Anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer will instantly get it when I mention "sinking spells," the rogue waves of emotional turmoil that, very much like a torrent of grief, come out of nowhere, and suddenly, with a fierce power that can knock you over. I will say this up front: my attitude has been generally good since learning I have a small, early stage, contained DCIS breast cancer, and it should be. In the context of the bad news there is a lot to be positive about. Still. No matter how positive, no matter how tough, no matter how resolved or bolstered, we're all susceptible to sinking spells. If we didn't have them we'd all qualify for The Charlie Sheen Master Class In Denial.
Mine have been random, often hitting while I'm doing ordinary things, and even in the midst of laughter. But they own the darks hours, barging into my peace, as in the wee hours of today, approximately 3:30 a.m. I fought it for a while -- IT winning -- and then grabbed my laptop and wrote to a pen pal on the West Coast who I've not met. Long ago, when I still had Nathans and wrote regular blog posts about that experience, he sent a message that was, in effect: You don't know me, but I regularly read 'Swimming In Quicksand.' No matter how bad my day is I read about yours and know somebody out there has it worse. I loved it. He got the joke. A soul brother. Over time I learned he is an L.A. based screenwriter but with significant DC political cred. Enough said. Not going to blow his cover. Our correspondence is helpful to my mental health. He pulls me out of a lot of muddy ditches.
This is what I sent to him about 4am. I know its a pity party, but that's the oxygen of a sinking spell:
"sinking spells, i hate them. especially in the wee hours when its so damned dark and i'm alone in thoughts that bang with the jarring volume of an mri. i recover with dawn. my happy time is in daylight. at night i have cancer. in the day i am fighting cancer. its a new reality. stunningly so. i feel myself changing by the minute. did i do it to myself? was it was the stress of the last 12 years? is it the current stress of being unemployed, no insurance. i don't imagine there's a big job market for women fighting breast cancer.
i communicated with a doctor friend who said that in the anals of cancer, breast cancer, mine is a blip, practically starter cancer, entry level. he made me laugh. but still, after the snappy chatter he resumed life at home with his family and i am home with cancer, in bed with cancer, sleeping alone with cancer, with visions of surgery and radiation and tamoxifen in my head. i haven't got the ballast on all that, yet.
this is not my best moment. i go way way way down. there's no one to roll over to and say , "help." out on the street, though, a neighbor i barely know stopped me and said, "i read you every day. we can't be without you. just get well." i yearned to hug him but kept a polite distance. i have this extreme irrational want: not so much to marry but to be adopted. to hand over control. calm. to opt out of doing it all, out of this "groundhog day" scenario where i'm always up against the fire with my face in it.
howard may have been complicated and crooked, but he (seemingly) protected me from everything. i was serene, supple, healthy, at peace, loose, calm, spared the sharp edges. now its all sharp edges.
new blog: My Life As a Lightening Rod....because soon people won't stand close, or they will cross to the other side of the street, afraid i'll draw fire. i am the poster girl for lightning striking way more than twice. oh well, when you're staring at the ceiling at 4:30 am, you're up. please hurry, sun!
I'm not going to share his upbeat reply at 6 a.m. (wee hours in LA, for sure, which is why we're pen pals), except to say he closed wishing me the "reassuring warmth of ten thousand dawns," but I will share what he sent Wednesday after he learned of my diagnosis:
TO: Miss/Ms/ Mrs: CAROL ROSS JOYNT
The Spinning Blue Planet.
Dear Miss/Ms/Mrs: JOYNT
We just discovered a clerical error in our usually reliable Karma Department. It appears our "infallible" staff made the regrettable mistake some time in 1997 (your local time) when your name was confused with a: Miss/Ms/Mrs: . CAROL REESE JOYNER of: PERTH AMBOY, NEW JERSEY, an absolute evil dog bitch of a soul-killing human being who deserved everything SHE had coming. Unfortunately, due to our clerical error, SHE did not get what she had coming.
Our humble apologies from all of us up here, be assured, the the error has been caught and your well-earned GOOD karma has been fully restored. and, be assured, Miss/Ms/Mrs: C. JOYNT of: GEORGETOWN, SPINNING BLUE PLANET, good things are coming your way. We owe you AND your boy.
See you in forty-three and a fifth years -- whoops, I'm not
supposed to reveal that..
Sorry for all the inconvenience,
I remain, your Obedient Guardian,
Walter Head Office The Perfect Place*
*Well, the mostly "perfect Place".
PS. G is very impressed with the volume of prayers zapping up here in your name. Most from so-called secular humanists, many from usually "Godless" rumpled "writer types" and some from people you have never met. You really are special: Miss/Ms/Mrs: CAROL ROSS JOYNT of: GEORGETOWN SPINNING BLUE PLANET. And for the record, even God himself sips bourbon in trying times...Boy, he is really hitting the old Maker's Mark this week.
PPS. Poor old: Miss/Ms/Mrs: CAROL REESE JOYNER of : PERTH AMBOY NEW JERSEY is about to get "what's coming to her". But, fuck her, SHE deserves it!
This made me smile and laugh...a lot.