Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Losing Brave Eyes

When I was little, Lisa christened me Brave Eyes: I could see in the dark, and nothing scared me. I’m amazed now at the physical courage I had in those days; as a four-year-old I climbed trees and strolled along the narrow, arch-topped porch railing. I learned to swim by hurling myself face-first into the water. I’ve never been afraid of the dark or monsters under the bed.

Later I was calm when the surgeon told me I had cancer, and when he told me three weeks later that it wasn’t cancer I was still calm. Cancer truly doesn’t scare me. Even the Lump was more of a pain than something to be frightened of. Well, let me correct that: what frightened me wasn’t the possibility that it could be malignant, but the certainty of having to be manhandled and in pain. Since the infection and the ripping open of the incision, I’m still in pain from it, which may explain some things. (One of those Aha! Moments.)

It took everything I had to survive the past five years or so: deaths heartbreakingly sudden, gutwrenchingly drawn out; repeated moves; the slow destruction of my marriage; weeks and months when every night meant nightmare; moving to California and changing my life. And now it takes more than I have to do even simple things.

In my fearless youth, I wasn’t so much unafraid as indifferent to fear, as a fish is indifferent to water. These days I have more to lose. These days I have time and strength to feel the shattering terror, or the honesty to admit it.

I think I’ve used up my lifetime supply of courage.

What do I do now?

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