In the past week, I’ve started essays on Roger Ebert and Brennan Manning, a little how-to on editing, a thing on physical pain, the aesthetics of doctor’s waiting rooms and what they say about the human condition, pretty clothes and old movies and my dog. Started but that’s it. Stared off into space, laid on my back and stared at the ceiling, stared at the blank television screen, stared at the television with it on, made myself a snack, called a girlfriend, stared at that one paragraph or one sentence or part of a sentence again, shrugged my shoulders and started the process over again.
Here’s the deal. I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. I don’t. I don’t have a fucking clue. Someone calls and asks me what I’m doing, I want to answer ‘the same fucking thing I’ve been doing for almost two years now, staring at a wall, alone, trying not to lose my fucking mind’. That’s what I’m doing. I may go about it in different ways, going out to a movie and dinner with friends, taking a vacation, reading but it is all in the service of trying not to lose my fucking mind. That is the number one thing I’ve been doing for two years, not losing my mind.
I was 41 years old when I found out I had terminal cancer. Forty-one. The day I got the results back that confirmed metastatic breast cancer, you know what I did? I went to hear my friend play at The Hard Rock Cafe, we hung out on the roof bar, took pictures and talked about our high school years. And then, I strolled around for a bit and had a very nice cocktail at a downtown bar. I wore a red dress and red lipstick. A woman passed by me at the bar, stopped and said “that color looks fantastic on you”. She has no idea what a gift that was.
I flirted with the bartender. I made friends with the young Canadian hipster tourists sitting beside me and gave them detailed directions on where to find the best pulled pork, hot chicken and the best meat and three in town. Of course, I had to explain what hot chicken was and the concept of a meat and three but they were sweet and I hope they had an excellent time. I hope things worked out for them. I’d like to think they are still together and as happy as they were that night. I gave the valet a $20 tip.
As I drove home, through the dark, sticky, July night, I rolled my window down and stuck my hand out, dancing with the wind the way I did as a child, Frank Sinatra blaring from the stereo speakers, sweat beginning to bead and drip down my back and between my breasts. It felt so damned good to be alive. It felt so good. So good.
Later, I laid in bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to the whir of the fan and the soft, ruffling snores of my dog and tried not to think about how I was going to tell the people who loved me that the news was bad; tried but was unsuccessful. Finally, I left my bed, I didn’t sleep much that summer anyway, and sat in my front room and out my big picture window, I watched the sun rise. Breathing felt so good. Iced coffee was so good. I wanted to be alive.
Every day since, when the sun goes down, miraculously, I have not lost my mind. The sun rises in the morning and my mind is still where it is supposed to be. I don’t know how this has happened. I don’t know how for how much longer it will continue. I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. I’m making it up as I go, one sunrise at a time.