Live Is A Verb

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.


17 thoughts on “Live Is A Verb

  1. It’s a platitude, but one I’ve learned to like: Live every day like it’s your last, but make plans like you’re going to live forever.

    • I love that, honey, and I don’t think it’s a bit trite. But then, once you’ve faced the possibility of being on short time, you get the real truth of it.

      Another one I like: The time you have is a gift––that’s why it’s called the present.

      And the corollary: There’s no time like the present––and no present like time.

  2. what a brilliant realization – that you’ve had it and that you’ve been able to have it. Yay to the mundane! The small things that are the power to all things: light on a leaf, the satisfaction of a clean kitchen, the expression in a cat’s eyes. May they power you through all the down times and lift you in the up times 🙂 “Live’ as a verb is an awesome ‘doing’ word 😀

  3. You already knew how to make the most of your time here (I mean, how many people are Pat Cadigan ?!) but NOW, you’ve become a tornado of positive energy, open to the awesomeness of it all and ready to dance ❤ thanks for giving voice to your journey and trusting us with your real feelings ❤

  4. Those are just the words I’ve been needing to read. Had a mild heart attack a month ago, and just realised I’ve been seeing my self as a semi-invalid. That’s gonna stop. You’ve helped me see that what life I have left is a gift, as you say. And I’m going to use every second of it. Thank you so much for your very wise words.

    • I had no idea, Martha, and I am very glad that you’re all right!

      What you’ve said about your state of mind is actually quite common with people who have come through heart attacks. It doesn’t have to be a major cardiac event––in fact, often it’s like yours. “Heart attack” is as scary to hear as “cancer.” A doctor will give you lots of instructions but in the midst of all the information on how to recuperate is your new status: i.e., as someone with heart trouble.

      I really hope that doesn’t sound like I’m telling you how you feel! But I’ve known many people who have gone through this, and a good deal of it is because medical professionals have put so much emphasis on the things they can’t do: you can’t have salt, you can’t sit on the sofa so much, you can’t eat this, you can’t drink that, you must not gain weight, you can’t, you can’t, you can’t, don’t, don’t, don’t. It’s the rare doctor or nurse that accentuates the positive.

      Meanwhile, your friends and family might also inadvertently treat you as an invalid, whether they mean to or not. Given all that, it’s no wonder that people go through a stage of seeing themselves as an invalid.

      As an old cardiac patient myself––I had a congenital defect that was repaired surgically when I was five––I promise you that the heart is a muscle and muscles can be strengthened. I’ll be thinking of you!

  5. I have to admit, my first reaction to your diagnosis was ‘I’m really glad I got to see her once more before she’s gone!’ It’s the best Christmas gift ever knowing that I’ll have many more chances to see you, and have lunch with you, and talk about writing and other stuff. Congratulations!

  6. I only just figured out how to get to the comments on this new layout! I’m slow sometimes. I know exactly what you mean and am still kind of swimming my way to the surface. Your posts have been immeasurably helpful to this cancer survivor. I got off so lucky – no hormones, no chemo, no radiation – no pain except post-surgery, “normal” recuperation discomfort (and, I must say, living through the 12-week LiveStrong program at the local YMCA. Ye gods, sometimes I thought they were trying accomplish what the cancer didn’t) But it taught me I can push myself harder and reap amazing benefits, and while I will never love exercise, I certainly love the results! Thank you so much for your honesty and example. Have a hug for the holidays, and more importantly have fun!

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