Earlier this year––up until late last month, in fact––I thought that by Christmas, I would be halfway through the rest of my life. At lunch yesterday, I made a joke to a friend about how I could have had the perfect midlife crisis––overturning tables in a diva-esque sh!t-fit. And then I could get really crazy.
It’s been two and a half weeks and no one has called to tell me there’s been a mistake and they gave me someone else’s results. I’m still here till further notice. The party in my brain has quieted a lot so I can get some work done; I’m over my embarrassment. Now I’m dealing with picking up the threads of my continued existence.
No, I can’t say I ever really believed, down in my gut, that I was going to check out about this time next year. I never felt that sick. Even when I had anaemia, I felt debilitated but not like I was fixin’ to die, as it were. But I hadn’t realised how much of the future I had simply seceded from, or abdicated, or just given up on.
I’d read about something scheduled for the year 2020 and think, Well, I don’t have to care about that or Not my problem. Well, now I do have to care and it will be my problem. Thinking in terms of what I could conceivably accomplish in the time remaining to me, I mentally stepped away from my place in the world into a liminal state.
Now I have to step back into all the responsibilities that make up my life––supporting my friends and my family as much as they have supported me, planning writing projects to come after the one I’m working on. Yes, I’m ill but I’ll be living with a chronic illness, not dying of it. There will be times when it will give me some problems and when it does, I’ll have to figure a work-around for it, the same way people work around migraines or digestive problems or accessibility issues or bouts of fatigue or any number of things that the world refuses to slow down for.
Well, this is what I wanted. I said I wanted to live and son of a gun, I’m going to. That means going all in, taking not just the bitter wih the sweet but also the plain old day-to-day stuff nobody gets medals for. It’s time to do more of the housework, to give my husband a break from having to do so much on his own, and to reassure my kid that I have the stength and the energy to be Mom (even though he’s all grown up). Time to offer my friends more emotional support, to be as much of a friend to them as they’ve been to me. And time to work harder and write more, to push myself harder for more hours during the day because really, it’s not like it will kill me.
Of course, all I have to do is start doing all this stuff. But believe me, the mental act of returning to my old status of being alive till further notice also had to happen. It is as real an act as washing dishes or doing the laundry or writing a story.
Live is a verb; it’s the only way you can have a life. And as the old Reebok commercial pointed out some twenty-odd years ago (I think), Life has two settings––pause and play. I’m here to tell you that you can put it on pause without even realising it; getting it back on play is a deliberate, conscious, willful act.