Home Page Feature

Above Us, Only Sky

August 18, 2014

photo-2There’s always a moment, when you’re climbing very big rocks, that you look down and say ‘oh, shit.’

Sometimes you say those words out loud, sometimes the words just fly around in your head like trapped butterflies, but either way the feeling is the same: you’ve just looked down, and you’ve seen how far there is to fall, and your breath catches in your throat and you hug the rock a little harder and even though you know that all there is to do is keep climbing, there’s a part of you that just wants to stop and stay where it’s safe. Because it’s terrifying, that oh shit moment. It’s the moment when you realize, oh god, I could fall. And if I fall it will hurt. If I fall I could die. And, you know, you don’t want that.

You rarely have those moments on the ground, but when they do happen on the ground, they’re no less terrifying. They’re more terrifying, actually, because the ground is supposed to be safe. You can’t fall from the ground, right? Still, it happens, and when it does the feeling is exactly the same: a momentarily deafening vertigo, the infinite seconds of complete breathlessness, the panicked butterflies leaping from your head to your stomach and back again, beating the same frantic poem with their wings, ohshit ohshit ohshit ohshit ohshit. And the thing is, you weren’t even looking down.

I was in the hallway outside of a conference room, taking a call from my doctor, when it first happened. I was in a radiology office the second time, and laying on my back in a very dark room with an ultrasound machine the third (I was looking up that time, which fact did not escape me. Have you ever been afraid while looking up, I asked myself. My self didn’t answer. My self was working very hard to catch her breath and manage the vertigo.) The fourth time I actually was up a mountain, on a very big rock, refusing to check the messages from my doctor’s office on my phone. I tested myself and looked down and wasn’t at all surprised to find that there was no vertiginous oh shit moment to be had right there, because I was deep within one already. Falling held no terror because there was something that I was more afraid of, something contained within a voicemail message on my phone.

I returned the call when we were part way down the mountain, even though I didn’t really want to. Prolonging these things is a little like staying stuck on the rock, looking down and looking up and being terrified to move. Not moving doesn’t make the fear go away, which is why you always, always move. Up or down, doesn’t matter; the only way through the fear is movement, and getting yourself either to the summit or the firm safe ground below. So I called.

The rock that I’m standing on is a lump in my breast. We don’t know how precarious this rock is, whether it’s a rock that I can climb up from or that I will be forced to climb down from, but we do know that it’s a rock that I have to pause upon and evaluate. And I am whispering oh shit not because I am up too high, but because the rock is unstable. It could give way beneath my feet. I can’t just climb through this, not now, not yet. The mammograms and the ultrasound have told me to stop where I am. I will have a biopsy next, and it will tell me for sure whether the rock is tipping, whether the rock could hurt me or kill me, and I will know what to do. I will climb up or down or sideways and maybe I will fall and maybe I won’t fall. But I will be terrified either way. I am terrified.

But still.

I quell the terror by looking up and to the side and all around. In some moments, I look down. If I calm my breathing I am able to take it all in, the sky and the sunlight and the air. The view from here. It’s a good view, a worthy view. I am glad to be here, at this height. Whatever happens. Because whatever happens, I will still climb.


She’s Gonna Ride These Wild Horses

July 28, 2014

When I was 11 years old, I stole a horse. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say that I borrowed the horse — I had every intention of returning it — but still: I took a horse that did not belong to me. There are laws against that. I stole the horse because I wanted [...]

Keep reading…

Sometimes, You Live The Story As You Tell It

July 24, 2014

This is play, truly. This is what “watch me be the sunset Daddy!” looks like. This is the rejoinder to the complaint that life is documented more than it is lived. For us, it’s both, all at once. We write our story, and tell it, and sometimes the telling shapes the writing, and sometimes the [...]

Keep reading…

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words, But Sometimes You Need A Thousand And One

June 27, 2014

I have a section on this site called ‘Instagrammatica.’ It’s right over there under the ‘Pictorial’ tab, and it’s exactly what you’d expect it to be: a feed of my Instagram photos. It’s been there for a few years. I look at it sometimes, and it’s nice, but it’s not as as nice as my [...]

Keep reading…

Dispatches From The Epic Everyday

June 24, 2014

When I lived in New York City, I did many of the things that you’d expect one to do while living in New York City. I took my kids on long walks in Central Park. I developed an appreciation for New York pizza, and New York bagels, and black and white cookies, and Shake Shack. [...]

1 comment Keep reading…

On Mama Bears And Fear And The Terrible Question Of What Would YOU Do, Really?

June 19, 2014

HLN called me the other day and asked if I would comment on this terrible story. It really is an awful, horrible, ugly story, and one that I would ordinarily prefer to not comment on, in large part because it’s the kind of story that I don’t even want to think about. But it’s also [...]

3 comments Keep reading…

The Monster In The Closet, Redux (Or, It Could Have Been Me)

June 17, 2014

It’s been almost four years since I originally published this. I’m posting it again for a couple of reasons: one, because Katherine Stone has been fundraising for this tremendously important cause and so it’s been top of mind, but the kind of top-of-mind that I keep trying to push down, because there are ghosts here, [...]

Keep reading…

you shall above all things be glad and young

June 10, 2014

you shall above all things be glad and young For if you’re young, whatever life you wear It will become you;and if you are glad whatever’s living will yourself become. – e. e. cummings

Keep reading…

This Week In Mild Gratitude

April 4, 2014

I’ve sat down to write at least half a dozen times this week, and I’ve started about a half dozen posts (well, the same post, a half dozen times.) When I said last week that writing again was like a (re)birth, I didn’t realize how right I was, in so many other ways. It’s not [...]

10 comments Keep reading…

This Week In Joy

March 28, 2014

The other day, I wrote in this space for the first time in almost exactly nine months. Nine months is a long time, as anyone who has had a baby can tell you. When you hit nine months on the pregnancy calendar you are pretty much done, regardless of how much longer it actually takes, [...]

10 comments Keep reading…