20th November 2021
Metaphors. My cancer recovery seems to have been framed by metaphors. For me, the most significant has been “the box”.
I’ve blogged previously about the “box”. That is, my box of emotional readiness for round two – the “if the cancer comes back” scenario. Until now, it has been clutched very tightly in my arms, my fear being that if I don’t hold it super close to my chest, I leave myself vulnerable to complete emotional collapse, if it does return. Round one left me emotionally broken and I just can’t go through that again. So the solution has been easy – remain in a constant state of readiness. A state of utterly exhausting hyperviligence.
I recognise that this isn’t a viable long-term solution. The plan has always been to eventually move the box – to perhaps have it in the room with me but on the floor, maybe in a corner, taped up, but remaining easily accessible. I haven’t felt ready to move it there yet. I’ve not even felt ready to put it down by my feet.
Well, I’ve gone and dropped it.
On two or three occasions in the last few weeks, I’ve dropped the box.
And it has felt super uncomfortable.
From an outsider’s perspective, looking at this situation, it might seem that this should be a completely liberating experience. In reality it has been anything but. It’s weird that this box, tied up with so much negative experience and emotion, has become much like a child’s security blanket to me. The truth of the matter is, as exhausting as it is to carry, I feel safe with it in my arms.
Realising I’d dropped it, I felt instant panic. It’s so strange that something metaphorical can generate such a physical emotion.
Dropping it certainly wasn’t intentional, and I think that’s why it’s been so hard. Back to my old friend “control” – I haven’t been in control of this action. I didn’t determine the when, the where or the how.
I think I’ve been too busy plate spinning. Life has got pretty full on in recent weeks. Work is going well – I’m enjoying being back, family life is hectic but fun. I simply took my eye of the ball.
As soon as I realised, I picked it back up, dusted it down, mentally checked the contents were all still intact, and breathed a sigh of relief.
But I guess it’s been a useful exercise.
I’ve survived the “incidents”. There were no long-term ill effects, and I guess most importantly, the contents were all still there on checking.
So my hope is that this can give me the confidence to take those first steps in getting the box to its final destination. That I can willingly, carefully, put it down, even if for a few minutes to start with, and know that the readiness is unharmed – I don’t have to physically hold it.
Then those minutes can turn to hours, I can still check the contents whenever I need to, and perhaps then, just start to nudge it away from me.
I think I’m ready to stand down. I’ve been carrying the box for nearly 2 years, my arms are so sore and I feel worn down with the exhaustion of it all. I want to be able to stand tall, arms by my side, and to be able to breathe, properly breathe.
So no time like the present…
I’m off now, to do some very, very careful placing of the box on the floor.