“The days aren't discarded or collected, they are bees that burned with sweetness or maddened the sting..."
It’s hard to believe that one month could be so damn long. It feels like centuries ago, that I slipped into the darkness, releasing my dear sister’s hand, tears streaming down my cheeks as I entered the depths of the unknown. And I awoke to an altered body, an altered mind, an altered heart, an altered soul. The days have grown longer and warmer; the birds are celebrating the return of the sun; the flowers are bravely pushing up and out into this new day. I long to be like the tulips, who don’t fear the cold nights or the crazy temperature fluctuations of spring; they just poke their little heads out and persistently make a flower...a beautiful bounty of color and smells.
I watch the honey bees foraging from flower to flower, knowing what to do, and doing it without hesitation, and I am so jealous. Their lives are just as endangered as mine; and yet, they don’t lay in bed until noon, weeping over their situation. They just get on with life, doing what they came here to do. I have spent the greater part of my life feeling much like the bees: I wake up early & bounce out of bed with excitement and determination about what I get to do that day. I have loved most of my life, living it the way I feel called to do, even when that puts me on the outside of the majority...which is where most of my time seems to land.
Lately, however, I feel lost; like a bee who awoke to find no hive and no flowers. I remember one time some folks moved their hives from where I used to live; they tried to get all of the bees, but inevitably a few dozen were tardy in their return. They buzzed around the spot where their hive had been for days, smelling the familiarity of their kin, but to no avail. I wept with those bees, feeling deep empathy, for I too have been separated abruptly from my home a time or two. Now, I feel separated from myself, my life, my purpose. It is all so incredibly disorienting...like getting tossed by the biggest wave imaginable…and not knowing which way is up.
" Still Another Day" ― Pablo Neruda,
They say acceptance will come, but that is hard for me to imagine right now. The grief is so huge, so complete, so overwhelming. Some folks say things like, “Hey, you just got to suck it up and get over it, you’ve got to keep going, for your kids.” I know this is true; but it's so damn difficult. At times I feel like all of this is too much: the surgery, the radiation, the chemo…maybe taking my ovaries because I have hormone driven breast cancer…the next year of my life stretches out before me, like a conveyor belt that winds through a twisted and demented circus. “Step right up folks, over here we have the Build-A-Boob workshop, will you be having nipples today, or not? And over there is the Poison Station, where we will fill you with chemicals to keep you alive...over yonder we have the Ovary Removal Tent…” and on and on it goes….I feel like all my femininity is being stripped away from me, my breasts, my hair, my estrogen makers...my life....
"In the River Styx..."
And while I am so incredibly grateful for all of the delicious and nourishing foods and gifts we have been receiving, I am also exhausted by people. Each person wants a story, to hear first hand what I am experiencing, to search deep in my eyes to find the trauma, and it is so incredibly exhausting. I miss just having normal conversations. I miss having the energy to fight for the oppressed, for the beings whose voices are being drowned out by the roar of the progress machine...but now my voice has shifted. I feel like another casualty to modernity. You see, I don’t have the genetic disposition to cancer. Mine comes from without, not within. They say prevention is the cure; and I agree. But prevention means dealing with the reality that we are poisoning our planet: the water, the air, the soil. There were 68,000 cases of breast cancer in 1970. There were 268,600 new cases in 2019. What does our future as a species look like? We hold the entire web of life in our fingers, and yet still we march on, relentlessly pushing the carrying capacity of this planet, devouring resources as we strive for bigger, faster, more...when is it enough?
"Waves of Rage"
And so this is my update. I am deeply grieving, experiencing all the stages and rages. I am overwhelmed. I feel lost in a sea of options that all suck. I feel frustrated over my limited mobility. I feel heartbroken over the path of treatment that stretches out before me. In short, I want my life back, and yet that is not possible. So, if I don’t return your call or email, please don’t take it personally. It’s all I can do to breathe right now. And please, unless you have personal experience walking on this road, don’t give me your advice or horror stories about radiation and chemo, or botched reconstruction...because I know this all sucks. I know they are poisons; but Rick Simpson oil, kombucha and cold showers are not going to cure me.
I am going to continue to do all that I can to stay alive. I have spent my adult life fighting for causes and underdogs...now I am the underdog, and I’m all out of fight. Maybe that is the grand lesson in all of this, to let go...I sure have wanted to run away lately (a dip in the healing waters of Lourdes, perhaps!?!) But I can’t outrun this one. And so I turn and face my fears, and stand in the ebb and flow of this ocean of grief, giving praise to the life I have gotten to experience so far, and pouring love into my children, my people, the land, the flowers, the bees. I wish I could give you all a happier report. It’s spring after all, and folks are all aflutter with the rising metaphorical sap of life; who wants to read sad ramblings from a broken heart? But I gotta keep it real. Bee well, friends…
And if you feel so moved, thank you:
An avid & sometimes obsessed & sometimes nomadic & always wild fermenter & culture shifter...find her scampering in a forest near you!