Things Fall Apart: Musings from Limbo

Lost in place.

…Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand…

From The Second Coming
by William Butler Yeats:


Well, I’d like to think some revelation was at hand. But when I’m in limbo, it’s hard to tell when the end of it might be revealed.

It’s also hard to describe limbo. By its very nature, it defies description, flouts my attempts to pin it down. After all, if I could describe it, I might not, in fact, be in it anymore.

I can tell when I’m in it, though. I don’t feel quite like myself, as though my edges were blurry. I don’t look blurry to anyone else. Outwardly, I function. I do remember to turn off the coffee pot before I leave the house, put some crunchies in the cat dish, grab my keys. I remember to show up for work, put on the parking brake before I get out of the car. The underpinnings of daily life keep me from falling off the edge of this formlessness. It reminds me a little of the immediate shock-and-awe phase I went through right after I was diagnosed, but without the adrenalin rush. A rush would be nice, actually. It would be more interesting than feeling like a cardboard cut-out of my usual self.

I guess the good news is that, if Yeats was right, then at least I range among ‘the best.’ I certainly seem to ‘lack all conviction.’ It would be nice, though, to have a little ‘passionate intensity.’ I almost wouldn’t mind having a flat-out temper tantrum, but I can’t seem to work myself up enough for one.

Sigh. This is not a new thing. When I look back, I seem to hit a limbo skid about this time every year since I finished acute treatment late in 2008. My post-cancer-treatment, mid-winter slouch. A year ago, I turned to song lyrics by Shawn Colvin to describe it:

China gets broken
And it will never be the same
Boats on the ocean
Find their way back again
I am weaving
Like a drunkard
Like a balloon up in the air
I’m needing a puncture and someone
To point me somewhere

From “Steady On”
by Shawn Colvin & J. Leventhal


I feel perhaps a little less broken this year, more glued together. I just don’t feel like the pieces are in the right place yet. Two years ago, in January of 2010, I was wrestling with acute grief over my lost self, but trying to plow through it and look ahead. My chosen song was from Cyndi Lauper, my lyric, “I wanna be the one to walk in the sun/oh, girls just wanna have fun.” The grief is not acute now, but it’s still there, like white noise. I can hear it when it’s too quiet.

The year before that, in 2009, I’d just finished acute treatment and started this blog. I’d only just “stopped freaking out on a more or less continual basis.” There was no music in my head, no poetry in my soul that January. Just a deep weariness.

So, I have felt better each year. I’m just not quite — all there yet. I don’t even know if there is an ‘all there’ there. Meanwhile, at least my cardboard cut-out self is still standing, still putting on a good front. So far, no one else seems to notice that she’s not too steady on her pins. I just need to keep her out of the wind for a while.

Here we go again.

There’s a little black spot on the sun today,
That’s my soul up there.
It’s the same old thing as yesterday
That’s my soul up there.[…]
There’s a blue whale beached by a springtime’s ebb
That’s my soul up there
There’s a butterfly trapped in a spider’s web
That’s my soul up there

I have stood here before inside the pouring rain,
With the world turning circles running ’round my brain

From “The King of Pain”
by The Police


Because I’ve lived long enough, I know that having an identity crisis is not the end of the world, although it’s quite unpleasant while it’s happening. Because I’ve been an artist long enough, I also know that fallow periods are necessary, that they do not signify emptiness. There is work going on, it’s just hidden from view. At the end of it, my cells and neurons having rearranged themselves, I will emerge, feeling less tentative, more solid, more able to meet life’s challenges, more willing to crawl out on a limb, risk myself in creativity, find myself in perspective, lose myself in laughter and friendship.

But for now, all I can do is trust — trust that the world will keep spinning on its axis, trust my faith in life, trust myself. I don’t much like it, but there are worse things than feeling rudderless. At least I’m floating and drifting, not sinking to the bottom. That’s good. Happy Limboversary to me.

And there’s always chocolate.

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This entry was written by Kathi, posted on Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 10:01 pm, filed under Art & Music, Attitude, Life & Mortality, Survivorship and tagged . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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