I haven't been writing much this summer. I want to. I think about it, but it's hard because so many of my thoughts are consumed, or at the very least threaded through with this constant thrumming note of fear. I make doctors appointments and hunt down lost medical records; I schedule and reschedule, practice relaxation techniques and try to pretend my laugh isn't shaky, and that I am always this sweaty. I've quietly stowed away far reaching plans and expectations in favor of lists that focus on the immediate needs for that day and that day only, each item like a small anchor that binds me to the here and now so that I don't lose myself entirely. Sorrow and fear aren't complementary garments, and I do not wear them gracefully. I certainly have no talent at hiding them. I'd like to tattoo, "Be kind; my heart is breaking" on the space between my eyes so I don't have to work so hard at pretending.
You can see why I don't feel overly compelled to write.
I won't lie and say it's all hard all the time. It most certainly is not. There are moments of exquisite sweetness and beauty, moments where mere breathing seems like worship. Those moments are the bridges between myself and understanding anything at all about the events that are unfolding this summer. While my brother fights his own battle and those of us who anxiously orbit around him get scanned, poked, prodded and generally worked over, one of my dear friends learned of her ex-husband's illness: stage 4 colon cancer. Call me selfish, but I'd like to not be needed to share my cancer experience with people I love the most. It's a desperate and humble level of intimacy to share a nightmare. Christ's ministry of suffering isn't a call to alleviate pain, it's a call to enter into familiarity of heartache.
All of this backstory is necessary to explain what is coming next. My friend, whose children just learned of their father's cancer, was speaking with her six year old when she said this:
"My mind keeps thinking about Daddy; I keep trying to think about bacon."
In two sentences she managed to say what I have been unable to say for weeks. The hard truth about some seasons is that you can try to think about all the pleasant, comforting, wonderful, tasty things that this life contains, but the mind has a will of its own, and it will return to the things you want to turn off for just five minutes every time. Your body may be doing the normal every day things. It goes to the normal every day places. Your mouth may engage in the same every day conversation, but your mind keeps circling back around to that sore spot that makes no sense. It isn't wallowing or a pity party. It isn't a matter of choosing to focus on the negative. It's simply that in the end, we really don't have any control, not over who becomes sick or stays well, not over protecting the people we love, and certainly not over our minds lingering on those we hold dear who have suddenly become more precious and more fragile than we ever realized.
Maybe I just needed to say that. There isn't anything wrong with thinking about bacon, or writing about things that have nothing whatsoever to do with where my mind currently circles. Maybe I just needed you to know that I might be writing about bacon in the days to come (or perhaps more mundane vegetarian subjects as well) but it will only be a diversion, a momentary dalliance in normal daily life and routine. I am trying to think about bacon, but my mind...well...it's just not ready to fully cooperate yet.