I once heard the idea that at the extremes of the political spectrum, left begins to mimic right, conservative mirrors liberal, and the two overlap a great deal. This makes good sense to me, although it’s surprising in this era of “make your own truth and yell about it” and “vilify the opposition at any cost.” To a certain extent, I think the polarization of politics is comfortable to us humans. We know right where to align ourselves and we don’t have to spend a lot of time or brain power thinking about it. Good versus Bad. Truth versus Lie. “For the people” versus “Out for themselves.” To think that taking one ideology to the extreme might land one right on the other team? Preposterous!
Of course, the truth is much more nuanced than our familiar alphabet soup news channel polarization implies. The idea of us all lined up along a spectrum is not quite as simple as two defined camps. Good bleeds slowly into bad and vice versa, in politics and cancer and life. And bless my perfectionist, concrete-feedback-seeking heart, that sucks for me. Here’s what I’ve realized in life with glioblastoma:
Though comforting, simple dichotomies don’t exist. Every happy memory, when viewed through a certain lens, is tinged with sadness a la Disney Inside Out. Ride each radical hope far enough and you’re bound to crash into sickening, familiar fear. And sweet moments of gratitude are often infringed upon by grief. I want 20 more years like this with my mom: relaxing, soaking up each other’s physical presence, laughing at ourselves and helping one another the best we know how. And I desperately yearn for 58 more years with my pre-diagnosis, stunningly beautiful, supremely capable, and completely compassionate mom. I want this so much my heart aches and my eyes well and I daily battle with the truth that no matter how hard I try, no matter how good I am, no matter how deserving my family is, I can’t control the outcome. Occasionally I’ll come across an old voicemail or email and I’m bowled over by grief-gratitude. It’s a trip, ya’ll. (Not the fun kind. But it is somewhat nice. You get the idea…)
Intuitively, (and fortunately), the converse holds true. I am shocked to find sweetness in the lowest, darkest valleys that seem incapable of bearing such fruit. During a literal low not too long ago (a fall to the ground), I rushed to my mom’s aid and before doing much, she said “thank you, love you baby.” From her location. On the floor. Oof. During our darkest phase (many moons ago now), Mom couldn’t talk much or clearly make her needs known. But she always stroked my hair and hugged me back, and when she whispered or quietly verbalized, damn if it wasn’t always sweet. There’s a certain carefree and filter-free nature to my mom these days, and it’s kind of lovely to get on that level with her. I think we could all benefit from operating there from time to time. She moves more slowly, but she has a better appreciation for her surroundings, and she asks wonderful and curious questions. And though in certain ways she’s not herself, it’s as though her internal compass is exquisitely calibrated and points due north: to kindness and love.
So where does that leave me? It leaves me loving her, enjoying her, championing her, celebrating her, and fiercely protecting her safety and dignity. And simultaneously, it leaves me mourning her, wanting her back, wrestling with this unfamiliar responsibility, juggling some home-home-work-life balance issues, and desperately trying to carve out time for myself. It leaves me acknowledging that the highs are always a teeny bit low, and the dark is always shot through with goodness and light. It leaves me clinging with all my might to the good, even as some of it seeps hopelessly through my white-knuckled hands. It leaves my perfectionist, concrete-feedback-seeking heart struggling a bit. And it leaves me thinking politicians ought to be a bit more flexible on the details.
It’s not at all comfortable here, in the margins, where one thing blurs right into the next. But it helps knowing that feelings are fluid and nuanced and fleeting. And so, too, are our experiences and memories. And so, too, are we. See how nice/terrible that is? It really is the best/worst place to be. And while I can’t fully endorse life in the margins, I can promise to embrace and accept you should you find yourself here. There’s plenty of room for interpretation in this weird ass spectrum. There’s plenty of room for all.