Writing On The Ceiling

Be, am, is, are, was, were, been, being. Today is. Tomorrow was. I’ve always had a great respect for words. I taught my students that if they could control their writing; they could control their world. The ability to write meant they could frame their world the way they wanted when they wrote about it. I do believe that idea, just not so much today. Today, I would write differently.

Today I check what is the world I can’t control. Bronte’s cancer will not get better. It will deteriorate. Eventually, she will not look herself at all. She can no longer eat from her bowl. It bothers her too much. I imagine it’s that she can’t get her mouth opened far enough to lick the edges. She eats off a plate. She sleeps most of her day. While sleeping or lying down, she’s come to drooling. Her drools grow bloody. She has started coughing, not a dry cough, but one with something in it. Her breathing today sounds like how we would sound with a really bad cold, only it’s not a cold. All of this check list can only mean more pain and more meds.

Growing up, I learned an emotional survival tool. As a child, whenever I was in an overwhelming emotional situation that I couldn’t get out of,  I would simply let my inside leave and float up to a corner of the ceiling in the room. I would watch whatever bad or sad thing was going on, but I would be safe. I no longer was a participant; I was a spectator and could not be hurt emotionally. As an adult, I have continued to keep this tool in my back pocket. Up in the corner of the ceiling, I could see myself on the floor go through the motions. I was looking at a scenario being played out, like I was watching a movie. Up in the corner, what I was watching was not real; it was pretend and could not hurt me. And on the floor, what part of me was left in the situation had little or no feeling left. On the floor, I simply endured and persevered telling myself it had to end sometime. Telling myself, it will be over soon. I will deal with it afterward alone.

Bronte awoke and asked to go out at 5:30 this morning. While she was out, I prepared her latest meal of choice: scrambled eggs and doggie hash (her canned dog food). It’s strange, but the meal actually smells pretty good while cooking. I thought, “the last breakfast.” The tears started to come. I finished cooking and plated the meal. I cut up her “peells,” as we call them in our house. I put the plate aside, up high (away from Erik and Harley), so it can cool. I fixed Erik and Harley’s breakfast. Then I went to wait by the kitchen door. I watched and waited. I lost controlled and just cried. I cried enough that my shoulders shook. When I saw Bronte come around the corner from the shed, I stopped. “I can’t do this all day,” I thought. “She deserves a good day.” It’s raining outside; it doesn’t need to rain inside.

I take the deep breath, wipe my eyes, and decide the day will be spent up in the ceiling. I cannot control the cancer. I cannot control time and slow it down. I can give Bronte dignity. I can give myself good memories. I can lie here on the couch with Bronte sleeping next to me and write our day. I cannot write the day I want. Tomorrow I will slip back down from the ceiling and write, “the day was.” Today I can only write “the day is.”


2 thoughts on “Writing On The Ceiling

  1. I went to a professional workshop on grief last week which reminded me that all loss is about feeling attached and loved and the fear/pain of losing that attachment. I also read a book that had been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time, Dog Years by the poet Mark Doty about the lives and loss of his retrievers. There is nothing so precious as love and attachment, and nothing so painful as it’s imminent loss. In 2001, before Mozart and Shante came along, we lost Hyatt to cancer at 15, a Husky-Collie mix who hated all dogs and loved all people. I was so broken-hearted, I had to take a day and a half off from work, I couldn’t counsel people. Then my first day back, I went for a run at 5:30 PM to clear my head, and saw everyone out walking their dogs, and cried all the more. The grief for a pet is so pure, I think that’s why it hurts so much – no ambivalence involved. I think there’s only ONE emotional thing we do better than dogs, they are better at all others. We are just barely strong enough to survive their loss, and I don’t think they survive ours. I think that’s why the universe made us live longer.

    God bless you in the day and week ahead, I’m so honored to share this journey with you through your writing.
    Love, Shelly

  2. Cathryn,
    I know Bronte will be waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge.
    she is running and playing now, but patiently waiting for you when ever the time comes for you to join her.


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