We moved out of our apartment yesterday. It served us well for 14 months, but neither Charlie nor I ever really loved it. We’re both city kids at heart who want to be able to walk home from the bar at midnight and be in bed by 12:15, or come home from work, change and then pop back out for dinner, or a screening, or as my mom used to love to say, to “rendezvous” with friends. So that apartment, in all of its quiet, suburban, manicured lawn, proximity to the mall glory, no longer fits.
It was, however, perfect for convalescing during chemo (which when I read out loud, sounds like a line from a twisted children’s story – as in ‘“C” is for Convalescing during Chemo when you have Cancer.’)
Moving out has been full of mixed emotions for me. While it might not have been my dream home, that place was the backdrop for the most intense year of my life. I spent whole days on that couch in that corner, too exhausted to even lift my head. I lay curled up in the bed in that other room, crying inconsolably from the intense pain and wishing for something - anything - that would make it stop. Those steps there lead down to the main office where I would go and pick up the care packages that came 3 a week - and sometimes more - that would make me cry just as hard - because acts of love and kindness are especially powerful when you’re at the bottom of a well and someone throws you a rope. And that little balcony that overlooks a quiet and tree-lined part of Tuckerman Lane? That served as my meditation space where I would go to get centered and to remind myself that living on life’s raw edges also opens you up to incredible amounts of grace.
When I was first diagnosed and considering where to get treatment and all that would flow from that, I needed to decide where I was going to live for those 6+ months. I could return to my New York apartment smack in the middle of all of Manhattan’s wonderful insanity. I could continue on holing up in Charlie’s big group house in D.C., where I had been hunkered down since my mom died, playing with the two crazy dogs and having BBQs with a revolving cast of characters that usually involved impromptu games of beer pong. My sister very sweetly offered up her house, but I knew that space needed to center around nurturing a new baby, which would be harder to do with me curled up on her couch for days on end, crying.
Just in the past two months Charlie read somewhere that Bethesda means “healing spring”. He didn’t know that when he rented the place. He only knew that I needed a quiet place to rest and to get better. The little place on Strathmore Hall Lane was perfect.
Now, 14 months later, it’s time to move on. I’m working again more than full time, planning a big event that happens next week. Let’s just say the move was not well-timed, but despite all the ways having cancer has changed me, it’s still pretty amazing (and sometimes pretty scary) how easy it is to slip right back in where I left off – namely juggling a lot and somehow making it all work. In between late nights at the office and jaunts to Chicago, Dallas and Birmingham, AL to interview America’s boardroom leaders, I’ve been packing boxes and sorting papers and trashing things that no longer serve me (orange bikini from 1995 – I’m talking to you.) Miraculously, we got it all done and somehow managed to get out just under the deadline of midnight on October 31st. Once I had time to sit still and catch my breath, I realized that I had just sped right past a moment that was the bookend to most influential chapter in my story. In my haste to get it all done, I had almost missed it. Almost.
I left for work an hour early this morning and after I got my obligatory Panera hazelnut coffee (it makes me so freakin’ happy that stuff), I stopped by the old place. Although it’s technically November 1st and I technically don’t live there anymore, I figured at 7am no one would be the wiser. I walked in just as the first rays of light were streaming through the windows. I sat, crossed-legged on the floor of the empty living room and silently thanked that little apartment for all it had given me, all the ways it had supported me the way a proper nest should. I silently thanked Charlie and my sister and my amazing dad and stepmom and sisters for all of their love and care and support. And then I thought of each one of my amazing friends and how it’s possible to feel the depths of despair and the depths of the most amazing love all at the same time. Mostly I just reflected on all that’s happened in the past year – what I know about how it’s changed me, and what I’ve yet to discover.