After the last blog post, amidst the remainders of glacial ice and stubborn snow, I found myself restless and resistant to moving forward. I was setting new goals and had started the treatment on my face. I was executing the plan, documenting the journey, and happily holding the belief that spring would arrive momentarily. Simple. So why the sense of struggle?
One of my earliest experiences with board games was playing the one my father called Snakes and Ladders. I enjoyed the game, which did seem, even to one with limited experience, to be a wonderful metaphor for life, and I distinctly remember being disappointed because it had nothing to do with snakes. Learning to read cleared the confusion, it was actually Chutes and Ladders. I chocked it up to having a dad who’s first language was not English. Later, I discovered the game came from England and WAS originally called Snakes and Ladders.
Snakes have always fascinated me. They are everywhere, and seem to have an uncanny ability to surprise one at each encounter, even when actively sought. The fact that they shed their entire skin in one piece, pick up the vibrations around them, smell through their tongues, and effortlessly maintain the perpetual care of such long standing mythology continues to hold my attention.
Over the years, snakes have been a recurring theme, often appearing in my physical reality, dreams, and artwork. In a Mandala series, created over the course of several years, a number of pieces featured snakes in the design. In fact, snakes have been so important to my life, that for many years I have held the title “Snake who Dances in the Moonlight with the Beavers” but that is a whole different story. All this is simply to say, you’d think by now I would know how to handle them.
A week or two before the race I had taken my mother to make a condolence call. My mom was not close to the person who died, but went to support his family, and I admired her as she endured the lengthy service. I could see the toll it was taking on her to remain standing for such a long time, with only her cane for support. I also knew that she would be cross if I tried to intefere.
I closed my eyes so I could no longer see the effort causing beads of sweat to form on my mother’s forehead. I focused on the prayers instead. The sounds rose and fell as I wondered if the people reciting them took comfort from their meaning or the trancelike state that they induced. Floating along on the current, I thought about the last time I heard them and how closely I had been watching my mother that day while trying to manage my own grief.
I marveled that the words no longer held any direct meaning for me personally, yet I found the sum of them still, oddly comforting. They are the same prayers recited when my father and other family members have passed away. At that moment an innocent snake appeared, with the realization that they will also be spoken when this time of caring for mom is over. I immediately became aware of an auditory overlay, a second set of prayers, echoing from this future past, and experienced a sense of intense vertigo. On the way home that night I felt a sense of divine presence and the ladder of knowing I will be forced to call upon this image of her strength and resiliency when that time comes.
After that things got pretty busy so I put the thoughts aside and kept going. My face which initially felt itchy and picky had progressed, as it is supposed to – to the point where it burned when I laughed or opened my mouth to eat. It didn’t feel like skin at all. Even with a high tolerance to pain, I found and find myself awake in the night practicing deep belly breathing that is necessary to keep myself from scratching, and seems to alleviate some of the sensation, that Pop Rocks Candies are crackling over my face.
I was thinking about the pain in my face, while continuing to look on the bright side and happily walking Molly a couple of evenings ago. “People stop and stare. They don’t bother me.” Have I never mentioned my family’s attachment to the singing of Show tunes? I knew all the words to EVERY song from My Fair Lady before I was ten. Much of life has had an accompanying side track from aptly selected musicals, I just don’t talk about it, you can understand why.
There I was, belting it out…”And there’s no where else on earth than I would rather be.” I bowed under the streetlight to take a breath, my face crackling in the process - bring it home sistah. “Knowing I’m, on the street, WHERE I Livvvvve.” My laughter was short lived, I burst into tears for no reason, other than no one being there to share my joke. The snake skin fluttered to the cold asphalt near my foot. “OH CRAP.”
All this time, I have been worrying about mileage, splits, race pace, and how to get from our hotel in NYC to H&M, I have also been inadvertently distracting myself from a truth I really wish didn’t have to, pardon the expression, be faced. Once Molly, and Mom leave this earth who in the world will love and care for me in the day to day?
As is often the case, shedding the first layer has revealed something a bit more raw than I bargained for. Although I am looking forward to the fresh new skin that will eventually appear, I am left half wishing that the beautiful new snake skin had revealed itself to someone else.