Yesterday morning I sat in the inside waiting room of a local cancer center. A parishioner has a recurrence and he was in for a painful test. He had told me not to come, but his wife had called me the night before hardly holding back tears, so, of course, I went.
Showing up in a cancer center is not the best thing to do when one's favored defense is denial. My parishioner, his wife. A young African American woman, baseball cap pulled snugly against her scalp. I couldn't tell whether her expression was one of defiance or defeat. An Asian woman joining in our conversation about chemo, particularly those who crow about how their chemo didn't affect their athletic endeavors. (Chemos are very different chemicals, each with different side effects. Some are relatively easy on the body; others are devastating. I wish people knew that. On the other hand "look at how strong I am is also a defense mechanism;" I just wish they would also think about other people.) Watching weak people waiting for something. Actually, they are strong people; it is their bodies that are weak.
I sat there, my heart aching for those people. As my parishioner said, "you've been through this; you understand; I can talk to you."
I went to the favorite pizza place for pizza buffet (eating is also a favorite defense mechanism), then the Penzey's spices for some replacement spices and then to the department store for make up. (I found a great eyebrow pencil that looks natural and now I have eyebrows. I lost the half of the brow from the arch to the ear not to cancer, but to Hashimoto's thyroiditis, the beginning of this saga.) I ran into a close friend, fellow clergywoman and dumped on her. When I got to the car, the words from Gerard Manley Hopkins sprang to mind "Margaret why are you grieving, over goldengrove unleaving. . . it is not leaves of grass and I forget the rest but it is that it is you, you are grieving for. Denial leaves no room for grief and show when it comes, it sneaks up like the fluffy snow storm that becomes a raging blizzard.