Someone asked me how things were going recently, and I started into the pat "nice-isms" I am programmed to say. great, fine! wow! look at me! But what I really wanted to say is this:
I am in limbo; I am moving through, slowly, through my own life, unsure of this new body, and mind, and what happens next. I am stitching myself back together a wee bit everyday.
There is no "going back" - life is on another course, and one that has far more [and ironically fewer] nuances, bumps, and lumps. There is still a huge part of the old me, known to me as my core. But emerging from the foxhole in toto is proving to be a hard thing for the core, that wee battered thing.
People, my family, my insurer, others - are anxious for me to "return". Chemo? Check! Surgery? Check! Radiation - on deck - Check! Hair growing in (not curly, not luscious, all those liars!) Check! Tamoxifen? Check! Stepping stones, all - but to where? What does it look like out there? What wil be my new part in this new world?
I am not going to do that, return to the life before. I am going to learn to transition myself back into the world. I am going to trust myself, and my loved ones to do this with me - at my speed.
In the Tibetan tradition, the place between lives is called "the bardo." We do not live in a culture that supports a thoughtful meditative approach to recovery and/ or healing. Before the lights are off in the ER, you are literally packed up, and booted out of the hospital with a bag of alcohol swabs and not even a prayer. Your home care nurse is your only real touchpoint - hovering on the transom to the other side - from the entire sugical medical team who asked you your birth date and took your vitals 6 times, drew on your body with a sharpie, rent it asunder and then stapled it all back together.
Recovery is what your body does, but healing - healing is what your entirety does - body, mind, soul. Recovery can be bouncing back from surgery with an excellent clinical response - off those pain meds and flipping that arm around like nobody's business inside of a week or two.
But healing takes time. All parts need to find their new normal - the body, most obviously to the outside world - hair regrows, there are changes to the outline of the body, the scars settle - the tissue reworks itself into a new fabric; the mind needs to settle into a place where the concept of a recurrence is accepted, or handled with dignity, not fear (because the common medical wisdom now is that cancer is a condition, chronic, but at bay); and maybe the mind even needs to relearn all the things it has forgotten - names, objects; and the soul - finding answers to the awesome questions brought right up close in your face. And answering who am I now?
This is the bardo.