change · friendship · grief · love

Can I get a Witness?

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You want it to be done. You want to stop referencing cancer,
or marking time as “before I got sick,” “when I was sick.” You wanna stop the pang of knowing that “sick” was more than a bad cold. You wanna stop remembering
what it felt like. And you want it to stop being dramatic, and making you feel
dramatic.
You want the, “Oh, you cut your hair” comments to not sting as much, since no, you didn’t cut it, it fell out. You wanna feel neutral
when you see a t.v. show where someone’s diagnosed with it, and stop silently commenting, No that’s not at all what it’s like. You want to stop gagging every time you smell Kaiser hand soap. You want to stop
feeling the fear and the grief and the heartbreak you’d felt when you were
sick.
The feelings you couldn’t really feel then because you had
to just soldier up. When you were told, You could be a poster child for cancer.
When you had to be braver than you wanted because you needed to not scare your
friends.
And, there were the few friends you knew you didn’t have to be
brave with, or braver than you’d felt. There were the few who let you cry the
Ugly Cries, and the one who laid in your narrow hospital bed with you while you
napped, all wiped out from chemo. The one who went to three health food stores
to get the right kind of protein drink, since you couldn’t eat solids. The one
who bought your own bejeweled reusable cup in which she brought you green
shakes, and who packed and unpacked your hospital room with you every single
chemo round, and stayed overnight at home with you the first night after your first
release.
You want to remember the witness, and you want to forget
why you needed one. You want to offer the deepest gratitude and you want to stop feeling
gnawed by the uncertainty of that time.
You want to love the witness, and you want to stop being
reminded of what it was they held you through.
There is no forgetting, there’s only fading. And I don’t
want to forget it really; I just don’t know how to process it all still. Though it seems I am nonetheless.
I was on the phone with my mentor yesterday, talking about this one friend who showed up for me then and how, post-cancer, our relationship hasn’t
been as strong or connected. That somehow it’s almost like cancer, or acute
trauma, was the foundation of our friendship, and now that it’s passed, it
feels like there’s not much more to go on.
I told her how sad I am that we’re not like we were,
but that I don’t know that I can or if I want to be otherwise.
It reminds me of a quote from a movie that will make you
groan. But. In Speed, Sandra Bullock
tells Keanu Reeves that relationships based on intense experiences never work. (She later jokes, they’ll have to base it on sex, then. And that’s not really
an option with my friend, cute as she is!)
So, what do you do? I told my mentor that my friend was a witness
to that hardship, and about my pattern of how difficult it is for me to let go of certain things
because I’m afraid people won’t believe me. That my experience of something
will be called into question, without someone else to verify it. My friend is
my verifier and my witness. Without a current relationship, who will remember?
Without the reminder, who will believe me?
So, it’s about more than her, isn’t it? It’s about more than
needing her continued friendship as a point of reference of truth in my life.
It’s about my own ability to hold truth and facts for myself without outside
validation.
And that, is a lifetime process.
But it brought up a lot of grief yesterday on the phone (which is why there was no daily blog). The
star-pupil cancer patient. Who wore bright colored socks and leopard print
chemo caps. Who had her own stash of organic herbal teas and would walk into
the hall to fill her own ceramic mug from home. The star cancer patient who
worked so hard not to be one, now processing what it actually felt like
underneath all that “Chin Up” posturing that was half-posturing, half-I’m
totally awesome, and cancer can fuck itself.
But the friendship has suffered since I’ve been healthy. And
I don’t know how or what to do on that. I think releasing the attachment of my
friend as witness, of needing a witness
is a good place to start.
I don’t want to remember and I don’t want to forget. And
until I find a place of peace with “what went down,” that division will always
cause me unrest. 

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