, “When I’m in the Messy Middle of Something,” from Ash and Starlight
I am growing more beautiful in this time. Grace still bats last.
And I’m okay with that.