Chemo week and my fourth day of sitting on the verandah in the late winter sun watching the daffodils in full bloom. I can also see them from lying in my bed and the sofa in our loungeroom. It is the strangest and most surreal feeling not being able to do anything except co-exist and ‘be’ with the flowers and the trees of my garden. I don’t have much nausea or pain, but am so weak and heavy-feeling that I can barely breathe. My head feels full of cotton-wool and spins and is so slow; words and trains of thought have gone missing and I stop mid-sentence forgetting what I was saying or where I was going with an attempted conversation. Is this what it is like to get dementia? It is horrible. I can’t concentrate enough to read anything of substantial length such that I actually remember what I read. If I’m not careful, I end up spending the whole day flitting from Twitter, to Facebook, to Instagram, to WordPress, to LinkedIn, reading word-bytes and keeping my brain active as I pick up all sorts of snippets of new information; stuff that I would never usually have time to pay more than a cursory glance to in my real world. I try hard not to bombard all my friends and contacts with this new-found wealth of information, but it’s not hard to tell when I’m home recovering from chemo, feeling bored out of my brain, but with no energy, inclination or ability to do anything except push a “Share” or “Retweet” button!
So I am trying to practice the art of ‘being’. I look at the daffodils and irises and daphne and violas spread out before me in my garden, and they are all content to just ‘be’ in all their brilliance. The cherry trees and crabapples and hawthorn and dogwood tree are not yet in blossom, still resting and sleeping through winter, just ‘being’. I know inside they are working hard, gathering their nutrients and life-force to burst forth with the most amazing show of blossoms and new life in the weeks ahead, but from outward appearances at the moment, they are just ‘being’. Oh how I envy them. Patience is a virtue in which I am severely lacking. I sit on the verandah, breathe in, breathe out, enjoying being totally in the moment, but the pent-up energy of my brain will not be stilled and suddenly I’m trying to plan whose going where, what report is due when, where will we go for holidays next year, what needs to be bought at the shops. The only problem is, I fail at all this planning because my brain isn’t working properly and my thoughts don’t end with any resolution to what I’m trying to plan. So I bring it back to just ‘being’. Round and round it goes like this all day.
However, as rotten as this chemo is, there’s a delicious pleasure in knowing that no one has any demands of me. Everyone around me, work, family, friends, are allowing me to ‘be’. Mere words can’t express how much I appreciate this. How many people get paid to sit on the front verandah and do nothing except watch their daffodils nod gently in the early-spring breeze? The most incredible friends and acquaintances have provided meals every day; their generosity of spirit, time and effort has blown me away and my heart burns with gratitude. My work colleagues and staff have allowed me to do what I can, when I want, and forget about the minor details of actually running a department; how does one ever say thank you for this. My ever-patient husband runs the house on his own, taking care of our 3 boys and offering me quiet support, while I just ‘be’. I feel incredibly selfish and ego-centric; like the whole world revolves around me at the moment. However, I recognise that until I pass through this and heal, that I’m not going to be much good to anyone anyway.
I am therefore determined to ‘enjoy’ every moment of this opportunity to ‘be’. I wonder if in years from now, when life has resumed its frantic trajectory, if I will pine for my days of just sitting on the verandah in the sun, being part of my garden, watching the shadows move across the day, while I sip my lemon and ginger tea. I will miss the sound of the creek and waterfall babbling away just a few metres from the verandah, and the constant birdsong that accompanies the day. I know I will nostalgically reminisce about hearing the brakes of the school bus stop at the top of the hill and then 10 minutes later the boys appear, all bedraggled, hungry and tired from their day; I never got to see this before as I was always rushing around.
I will therefore cherish this time, ensure that I am mindful of the beauty before me and take the hope and promise shown by my daffodils into whatever comes next.