Sunday, April 08, 2012

Racing Uphill

I had a dream last night that I was diagnosed with cancer and only had a couple months to live. I had been reading about the Gail Caldwell's book, Let's take the Long Way Home. I was devastated. In the dream, a good friend of mine came along and challenged me to a race uphill in wheelchairs.

She beat me. My arm was killing me (I was sleeping on it funny), and she challenged me again. I wanted to cry because I didn't understand why she wasn't being nice to me.

I realized she was. She was pushing me to fight.

What would I do if I only had a couple months to live? When I was looking at the book, a story about Caldwell's friendship with Caroline Knapp and Knapp's diagnosis of lung cancer, I was struck by the dates. Knapp was diagnosed in April. dead by June. Fast. Really fast. All my moaning about wanting to go to sleep and not wake up, I realize is just a selfish rant.

It isn't true. I raced that damn wheelchair up the hill. It hurt, and I knew I was dying and I didn't give up.

Why then, in my real life, have I given up?

I have allowed myself to become frozen. absolutely frozen. People keep asking me when I'm going to write again in the blog. Write again about anything. Please write.

Frozen with grief and fear, I've stopped growing. I've stopped everything. I've lost my home, my family, my sister, the whole world I created over twenty years. I have to start again? I'm old, fat and ugly. I can't.

I let myself think some wild thoughts about simply walking away. Get a house with some land and build a shed. Learn how to build, have Donald teach me. Walk away from all the stuff. Live simply and show my kids what I truly value. Have them see me... happy.

And write. Every day. Be a cantankerous old woman, you know, just like my mother.

Except I've done her version of life. I played the graceful philanthropist. I'm done with that. It's not who I am. It's what was expected of me. I did it. Did it very well, thank you. I know she would have been proud of me.

No more.

I remember when I was young, and would work on the Christmas tree plantation a few acres behind my house. It was dirty, hard work. I loved it. Oh, I whined about it, too. When I turned 14, I could finally be paid in money, not a handful of candy. Big excitement. I did for a little while until my mother made me stop. It wasn't the kind of work I should be doing. I wasn't to be a farm hand.

But I loved the land. I loved being on the tractor. Or the horses. I loved being outdoors. I spent most of my childhood outdoors. My friends and I would literally stay out for days at a time, at a campsite we had made. Catching fish, collecting berries, to cook over an open fire. We had a fresh water spring, bubbling out of the ground, and dug a small basin to collect it. How amazing it was to find water.

I used to ride horses. Take care of them, groom them, clean their stalls. The smell of leather and manure, the weight of the barn door that slid on cast iron rollers, the hayloft with bees half asleep hidden in the bails, teaching me that I am, in fact, allergic to their sting. I was free there.

I realize now, I don't want to become someone new. I want to be the best of who I was, before the rules crushed me. To feel the peace and safety of tall trees, to go back, far back, so I can grow again, from the place that was cut off.

I don't want to fight. I don't want to be the most beautiful person in the room (you know, the one with money). I don't want the stuff. I want to live like I'm going to die in two months. I want to stop being afraid.

I want to race uphill.


Blogger Denita said...

Nine years ago I was going through something similar. I had lived my life up until then the way it was "supposed" to be. It made my mom happy. It made my family happy. But every day I died a little more inside. Then one day, I decided it wasn't worth it any more. If I wasn't happy what did any of it matter? So I stopped. I went back to being myself. My friends from college said welcome back. My mom said who are you? It's been great being me again . . . living my life as myself instead of someone playing a role written for me by someone else.

Embrace the hill. Charge up it and be the person you were meant to be. It is so worth it. And you'll be surprised by the reactions of those around you.

9:04 PM  
Anonymous donald said...

i think we can take care of that need to build something. come to ripley for the summer and we will rip down the dome and build you a writing cabin in its spot! of course, if we do that, you won't be able to spend the whole day on the boat fishing!

6:54 AM  
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