It is raining now. A steady cold autumn rain. The kind that spoils camping trips and calls for hot tea and warm blankets and stacks of movies. Max is sick and has a sinus infection on top of an ear infection on top of something dreary and medieval sounding called Hand Food and Mouth disease. We are burrowing in.
A few weeks ago I had a dream. I don’t remember much about it. It was fuzzy, almost impressionistic–blurry and not clear. The only thing I remember from this dream is staring out a window watching the rain, remarking “The women who have loved me are dying…” At the time I had the dream, I viewed it as a Jungian metaphor. I thought that at this time of great transition, I was letting go of all the various parts of me who had served me before, who had done their best to protect my tender heart but who now had seen their time end: The me who was afraid to love too deeply, the me who felt she had to do everything perfectly and be perfectly nice so that she would be adored, the me who felt she needed to plan out and control her life. Yes…I thought. These versions of me, they are dying and from their ashes a strong, secure, adventurous woman who is not afraid to love fearlessly is starting to rise.
Our dear housemate Odette has been in the hospital for almost 3 weeks now. She is not dying but she is struggling to heal from a life changing surgery. She has been in and out of the hospital and holed up in her bed since labor day. I realize how much of our day-to-day life, functioning and running smoothly, has been made possible because of Odette’s quiet presence. In my efforts to keep our life together with her gone I am running at double speed, flailing around and unable to go and visit. I miss her and feel her slipping away. I feel a hole in my heart where her lilting African singing used to be.
My dear friend Jenni is so ill and in so much pain. She had pinned her hopes on a surgery that was not successful. I am angry and sad because I don’t know how to get halfway across the world to hold her hand. I want to sit on a beach with her and wrap my arms around her and I feel that if I could something just might shift for both of us. I am not sure what I can do anymore that will make a difference.
This week I learned that my dear Jill, a friend who held me through the early days of my divorce with Juan, has cancer. We don’t know any details yet. There are tests, there are possibilities, there is lots of unknowing. I am sitting on the edge of her wide circle and wondering what if anything I can do to help. Thursday I learned that Antonieta, Max’s babysitter and third grandmother, my second mother, the woman who has been my steady day to day presence for four years through the worst of our separation, the one who wiped so many tears, the one who put cold cloths on my migraine ravaged head, the one who took my child when I needed to cry, I learned that she has an aggressive form of cancer. She has no health insurance. We don’t know what is next.
“The women who have loved me are dying.” Suddenly this dream I had takes on a new scary meaning and as I stare out the window and watch the world turn impressionistic and blurry through the rain I wonder what it means.
I am bowing to life exactly as it is. Its a minute by minute– no, more like breath to breath– exercise, this not wishing it was otherwise. Not wishing that it wasn’t raining…not wishing that we were camping…not wishing that Max felt well…not wishing we could be with other people…not wishing that Odette, Jenni, Jill, and Antonieta were well and sitting around my kitchen table sharing a bottle of wine and laughing with me right now…not wishing that I didn’t just eat an entire box of chocolates to dull the sting around my heart…not wishing that I was already an acupuncturist so that I could do something to help…why can’t I do anything to help?
It is raining, we aren’t camping, Max feels crummy and we can’t be around people lest we pass along the horrible virus that has left him with sores on his hands, feet and mouth. Most importantly many of the women who have loved me so well are sick and I don’t know what to do about it except eat a box of chocolate–so much so that now I can’t sleep. I don’t have needles to help them and I am years off from being able to and I feel so damn helpless in the face of this all. Wishing wouldn’t change any of this.
I frantically text my community and beg them to bring movies so I can distract myself this night. As though they are all in cahoots with the universe, they have set their phones aside so late, forcing me to sit here on the front steps, watching the rain and breathing through my grief.
This is life, as it is.
This is the rain, cold and wet.
These are my tears warm and salty.
This is life.