Hello, dearest Sweatpants & Coffee tribe. All of us are here, and no one knows what’s going on. Not in the world, not in this election, and certainly not in our day-to-day lives.
This means we are, collectively, stressed to the nu-nus. Look it up, it’s a psychological term. It is uncomfortable to live in flux. As an anxiety-prone (some might say compulsive) person, I might be particularly sensitive chaos, but I know I’m not alone. All around me, I see people who are confused, angry, and afraid. At least one friend per week threatens to move to Canada.
You would think that I would have come to some sort of peace with the unknown, what with this whole battling-breast-cancer thing, but you would be wrong. I hate it. My body is changing constantly. It’s impossible to know from one day to the next if I’ll be able to do simple things like pick my daughter up from school or go to the store, and let’s not even talk about meal planning. Right now, sitting unopened in our pantry, are rows of canned corn, garbanzo beans, and Chef Boyardee Ravioli. Why? Because I thought my chemo-mutated taste buds might be able to accommodate these foods but by the time I held them in my hands, I realized I was wrong. Also, that I should probably NOT be left to my own devices when ordering groceries online.
Anyway, the point is that, even though I know better, I never stop trying to plan. I never stop wanting to sort and categorize and organize the unorganizable, and it’s deeply frustrating. The human brain has an innate need to categorize.
I went to see a therapist recently, and I mentioned to her how all this upheaval is triggering my depression and anxiety. I’m sitting on the couch, waving my hands around to indicate life in general, and she’s nodding understandingly, because of course. I don’t want nodding or validation. I want solutions. This is not my first therapy rodeo, so I know it doesn’t work like that, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling sulky. The session turns into a sort of confession where I spew forth every single thing that’s been getting under my fingernails, every nasty thought that makes me feel like a human turd. “If one more person tells me to eat turmeric or buy a Himalayan salt lamp I will LOSE MY SHIT! And I’m so, so tired of white, middle-aged men staring at my goddamned bald head in public.”
This intrigues my therapist. She happens to be a specialist in gender and sexuality and she’s holding a hand over her mouth like words want to come out, but she’s here to get me to talk. “I don’t know why white, middle-aged men, particularly, but that’s what it is. Kids don’t care what I look like. Women don’t, either. But these guys, they look at me like they’re trying to figure out what I am and they can’t classify me and it’s annoying. Am I nuts?” She looks like she has a lot to say, but she finally settles on, “No. You’re not nuts. It’s a thing. They’re trying to decide if you’re…pardon my French…” “Fuckable?” I interrupt. “Yes,” she says. It’s not malicious. It’s just human nature. We’re always trying to file people and situations neatly away. It’s such a relief to hear this, I could almost cry.
I don’t need to be fixed or filed. I just needed to acknowledge the mess and ugliness and fear. This body that is bald-headed and broken out in cold sores and full of fatigue and nausea is my vehicle into the unknowable future. I love it, even though (or maybe because) I sometimes resemble a herpetic Buddhist monk when I peer in the mirror. And when I see my fellow humans, all of us afraid but still striving so hard to figure it all out and find a path to a better place, my heart is broken open with love.