Going to Work

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work… There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
– Toni Morrison 

A few Sundays ago I woke up to the sound of my daughter rustling in her room. I glanced at the window. Dark. Not a drop of light.

I crept next door and handed her my phone. “See you at seven,” I said reminding her about our deal. After a quick kiss, I closed the door softly behind me.

Coffee was waiting. The house silent and still. It was already 6:45, my time limited. I began to write.

When my daughter came downstairs, the sun had risen. The backyard was bathed in watery autumn light. It was 7:30. I had written almost 500 words.

Full disclosure: I began this post before the election. Before the world seemed more unhinged than ever (to me). Before Standing Rock, before Trump’s appointments, each one just as bad (if not worse) than the one before.

It’s hard to write during times like this. Write my own story, I mean. How can it compete with the global stories happening right now?

Well, it can’t. But writing is what I do, it’s how I survive. In times of struggle, my own and the world’s. My other work, helping to create a community that is inclusive and safe for all people is something I will continue to do. But I must also write. I can’t let myself be paralyzed or muted by my own feelings of helplessness, despair, or fear.

It’s easier, so much easier, to stay in bed. When the world feels safe, and even more so when it doesn’t.

staying-in-bed

But I won’t. I’ll get up instead.

I’ll go downstairs and write. Watch the birds at the feeder, maybe catch a glimpse of my favorite red fox, or watch the squirrels and bunnies nibble on leftover clover. I’ll be grateful for my privilege to do this.

I used to think I needed hours to write, but it’s not true. Becoming a mother turned me (by necessity) into an incredibly efficient writer. I have no time to waste, so I wring out every available minute. I’ll write in scraps when I must. Scraps add up to hours. Hours add up to pages. Pages to manuscripts.

It’s taken me years to understand what is most crucial in my writing practice – staying present. Not leaping ahead to the unknown.

The only thing I can do is wake up. Sit at my desk. Greet the screen. Put my fingers on the keys. Follow my story for as long as I can.

We all have our own version of this, whether we are artists or not. Being human is enough to make this vital choice. To see light when the world seems so, so dark.

 

I’m pleased to be linking up with Writing Bubble’s What I’m Writing 

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Woke Up To This

Tears are forming just looking at the first line of my last post.

“Today I voted in what I believe is the most important election in my lifetime.”

Still believe it. More than ever.

I’m about to take a social media hiatus right now for sanity’s sake, despite feeling tremendous gratitude to all my friends there – both the ones I know in real life, and those who live oceans away. It’s just too much for my senses right now. I need some quiet to think, reflect, and weep.

It’s funny, I never thought I’d love and treasure Facebook the way I do. There is so much freaking love and solidarity and compassion in my feed it’s unreal. Maybe in part because I came to the FB party super late, and most of the people are actual friends, or people I’d like to be friends with, and almost all of them share my views about things like, for example, politics and feminism. It sure makes easy reading, let me tell you.

My friends on FB got me through this election. They got me through those train wreck debates and all the ugliness that came before and after. I was on FB during the 3rd debate and I can’t tell you how much it helped. My husband and I were in the room together of course, but I also felt like I had dozens of friends whispering in my ear and passing me notes.

We’re in this together, you all said to me via funny jokes and serious commentary.

I felt so understood and cared for and seen. Just like I did last night and this morning.

Thank you.

Stepping away is not about that, but about taking care of myself during this grief.

Because I am totally grieving right now.

It started last night, around 11pm, when I shut down the internet and tried to fall asleep. I felt like someone had scraped all my insides out. My heart and chest felt hollow, empty.

The feeling was familiar because it’s exactly how I felt the morning after my mom died. When I shared this with my husband he agreed, saying that his emptiness feels similar to the global grief he felt after 9/11. The world is different. Or actually it isn’t. The world is the same, we’re just seeing it differently.

Regardless. My heart is broken. Having to tell my daughter this morning broke it all over again. Her hopeful face crumbled. I watched it crumble and then she cried. I had spent the previous hour practicing what I would say to her after reading an article online, but before I could open my mouth I started crying again.

I hugged her tightly. I said, “I know, me too.”

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My daughter made this the other day.

We talked after our tears slowed, and we’ll talk more tonight. Really, our conversation is just beginning. My husband woke up soon after and found out the news from our faces. He was just as crushed.

All day I’ve been cycling through sadness, disbelief, and anger. I’m also crying, a lot. In the car I screamed  so loudly my whole body went rigid. My heart keeps on breaking.

I told my husband that we cry now, and then we fight. I believe this. I’m not down for the count. But I am down. I don’t want to hear a thing about giving Trump a chance right now. I’m also not ready to put on my gloves and get into the ring, yet.

So, for now, I’m just going to grieve.

Sending love to everyone else in the trenches, or wherever you find yourself in the aftermath of this election.

P.S. Thank you to whoever took down the Trump signs near the intersection by my house. I literally was ready to pull over and rip them out myself (I just can’t bear to see them so close to home) but you beat me to it.

My Feminism is Political

Today I voted in what I believe is the most important election of my lifetime.

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I voted with butterflies in my stomach, but instead of the thick suffocating fear that has been weighing me down these past few months, I felt a lightness. I felt hopeful.

My husband and I waited in a long, but quickly moving line after dropping off the kids at school. Despite all my reading material, I didn’t crack open one book. We ended up standing behind some new friends from our daughter’s school. While chatting with them, a poll worker came over to write down our names. The friend spelled out his last name and then said something like, my wife’s is the same.

The older woman with the pen and paper asked, “Should I put wife as your name?” The husband looked aghast. “Oh, no, that would not go over well.” My husband agreed, saying, “Especially in this election,” and I quickly added, “Or any election.” We all laughed a little. I’m still unsure if the woman was being sincere or not. It’s hard to tell these days.

Some of my friends and family are probably (and others definitely) voting for Trump. We currently live in rural Pennsylvania, on the eastern border of the state, close to Philadelphia, but still. This is not the liberal Brooklyn where I lived for 13 years.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been wearing my feminist gold tank top as often as possible, including to the polls today.

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I wore a cardigan sweater over it, because it was chilly this morning, but I deliberately left it open. I’m proud of who I am, who I’ve been since I was old enough to know the definition of the word, feminist. It has always baffled me when smart, strong, intelligent women deny this part of their identities. How can they, when the definition of equality is so simple and clear?

I love writer Elissa Schappell’s off the cuff definition during her fantastic interview with Mary Louise Parker who seemed to waffle at the word. Here’s a brief excerpt from Salon.com:

MLP: What’s a feminist again? I feel like it’s an elastic term, isn’t it?

ES: I suppose the simplest definition would be believing that women are entitled to the same rights, opportunities and protections under the law as men. Equal pay for equal work, complete sovereignty over their bodies …

MLP: As opposed to being a sociopath? You can’t argue with those points.

ES: But people do. In this day and age, calling yourself feminist, whether you are a man or woman, has become a political statement.

Yes. Yes, it has. That’s why I wore my shirt today, and yesterday, and all the days earlier. After chatting with the woman in front of me, whose political affiliation I wasn’t sure of, I decided to take a chance and flash her my shirt. Her eyes lit up. I love it, she said.

Then we talked about reading books to our daughters about influential and powerful women, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton who fought for the right we were about to exercise, and Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston marathon, who had to hide in bushes before leaping out into a pack of all male runners.

Like Hillary, who is (hopefully) about to step into what was formerly a man’s domain. The Presidency of the United States. For years I felt a kind of ambivalence toward Hillary, no doubt in part because of the media’s negative spin and certain family members’ less than stellar opinions, but during this election cycle my ambivalence has transformed into deep admiration.

Her eloquence, strength, and poise in the face of misogyny and abject hatred is awe-inspiring. I honestly don’t know how any woman could watch that second town hall debate and not feel sickened or at least uneasy at the way Trump stalked her on that stage. He tried to intimidate her, shake her up, as men do when they hover and physically insert themselves into a woman’s personal space, but Hillary DID NOT FLINCH.

After I told my daughter a highly edited version about that night’s debate, she wondered if maybe Hillary didn’t see him. “Oh, she saw him alright,” I told her. “She knew he was there, but she didn’t let that stop her. She is tremendously strong,” I said, “and brave.”

And now, after weeks of mudslinging and false accusations, after what is already being called one of the ugliest and cutthroat of presidential races (from both sides), here we are. Election day. This is it. The end of the line.

Somehow, I’m not afraid anymore. I was inspired by this post from Canadian author Kerry Clare, who baked a victory cake yesterday and then wrote about it.

At first the confidence of her title concerned me. I’ve remained on high alert throughout these past weeks, tempering my excitement with caution. The idea of assuming victory and then being wrong, was too devastating. I chose to remain pessimistically optimistic, if that makes any sense. Until I read her post. It wasn’t about confidence or assumption at all. It was about faith. A word I have a tricky history with, but have been coming around to in recent years.

Faith. A belief in goodness, a belief that no matter the outcome, everything will be alright.

The other day I told my husband that we have to prepare our daughter, who suffers from paralyzing anxiety, that Hillary may not win. We’ve been careful to edit and shield her from the ugliest moments of this campaign, but she knows enough to sense our concern and misgivings. She knows enough to feel afraid.

“We have to tell her everything will be okay no matter what.”

“You mean, lie to her?” my husband said.

“Yeah, kind of.” Because at the time I didn’t believe my words.

Honestly, I’m still not sure I do, but I’m going to have faith that everything will be okay.

My father said these words to me on Sunday, after I expressed disbelief that the next time we saw each other we’d have a new president. This is my father, who I love dearly, who I assumed would be voting for Trump since despite being a registered Democrat (from his younger days) usually votes Republican.

When my daughter asked him who he was voting for, I cringed, but then he shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said, looking genuinely confused. “Maybe I’ll vote for myself.”

I laughed, with amusement and relief.

Then later when we hugged goodbye, he said these words to me: Everything is going to be okay, which I know he meant not only about the election, but life in general.

So, I decided to go for it. I’m choosing faith and love over fear and anger.

Either way, the fight for equality, freedom, love, and compassion is far from over. In some ways, it’s just beginning.

I’m most concerned now about what might happen after the election. I’m worried about possible violence, civil unrest, hate crimes, retaliation. Whoever is the next president has a shit ton of work to do when it comes to knitting back together the currently divided and divisive country.

And yet, as a wise relative recently said, there is a reason we are called the United States of America. I just hope we can live up to our name and find our way back to one another peacefully.

See you on the other side.

-Dana, xo

 

 

 

Spreading the Word

First, I’d like to thank everyone who read my last post about assault, left a comment, or sent me a note. I appreciate every act of kindness, compassion, and support.

It was scary to push “publish” in a way it never has been before, but once I did I felt a rush of relief. The second I let go of that post, I knew I did the right thing, no matter the response. Sometimes you don’t realize the weight you’re carrying until you release it.

I’ve read many stories about women being triggered by America’s presidential election. Some were on personal blogs, others in major news outlets. A few were written by my friends. Several people reached out to me and said, me too.

Reading about friends’ and strangers’ accounts of assault was both comforting and horrifying. But I believe there is power in our stories being out in the world. In sharing them. In breaking the silence.

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It’s my deepest hope that if one good thing comes out of this election (and by that I mean, in addition to having a woman president) it is that the conversation about sexual assault, discrimination, and misogyny is at the forefront of the national (and international) conversation.

Thanks to Donald Trump, the term, “locker room talk,” will never be the same. Let’s hope we can also retire the adage, “boys will be boys.” Both expressions give a pass on reprehensible behavior. The kind I don’t want my son to be a part of, nor his sister to be a recipient of.

I decided that I wanted to compile all the articles I’ve been reading about sexual assault and the triggering of this election season. You’ll notice, the posts are not only from Americans, but from women abroad. This election is global in importance. If you don’t believe me, check out J.K. Rowling’s Twitter account.

What is the point of creating a list like this? My first hope is that it may help women feel less alone and isolated in their experience with assault, and also acknowledge that so many of us (men included) have been feeling a lingering disgust and unease by the news emerging about Trump’s past.

Bonus points if this list sways anyone on the fence during this perilous election season.

Finally, if you know of an article or post about this topic that I missed, please leave a comment and I’ll continue to update it.

Blog Posts

Pulling the Trigger

Locker Room Talk

There are Weeks When Just About the Whole Internet Needs a Trigger Warning

Society is the Abusive Boyfriend From Whom I Can’t Escape

Scary Mommy Confessions: I Know How It Feels To Be Grabbed By The P*ssy

Cultivating Compassion for Gaslighting Survivors

Websites, Magazines, Newspapers

On a more positive note…Latest on Salon: Trump’s Locker Room Talk Has Given Women a Platform to Talk About Sexual Assault

Latest on The Establishment: When Trump Supporters Mock Sexual Assault Triggering

Lit Hub: Locker Room Banger is Just Another Name for Patriarchy

Huffington Post: Donald Trump’s Campaign Triggered Memories of Sexual Assault for NPR Star Diane Rehm

Huffington Post: Donald Trump and His Supporters are Actually Making Women Sick

The Establishment: America Is Literally in an Abusive Relationship with Donald Trump 

Slate: Donald Trump is a Human Trigger 

The Root: For Sexual Assault Victims Donald Trump is Triggering 

NY Times: For Many Women Trump’s ‘Locker Room Talk’ Brings Memories of Abuse 

Fusion: For These Sexual Assault Survivors the Rise of Donald Trump Has Been One Long Trigger

The Thing About Assault

Here’s the thing about assault. It doesn’t go away. You feel it, years later. You feel it when you think about what happened to you. Close to the anniversary of the occasion. Or when you visit the place where it happened. When you have nightmares. When you tell your story. Stories.

You think about it when you hear the leaked tape of a presidential candidate casually boasting about assaulting women. About grabbing them by their genitals. About kissing them without asking. You think about it when he dismisses it as “locker room talk,” when many citizens of your country agree with him, even some women.

If you can’t handle the way men talk about women then you need to grow up, says some washed up TV actor, a former heartthrob turned misogynist.

Thankfully there are men in your life who call bullshit on this behavior. Who are pissed off to be included in a gender that normalizes this kind of conversation, that helps perpetuate our rape culture. Who remind you with their love and kindness that not all men talk like this, not all men think like this. That this is NOT OK. Thankfully there are also men not in your life who feel the same way. Professional athletes who say, this isn’t how I talk about women. Actors and writers and even some Republicans say it too.

Here’s the thing about assault. When you think about it, write about it, you feel it in your body. No matter how much time has passed. No matter what kind of assault you endured. You feel the adrenaline racing. You feel your heart rate rising. You return to your animal self, running through the woods, across a savanna, down a city block, hoping to outrun the predator who is chasing you. Maybe the predator never touches you. Maybe he just makes you run. Scares you because he can. Maybe he pushes you out of a job, a home, a school, a family.

Every woman I know has an assault story. Some men, too. Most women have more than one. I have several, and yet I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I was never raped, though when I was twenty years old I was grabbed the way presidential candidate Donald Trump brags about grabbing women, the way several women have accused him of grabbing them.

I have more stories that I won’t detail here, but let me be clear when I say this:

Every single one of them has risen up in the past few weeks.

Ever since the news of that leaked tape, ever since I watched the first and second presidential debates, especially the second. All those old stories, those old scars, they are still there and they came to find me. In my waking moments, and in my dreams.

Assault does not disappear. It stays with you forever. And we are about to hold a presidential election in our country with a man on the ticket who brags about such things, who has been accused about such things, and who frankly, I believe has done such things.

I didn’t intend to write about this today. After the second debate I wrote several essays and blog posts in my head, and threw them all away. I felt unable to capture my disgust and fear and horror. I still feel unable, but here I am, after having read many other accounts over these past weeks, by brave women, and horrified men, so many of us triggered and enraged and sickened.

But I’m not going to throw this one out. This one gets to stay.

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Life Warrior

I just got home from a Glennon Melton Doyle event (of the crazy popular blog Momastery) and I am still reeling from the experience.

Not just from her talk – which was THE perfect combination of hilarious and heartfelt – but also from the whole exhausting event of getting there in the first place, and then having to leave early to come home to my crazy banshees.

But first, Glennon. I don’t know how or when I first came across her blog. Maybe it was via my other favorite heartfelt blogger Rachel Macy Stafford (what is it with the trifecta of names? Do I need to start going by Dana Heather Schwartz?!) but regardless, it only took one post to be hooked.

At first I was a tiny bit worried about the name, Momastery, clearly a riff off monastery. Would it be too Christian for me, a lapsed and mostly atheist Jew? Nope. That’s the beauty of Glennon. She’s all inclusive when it comes to love and hope and spreading the light.

Also, she’s hilarious. But the best kind of funny, because it’s not at anyone’s expense, it’s about the absurdity of life, and our absurd expectations of ourselves, of each other, and how she shatters it with her blatant unstoppable honesty.

When I was a kid, I had a lot of big feelings (not so unlike my own children). I was very sensitive, tender-hearted, basically a bruise waiting to happen. I still am, but there came a turning point in my childhood, maybe on the cusp of adolescence, when I started to feel a sense of shame about my emotions.

I started to express them more cautiously, or at least, less vocally. I also started to hesitate when asked for advice. Before this, if you asked me for help, I took you VERY seriously. I’d think through my answer, go over it in my mind as if I were composing a speech or writing an essay. Then I’d present you with my findings, totally guilelessly.

I still do this. If you ask me a question about celiac, writing, grief, death, I will compose you the best response I can and from the heart. But there was a period of time when I stopped. Because it didn’t feel safe or acceptable to be so open, so honest.

I started to feel foolish for thinking that people who asked  for the truth actually wanted it.

So instead of lying, or editing my response, I stopped talking so much. I second guessed my instincts. I swallowed my words. Better to say nothing at all than to look like a fool.

I wish I had known Glennon all those years ago, or had a friend like her, one who was as honest and guileless as me, who spoke straight from the heart without censoring or softening or smoothing.

I love the stories she tells about being brutally honest, whether during her kid’s play date, at church, or online, and then being faced with a wall of silence, with gaping mouths, bulging eyes. Basically horror that she had the gall to be real.

“Oh,” she says, her hands up in mock defeat, “we’re not doing THAT here, are we?”

Tonight I took notes on my program and ticket because I forgot my notebook.

love-and-faith

Then about halfway through the event, I snuck another peak at my phone. It had been quiet for a while, but suddenly I saw 3 messages and knew there was trouble before even opening it up. Staying out late, especially mid week, is not something I usually do. Because I can’t.

I’m about to get honest here (without going into too much detail in order to protect my family’s privacy). Spending an hour in Glennon’s presence inspired me to tell my truth. So here it is.

Many other moms I know have no problem saying yes to evening events. They easily arrange girls’ nights out, join book clubs, see movies, get drinks, etc after their kids go to bed. Some even host these events at their house (!). But I don’t. I can’t.

My kids don’t go to bed – well, not very amiably. Not without me. They honestly never have. It’s a thing. It’s our thing. But still, when I saw the opportunity to go to Glennon’s speaking event, I leapt. I arranged things with my husband and my dad, took the kids to swimming first, switched out my son’s car seat, prepped my daughter with the evening’s plans, and then drove away, arriving with only minutes to spare.

I listened with my whole heart and took notes and felt moved and seen and understood by a woman who sat on a stage way too far away to see my face in a crowd of hundreds, but I felt understood all the same.

Then the texts came. Come home, now, from my husband and my daughter. I wrote back, On my way, even as I sat in my seat, soaking up a few more moments. I was disappointed, but not surprised. I looked around. The rows were packed and leaving was not going to be easy, but I made my way out of the aisle as best I could and took one last look at the vibrant woman on stage before pushing open the door.

On my walk to the car I thought about how I could decide to feel. I could be pissed, which I kind of was. I could feel all victim-y, which is another one of my go-to places, why do MY kids need ME so freaking much? And finally, self pity, what is wrong with my mothering that my kids are so abnormally dependent on me? 

Then I read another one of my daughter’s desperate texts, and my husband’s, which was along the lines of please answer your daughter’s desperate texts. So I did. With hearts and loving words.

Right now my kids DO need me more than most kids’ their age. For whatever reason. But one day they won’t. One day I’ll be able to attend events every night of the week and they probably won’t even notice because they’ll be too busy with their own lives. One day they’ll grow up and leave me behind, which is the goal. But I’ll still cry. I’ll still remember the times like tonight when I was needed so much and so desperately that it felt like being strangled.

I drove back home listening to Pandora, and I heard the opening bars of a song that made me think of another song, one from my college years. Sarah McLachlan’s Hold On. I sang what I could remember:

“Hold on
hold on to yourself
for this is gonna hurt like hell.”

And I thought about what Glennon says about pain, what I already know about pain, and that is you have to feel it, you have to go into it, not away from it.

hot-potato

“Pain is NOT a hot potato.”

I laughed so hard at this, because it’s so so true. You don’t get to toss it away. You get to hold it. That’s a gift. Pain and grief is the price you pay for loving.

I thought about what she said about parenting, about how many parents want so badly to protect their children from pain, but they need pain and suffering to learn wisdom and kindness and compassion.

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“You can do hard things because you are a warrior.”

I thought about how hard life can be – how hard life will continue to be – for my anxiety prone, highly sensitive daughter, and how I will take these words like a gift and offer them to her, and to myself, again and again.

I’m heading off the bed now, but I’m taking one last cue from G and hitting “Send” before editing this (except for spelling and grammatical errors, because come on, I was an English major for crying out loud). But I won’t try to make it prettier or smoother. I won’t try to make it safer, or easier to swallow.

In a few weeks I’ll receive a copy of her latest book, Love Warrior, and I cannot wait to read every word of it.

*Some G for anyone who’s interested, she gives a great podcast

Magic Lessons Podcast with Elizabeth Gilbert

Beautiful Writers Podcast with Linda Siversten

 

Transitions

Summer is over. Not technically of course, but once school begins something in the air shifts even before the temperature drops.

We’re still adjusting here. My daughter to her new school, my son to his fuller schedule, and me, to longer stretches of time alone.

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First day of 3rd grade and pre-K

The first day of school, I sat at my desk and felt the emptiness of the house echo in my bones. My son was having his first full day, which meant, so was I. This was what I wanted, and yet I felt a pang of melancholy, and received a flash into the future when my children grow up and leave home.

Is it me, or does time seem to go faster the older we get? During our second annual vacation to Cape May in August, I tried to hold onto the hours and days, but it felt as futile as watching my son clutch a fistful of sand. The tighter the grip, the faster the flow.

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Now that we’re into the second week of school, I feel the beginning of a rhythm, though shaky. My natural impulse is to rush headlong into fall and not look back. I’m done with summer, I told my husband as we debated about going to the pool last week.

He looked surprised. I’m not, he said, and I suddenly realized I’m not either. My sadness about summer’s end is what makes me harden and give it the cold shoulder.

This is how I deal with change, with transition. When it’s uncomfortable – and it always is – my natural inclination is to hurry through it. I liken it to the Band-Aid metaphor: rip it off or peel back slowly.

I want to rip it off. I want to toss it in the trash and not look back. But my heart gently reminds me to care for my wounds, no matter how small they are, and what I really need to do in moments like these is feel. Even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts.

My mother’s death was the first time I truly understood the futility of hurrying through a transition. Grief is like a boulder. It’s not easily moved aside. You can fight and struggle against it, you can close your eyes, but it’s still there. Waiting for you.

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It’s similar when a person is struggling with their health or has a disease. There is no ignoring sickness. You feel it in your body. You’re reminded of it every day when you wake, every night when you go to sleep, and many hours in between.

Recently, I went for my annual physical and my doctor was concerned about the sound of my heart. She heard a murmur, the whooshing sound of blood going back and forth through one of the valves instead of just forward. To be on the safe side, she sent me for an echocardiogram.

Mostly, I was calm, but I felt a tiny sliver of fear. This is the heart we’re talking about, my heart. The life force of an organ that kept my mother alive even when everything else in her body was ready to quit. What if there is something wrong with my heart?

The (sort of) joke in my marriage is that I’m the healthy one. I don’t have allergies or celiac, I’m apparently immune to poison ivy, and I haven’t had the flu since childhood. I’m rarely sick. I think it surprised us both that something might be wrong with me.

My husband offered to take me to the appointment. I didn’t realize until we arrived at the hospital how grateful I was to have his company. He had already been to this hospital three times for his own tests, but this was my first.

The technician was kind and professional. She dimmed the lights and turned on music. Soft familiar strains of Enya floated through the invisible speakers. The gel was warm as she moved the instrument across my chest.

My head was turned away from the screen, but every now and then I caught a glimpse of the shadowy interior of my heart. I could hear it, too, the whooshing, and I was struck with how precarious life is, how fragile our bodies can be, and how miraculous.

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The Giant Heart at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia

In the days before getting the test results I mostly put it out of my mind, but the what if’s whispered on occasion. I thought about the research I did years ago for my MFA thesis, titled, The Night Side of Life: Illness in Fiction, which was inspired from a quote in Susan Sontag’s book Illness as Metaphor.

“Illness is the night side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.”

We toe the line between well and sick every single day we are alive. At any moment, we can be pushed or thrown to the other side. My mother found this out when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 40. One day her life was moving along as expected, and then, suddenly, it wasn’t.

My test results came back normal. Relief. Gratitude. I’m off the center line, back on the safe side, for now.

I can’t help thinking about how my doctor described the murmur in my heart. The blood not moving in a straight line, but whooshing back and forth. That is how I live my life. Dipping back before going forward, and back again. It’s painful at times, yes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

***

I wonder how the transition into this new season has been for you. Do you also struggle to remain present inside discomfort? I’d love to hear from you in comments! I’ve missed you this summer, and now that school is back in session, I’ll be returning to my (mostly) regularly scheduled programming.

Also, as some of you know, I’ve spent many months preparing for my online journaling course, Crossing the River: Writing Through Grief, which is now scheduled to begin January 2017. 

If you’d like to be put on the mailing list for updates about the course, and the upcoming free (!) online seminar, click here

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[Please note, this course is NOT intended only for those suffering a loss from death, but ANY kind of grief. The scope or size does not matter, nor does how much time has passed.]