Today I was rummaging around for an old journal of mine, looking for poems by May Sarton. I can't remember why I thought of her. But I wanted to reread a late poem of hers about getting dressed. Well, I found it, and I started rereading the entire journal. It started in June of 2002 (that is the spring/summer after I was diagnosed with Wegener's and began treatment/convalescence). The last date is November 11th of the same year. I also found notes about a septum in my uterus and that my left ovary was bigger than my right. I wasn't in any condition to consider pregnancy, but I guess I was talking about it future-wise with my gyno.
I was pleasantly surprised by some of the clarity I found within the journal, then alternatively embarrassed when I read my desperate rantings about how awful I felt and how I wanted to chop my head off (one aspect of my illness is INTENSE sinus/head pain). Mostly, I was glad to read it again, and the parts that stuck out the most were the small moments. Beckmann and I were still living in NYC, but I had moved out to the "country" for the summer, and he was shuttling back and forth between the two places. I spent a lot of time alone, which I craved. I was on a heavy dosage of prednisone at the time, and if any of you have ever had the pleasure, you might know how MOODY one can become on this magical steroid. Boy was I bitchy! That on top of not feeling well most of the time makes for someone who should be given a wide berth.
Back to small moments. I listened to catbirds. I saw beauty and appreciated it. I was grateful for my tea (still am!). What I sensed from the entries was that gratefulness people have after a crisis. Like being happy that walking a block to the park didn't wind me anymore. Stuff like that. I discovered May Sarton that summer, and read every book our little library had by her. I liked some of her poems, but I especially identified with her journals.
Sarton was very ill at the end of her life, suffering from lung, heart and stomach ailments. She was interviewed about that time, and here's part of what she said:
* "At the end I talk about -- or she asks me -- what this time of illness has meant, whether it has been all negative. I'm sorry to say that I answer yes, it has been. There is no point in pretending that it has been a lesson in anything except endurance and trying to believe that someday I can get better. But when illness goes on so long and there is apparently no hope, it is hard to believe. I've been a very depressed person."
Now that I'm feeling better, it's easier for me to find the positives from that time. But I felt exactly like Sarton for a good time afterwards. I still do have flashes of depression and anger about it. But they happen less and less. I think I forced myself to look for the "silver lining," because I had to move on past my anger at not ever being the same again. Plus, I prefer the way I feel when I'm being grateful. Or even the way I feel when I remember having been grateful.
I'll end with the poem I was looking for. I empathized with this a ton at the time, because I was so frail and unsteady, too:
Everything is an effort,
I may lose my balance
Pulling on jeans,
Buttoning my shirt
A trial of patience,
Pulling on a sweater
I get lost inside it.
When I am dressed
It is a small triumph
And I am rather tired
At the very start of the day.