anger · cance · death · grief · life · perseverance

Grudge Match

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I was alone on a pier in Hana, Maui when I let it begin to
fall.
The sky was an angry gray, spitting water in sideways. The
chop of the surf against the dock was ravenous, vitriolic, annihilating. And it
felt so very congruous with how I did, that I could allow it all to fall.
If you’d been on the shore a few hundred meters away, across
the cove, you couldn’t have heard my assault on the wind and water and fate.
The ocean’s temperament absorbed my rage, my indignation, my betrayal, my
despair. It opened and closed around me like an itchen woolen cloak, letting me
shrug it off and tell it off, and snug it tight around me again. I kneeled into
the dock, the waves battering the weathered and mossy posts, and I let the
grief of my cancer batter it in return.
A year and a few months later, I sat on a dock jutting out into the
water of Salem, Mass. It was like revisiting an old friend who also happens to
be your sparring partner. And I let her have it again.
Not quite as fully, but enough to let her know I think she’s
a cheap-shot, below-the-belt motherfucker. Enough to let her know that this
isn’t settled, that I’m retitling it The Woman and The Sea.
I told my companion that I simply felt that the ocean could
take it; could take my rage, could acknowledge, absorb and handle it– honestly, so that I
don’t have to all the time. The ocean somehow makes it okay for me to fall
apart a little, to let the broken, tired spit-fire within both take
some shots back, and collapse onto the ropes for a while.
It’s hard work pretending everything is alright. And,
sometimes, it actually is, and it’s not pretending, and there’s healing that
happens in that letting go, in that “moving on.”
A friend once told me that grief is not linear. And I get
that.
Some people might assume, Hey, cancer’s gone, rejoice! All
done. But, when you’ve been body-checked by Death (to mix metaphors), the thin copper taste of revenge laps at the back of your throat and you say to
yourself, Motherfucker, I will rail you back.
As impotent and impossible as you know that fight to be, you
rail and swing and charge back anyway.
Because, you sort of believe that it was that railing that
fought it off the last time. That it was the rage and vitriol and deep, aching,
terrorized clinging to Life that overcame cancer, and so you call on it again when you remember. You taste the acid again, and you spit putrid bile back against
it.
I’m grateful I know the ocean is a place I have to spit
back at. I’m grateful that it’s a place I can allow some of the armor, the shield, to fall for
a little while. I also feel as if I am known by it, and in those moments,
you’re like weary boxers who hug one another in the middle of the fight in
order to catch your breath. You each acknowledge your exhaustion and in silent
truce, hug your opponent, because they’re all you have. 

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