The Cancer Chronicles

Part 65: A few years ago I was walking by a store in San Rafael and saw coasters of hearts with wings in the window. I’ve always been crazy about heart-anything. When I rented my first apartment in Santa Cruz, my friend Lennie helped me decorate my bathroom wall in dozens of heart-shaped boxes. (It was Valentine's Day and stores were replete with heart boxes. I can’t remember now what I did with all the chocolate inside those boxes. I had just started weekly groups called Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating, so one would hope that I didn’t compulsively eat all the chocolate from those boxes).

I remember buying two heart-shaped coasters in the San Rafael store. I remember giving one of them to my friend Menno who reminded me of hearts and wings. He loved it. He put it on his altar when I was diagnosed with cancer. Told me he prayed for me every day.

But despite that, every time I use the heart-coaster, I think, “I want another one. What if this gets lost, broken, ruined? I wonder what the name of that store was. I wonder if it’s still open. I wonder if I can call them, ask them to send me a few more." (It’s a mystery how I would lose a coaster when Matt and I put the coaster back in the coaster-drawer every day anyway).

More. More. More.

I used to do that with food. I’d put some on my plate, take a bite and before I even finished chewing it, I’d go back for more. What if Matt gobbles it up before I can get more? What if it’s all gone and I wanted more? Do I take more just in case? I have a name for that: it’s called “Storing for the Hunger to Come.”

Yesterday as I was cleaning the other side of the cabinet with the coaster drawer, I found pink wrapping paper, unfolded it and found two more never-used heart-coasters. Either I bought four of them that day in San Rafael or they appeared like a gift from Love itself. If I was Caroline Myss, I’d consider that perhaps they just appeared. But since I’m me and I don’t have that kind of wonder, I’m left with amazement. And with many questions about more and the old belief that there’s not enough to go around.

What exactly did I believe would have happened if the coaster broke or got lost and I didn’t have another one?

Or if the food I wanted got eaten before I go back?

What don’t I want to feel when I keep wanting more of what I already have? Is it emptiness or, in a radical turn, is it realizing the sheer abundance of what is already here?

Here’s what I know now: in wanting another coaster, another piece of cake, another soft sweater, I disregard the one I already have. I don’t allow myself to really have it, appreciate it. I revert to being a child who believed she didn’t have enough love and made a decision that she needed to take whatever she could wherever she could get it. And I forget to look, to see, to let myself have the contentment that is always already here.

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