I had become, with the approach of night, once more aware of loneliness and time - those two companions without whom no journey can yield us anything.
Lawrence Durrell, British Author (1912-1990)

That quote is in the ModeRoom Literary Quotes today (see the widget over on the right side column of the blog?) The first time I read it, instead of reading "night," I read "light." For me, both times are true. In the approaching calm of the dark or the dawning first light of the day, in either moment of pause, between inhale and exhale or exhale and inhale, I am aware of loneliness and time. In that moment, the thoughts that dissipate in dreams or stand aside for activity will come and be seen - or felt.

It isn't fear I feel. Is it? Is this fear? What is this?

Next week at this time (a habitual way of thinking for me), I will be recovering from surgery. I heard phoenix music in June, but in June "the test was negative." In July, the doctor said the test doesn't always show everything. Now, in August, the surgery will tell. Cancer, or not cancer? Malignant or benign? Most likely benign. (Most evidence: doctor willing to wait until August to find out).

But so? So it's benign. Doesn't "benign" sound like something not needing such attentions as general anesthesia and a hospital stay and drugs and removal? Doesn't the word benign go in sentences like "she smiled benignly" and don't dictionaries say things like:

1.having a kindly disposition; gracious: a benign king.

2.showing or expressive of gentleness or kindness:a benign smile.

3.favorable; propitious:a series of benign omens and configurations in the heavens.

4.(of weather) salubrious; healthful; pleasant or beneficial.

Well? Don't they say that?


They do say that. Salubrious, they say. Healthful. Pleasant.

A reader has to get all the way down to the fifth definition to find

5. (Pathology) not malignant; self-limiting.

But that doesn't sound so bad either. Self-limiting. Why all the cutting and removing? Why does the doctor want to attack and kill and eliminate this salubrious, self-limiting bit of stuff?

In the moment between the dark and the light, I feel the full sharpness of my amazement at Western medicine's determination to be body mechanics and to yank out and toss the parts that don't meet the specs. And I resent being approached as if my body were a mechanical device, here to facilitate my life. My body is life - is a living thing. Organic not mechanical. Humans aren't parts, they're people.

And I also think about all the people who never get that ultrasound with the unexpected results, and who never know there are things growing (benignly) where they ought not to grow, and those people just live like that. It isn't terrible, that not knowing. It doesn't usually make any difference at all, I bet.

But still ... the keening, scratching sound of cancer cells floats through - I can hear it in this moment between an inhale and an exhale. They live here in this world with us, and the shadows of their tiny selves - malicious - malignant - flit quickly past when a doctor schedules a surgery like this. I cannot tell - there is no way for me to know - if they are here, in the room with me, now.

That, of course, is the reason for the cutting and the drugs and the hospital. We cannot see some dangers. So we firebomb the building just in case.

I think my poor body is probably doing something benign. It does, usually. I think I have probably agreed to an assault for no reason. Poor body, I say to my own self. The Chinese doctors will help you, and the herbs will help you, and your family will help you. You are not alone. But - I am, in a way. I am alone. For me, right now, this is the last week of days in which I hold the sheltering womb that bore my children. Today is the last Thursday. And it seems to me that throwing away the parts of a person, just because the best and most difficult job the parts ever did is over now... well, that seems a bit malicious. The procedure feels malignant.

I need time to be sad. This feeling I touch in the moment between the dark and the light isn't so much fear as it is sadness. Or ... at least as much of each. I need time to mourn. I need to be quiet and alone and still so that I can feel this. I need to weep. To say thank you for the gifts and to pay attention to their parting. I need to feel it all the way, and not just for that fleeting moment each morning and each day's end, when the world pauses for breath.

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