Teetering is the word I settle on, after sampling lockdown, pandemic, chaos, caste, remission, relapse. Teetering feels like the right word to describe my cancer journey— balancing on a tight rope, but also the drama of larger proportions in our country and in the world. In September, all we could think about was the elections. We thought that would have a resolution in November, but we were wrong. Instead, we woke up to the disturbing split reality of our country, always there, but now in plain view.
The Practice that Sustained Me
While the country went into full chaos, with a disputed election that could easily threaten to rupture my focus on healing, I turned off the news and devoted every early morning to meditation. I focused on coexisting with my “dragon” drug, Ponatinib. As we moved into November, I added a full spectrum light. With my cell phone providing the guiding meditation, I began a practice to lead me back to center through the turmoil in my heart about the state of our nation. This simple training meant that I saw many dawn sky, where black night turned to dark cobalt, then to a mesmerizing indigo hue that on clear mornings, contained the jewels of Venus and the moon in its phases.
The Family Juggling Team
Meanwhile, our family rallied to the various forms of lockdown, with rules that seemed to change every few weeks, celebrating birthdays and holidays outside. Christmas had half of our family on the porch outside, next to the dining room window where we sat with the other half, inside—using our cellphones on speaker to converse. Mariya juggled a “bubble” of moms and toddlers that went in and out of quarantine. Elena navigated the highwire act of trying to keep her parents safe while teaching in person. Steve and I hosted several outdoor happy hours until the cold weather finally overtook our desire to do so, and we surrendered to an indoor world that primarily featured just the two of us.
I knew that the pandemic was unjust in the worst way imaginable, with the poor and unlucky and subordinate caste receiving the brunt of it. We had nothing to complain about in our quiet, cozy home. Though grateful to my bones, I felt and grieved the loss of normal and the growing insanity of our country.
I gather my courage from the Americans who stood for hours in voting lines, masked and six feet apart, without amenities of any kind, to change the destiny of our teetering nation. And I gather determination from those who worked so hard to shift the fate of the future. As we moved into the new year, we saw things I don’t need to repeat here, evidence of an infectious madness. But the teetering line held, and leadership changed and, at least for now, surmounted the violent specter of White Supremacy.
Cancer Trauma is Ongoing
We have reached the quickening of nature, known in Celtic realms as Imbolc. The light has changed so completely, becoming bright and illuminating the blooms and buds that are starting to emerge. I have to admit my own trauma after the last four years, and especially after 2020. I notice I have a reluctance to be out in the world that I have never experienced before. It is not fear. I think it’s just that my world became smaller but richer. I had time to write. We made changes to our home, so it became cozier. I went over my big past life in so many ways, boggled by its hustle and bustle, and not eager to do that again with what time I have left. And there are times I just need to be still. I am trying to let myself disappear when I need to, and I need to do this often. There is so much to take in. The physic cost of grasping where our country is right now is huge. There is stubborn hopefulness that the change might hold and be for the best. But I don’t know that for certain, so I try to strengthen what I have control of.
These things sustain me: Family. Friends. Community. Nature. Beauty. Celebrating the seasons and swinging grandchildren, smiling as they gleefully jump in puddles and ask questions about crows. Listening to the trials and victories of those around me as we move about, always outdoors. The stamp of my long time with leukemia is imprinted deeply in my heart and body, but I bear it, for what, indeed, is the alternative? As I have since I was young, I do the only thing that makes sense, — walking—now taking the place of other travels, healing my heart and body with beauty and the rhythm of feet touching the earth.