Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Healing Found Me in a Public Library

The movies teach us that life changing moments are predictable. On a mountain, in a grand city, crossing a finish line. That our souls can be fed and filled and renewed only in those grandiose moments that are a clearly defined experience that says, "This is amazing. Look at what I've accomplished."

It doesn't teach you that you will find all of yourself while sitting in a library with florescent lighting at 2:00pm on a Tuesday afternoon. I didn't know that healing could happen so allofthesudden that I wouldn't have a moment to pause for breath. There was no indicator that every wounded and self-conscious portion of my soul would stretch and swell open with life sitting in public, right out in the open. That I would silently weep as sight and sound enveloped all of my fears and told me do not be afraid. For I am with you, always.

I've been reading Eat, Pray, Love again (Elizabeth Gilbert's amazing breakout non-fic piece). It opened its arms wide for me three years ago and swallowed all of my heartbreak and depression while I flew across the country and found myself bayside and spitting my soul off of the Golden Gate Bridge, becoming a bride to the sky and giving away every ounce of control that told me I don't care if I live or die. It was in those tearfilled and broken December days that I found life in the possibilities of suddenly wanting to live while inside a tiny 10 person propeller plane above SanFran that was running out of gas and lighting struck all around us. I clutched Elizabeth's novel to my fluttering heart and whispered to myself, full of doubt in god, full of shame that a New York Times bestseller taught me how to pray, Om Namah Shivaya. I am the divinity that resides within me.

The past thousand days or so I have learned and forgotten and reclaimed those words and ideals on a nearly daily basis.

(God is near me.)

There are a select few sweet souls who know what I'm about to tell you. I might have cancer.
The chances are slim. In fact, since they found the mass within my belly just around a month ago, all blood tests and CT scans have pointed towards the fact that I am probably alright. On Thursday I will go under the knife for the first time in my life. Although the odds are in my favor, I am terrified.

Later this week, I will either breathe a deep, trembling gulp of relieving and holy breath when I am told, you are so lucky.
Or I will clutch for a strong hand somewhere next to me and cling to it, hoping the hells of sorrow do not swallow me entirely in that panic-stricken moment that I learn this was not the last of your hospital days.

The wait. The uncertainty. The lack of control.

I am bewildered by the need to grasp everything around me and clutch it mightily. Please, please, please, I find myself begging, please, please, please. As a panic attack and insomnia swirled into my bedroom last night, I found my tired and anxious heart suddenly the object of a vicious warfare that I didn't know how to fight, much less win. I shook, I coughed, I gagged, I whimpered, I pleaded. I could not shake the fear that consumed me from my toes to my soul.

The fears and concerns and stresses are unnameable in their innummerability.

I am asked every few days, or daily now as the surgery looms across two sunsets from this moment: how are you doing? At first I could list out my struggles with names and bullet points. Today even over lunch I found myself yearning, aching for something concrete. I shoveled one of my last meals before this procedure desperately into my body, feeling each bite soothe my frazzled nerves and calm my quaking mind. I felt thankful for god and food and the gutbrain.

Post lunch I came here to the local public library and finished a school assignment. I opened a few tabs on my laptop to destress and distract myself. I tried opening a link that I've been trying to watch for weeks. It's this time-lapse video on Vimeo that for whatever reason (maybe the high quality of the film?) would not load no matter where I pulled up the video. Or I forgot about it, or didn't have my headphones around. For weeks this video sat in my bookmarks. Until today.

The video isn't much more than time-lapses of nature and the sky. But the combination of the sights and sounds of this movie unraveled me. It didn't require words or people or a narrative. It was enough simply to partake.

What I experienced immediately after the short film began was a voice like what Elizabeth Gilbert describes in Eat, Pray, Love.
"I heard a voice... It wasn't an Old Testament Hollywood Charlton Heston voice... It was merely my own voice, speaking from within my own self. But this was my voice as I had never heard it before. This was my voice, but perfectly wise, calm and compassionate. This was what my voice would sound like if I'd only ever experienced love and certainty  in my life."
Although, and this might make absolutely no sense, I didn't hear that voice speak to me. It was like that voice was just present. I watched the beauty of the infinite unfold before me and I was home. I feared suddenly and without warning absolutely nothing. Even death opened up right in front of me and I met it's gaze, calm and transcendent. I understood something of existence that perpetually evades me: the truth that death is not the enemy, and that life is not the prize. There was a oneness that permeated my veins that whispered throughout every sick part and every well part inside my body, Om Namah Shivaya.

You can bet I wept. It was a silent, joyous, tear-filled moment when I realized that though I felt sort of nervous to cry in public, probably not a soul around me would even take notice.

I saw god, I felt god, in that moment I was god. We just sat here, god and me, and watched this video about the stars and galaxies and wind and light and clouds and I felt everything leap from me, furiously abandoning me. It was as if, rather than something being taken or ripped from me, like a burden being lifted, it was more like when you turn on the lightswitch in a pitch black room. It doesn't require any work to remove the darkness, there is no process of gathering the shadows and displacing them. It simply vanishes.

That's how the darkness fled from me. A swift and abrupt kind of extraordinary abscondence.

The beauty of this healing is that it didn't just cause my demons to flee, but something glorious replaced the void that would have been left. In that sudden, I found my empty parts filled--I believed in myself again. The past few weeks I began to live as if a conscious enemy had found every insecurity that burrowed deep within my decrepit heart and began declaring every insult to be truth, every cobweb of abuse I remembered of my past to be my prized possessions. According to this adversary, my only precious parts were my broken bits, and that they were all that lay within me that was of any worth. It was a voice that demanded it was time I claimed my flaws as my biography, that I accept my worthlessness as fact. (I'm still trying to unscramble and decode how exactly fears of pain and suffering turned into an opportunity for such darkness to invade me so thoroughly.)

But in watching that video, I remembered myself. I saw the girl who ran 10k races in the Summer, who faced depression daily with ferocious optimism, who fought infinite doubt to seek god against every warring inner voice.   And I saw that god, who gave me sleep when insomnia plagued my frustrated mind; who spoke through the mouths of loved ones and even myself, sometimes, against our wills and best ideas. I saw the two merge at the turning point of dammit, I will be an Ironman one day, and love is for me regardless of religion or government or what my abusers made me believe. The finish line that declared, you are not weird and broken--you are strange and lovely and boundlessly lovable.

Thursday I go under the knife, anesthesia will course through my being, and I will face life, death, pain, and healing. My doctors will wheel me into an operating room, and I may leave with one less ovary. I may have five tiny scars, or one long, alien incision and six weeks of bedrest. But those possibilities are simply worlds to me now. They are not the universe, they are not god. They are finite and tiny and surmountable.

But my god is insurmountable. She reaches for eons into the past and pulls me joyously like swing-dancing into the future beyond. They fill my pinkies and toes and brain with life-giving blood and pour through novellas and lightning and birthday cake bearing truths infused with love. My god is in the twirling leaves that will fall and hustle across parking lots and buildings all around my hospital. He is in my boyfriend's hands as he holds them across a silent moment perfused delicately with an oak-tree kind of love

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