This will be my last post for a while. Next week I head back to the hospital for what will be my second, and presumably last operation of this portion of my cancer journey. The goal is to reconnect the bits that needed disconnecting and to get my own personal plumbing working on its own. It is a surgery that I’ve been waiting for for months, and now that it is within reach, I am playing that waiting game once again, the game which I first wrote about here.
Reading over that previous post, I can see that the strategies for passing the time are the same now as they were months ago. I’m preparing myself as best I can, buying supplies that I might need, printing out instructions and organizing my luggage. I spend some part of the day focussing on next week’s activities, but otherwise, I’m watching reruns of The West Wing, seeing friends, working as much as possible so that I know Writing Through will tick along without me. But while all that is the same, I can tell that something very basic is different. Me.
Before the first surgery, which was radical and long and experimental and a real leap into the void, I felt almost giddy with expectation. I was excited as if launching on a new adventure. I wasn’t frightened. I wasn’t even worried. I was just ready and itching to get going. I felt, I suppose, the way I remember feeling right before I went up to university for my freshman year. Something new and important was about to happen to me then, and I felt eager and ready to face whatever that might be. That’s how I felt four months ago, as I readied myself for my surgery.
But that’s not how I feel now. Now I feel resigned. I am more concerned about the aftermath because I know all too well what it might provide. I am trying to rekindle that feeling from before the first operation, especially since I know that this next surgery marks the conclusion of this incredibly challenging portion of my journey. But I just can’t do it. I am ready and eager, but I’m not excited.
We who study literature talk a lot about the loss of innocence. It is an important trope and the mainstay of every novel that follows a character’s dramatic arc. We all start out as babes and, eventually, amass enough experience to mature. The loss of that innocence is sad. The feeling of that excited high will never really be experienced again with so much joy. There will now always be that What if lurking in the background. That’s not a bad thing, though. With that loss of innocence, with that knowledge of reality, comes (hopefully) wisdom. The past four months have taught me a great deal. it has matured me and as difficult as that might be, that is the essence of what our lives are, isn’t it? The goal is to learn the truth about ourselves and our world, and to find the joy that comes with understanding. It isn’t a lesser joy. It’s a different joy. And if I can hold onto that feeling of pride that comes with understanding, then I think I’ll be okay.
I am a tremendous lover of old musicals and a lyric from one of my favorites, The Music Man, has been stuck in my head for days now. The sadder but wiser girl’s the girl for me. That is how I’ve been feeling about myself. Sadder, but wiser. But the sadness is not synonymous with depression. Rather, it is an emotion which is accompanied by a knowing smile, perhaps a smirk and a shrug, a wink and a nod of the head. I went back and found the clip of the song on Youtube. As I had known, it is a strange sort of pre-love song, very much a piece of its time (1962), and honestly, inappropriate and insulting to my feminist instincts. And yet, it has been the musical loop in my head for days and it makes me laugh. Here it is below for those of you who already know and love it, or for those who are curious to see what I’m talking about. But spoiler alert – it is not for everyone and I send along my apologies to those who might bristle at the lyrics. All I can ask is that it be taken in the manner in which it is offered – with a wink and a smirk, a nod and a knowing smile.
So I’m not wiser but sadder. I’m sadder but wiser, and there is a significant difference between the two. Here I go again. See you on the other side.