I had wondered when it would come. The tears had shown before, but they almost seemed superficial, too close to the surface. This new part of me hadn’t had time to penetrate the inner depths yet … no time to marinate the nerves and emotions until they became congealed – united in understanding. Wednesday it came. Symptoms a little worse, emotions a little too much on edge, realization a little too close to the heart. Someone called, to offer help, to support, to spread their good intentions over me like
honey on toast. Then the confession – they had a family member die of it. It was unpleasant, grueling, tortuous to watch their bodies deteriorate, their abilities decline, until one day they were gone. Nothing had hit me more forcefully than this. The news wasn’t new – I had heard as many bad stories as good ones, but this one came at the precisely wrong time. Somehow I had managed to keep the tidal wave of emotion dammed up until I hung up the phone.
It was almost a relief when the tears did come, confirmation that I could feel, confirmation that I was human and fallible. They wouldn’t stop, flowing for hours, the throbbing emotional pain and fear ripe within my chest. There is no good reason to feel this way, I thought. I’m ok. I’m going to make it through this. But the story brought a new meaning to my disease’s description. Incurable. Progressive. The sugar coating I had convinced myself of was now stripped, exposing my foe in its raw, dreadful form. And it stared me back, with black, unforgiving eyes – unemotional, just offering the plain truth of what it was.
They say the better you know your enemy, the more effective you can be in fighting it. Now that the mask has been lifted, now that I really know what I’m up against, locked in the cage, fist to fist, perhaps I have the advantage.
When I finally caught hold of myself, I felt cleansed. Defenses strong. And I could focus on the task at hand – packing for what could not have been a better-timed trip to the beach. The calming effect was instant and welcomed. Perhaps it was the soothing cadence of the ocean’s tide or the restful fingers of sea foam grasping for my feet or the breathtakingly beautiful contrast between sand and sea pastels against a severe deep blue and sun-drenched backdrop or maybe the briny air that filled my usually land-locked lungs, acting as a natural anesthetic to my wounds. It was the healing combination of all, surely.
And there I floated, carelessly swaying to the rocking motion of the waves. Suddenly the aloneness ushered in a new flow of emotion. What if this is one of the last times I can fully immerse myself in the ocean – to feel the water and life and energy around me – before I’m committed to a wheelchair? I thought my mind had built walls high enough that such terrifying thoughts could never cross them, but somehow this one escaped. The ebb and flow of emotion, like the waters around me, found their way to my eyes once again and I was unable to distinguish between the tears and salt water.
And then I realized, even so, if this worst fear were to come true, it didn’t matter at that moment. Because at that moment, I was living in the happy confines of a perfect bubble – spending time with those I love the most, my children’s laughter dancing on the edges of the breeze, my husband’s effortless smile on his lips, life growing and thriving inside of me. Every day is a gift.