Getting IVIG through a peripheral IV in my right hand in 2012. (photo, my own)
Just think of this post as a little corollary to Tuesday’s.
I realized pretty much as I hit “Publish” on that post, there had to be some readers who sat in quiet reassurance that they could not, would not, never, ever be one who’d wind up without time.
After all, you’re no MLK, JFK or RFK, so no one is gunning for you, right? Nor are you an alcoholic or addicted to drugs like Amy or Basquiat, and you never take sleeping pills, so you’d never overdose like Marilyn.
I know more than a few people who are confident (ahem, cocky?) in their lives, in their abilities, their intelligence. So confident, they aren’t just comfortable, but assured. Bills are paid, credit score north of 800, advanced degrees, loving partner… even their pets are awesome.
But… deep down, there is a little, itty-bitty thing that nags. It’s not quite fear, per se, but maybe just a worry. A worry that, perhaps… like Chinua Achebe’s protagonist learns, Things Fall Apart.
Working (or pretending to for a photo) in my cubicle in 2010. (photo, my own)
Around the age of 8, I began having a dream of falling down the stairs of my family’s home. The staircase would morph from having 15 steps, which it actually had, to being seemingly endless. The light would go dark and I’d freefall, screaming for my parents, while headed straight for the small linoleum- covered landing. It was like I was careening… in slow motion. I was the van in Inception.
I always woke up before hitting the floor. I had that same dream, off and on, until about two years ago. Two years ago when I had the stem cell transplant.
Striking a pose in 2008. (quite obvi, this pic is mine)
I’m not sure when I hit the metaphorical floor during that process. It wasn’t when I shaved my hair, or when the chemo made me so disoriented, I couldn’t hold a conversation with the nurses who were caring for me. It wasn’t when I gained 8 pounds in 2 days from the fluids, and then lost 16 in 3 or 4 days from extreme nausea and contracting a colon infection. I don’t think it’s when my skin turned a sickish gray color, either.
I think it was when I got home and time passed and I didn’t actually get any better. The infection cleared, my hair grew back, and yet… I hadn’t improved one iota.
In the midst of severe chemo-induced nausea during the stem cell transplant, May 2016. (this hideous photo is all mine)
Some of the people I use to take classes or work with are at a loss for what has happened to me. I never did drugs, got drunk, or even tried a cigarette. I got a full scholarship to college, worked with preschoolers, and mentored freshmen. I attended church, paid tithes AND offerings, and volunteered to teach ESL to adults. I dutifully babysat for my siblings, helped my mom with the bills, and ran errands for my dad.
“Why,” they have asked me point blank, “did this happen to *YOU*?”
“Why *NOT*?” I lobbed back.
“Because you’re just not the type… you are a good person! You have always done the right thing…”.
I feel for them. Honestly. They see I’ve fallen- unable to work, disabled, scarred, using a walker like their great-aunt does, fifty years early. And if I could fall, it stands to reason, so could they.
I’m not completely sure why the dream stopped in 2016, but I think it’s telling that it did. I believe it stopped haunting my sleep because I landed. I accepted that no matter my flailing attempts to prevent the crash, no matter my screams and tears, I could not stop it of my own accord. My parents didn’t save me, and God did not step in, either.
Doing yoga after returning home after the transplant, June 2016. (this photo is mine, taken quite ably by Zoe)
Yet when I did, I felt the most bittersweet relief. I accepted the truth.
I am not in control.