Yesterday marked two years since my beloved mother’s spirit escaped from the suffering of cancer and joined the spirit of Great Love that fuels all.
Mr. Bailey told me recently he admires me for my resilience. By “told me,” I mean one day when I was feeling particularly low I prodded him to tell me what he liked best about me. Anyway, that’s when he said the thing about me being resilient.
It delighted me, as I was feeling not so resilient at the moment. So maybe it was a Jedi-mind trick that he executed quite well.
In any case, it wasn’t the first time I had heard that particular trait called out.
My teenage years consisted of much intense falling in love. In my mind, though, I was not boy crazy. In fact, I despised my classmates who were always talking about some boy or lusting after some dude who they were too shy to speak to or who would not give them the time of day.
Instead, (shameful admission forthcoming…) I chose to be that outgoing, annoying girl who perennially had a loser or scumbag boyfriend who she kept breaking up with and getting back together. Ad infinitum.
Sometime in this morass of teenage girl angst, I found myself bottomed out in the aftermath of yet another lame-o boyfriend break up. I was whining to my best friend, when she said nearly the same thing.
“Mary, you’re nothing if not resilient,” was what she said. (Yes, we did speak like that then.
We were major literature lovers who just as often quoted Whitman as we did The Cure.)
The comment, back then, stopped me in my tracks. I had not considered my passionate falls into love and writhing agony I felt after each break up as being resilient. To me, it felt confusing and weak.
As life turns out, resilience has turned out to be a pretty good trait to possess. At my (ahem) tender age, I’ve dealt with a good helping of suffering, betrayal, isolation, depression, grief, change and challenge; humbling humiliation and heart-stopping, hope-busting loss. This last go around had me walking underneath Eeyore’s black rain cloud for the better part of two years. It made the teenage years look like an episode of The Facts of Life. I never thought I would emerge with a place for hope to rest in my soul again.
As it turns out, resiliency as a defining characteristic/flaw is not easily dashed.
But I’ve realized another part of resiliency’s tenacity lies in the precious people you have around you to point it out to you. In that regard, I’ve been ridiculously blessed by a host of amazing friends/sisters/life guides (and, of course, Mr. Bailey, who must deal with all of my crazy crap my wonderful friends are spared).
Thank you for being a reason to find resilience again, for quietly, patiently marking the path back. Thank you for gathering up the broken pieces I had discarded, for believing when I didn’t, for crying with me, for whispered prayers, generous pours, and, mostly, for forgiving me my general lunacy.
I hold so much gratitude to you for helping me repair this birdhouse in my soul.
When someone you love is fighting for their life, a lot of stuff goes by the wayside.
A more basic version of you emerges. You develop a predator-like focus on the beasts you’re fending off. For our family, those beasts were cancer and death. We were on the side of many more years and love overcoming illness.
Once the battle was over, my focus seemed to shatter into a thousand pieces of distracted attention.
Lately I’ve been working with my SuperGlue, in tongue-over-lip concentration, trying to fit at least a good portion of the pieces back together again.
The pieces are interesting! And shocking.
Take, for example, my daughter Prima’s bedroom closet. It was bursting at the seams with too-small clothes, socks and shoes. While I was the cancer predator, I just shoved new stuff in there, making small pliant promises I would go through it all later.
Later came the other evening. My younger daughter out with her dad, we dove in and began culling through the mess. I tackled her underwear drawer first. I found my 8-year-old daughter had been squeezing herself into size 4, 5, and 6 panties.
“Don’t worry, Mom,” she told me bluntly, when I apologetically pointed out the size discrepancy. “They stretched out.”
Oodles of guilt and shame were followed by a profound love of my Prima, who tends to find the silver lining, especially when she can spare someone’s feelings.
Another interesting piece was our desk. Sheesh! Outdated bills had started mating under the piles of unrequited junk mail, coupons that shouted, “FREE!” birthday cards never sent and school notices that never notified us. (Me: Did you know Prima has a half day today? Mr. B: No, did you?)
A carefully placed stack of colorful woven baskets yielded bills from the early cancer predator days, shoved away and now outdated, thankfully, and easy to shred.
I’ve woken up! And the living room needs painting and the floor needs changing and our lives need a fresh coat of paint.
The cancer predator was cruel, but it’s over now. And as much as I miss my Mom (with every thought and every breath, every single day), I am glad it’s gone – even if I have to start with tight underwear.