Cancer Chronicles, Part 11

At first I thought that cancer (and having had it) was enough to wake me up. Then I thought cancer and Covid were enough. Now it’s cancer, Covid, and living on the edge of evacuation. Fierce teachers.

Our bags are packed, the smoke in the air is so thick we can’t breathe without a mask and with each step I take, I bring myself back from toppling into what if’s and fear and my mind rushing to whether I should pack the face creams and the blue cashmere sweater and the crackers I love (in addition to just the practical things: the flashlights, the heavy boots, the goggles, the dog food) because it might be much longer than three days. And seriously, practicality has never been my strongest muscle. What other people consider practical, I usually consider irrelevant. What they consider irrelevant--cashmere, almond butter, dangling earrings--I consider necessity.

But anyway, at least for today, I am continually aware that our house may burn down and this may be the last time I walk out to my writing studio. Am I even aware of my foot on the ground or am I already into disaster mode? Am I missing one of these last chances to take in what’s around me because I am already ensconced in future fear mode? Because of course, the truth is that we never know when the last time we will take a step, see a friend’s face, breathe clean air will be. It’s so hard to really believe that and to live with that on our shoulders. But when I can’t breathe without a mask, when the air is so thick that even my mask is not enough to keep the smoke out, it reminds me that we never know, it’s always like this even without Covid, fires, smoke, or breast cancer. If what I want most is a mind at peace, then this is as good a moment as any to practice it.

To read more in the Cancer Chronicles, click here.

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