When my partner Pat was diagnosed with his second cancer in nine years – he’d already spent many years sick with me as head nurse. Some days I was Nurse Ratchet—and that was the best I could do but I’d always show up for my shift. I’d never been much of a nurturer, I never had kids I was always too much of a narcissist to have children, I know that doesn’t stop others, but I am a narcissist with a conscience. Thank God I’d read The Clara Barton Story as a teen, or I’d have really been lost.
In a former life I’d been a comedienne/writer, and making people laugh was my day’s goal and need, and that was what I’d been working for my whole life. Now my audience was a single man in bed, and I started working the bedroom, “Hey…did you ever notice…?” Pat never lost his sense of humor, so he’d laugh, and we’d laugh both knowing how healing that was. “Thank you I’ll be at “Pat’s Pad” all week long.”
Pat’s chronic illness had eaten away at us like a school of piranhas, taking thousands of sharp bites while we watched, yelling “ouch” every now and then. Sometimes we’d both scream out in frustration, “What happened to our lives?” Then we’d shake our heads in a mutual WTF–one of the few things we could still do together. I felt like I didn’t recognize myself—his cancers had taken the “me” out of me. I’d been forced to take a job, give up my career, and miss social dinners, and boy I was hungry.
Then–the very moment the love of my life died, I felt a relief that embarrassed me. I tried to hide the joy I felt over being free for the first time in almost a decade. Girlfriends immediately enveloped me like penguins surrounding their wounded in an Antarctic circle of cold. It was perfect, cozy – there’s nothing like female healing—they showed up in droves with dinner, lunch, laundry, laughs. We had the kind of laughs that were real, deep, guttural, the kind that eventually collapses into tears, and sometimes I’d weep for days.
I planned a few trips — I hadn’t been able to take one for so many years, and like Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape” I just had to get out. My favorite cousin and I drove up the coast of Northern California and into Oregon. We’d grown up together, but our paths hadn’t crossed as much as we would have liked. We rehashed childhoods, re-imagined our future dreams, reignited old arguments –whose boyfriend was cutest in eighth grade–who was prettier? Rekindling arguments we started in the seventies—who pierced whose ears? It was a perfect healing sitting amidst the Redwoods, overlooking the Pacific–meditating, giggling, remembering, crying. That iconic rocky coast laid out before me like a metaphor to begin the climb, again. So I laced up my UGHS.
I really wasn’t convinced that I’d be able to find myself again, at the worst depths of my hell, my creativity seemed so far out of reach—as if it had disappeared like a winter’s sun taking its last dip into the horizon–you know it will be a while before you’ll be in the sunlight of its spirit, again. I was thrilled when I began to write again–about everything, anything. Ideas were flying out of me faster than I could catch them. All I could do was direct them to rightful homes; books, plays, essays, pilots, jokes. I was back; I’d released my “me” again—re-sparking the relationship with my other lover – my creativity. I was artist hear me roar.
We all know how short life is, but then short…takes on a reality—and you feel this primal urge to re-boot. I am almost a year past Pat’s death, and I’m in a renaissance of purpose and hope—and I finally understand how truly profound a renaissance can be. The dark ages have passed and out of the disappointment emerges the light.