Writerly balance, forbidden cake and 2016

It's Monday, so here's a peaceful lookout at the Des Moines Art Center.

It’s Monday, so here’s a peaceful lookout at the Des Moines Art Center.

I wrote in doctor’s waiting rooms, in the winding hallways of Mercy Medical Center, in the infusion room, in my hospital bed between naps. I wanted to capture everything, my feelings, my pain, the sight of forbidden Hy-Vee cake on my mother’s birthday. My writing this year has been aggressively present, work that exists and thrives in the moment it first existed, doesn’t dare to extend too far beyond the physical and tangible.

Transcending the physical experience scared me, as if recognizing the reflective might be too much, another needle prick. I’ve been feeling better, perfectly well, even, for a few weeks.

I hid my writerly mind in LSAT logic games and reasoning timed tests, productively procrastinating the reflection my free time would inevitably offer.

As a life writer, reflection is my wheelhouse; I look back and ruminate constantly, writing and re-writing about the same experiences over and over, convinced there is another nugget of significance forever waiting to be unearthed. Yet this year I found survival in the now. I wrote about cinnamon bun cravings and my breakup with beer and throwing a gluten-free fit when bread-loving Oprah popped up on my TV.

For once I let my writerly mind be a whiny, fearful, grateful, confused, triumphant, bread-missing, aggressively in-the-moment mess and romp all over the Internet (Yeah, I know I sound like “22” by T. Swift, but she still gets me at 23, OK?). I’m moving into the stage of reflection, one that for the first time feels a little jarring.

Maybe, I’m finally forging a balance as a life writer, one in which I’m not paralyzed by the past but propelled by it. Learning that balance comes with its own inherent lopsidedness, I’ve discovered. As I confronted blood transfusions and needles and biopsies and physical, tangible trauma, I ignored other personal issues and frankly, my habit of letting unhealthy relationships linger.

I’ve been treated like an option rather than a priority far too often in the past six-ish months. I sometimes let it happen; I sometimes needed the companionship, the “Are you feeling better?” texts, the physical reminder that aloneness is fleeting. That if I asked, somebody would be there to hold my hand when the needle went in. As I reflect on the past six months, I’m grateful to be finished with IVs and doctor’s visits, but I still have pain — and a different kind of trauma — to confront. The kind I effectively ignored for six months, even though I knew it was coming.

“Beep, beep, beep,” the machine crowed every Monday morning for those six weeks, the sounds escalating in pitch as the drip, drip, drip slowed, the bag nearly empty. It was time to remove the IV. I contorted my face into a wince, one I’ve gotten to know well over the past six months. Writing this piece is like removing the IV. It stings in a different way, one that acknowledges it’s over, it’s finished — but it’s still going to hurt.

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