miscellany, reflections

on being in an in-between place, but not really

The other day I mentioned I’d had brain surgery almost seven years ago; a few hours later it dawned on me that my craniotomy was nine years ago next month—seven years ago around this time, I was fixing to get sober. I don’t know what reason I had to confuse the two, other than that this time of year has always been jumbled up in ways that defy the thresholds of one human heart’s capacity for pain. Even before the brain surgery, there was 9/11, which was a national tragedy deeply intertwined with personal trauma: a lost pregnancy and devastating family estrangements and a career ripped out from under me. There was my grandmother’s death the year before, which had thrown me into a suicidal depression, and her birthday is in early October, not long after the storms of September. And once Jack came along… well, after he changed my life forever for the better he would then nearly destroy it, with the relapses that began in July and continued on my birthday and throughout the autumn and winter, until he died in mid-January.

So I suppose it isn’t surprising that I forget what year I had brain surgery or that I confuse it with the year I got sober, because in the end it doesn’t really matter which is which, only that I did both and survived everything and that I’m still waking up every morning to do it all over again without complaining too terribly much. Because it doesn’t really seem like it’s been nine years since I had a panic attack on an operating room table and tried to escape but was strapped down as an anesthesiologist held my hand and slowly put me to sleep, just as it doesn’t seem possible that the fetus inside of me while I watched the aftermath of 9/11 from my hospital bed would almost be a teenager now, had things turned out just a little bit different. Or that Jack would be turning 53 in a couple of weeks instead of buried in some unknown location that his family won’t share with anyone.

On the flip side, maybe I never would have gotten into the car accident that caused the chain-reaction that led to finding my brain tumor, and I could be paralyzed on the left side of my body right now instead of able to function, more or less, like a regular human being. Maybe I never would have gotten sober and gone home with the wrong person or done something stupid in a blackout and I wouldn’t be typing this (or alive) right now. Maybe New York City, or my children, or Jack, or a thousand other things that can only be chalked up to grace and dumb luck, would never have happened. Maybe I’d be miserable and stuck with no way out of a life I hated instead of merely occasionally flummoxed and uncertain of how things are going to work out. There’s an ocean between those two states of being, and I swim in it happily and frequently, and I don’t ever want to forget it. (Which is half the reason why I write these things down.)

This is all a jumble, but that’s okay. Like the title says, I’m in an in-between place, but not really. I suppose it’s what someone else (someone who doesn’t blog) might call contemplative: having feelings, sorting them out, being okay not having all the answers, grateful to at least have the wherewithal to rattle around some of the questions. The past decade’s been a decidedly strange adventure, and as long as I keep waking up every morning, I think I’ll just let the universe carry me along. It’s doing a pretty good job so far, as long as I put in the effort on my end as best I can.