Collecting Guilt

With everything so hectic with the beginning of teaching, Shiloh going to daycare, and teaching three nights a week, I was burnt out. I could feel myself spinning viciously like a metal top, wobbling just enough to show instability. I toppled over last Friday, curled up in my classroom during lunch because I had no words to say. By all accounts, I shouldn’t be stressed at all. This is just life, and I was trying to figure out why I wasn’t adjusting as well and I wanted.

September is National Ovarian Cancer Month, and I suppose I began to feel the expectation to have it all together, to paint my skin teal, and to display my life as a paragon of a stage IV cancer survivor. I am none of these things. I’m still trying to figure out what all of it means and how to stop introducing myself as a cancer survivor first.

So I took last weekend to mentally recharge with both my families, then sat down Sunday night to process my emotions to avoid another shutdown. It was during the usual time I do my best writing: Shiloh was asleep, the fan on, the sun set, and Luna-bug at my feet. For a class I’m taking for my second master’s degree, I wrote in a few styles to aid in personal expression and to access my subconscious feelings. One by one, my frustration burst like overfilled pipes and suddenly I was standing in a foot of ice cold guilt.

Though I love teaching college at night, I was feeling the pressure of “having” to do it for the pay. I’ve always been a spender, and I normally do not put much value on finances, as long as the bills are paid, because when we all pass away, our checking accounts won’t transfer to Heaven. However, this weed of stress was deeply rooted in something I couldn’t control.

I know it’s no one’s fault I was ever sick with cancer. Our families and friends were a tremendous lifeline for us both financially and emotionally, but there are still some bills lingering as a direct result of not being able to work for six months. For the most part, my body has healed, and I’ve accepted the new physical reality. I don’t look like I was ever sick and can finally sport a pony tail without an exorbitant amount of bobby pins, but the wrecking of our finances as we tried to get back on our feet still suffocates me. I feel like I have to keep trying to erase any evidence of disease. I want our finances to declare “no evidence of recurrent metastatic disease”, not just my CT scans.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been trying to overwork, to try to undo what was never my fault, but a situation in which I have been secretly collecting the guilt like discarded pennies on a sidewalk.

So as much as I would like to be a symbol of strength, I’m not there yet. I’m still coping with cancer aftermath. This year in September, I’m not ready to rally beside my teal sisters, running the ovarian cancer banner for awareness because I’m still coping.

So today, I’m going to break the penny jar of guilt I collected which I was never meant to do. We are all in this together, and I hope next year I am stronger.

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