When trying to write this week’s column, I found myself coming up empty. To be honest, doing anything creative has been a struggle lately.
“Mental molasses,” my friend Sarah described it. I suppose navigating through a state of disbelief every day can be stifling.
My day starts at 8:30 a.m.; reluctantly I drag myself into the shower, first hot and then freezing cold. I close my eyes and pretend I’m beneath a waterfall. Then, I sit outside and listen to the birds (they’ve been a lot louder lately), have my morning Zoom meeting, and try to adjust to this new reality.
I finish work at 5:30, attempt some exercise, make dinner, and indulge in a cup of tea or glass of wine — the latter has become more common lately. I then chat with friends or family before collapsing into bed where I lie awake for several hours, my mind racing.
I wish to create, to write and paint and read and dance. But right now it’s been hard just to shower, put on real clothes, and get through the day.
There has never been more content to wade through, more articles to read, more novels to devour, more hobbies to start, more virtual chats to attend, more Instagram Live shows, more complicated skincare routines, and loaves of banana bread to bake.
With nowhere to go but inside, it feels as if we are all desperate to connect and validate our existence. But this also means added pressure, expectations, and overwhelming exhaustion from the mounting trauma of everything falling apart.
Being highly vulnerable has turned everything into a threat — once again. I started quarantining at home a month ago when I received a letter from the National Health Services telling me to remain inside for 12 weeks.
And yet, that said, home is pretty good. I am safe, out of danger, protecting my immunocompromised body. I have a space that’s mine and I know how fortunate that makes me. But still, I wish I was with family.
I miss laughter around a table, sharing a meal in a dimly lit restaurant, the fervor of a Friday night. I miss the companionship of my father, dancing with friends, sharing knowing looks with strangers in the street. I miss interacting with baristas and barmen, with the man who always smiles at me when he hands me my evening newspaper.
I miss the boy in the green jacket with the kind eyes who sells coffee by my office and who I always thought was cute (should have told him). I miss the feeling of walking home from work through the park, a crescent moon in the sky, muddy fields and cold air.
The irony is that I, like most chronically ill people, have experienced this before. Quarantine, isolation. There’s a familiarity to this moment.
And yet, here I am once again, in the thick of it. Confined between walls, trying to make sense of all this pain. That’s a great metaphor to describe the last five years of my life.
But, if there is one particularly poignant lesson being reiterated to me right now it’s that there’s beauty to be found in the brokenness. Through this forced pause, we have no other option but to go inside. And it’s uncomfortable. Our society is addicted to keeping busy. We don’t want to sit with the feelings that hurt. We don’t want to face ourselves. We don’t want to accept that everything is, inevitably, out of our control.
After my transplant, when I was too weak to walk from my bed to the kitchen, I remember feeling like the pain of having to sit with my feelings was worse than the pain of the transplant itself. My whole coping mechanism was to keep going.
Now that it’s happening on a collective scale there is, naturally, resistance. But without any other choice, there’s also opportunity. Maybe it’s ok to just be. Maybe in the acceptance of what we do not want to happen; we come to really know ourselves.
Our lack of productivity does not invalidate our worth. Our job, our workout routines, our art, whatever it is we fill our time with, does not define us.
And if there’s anything last year taught me, it’s that the bad times do eventually end.
I’ll end with a quote that has comforted me in hard times:
“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present, you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”
–Rainer Maria Rilke, “Letters to a Young Poet“
Note: Lymphoma News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lymphoma News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lymphoma.
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