Snow, Winter in Vitebsk, Marc Chagall (French, Vitebsk 1887–1985 Saint-Paul-de-Vence), Date:1911 From The Metropolitan Museum of Art, online collection

It was cold and icy when I woke up this morning. When I opened my eyes, the cold registered first and then, the character of the light coming through my bedroom window. It was silver-tinged blued. It was the color that always means snow. I recalled the day’s forecast and I didn’t mind so much the drafty, cold, air that made the tip of my nose tingle. The shock of the cold wood floor was enough to bring me fully out of the deepest part of my usual morning fog. I shuffled to the window, anticipating the beauty of a thick white blanket of snow.  I thought I would have breakfast by the front picture window in my office and spend the day writing in my chair by the window, so I could appreciate the view.

But the promised accumulation was not there. A light dusting, made even more sparse by my grass, which insisted on growing well into December, was all that greeted me. My shoulders sunk a little and I sighed and got my slippers on and went on with the usual ablutions.

There are only two suitable breakfast options on days like these, oatmeal or grits. I chose oatmeal. I like to add all manner of bits and things to my oatmeal and this morning, I chose nuts and dried fruit, a little brown sugar, a little cinnamon, a dash of fresh nutmeg. I put the coffee on. I put the oatmeal in the microwave. I let the dog out. I shuffled around, started up the heater in the den, lit the morning candles. Let the dog back in and wiped off her paws, rubbing them, warming them up.

Haystacks (Effect of Snow and Sun),Claude Monet (French, Paris 1840–1926 Giverny),Date: 1891 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, online collection

One of my superpowers is cooking and specifically in timing dishes. I excel at getting everything ready, on time, and at the appropriate temperature, every time. The coffee and the oatmeal are done within seconds of each other. I prepare my bowl and my mug and I let everything sit on the counter to cool for a moment while I tidy the kitchen.

For a second, my left hand stopped working. I was holding the container of oats. One and a half pounds of oats, minus however much was in my bowl, were quite suddenly scattered across my kitchen floor. I looked at my hand, noticed the tiny tremor. And I waited, no more than a few seconds, for it to end. I touched each one of my fingers to the tip of my thumb, clenched and released my grip. Assured the fit was over, I set about dealing with the mess, negotiating with the dog over her share of the treasure.

By rights and by precedent, all food which makes it to the floor is hers. I’m not sure if raw oatmeal is good for dogs, though. I know for certain a pound and a half of almost anything is not a good idea, no matter what it is. I sweep up enough to ensure the dog’s health without diminishing her joy and take up my breakfast tray, carefully, and light to my morning nest.

Something is happening to my left arm. The cancer started in my left breast and thus, that side has seen the most damage. The pain in my shoulder and arm is chronic, not life-altering, more annoying than anything. The scar tissue is spreading. And my hand, the thing with my hand, it started about six months ago.

Last week’s CAT scan was good news. I know it isn’t a new tumor.  I don’t know what it is. I should make an appointment with the surgeons, maybe with my neurologist, too. I don’t want to. Insurance bullshit has changed recently and it takes a week of phone calls and faxes (WHO FAXES ANYTHING ANYMORE?) and follow-up upon follow-up to check all the necessary boxes. Harassing underpaid office minions is right up there on the list of things I hate most in the world, As much as I hate medical insurance administrivia, I hate going to the doctor a thousand times more.

But the oatmeal on the floor, it isn’t the first time this has happened. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that is going to self-correct. I should probably do something about it.

This is the usual thing. I don’t complain. I don’t say much of anything, ever, about it. But this is the usual thing. With every milestone I hit, there is another little bit, a thing, here or there, that needs tending to. There was a time, in the first few euphoric post-treatment oh my god I can’t believe I made it months, when I thought this stuff would stop happening, that everything was on an upward trajectory. Now, I understand that is not the case, not the case for me, at least.

These few weeks of winter, they are cold and dark and then colder and icy and more cold. I love winter light. I don’t mind the cold.  But this, this usual thing, I mind it.

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