Sunday, June 29, 2008

Terminal and Eternal

"Eternity," mixed media collage, 5" x 9"

Terminal: (adj.) of, at, relating to, or forming a limit, boundary, extremity, or end.

Eternal: (adj.) being without beginning or end; existing outside of time.

I am trying to decide what to do here. Do I write honestly, exposing my sadness in all its complex and messy incarnations? Or do I try to stay "professional" and not expose too much of my personal life for this blog? Do any of you deal with this? How do I balance being a healing guide and presence for others and also tell my real life story as part of my own creative expression? That is, after all, what I encourage my clients to do: express their feelings through writing or art or talking or singing or dancing or standing on their heads. It's important to express it, release it, and feel the healing that comes with identifying the pain and letting (at least part of) it go.

I feel that perhaps I've been hiding behind my art since February (when my father's cancer was revealed) because writing hurts too much. In an attempt to remain "professional" I haven't used this blog to deeply express myself. I have been so scared of exposing my own personal pain (I often wondered, will blog visitors feel repelled and run for the hills?). I've hinted at my pain, I've inserted it in images or a few words or a paragraph, but I haven't written, "My father is severely ill and I feel like my world is falling apart." I haven't written,"I had to go to the ER for a severe panic attack in March and I've been struggling with anxiety ever since." I haven't written, "Sometimes it hurts to be happy." There. I've written it. I feel like I've just punched myself in the gut. Now I have to remember to breathe as I write the rest of this post. Yikes. Please breathe along with me, will you?

My dad has advanced kidney cancer and it seems to be advancing in many ways. Last week my father told me that his doctor used the word "terminal" to describe his cancer. My dad said this to me out of breath as he was taking off his shoes and socks on a hot afternoon. He said it in the same manner as "pass the ketchup" and that's just what I had to do: catch up. Rewind. Rewind again. Terminal. Terminal. Terminal. I felt like I was on a train, trying to reach the terminal where my dad was waiting for me. Timing is all guess work with cancer. But my dad demanded that his doctor give him some cold, hard facts. I feel like stomping on these facts and making wine out of them. I feel like taking the statistics on the Scrambler ride and making them dizzy. I want the numbers to jumble and re-arrange.

I have been leaky for days now. Tears come sometimes on cue and sometimes unexpectedly, but most of all I feel like I am in a dream. My life feels a bit mushy and blurry, like at any point I could disappear into the landscape -- and sometimes I want to. At times I want to fade into the purple walls of my bedroom and take a break from all of this. And I feel caught in a place of wanting to hold hope (for my dad is making some progress and there other treatments he could try) and wanting to stay grounded in reality. I don't want to be naive, but I also feel that positive intentions and hope can be powerful forces in healing.

"Hope" collage, 4" x 5"

My mom told me that when my dad heard that "T" word the other week, he started telling people at work, "I am terminal." My mom got angry with him. She said, "You are not terminal. Your illness may be categorized that way, but we're all going to die. You are forever. You are eternal. You will be with me always." Since hearing about their conversation, I've been contemplating this duality of terminal and eternal. I don't feel I have enough in me to start a philosophical discussion of these two adjectives. I am just holding them both in my hands and in my heart, hoping that they don't fight too much--hoping that they'll lead me to some slice of peace, some comfort or understanding.


  1. L and I think you're pretty awesome, C. And very brave.

  2. I am so sorry that you and your family must go through this. I wish for you the strength to get through what is a very rough passage.

  3. My mom forwarded me your blog, and I could definatly identify with your query. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer three weeks ago. I have a hard time deciding whether to make my blog more personal too, since I use it primarily as a semi-proffesional tool. I am glad you are asking these questions, because I often feel like my blog is so surface level, even when my art is not. Thank you for giving me, an artist with a sick parent, some food for thought. Good luck to you and yours, and hopefully I can put a some more personal touches and myself into my blog in the future.

  4. Thank you for struggling som eof it into words, and blessing the rest me..

  5. I'm glad you decided to share this with us. My father was diagnosed with leukemia 17 years ago. We knew it was terminal ,but Daddy fought it and enjoyed a quality of life for the next 11 years. He sailed to the Florida Keys three more times; he watched his grandchildren grow up; he mended fences with me and Ava. He died a a happy man 12 years after his initial diagnosis. I'm very grateful for those 12 years because they changed my whole life. I had a father who loved me. I didn't know that before. It was hard knowing he was sick, but we shared a lot during that time.

    Six years ago my husband defeated cancer, when doctors only gave him five more years. He's been completely cancer free for the past four of those years. I believe in the power of faith because life has taught me to. Don't you give up. You don't know what gifts the future will bring. Lean on people, ask for help, pray, write, meditate, hope.

    Love and blessings to you and your father.


  6. Your mom got it right in the sense that we are all ultimately terminal. Yet despite accepting that, it's not the 'what' but the 'when' that causes distress and anxiety.
    Honor your tears,your pain, your wish to espcape into the purple walls, your righteous desire to stomp (do it! stomp on something), your feeling of just falling apart. Do that. Feel it, experience it, and once done, you can let it go (repeat many times!). Then your place can be real, and you will be better able to convey and inspire the positive intentions and hope that definitely are powerful forces in healing.
    Spend all the time you can with your dad, without an end in sight. Just be with him, infusing him with your good will and spirit.
    Breathe deep, take full breaths, acknowledge your emotions as you have here, and share them with us your friends.
    I am with you and I love you.

  7. I love you Courtney. I am there for you and your family through this. And remember that sometimes our "writing days" can and should be "talking" "walking "crying" or "whatever" days.

  8. I am overwhelmed by all of your comments. Thank you for holding a safe space (albeit a cyber-space) for me to express myself. Thank you for your support, your positive thoughts, and your love.

    So, people won't run for the hills! You all proved it!

    peace, love, and healing,


  9. It's a hard thing you're dealing with. Take care of yourself and know that there are so many who will love and support you.

  10. I think that it's always better to share about what you're going through. It will pull together a warm circle of caring hearts that can help you through those tough times. Angels abound.......... Healing words.... healing hearts... releasing fear. I send you love and peace and courage. Blessings.