One: I will not sneer at Facebook any more. There are at this point 252 “likes” since I reported that my one-year scan had come back clean. I read all the comments.
Uncharacteristically for me, I went through the entire list of “likes,” slowly, picturing the people I know, or barely know, and imagining the ones I didn’t. They checked “like.” How do they know of me? Or do they randomly check “like” on anything that seems remotely pleasing? Not important. Important is the heightened awareness the “likes” give me of the community, our community of humans who wish each other well, who’ve wished me well.
Whoops, there’s another, as I write. 253. And comments: one says: “Grinning.” I’m grinning at all this. It’s not nothing. It’s not trivial, all these “likes.” To say I’m grateful, ….yes, I could and do say that. But that’s not it. There’s a sense of all this, this mixture of people, ill and well, friends or acquaintances, all of us mixed up together, not separate.
Two: Although I know I am, and will always be, in danger of a recurrence, as of yesterday I seem to have passed over into a different realm, one where I’m at least certifiably well. Still annoyingly fatigued, but nonetheless “back” in the everyday world where one is not tethered to the thought of illness moment by moment. Where illness may occur but does not swamp all other manifestations.
So now I’m “normal.” Not the special one who gets cards, flowers, visits, emails. Feet flat on the gritty ground. A bit of adjustment. As Freud says, the goal is to achieve normal unhappiness. [And happiness, of course, but that’s not his point.]
Three: Artificial divisions. On one level, all divisions (happiness/unhappiness, sick/well) are artificial. Things are a steady flow and even that isn’t accurate. There’s movement only as it’s seen from a fixed point. Otherwise it’s what? Not stillness, but not not stillness.
My gynecologist says I will not have another scan, because current studies indicate they do more harm in adding radiation to the body than they do good in identifying a problem. They aren’t very helpful for certain kinds of cancer, endometrial being one. So basically I stay alert for any symptoms.
I once was sick, but now I’m well. Really?…… When I was sick, most of my body was well. Only one part was sick, even though dealing with that made me sick all over. Or, rather, my whole body was sick enough to allow the endometrial cells to go crazy. How shall we look at this?
Nonetheless, there’s the marker of the oncologist appointment. His pronouncement. I feel in some sense well. Well, I always did feel well. Even when I wasn’t, I scarcely believed it. If there had been a boil on my skin, a gaping wound…..THAT would have been an objective correlative.
Four: For a long time now, a friend has been sending me homemade postcards with utterly appropriate, brilliantly chosen quotations on them. They’ve made me smile and have helped me through some hard times. Here is her latest, a quotation from the essayist and novelist Wilfrid Sheed:
The spiritual life becomes very simple when you’re sick. You pray to get better, and if and when you do, you don’t need to be told to be grateful about it. It gushes out of you. And you discover, in the same giddy rush, that just being alive, even on a no-frills basis, is astoundingly good.
So my primal proofs for God, or whatever, begin with this: the sheer capacity for happiness and one’s sense, when it happens, that this is correct and normal and not some freak of nature. When health returns, it feels like coming home, with everything just as you left it; and the other thing, the bad news—the broken leg or even the mental breakdown—feels like the freak. But now you are back where you belong, in harmony with the universe.
And from this I deduce with some conviction that the universe is essentially a good place to be, despite appearances, and that if it means anything at all, it means well.