Friday, August 5, 2016

Emergence, or, the staying power of a manic-pixie-dream-girl

I'm blaming stress for the death of my creativity, but really, my creativity is just exhausted from having to problem solve my way through all the stress. So please, bear with me. I wish I had the energy to write something lovely or to provide you with life-changing wisdom, but all I have is this:

Yesterday, a surgeon opened up Mr. PNU like a chrysalis, and extracted a cancerous butterfly. We are in awe at the seeming effortlessness of this act. The risk factors for complication stood stacked against us, and our awareness of that tower of probability has overshadowed the last two weeks. I moved through the preceding days and their schedule as if normal; but I'd catch myself occasionally, drifting off, not fully present. And realizing my error, I'd suddenly snap back to the demands of acute attention, to every haunting minute detail, so as not to give room for later guilt at having taken the sacredness of our married life together for granted.

Two days ago, when both of us were spending our daylight hours considering the likelihood that they may be my husband's last, I asked him if he'd learned anything over the past 15.8 months that might justify living this stroke/aftermath trial. (Because of that persistent cultural fallacy that everything happens for a reason.)

He thought for a long time. Finally, he said, "I guess I've learned to just keep going." 

More often than I'd like, we're told that individually and as a couple we are inspiring, strong, and/or amazing. While those kinds of compliments are certainly flattering, I do not see myself as inspiring, or strong, or amazing. I don't believe Mr. PNU sees himself that way either. We certainly never aspired to being pedestalized for overcoming great challenges. You know, a beacon couple. Who actually does that? These kinds of struggles, they're hard. Harder even than other points in my life when I was dealing with crap that most people never consider experiencing. Harder than anything I thought I could ever get through. The kind of hard that keeps on giving, that if you're any kind of decent human you'd never wish on anyone.

So most of the time, I'll say thank you. But, because I know myself, this sort of praise makes me feel awkward in my skin. Because the woman I know isn't strong, barely fakes amazing, and certainly hasn't lived a life that anyone would call inspiring. What I think is that I'm contentious—a fighter. Maybe a little daring and creative and fun at times. But I get that those can be flaws too. I tell Mr. PNU I'm his eternal manic-pixie-dream-girl. Although they're great tropes, no one really wants to marry a manic-pixie-dream-girl. They're stepping stones. Catalysts for growth in others, tenacious and stubborn, a little too smart for their own good, not nearly patient enough to be wise, usually in possession of the largest, most delicate egos to grace the planet. Usually temporary. 

These are not qualities that I consider inspiring, nor worthy of aspiration. But I'm right there with my husband in admitting that I'm not a quitter. Even when there's no "winning" to be had. Especially when the odds are not in our favor. And yeah, I could spend day after day wishing our lot were otherwise, but instead persistence, or moving through makes far more sense. I mean, let's be real. There's no use wishing our reality were otherwise when it simply cannot be. The concept of wishing has become rather irritating to me because of the requirement to persist post-stroke or bail. But I never wish I were somewhere else. I never wish I weren't right here fighting with Mr. PNU. Truth is, hard as this situation is, I'm also excruciatingly happy. I'll leave it to everyone out there to figure that juxtaposition.

For so long I've written about reconstructing life after devastating change or loss. I'd accepted, and maybe assumed too hastily, that permanence was not a facet of my experience and never would be. But I think what I'm seeing surface now in my narrative is not a restructuring, or a redefinition. I'm venturing now into the territory of lastingness and what it takes to create an enduring presence in the universe. Maybe until this stroke and the eclipsing changes to this, the most exquisite of marriages, I was incapable of recognizing the possibility that's emerged; the idea that the personality quirks littering the rubble of my past ruins, are quite possibly the bedrock of my future's sure foundation. I suppose what I'm getting at is that I agree with my husband about the repurposing of my life as a caregiving spouse. This trial has taught me not that I must keep going, but that I do. Which means that we—the poet-philosopher-beacon-couple—persist. Which, in turn, means that persistence is what makes life worth living, manic-pixie-dream-girl or not.

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