My sister, Kerin, and I were talking about the practice of writing when upset. Kerin blogged on the Caring Bridge website last year while she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and she told me that when she was angry or freaked out, writing on the blog helped her sort out her thinking and calmed her down. While I have also found that writing helps me find clarity, I have never once been happy that I’ve sent out something I’ve written when upset. Never. I rant like a crazy person when I’m angry and when I’m scared I’m a self-pitying mouse. Emotional strain is helpful to feed and inform my public writing, but when the heat of the moment is driving, I’d better be working in my diary. Journaling is like spewing out the bad stuff: depression, anger, and fear. Post-purge is where I can assemble the framework of the facts, the impressions and the appropriate level of emotional temperature. I just run blazing hot or icy cold initially and I have to let the tap run awhile before I have something I can work with.
This week things played out differently. It was a stressful week in general, which tends to lower my threshold for an emotional spike. Then my mom called with the news that she was just diagnosed with breast cancer, an invasive type that looks like the one my sister spent a year battling with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. We hope that Mom’s hasn’t spread as far as Kerin’s had but until her surgery, we don’t know. She’s 700 miles away. For three days I couldn’t write anything. I think I was so overwhelmed with helplessness and fear that I couldn’t work up a single thought even to scribble privately. As I am moving through the steps toward accepting all this I am feeling calmer. I am trying to temper the apprehension with hope and faith. I am seeking practical applications for my nervous energy. I am taking naps and trying to restrain myself from self-medicating with alcohol and carbs. The workouts continue. Significantly, I am ready to start putting words down on paper again. Because after the ground crumbles underfoot, it is time to climb out and start reassembling.
In the meantime, prayers for Mom’s full return to health are appreciated.