Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Off Balance

This is the weirdest experience. 
Maybe a sorcerer transported me. Maybe I’ve been cast in the TV show “Once Upon a Time” where characters travel back and forth between their fairy tale lives (Snow White, Peter Pan, etc.) and modern reality.

In the past, if I heard that someone’s husband had been diagnosed with brain cancer, or was in some other dreadful crisis, I’d feel sick for them and wonder how they could function at all. Wouldn’t they be on the floor raving with pain or fear?
I’d eye grieving spouses at funerals, chatting with guests, appearing “clothed and in their right mind,”* and think,
“You must be part of an entirely different species. I could never cope the way you are coping.”

Now, here am I, down the rabbit hole. 
Even our considerate and careful surgeon referred to the pathology reports with the comment, 
“It doesn’t get much worse than this.” 
But who can believe such news? How can we imagine that death may actually be approaching much sooner than expected? Or that disability might increase to unbearable degrees? 
So far our lives continue normally…but not.

As I monitor pill-taking and chauffeur my cheerful husband who always preferred the driver’s seat, I feel disoriented. 
Last Sunday I went to church and spoke calmly to friends about our new situation. I laughed at the jokes in a discussion group.
But my dear neighbour looks so serious as she hugs me after hearing the news. 
Why are people bringing us generous surprises of home made meals? I’m not sick – and then suddenly, tears of stress well up. I am sustained by such kind comfort food.
Yes, I hauled the snow tires to the mechanic’s for the first time - no problem - but then, when I dropped them off, I didn’t know the answers to questions he asked. Seasonal tire-change hadn’t been my job.
Who’s supervising our money? My almost fine CFO husband who’s always been a controlling comptroller of our family finances? Money-know-nothing me? Newly designated helpers? I’ve never found group assignments easy.  This is so confusing.

A word that comes to mind is “liminal”. Besides liking the word’s texture in my mouth, its meaning feels familiar: in between, like having one foot on either side of a threshold. Am I in or am I out? Neither and both. Most of us are in between in some sense, never quite there, but on the way. Waiting and uncertainty are the norm in liminal-land. 

Of course this is exactly where Christian faith takes us whether we like it or not (NOT). God’s ideal for a healed and peaceful humanity burgeoned in Jesus, but how can this miserable world be governed by a loving God?! Look around at the crowds of wounded souls, bleeding out despair or revenge, some wreaking havoc in their pain. 

The preachers say that God’s peaceable kingdom is “now and not-yet”.  Such nonsensical but precisely accurate description can make you feel like tearing your hair out. 
And yet, compassion and beauty abound even during brain cancer.  Why is there peace and gratitude in my frustrated, scaredy heart?  Only God knows.

*An expression from Luke 8:35, used casually by my fundamentalist parents whose primary literary reference was the Bible.