I thought I learned something about life in the wake of Keith’s death. I had it all figured out. The typical clichés all applied to me from December 2011 to October 2014. Live in the moment. Live every day as if its your last. Life is too short. I stepped through my breast cancer and into a fresh start, holding on to the belief that these were indisputable truths. I had been warned by the doctors that after treatment, a cancer survivor can find themselves maudlin, lost, depressed. Brought on by the monumental task of surviving the cancer, I threw everything emotionally into recovery until I was just a shell of my former self. With the double whammy of losing Keith to the disease and then being diagnosed myself, the only emotion I truly felt in its entirety was anger. Really? Karma? God? This is what you want for me? Did you think that I was not paying attention when you took Keith away from me? Did I really need a follow-up lesson here? I’ve walked through the fire twice now and this is all I have to look forward to? Suddenly, that live in the moment lesson wasn’t sitting well with me any more. There was something fundamentally wrong with it and yet I couldn’t figure out what it was. So I went silent and let the world turn without me.
And turn it did. After a dark winter of aching bones and angry skin, my son moved back to the land of enchantment to find his health. He will return to his higher education in the mountains of New Mexico that we called home for years. Gary and I both decided to work for my brother, putting Gary on the road while I worked from home. Long stretches of solitary confinement started to compound that feeling that I had somehow lost myself. That part of me that found joy in simple things. I picked at the open wound of having all the people I love the most miles away from me. As if their physical proximity to me could somehow fix things.
Then I went to the beach. Originally, Gary, his daughter, and I were to go to the beach. Then I let the weight of work anchor me to the house. I conjured up the notion that I didn’t want to go, kissed Gary goodbye after covering him in sunscreen, and went about my day. Two hours later, I had become a caged animal pacing the house. So I wrapped up what I had to do, threw on a bathing suit and hopped in the car. By the time I arrived, driving winds of sand had chased everyone off the beach to the comfort of lounge chairs by the pool. Wired from the drive and the fact that I would actually escape the house for a few hours, I resembled a squirrel on 5 hour energy by the time I walked over to Gary. I couldn’t sit still, and even with his warning that the beach was an ugly sand storm, I had to go.
I stood in the icy waters of the Atlantic ocean with the sand swirling behind me to almost white out conditions. Angry waves raced towards me, crashing at lightening speed, foaming at the shore like some sort of rabid creature. And it was an exhilarating, intoxicating, beautiful rage. I kept casting my eyes up and down the shore and watched as person after person abandoned their posts on the beach until it was just me and the life guard. I stood in the surf, letting the violent ocean sweep away my thoughts until the calm rolled into me. Finally turning away, facing west, I could almost see my son in the mountains beyond the blowing sands. I walked up to the lounge chairs where Gary was enjoying the tunes playing from his daughter’s JVC speaker as they idly chatted. I was as happy to see him as a loyal pup who’s best friend just walked in the door.
That is how I returned to the land of the living, leaving my anger and sadness to the turmoil of the sea. I had it all wrong before, or mostly wrong. I can not live in every moment. Not every moment is worthy of my devotion. Some moments I merely reside within, pass time and take up space, until those moments worth living show themselves. Every day is not our last day. There is only one of those. Since I don’t know when that day will arrive, I need to forgive myself those hours and minutes and seconds that I find myself emotionally procrastinating. I need to recognize my Carpe Diem when it appears. Easier said than done. She’s notorious for her disguises and stealth like mannerisms. I found this one hiding in my purse, looking remarkably like a bottle of sunscreen and a beach towel.