“What does that mean?” Gary asked when I described it.
I rephrased, “I’m more of a thinker than a feeler.”
My husband looked confused.
“In painful situations I think my way out instead of feeling my way out.”
“Oh,” he said. I knew he was trying to decipher my “corporate talk” as he calls it.
Sometimes I sound like a corporate press release. It’s hard for me to bring painful emotions into the light and thaw them out.
So I was happy that on the day of my six-month cancer checkup at UCSF Hospital last week, when I was so fearful of hearing a death sentence, that my head was warming up that block of emotional ice just enough to let me feel what I needed to feel.
I got to the hospital early that day so I could go to the meditation room before my appointment. Passing the front desk and gift shop, I headed straight for the familiar church-like doors to that quiet space. But on my way, I heard a few notes from a harp.
Was it piped in? I wondered. Muzak? Or a real live artist?
Sometimes hospitals do that. They bring in talented musicians and let them calm the frayed nerves of people who are there because of some life-changing event.
The harp reminded me of Stanford, where during chemo I was serenaded by many gifted musicians. But back then, just as I started to enjoy the music, Benadryl would kick in and I’d miss it, fast asleep in a drug-induced slumber.
I always asked my husband what I missed, but he confessed that as soon as I was out, he raced to the cafeteria for frozen yogurt before they put the toppings away. I guess it was his own ritual to get though chemo.
Looking for a harpist, I peeped around the corner and saw a grey haired lady behind an unwieldy instrument.
Harps are weird looking, something you’d see in fairyland except that they’re cumbersome and a little awkward. The woman was plunking strings, her fingers arched like the legs of a spider dancing on an orderly series of tight wires, touching just the right ones to unlock their magic.
So instead of going into the meditation room alone, I opted to sit among the lady’s small audience and let her gentle melody enfold me.
I assumed an attitude of mediation, but emotionally, I felt stuck, frozen but jittery at the same time.
I guess it was a touch of anxiety, a sensation I find ironic. On one hand, I felt a numb, stuck-ness deep in my core. But on the other hand, I felt a vibration of electrical current that made my eyelids twitch and my fingers tap.
The juxtaposition of these opposing forces felt like the fixings for a headache.
So I sat, in one of those plastic waiting-room style chairs, with a handful of other people and listened.
The harpist played These are a Few of My Favorite Things and I was transported to the Lake County Fair when my daughter Lauren sang that song during a talent competition. I could see her in her little Hawaiian dress, singing acapella, her voice pure but oversized, piercing the din of the carnival atmosphere.
Will I live to hear her voice develop, I wondered. Will my husband and I ever make it to Tahiti to watch a sunset?
Sadness started to prick at the ice deep inside my body.
Then the harpist played Moon River, a lullaby I still sing to the baby I love so much.
That baby has a 13-year-old’s body now, but I still read to her, sing to her, love her like the infant I used to hold.
Moon River punctured my last layer of ice and tears came, right there in the hospital lobby, streaming silently behind the curtain of blond that shrouded my bowed head.
I felt toxins trickle down my face and into the universe.
The harpist looked up just in time to see me leave, tracks of salt and puffiness no doubt visible on my face, a question mark on her face as she watched me go.
I gathered my strength and took God with me into the elevator to get my news.
Originally published on BreastCancerNews.com
Photo: Getty Images