You know how it is--you are worried about something potentially life threatening. You may or may not have something wrong with you--or you are on a plane that is making an emergency landing, traveling from Oakland to San Francisco at low elevation until the flight attendant tells you to assume the brace position (hold those ankles).
At that time, you know that you want to live your life differently. Or you realize that there is something you need to do. Maybe you see clearly who is important to you and know you need to spend more time with these people. Or you want to stop complaining about stupid things (how people act in gyms, for one) and focus on the really important stuff in life. Or you know you need to be more detached (like right now as the plane is trying to land with a broken landing gear)and not take every damn thing so seriously. It's not all about you!
Recently, I was diagnosed with a condition that shares many similar symptoms with a type of cancer. Let me make it clear now that I am fine, that the condition is very treatable and common, and the treatment is an outpatient kind of thing with very low risk. Before the diagnosis, however, I had already killed myself off. I had folded up the tent, sure that there was going to be no hope.
I found out a couple of important things during my almost bout with cancer. One is that I realized a number of life changes I've made in the past few years were the right choices. As I was mulling my soon to be demise, I knew that if I had not made those choices, I would have regretted it, pissed that I had been too scared to move or do anything with my desires. This view of how I had changed my life was very reassuring except for the fact that I thought I was going to die. I somehow managed to make those choices without fear of death, so what was left?
Spending more time with my boyfriend, children, my mother, my friends. And even though time might be short, finally learning French fluently. I mean, the kind of French that doesn't make me turn red in the face at the supermarche check out. Traveling to Italy and spending more time in Paris. I don't need the pyramids or the outback, but give me a café, a espresso, and a view of the Seine.
That's what popped up. That's what seemed to matter. And I felt grateful to myself for all the work I've done in this life already--great jobs, poems, short stories, and novels written, children had, friendships made. I've left one relationship to explore the universe as a single woman and come back to another relationship that fits. For twenty years, I've taught a lot of people what I know to the best of my ability--I've had a pretty good go.
However--it's hard to keep this kind of appreciation for oneself and this type of focus on what's left to do after the diagnosis comes in: fibroids. Not cancer, fibroids. Maybe a lot of aches and pains but no radiation, chemo, secret drug protocols, surgeries.
(Okay, can I bitch about people in the gym now?)
So every day, I think about the airplane ride my boyfriend and I had in September, the one where we were asked to grab our ankles and keep our heads down as the plane wobbled and shook itself to a stop on an evacuated SFO runway full of emergency vehicles.
I had grabbed one of his ankles instead of my right one, liking the feel of his sturdy self. I was crying, thinking that I had seen my mother than day, hugged her, kissed her. My boys had just left for the Northwest, and they knew how I felt about them. My love was next to me, going into this with me, whatever it was.
There. There. That's real. That's the feeling you need to remember to get through traffic and weirdness a t work and delays with publishers. This is what to think about when you are bored or listless or angry with someone. Just before the plane lands (or the diagnosis comes in). That. Being alive. Nothing yet decided, everything still possible. Life, right there, to do with whatever you want.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org