When I checked myself into the hospital on Labor Day weekend in 2010, I'm not sure what was going through my mind. I think that I had come to the conclusion that it was the best, or even the only, way that I wasn't going to die; I remember feeling fearful before that point but not after. The story that evolved for me was that I was going to sail through the therapy and be well. And for the most part, that's what happened. I never looked back, never felt fear of relapse.
I relapsed, and the story became that I would plod through and come out on the other side. There is no sailing through this process; it's too long, too slow, too variable, too open-ended. Still, the story was always that I would do the work required and rebuild. At my sickest, in the hospital, I felt some of those fears again, but as I recovered they faded.
I had a story with Dave in it, a story where we met up for a beer and looked back on the craziness in the companionship of shared understanding, shared trauma, shared triumph. Then Dave stepped out of the story, and my confidence disintegrated. I began to tell stories of motherless children and young widowers, stories of liminal moments when I watched my dreams die. Every effort to organize my paperwork and deal with old filing would make me wonder if I was "getting my affairs in order." I would go into a dressing room and think, "What's the point of buying a new sweater if I might die?"
The point is that a new sweater is part of a different, better story, that I can tell instead.
Lying in bed one night, it came to me. I am not preparing to die. I am preparing to give birth. Just as a mother will "nest" in anticipation of a baby, I am setting the stage for a new life. As in the days before a new baby comes, especially the first, there can be anxiety about the risks and uncertainties the future holds, but the overall emotion is positive. I feel joyful at the prospect of integrating the stories this new marrow brings into my own; I'm ready for this experience but also not ready in the way that one is never truly ready for the birth of the first child. It is going to come, and it will follow certain patterns, but the rebirth will also be unique and unpredictable in unknown ways.
If the current story is too dark and too scary, tell a different one. Choose your own adventure. But not the one where you get eaten by aliens.