One step ahead

October 26th, 2013 § 45 comments

IMG_7509I know I shouldn’t always attach explanations on posts like this but today I feel the need to. Whenever I post a dark piece I get many messages of concern (and criticism) from people. Sometimes they say “Lighten up.” Most often readers are worried.  I want to say that these pieces capture only a fraction of the spectrum of feelings I have.

My days are not spent wallowing in sadness. When I need to rise to the occasion I do. It’s often easier for me to write about the world of the dark places though… in some ways I think those are the ones that need light the most. These words are often the ones which go unwritten and unexplored.

I always find joy in the small moments each and every day. Today I tweeted, “I find beauty in the flowers in my room, the sight of the leaves through the window, the sound of the wind, the loyalty of my dog.”

There is shimmer in each and every day. Some days we just have to look hard for it, dig deep. And some days there is just a darkness overhead. I find that giving a voice to the those depths, shedding light on them, is important. There are many who live in this land. Today’s post comes from the feeling of doom that accompanies test results, that awful waiting period.

………………………

I wait for the burlap bag over my head,

Wait for the rope round my neck.

I wait for the chair to be kicked out,

The floor to drop open,

Snapping the rope’s length and my body with it.

 

This is what it feels like each time I drive to the office,

Head into the building,

Take a seat.

 

Usually I hate traffic

But when it slows my journey I find myself grateful these days.

Stretch out that time.

Make it longer until I hear words I don’t want to hear.

 

They are tricks, of course,

Silly childish games I play.

 

I turn on the heated seat and press my back against the core

Burning relief into my spine.

I am at war with myself.

 

I ready myself to smile, to say good morning,

To greet the office staff with a brave and carefree smile.

“How are you?” one will ask,

Letting the words roll off her tongue the same way

The lady with the Irish accent ringing up my groceries asks me

Without waiting for an answer.

 

I’m not fine.

I’m anything but.

There is no time for that, though.

It’s time for results and plans and tests and exams.

 

It’s time to steel myself again,

Stand up straight,

Pretend there is no fear,

No ache,

No catastrophe.

 

For minutes at a time this is how I get through the day.

I walk at a clip, slightly faster than that executioner with the bag and rope who chases me,

One step behind or maybe two,

Telling him

No.

Not today.

Just stay the hell away from me.

Just for a little while longer.

 

 

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§ 45 Responses to One step ahead"

  • Danny D says:

    Anybody who criticizes you or tells you to lighten up clearly has no idea what you are feeling. The blog is meant as a release for you and to be who you are. You are not hurting yourself through this avenue of expression.

    This your reality and why so many of your wonderful readers come back for more.

    Big hugs my friend.

    D-

  • lisa says:

    More than any other post you’ve written, this one just makes me want to hug you fiercely and tell you over and over that you are loved. Thank you for placing the dark and light side by side in this post; this is how we all live our lives, even the healthy, and it’s important to remember that, know that, not dissociate from it. You more than most have to be brave to live with all that truth rather than only some of it, and you do. Your words here reminds me of the Ellen Gilchrist quote: “We cannot get from anyone else the things we need to fill the endless terrible need, not to be dissolved, not to sink back into sand, heat, broom, air, thinnest air. And so we revolve around each other and our dreams collide. Look out the window in any weather. We are part of all that glamour, drama, change, and should not be ashamed.” “

  • Lisa Lurie says:

    Lisa,
    You are so expressive. Thank you for sharing your honesty. My thoughts are with you,
    Lisa Lurie

  • Karen Bro says:

    If the internet had been around in the 1970s, my Mom would’ve had a blog like this one to carry her through her terminal lung cancer. I love your honesty here — all of it, from the dark (read: real) to the lighter everyday stuff. The exchange you had with your teenage daughter awhile back was riveting and poignant and took me back to my mom’s bedside. Those are hard and good memories. Way to be who you are, showing what you’re feeling, living out your life.

  • Rebecca says:

    No one has the right to tell you to “lighten up”. If you didn’t post the down days I would think you were super-human somehow, never feeling sad. That wouldn’t be right. I am glad you are brave enough to show us both sides of your story.

  • Ann Gregory says:

    Holding your hand & running like hell every single day. xoxo

  • Anonymous Random Person says:

    Thank you for sharing your world with us. You make a difference.

  • Lori says:

    I wept while reading this post. Once again, I am humbled.

  • joanne firth says:

    I believe that every feeling you have is important to share. People will react how they will. I know myself, I am very sensitive to your pain and want so much to help you feel better with a kind word or even just an acknowledgement that I was here. You are true to yourself and true to all of us who read what you write. Let nobody ever judge your feelings or try to negate how horrific having metastatic cancer really is. I see in you, a person who appreciates the simple beauty of things around her, taking it all in, making a note and sharing it. Reminding us that flowers, leaves, wind and a loyal dog are something extra special to be grateful for.

  • Joe. Herrera says:

    I read this twice, as I usually do with most of your posts. The first time quickly, perhaps anticipating something. Then again, more thoroughly to try to feel what you’re bringing. Your writing is perfect. Change nothing.

  • JoAnn says:

    I am glad no one has ever told me to “lighten up” when I post my darker thoughts on my blog — because I would have had to tell them to leave and not come back. In fact, I would block them. You are much more patient than I am with people like this.

    Don’t these people realize that when one is dying it is hard to “lighten up”? IDIOTS!

    I get through the day in small increments of time….the sight of sunlight coming through a window in a certain “beachy” way, the sound of waves when I am going to sleep, the sand-on-asphalt under my shoes when I take a walk, the ice cream shop that is open sporadically now – where we could barely get waited on a month ago. These are the things that get me through every day, day after day. There honestly is no day that is not a struggle.

    I do not wallow in sadness either, but I sure have moments when I can barely catch my breath because of the anxiety I am feeling – when the darkness overwhelms me. I am packing up to leave the beach house for the off-season now, and everything I do — I wonder if it will be the last time…..if I will be coming back. Every place I have gone these last two weeks…I wonder if I will ever be there again. The farmers’ market, the great indie bookstore, the special grocery store, the sweet little library – will I see them again? Are my drawers in order? My shelves? The closets? What about the cleaning supplies? Will everyone know where to find everything? Will Laura find my scented candles? The beach toys I bought for the children for next summer?

    People I see in town say “how are you?” and I answer “fine”. But I am not fine. I am not nearly fine. However, most people do not want to hear this. They shy away from the thought of death or even the mention of death. So, like you, I pretend. I have become good at that.

    L,J

  • Terri says:

    So beautifully written. Such powerful imagery and raw emotion. Thank you for sharing your journey – both the dark and the light of it. Standing beside you from afar. Terri xo

  • Lisa, I also thank you for your honest expression of the range of emotions running through you.

    It’s not easy to do. I envy your writing talent.

  • Louisa says:

    You can honestly express your true love for life….the joys you feel with your family,friends and nature …many people go through an entire lifetime without one shred of the understanding you possess..you can also tell us the feelings experienced as you are aware this may someday end….all the joy and simple sameness may someday disappear and you never shy away from that fact….it applies to all of us. Thank you so much for sharing this understanding, this inner knowledge and this sense of peace tempered with wanting more time here yet knowing it is fleeting. We have to know that we are all in the same boat….albeit unaware.

  • Kathleen says:

    I can see why you prefaced this one because that imagery is horrible to face. But so is the disease- obviously so much more horrible than a reader faced with an intense poem. Anyways, I think it serves the point and is appropriate. Your honesty and willingness to share your reality is provoking, in important ways. Giving you a big virtual hug, thinking of you with so many beautiful things I see each day. (Your tweets sink in!)

  • Beautiful, as always. And spot-on. I have nightmares sometimes I am being chased by a rapist, ninja warrior, pedophile… All my subconscious’ various interpretations of this executioner. But not today. And we are forced so literally into taking it one day at a time. Lots of love to you.

  • Vicki Sivilli says:

    Man Lisa, you nailed it again! “…that awful waiting period…”.
    Thank you for expressing what its like living with mets.
    Be well,
    Vicki

    “There is only one god and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: “Not today.”
    ― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

  • Renn says:

    Living life in the light is the easy part; you are teaching us how to live in the darkness too. That is the toughest part. Thank you for being real and keeping it real and for shedding light into the dark.
    xo

  • John Podhoretz says:

    Anyone who tells you to lighten up should have to spend a day carrying a 50-lb. boulder on his/her back.

  • Meg says:

    Lisa, Thank you for writing about all of your feelings.You are able to give grace to each word.Don’t lighten up or darken. Just be wonderful you!
    Meg

  • Wendy says:

    Thank you, Lisa, for your honesty. Your words are not misconstrued by all. On the contrary, you reach so many who are grateful and wish circumstances were different. Part of life is simply factual and to sugarcoat it is unfair and unrealistic. I enjoy every element of life — from the waking smile of my children’s faces to the simple smell of an impending storm — just a little bit more because while you teach me about the darker side of this rotten experience, you always remind me to rejoice in “this” moment. Thank you so very much. -Wendy

  • Wow, how arrogant and heartless to even be in a position to criticize a woman who knows she is dying for sharing what her dark thoughts are. Must be nice to climb up on one’s high horse, knowing they are not facing what you are. How convenient.

    I so appreciate every word you write, not only for the relief and release I hope it brings you, but for the thousands of men and women who wish they could speak and write similarly but who are silent for myriad reasons.

    You writing and sharing means that you are vibrant and alive. ALIVE. And I celebrate every post.

  • jenn says:

    lighten up? that is appalling, but part of the human circus of which we are a part. I love this quote: we don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are. Thank you every day for doing what you do. xo

  • ashera says:

    This – what you wrote – is me. I’ve written much the same. You expressed it so much more beautifully. I…am the mom….of a way too young man son…who is still my child – though he wears the hat of daddy, husband, friend…but at 30 – does not need to out of remission for end-stage inoperable brain cancer. He goes to the prestigious place in the south of MN – every few weeks – for the look-see – just to see that it’s still just running in place. The trip is exhausting – the wait, for him – just like you stated – just…pretending to do ‘normal’ – to smile, say thank you – be…strong??? for all the others that depend on him….and I oh-so try to take a far back seat to needing anything at all from him. So I wait – alone – and do not want to hear anything. Because…hearing anything means everything is still – staying where it needs to be, remaining as good as it gets…for now. But I want to scream many times a day. I have no one around me – just me – and I choose my audience on who to share this…story with. Pretending it’s his story to share – but, I also have a story. One of these days – they will have other news to tell me – but I will already know what it is, cause I hear it a dozen times daily if I listen to my thoughts.
    When I started posting – under ‘stupidest things…’ and someone stupid asked me what I was…”going to do??” – later, after those words – and I flash onto the almost uncontrollable need to choke the living breath out of this unsuspecting curious being…
    but lucky for us both…I just said…I don’t know.

    Lisa – you keep writing about the dark stuff. For you, to remind all of us – that if it was all light and shiny and bliss-ninny b.s…who would need candles?

    You are saying the words, my son stumbles over – cause…he’s a grown up man at 30 – and can’t be anything but strong….but I know, and he knows I know, and it’s so hard to want so much for him…

    • Susy says:

      Beautifully said. Thank you. My mother has just been diagnosed with grevious cancer and suffers daily. It’s how I found this blog. I so admire Lisa, and also your post. I’m looking for honesty here on this painful journey.

  • I am so terribly sorry that you have had comments that do not appreciate you and your feelings. Please ignore those comments and keep on writing…for your benefit, for the benefit of others. For all those negative commenters, there are thousands who gain solace from what you write. Continue your poetry and thank you again for your bravery and courage in writing!

  • Sophia says:

    Lisa, thank you so much for giving a voice to all of us who don’t have the strength and courage to express how we often feel – because so many people just don’t wanna hear it and don’t wanna see the dark and ugly site of cancer.
    I sincerely hope the next treatment will work well and give you more time. Thanks for every post!
    Sophia

  • Kate says:

    Thank you for the stunning beauty of your honesty.

  • Anyone who can write about the gamut of raw human emotions as well as you can deserves to be applauded and commended. Your writing is a gift to all who read it. Sadly, some readers don’t quite realize that. Keep shedding light on the dark and reminding the rest of us of the beauty and pain that life is all about. Thank you!

  • Diane Turner says:

    Your writing is exquisite, raw, and honest, and said with such grace. Such an eloquent reminder for us to live now, appreciate now, love now. I send you blessings and love, and standing by you from afar. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • mary says:

    You have a gift for words! Thank you for giving me so much knowledge. I also appreciate that you speak directly, and from your heart. Sweet dreams tonight, Lisa. xox

  • Angela Y Crane says:

    I love your writing. laughing or crying or wondering.

  • Karen says:

    Lisa, I am daughter of a mom who passed away from breast cancer. She preferred that we rarely speak of the disease not wanting it to be the primary conversation of her life. In doing that though we never had a real conversation about how she was feeling and what she was afraid of. I read your blogs and gain some understanding of what she sheltered me from. Your writing is beautiful and it transcends this sphere. I am sure that some days after odd comments in response to one of your blogs you may feel weighed down by the need to keep writing and sharing your innermost thoughts with people you don’t know. I hope you’ll continue to write and share. You are having such a positive effect in so many lives! Hugs to you!

    • mary says:

      So finely spoken. Sorry about the loss of your Mom.

    • Judy says:

      I am also the daughter of a mom who passed away from cancer (lung). While she planned her funeral and talked about the medical aspect of her disease, she also did not like to talk about her feelings or fears. Lisa I also appreciate your blog for giving me that insight. You articulate what I often have trouble putting into words. And when the time comes for me I want to be able to articulate in the same way for my own daughters.
      As for the dark … You have no idea how helpful it is to read this. The one thing that helped me get through the dying, death and grief was a friend who went through it with her mom and was very honest and a realist about how it felt and what it was like. I’m sure you get tired of pasting that smiley face on each day. The platitudes get tiresome after awhile. But being able to give voice to the dark helps us all express how we feel, and helps people to listen. Thank you. And thank you for your blog. You are in my prayers.

  • BlondeAmbition says:

    How dare anyone minimize or dismiss your feelings or how you express yourself. It’s like the idiots who walk down the street telling perfect strangers to “smile” — as though it’s some kind of social obligation to make them feel better during your brief passing. Bottom line — you don’t owe anything to anyone. However you are feeling just “is” and requires no explanation, good or bad. You’ve graciously chosen to share a very intimate and painful chapter of your life with the world and I know many of us are grateful for your candor and honesty. Continue to be true to yourself and do not change a single thing.

    As I always say, you truly don’t know someone until you’ve spent a day in their stilettos. And even then, there will be gaps.

    Sending you much love as you begin your trial and hope that it will keep you many steps ahead. xox

  • Beth Smith says:

    I struggle with words to describe why it is that what you are doing is so important to many of us. Besides just letting others without this disease know what it feels like, it is so much more than that. Society demands that we keep a smile on our face and hide our feelings of sadness and fear. But you can only stuff those feelings down inside for so long before you blow life a pressure gauge! Expressing these feelings are so very important, and through your writings, you allow us to also feel those emotions. The things I hide inside are brought to the surface and I allow the darkness out for a time, allow myself to FEEL those things, and then put them away and face the day. Thank you for that.
    Also taking one step at a time and hoping for more time . . .

  • What a beautiful poem. It truly captures the emotion. I enjoy your posts like this and agree it shines light where it is needed most.

  • Alicia says:

    I rarely comment but I read in awe often. Thinking of you and your beautiful family. Glad we met all those years ago in music class w our October baby girls.

  • Penny says:

    I agree with you 100%. We appreciate others input but it is very difficult to understand how positive we are trying to be. I have be receiving your blogs for sometime and this is my second comment. I am older but a young 60 year old with a love for my family, two daughters, three young grandchildren and my friends at golf. Breast at 49, bone from skull to rectum, just over 12 mths ago and this week in brain. I have been organising my future the last 12mths but now settling everything in place with family and extended family. We have sent out emails of my health updates to all concerned and they appreciate our honesty and openness. I live in Sydney NSW Australia and will actually be on a special tv show with my medical oncologist where we talk about the time frame I have to live. She is so great about this and wants to improve this service with other doctors and patients. Best wishes Penny

  • Kim C says:

    Thank you for continually shedding the light where it’s needed. I wish you the very best as you move through this new treatment. Warmest wishes to you and your loved ones.

  • Sharon Martinelli says:

    This poem totally sums up how I have felt every single time I have to go for a check-up and so with hopefully your permission, I am going to print it out and keep it close to know that I am not alone. I am five years out now from first stage 2 diagnosis and have been left with very damaged nerve endings and constant rib pain from the radiation and surgeries. As much as I want to put “light” around my feelings, sometimes it just sucks. You let us have these thoughts and a way to express them courageously. I am in the “We Love You Lisa” fan club, though silent most days.

  • Gwenn Lewis says:

    I struggle with words to respond to this. I stumbled upon your site last night. You see a friend of mine who had stage two triple negative breast cancer two years ago, received horrible news yesterday. Her cancer is back is has metastasized and she has stage 4 liver and bone cancer.
    I was looking for answers all night long. Only to find answers I already knew.
    Then here you are. You helped me get through one of the most difficult days I have ever had at work. You see, my friend is also one of my employees. I had to met her today and be able to have an conversation about what she wanted to do I regards to working. I fear saying the wrong thing, breaking down. This is not my fight it is hers, I realize that, but I love her. She has been a dear friend for 7 years. We are willing to let her go out on disability now, she gets her port in 2 wks. Then chemo. It nearly killed her the first time, she was allergic, rare I understand. For now, she has decided to work until she gets the port at least. That may change. I will be checking in here. Sorry to go on, I just am at my wits end. I KNOW I have no right. I want to do all I can, so lead me… I will hang on your every word. God bless you I wish you good days and love!
    GL

    • Lisa Bonchek Adams says:

      I am glad if you found help here and am sorry about your friend. This is such a hard road. Please allow me to correct your word use though as it is important: your friend has breast cancer that has metastasize to her liver and bones. This is not the same as liver cancer or bone cancer. She will always have stage 4 breast cancer. These are breast cancer cells that have escaped from the breast and traveled to these other sites. You use breast cancer drugs on them. Liver and bone cancers are two very different types of cancers from this. I am sure you will be a comfort to her. I wish her the gift of time.

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