memory onslaught. mortality.

at the moment, i’m at a point of processing my life in a broad, strange way.  i think it’s because i am feeling stupidly emotional as my skin breaks out, and my skin crawls, and i get these persistent headaches and swollen joints and it hurts to walk up and down the stairs.  it’s almost definitely menopause. it’s been almost 8 months since my last period. thanks, body. it’s appreciated.

radiation continues to cause a crawling nausea. or, my doctor suggested it could in fact be menopause as well.  whatever it is, it’s making me cry at comics about gallbladders, or when the cats look at me for a little too long.

so i am reading old blogs.  i don’t know how that helps, but it sort of does. it takes me into different emotional seasons, and i am listening to the music that matches with them.

i feel completely overwhelmed by the boring enormity of surgeries.  i can’t get the image of my liver split open out of my mind. the terror of it rotting inside of me during the week it is slowly starved of blood. of never waking up from the surgery. of dying slowly of liver failure if something goes wrong. of all those goddamn numbers which just mean nothing, you know? nothing at all, because what does chance mean when the chances of me getting this in the first place were so low. i see this stupid film montage before my eyes.  of a breakup that cost me months of my life and i will never forget that, i will never forget what it felt like to be that split open, of a time where i went up to sydney most weekends and listened to The Organ a lot, the first time i read a Richard Yates novel, of reading Palm-of-the-hand stories in Year 12, of New York in the snow, of Arizona in the heat, of each bad decision, of each right one, of everything.  and i think of all this, all these memories, and how they will be gone soon.  there will be no mind, no brain carrying these fragments forward. this ends.  of my tattoos on my corpse.  of what it means, really means, to know you will die soon. that overwhelming sense of loss, of that beauty of the life i’ve lived, and am living, and the complete terror and heartbreak at letting go of this.  the only thing that makes me think of myself as a continuing unified self is the memories that link me, moment to moment. even now they are harder to pull out, the writing, ofter terrible purple broken garbage, that solidified those parts of my life which are romanticised.

what will i do with my emails?  what’s the point in preserving them, or sharing them? what is the point of writing this, right now, or anything, or any sense of continuity.  my knuckles keep swelling. i can feel my liver and i am so scared i can barely breathe that the tumours are growing too fast, rendering me terminally ill. i feel terror at these days where i don’t even feel like it’s worth it, like this sack of cells and memories just mean nothing.

very few people have seen me in tears over this, i realise.  one co-worker, who caught me in the tea room on the day of my second liver MRI, where i couldn’t eat for 4 hours and was feeling so sick i didn’t know how i could do it. she drove me to the appointment, waiting the hour while i lay there, filled with contrast, bound down to the table with straps and cords and padding. my partner, obviously, who is stuck with dealing with the worst of this. my partner’s mum. my sister. and other than that, i’ve worn dark glasses and tried to keep it away. i don’t want people to see how ugly and horrible it is to grieve for your own life while you stand at the end of it, while you feel and look normal.

i wrote the following piece in March, 2010. i had gotten through 2009 in once piece, and 2010 was filled with mixed blessings. i think in this, i was on the edge of another catastrophic romance. or not. i might have just been feeling a lot, as mania tends to do. i will never feel as alive as i did then.


perhaps one way of putting it is when, suddenly, your heart expands. you are just there, breathing, but it feels like your heart is growing wider and wider and swallowing another body into your flesh.  your blood beats through to the end of your fingers, but your heart beats over them as well, because, well, because it is enormous what you feel, and you are so so alive in them, and alive in yourself.

sometimes it happens slowly, growing over you gently. and you do not know where it is, or where they are, but only that they are alive in you, and you in them, pieces, pieces, but they are not fragments, they are whole.  and it doesn’t matter how many people you love like this, there is always space for more, because this feeling is enormous.  it is here, and it is on the other side of the country, and it is on the other side of the earth, or maybe sitting next to you, just there, just there.

and other times, you will just be sitting, breathing tight for some reason, almost gasping for air, and suddenly it shudders over you, and you are there, oh god, you are on the edge and it is cascading across you, under you, inside of you, consuming like a hungry ghost, and god, yes, yes, i want it, i want it now, i want it so heavy and badly, and i do not know how this happened.   pressed against each other, heartbeats chasing each other like greyhounds, who is beating faster? no race, no stopping, no starting, it just balloons out and takes you down, over and over again, it is always the same. it is always new. it is always the same.  it is never like anything else.




About elizabeth

various things.
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4 Responses to memory onslaught. mortality.

  1. katiedavis says:

    you ask ‘what is the point of writing this, right now, or anything, or any sense of continuity.’

    there are so very many points to what you are doing here. there’s processing. there’s reflecting. there’s remembering. there’s transmitting your memories to other people’s brains.

    you say your memories make you see yourself as a continuing, unified self. keep pulling them out and examining them and sharing them when it feels right because they are a fundamental part of who you are. we are a product of our experiences and experiences make memories.

    tell them and think about them however they need to be told, even if they’re romanticised. a friend of mine’s sister passed away suddenly 18 months ago. his other sister told stories that he remembered with a lot less romance. but that romance was real to her. sometimes romance is already there and we only see it later; sometimes our brains add the romance. but that doesn’t mean the romance isn’t real.

    keep making memories and shaping memories and sharing them. they are important, and not just to you. X

    and the other point of what you’re doing here: you’re writing is beautiful and you are meant to write.

  2. sayfin says:

    I came on your blog via the piece you wrote in Overland. Your writing about craft resonated with me immediately. I, too, am a relentless maker-of-things, which my partner says makes me recession-proof, but you are right that there is a privilege and fantasy in it, too.
    I am so sorry you have cancer. I am so sorry that you’re sick, that you’re faced with these impossible questions and grappling with your own life and what it means to be living but be dying. How strangely double-visioned things are. You’ve resonated with me in another way, here, because these feelings are also not wholly unfamiliar (though they are categorically different, by definition). My older sister died of cancer recently, expectedly, suddenly, unfairly. Your writing is so strong, so achingly clear. I feel such compassion for you. “How horrible it is to grieve for your own life while you stand at the end of it.” Ache, ache. And dealing with other people’s reactions; how f*cked up, to counsel them about what is yours to feel.
    Are you on Ravelry? I am sayfin there. I’d love to exchange something with you: craft, stories, music, tea.
    I hope you don’t see this as misguided or an imposition.
    Really, your writing is beautiful, your experience of your own life sounds precipitous, and if you would like any kind of support, here I am.

    • veritas says:

      thank you so much for your message. ❤

      the thing with cancer is that it's never just about the person with cancer. it fills out and fills other people's lives, just as much as it does the patient. in a lot of ways, it's easy for me. i just sit here, and do what i'm told. but the people who'll definitely survive me; that's hard. i think of how i'd feel if my partner, or sister, or a friend was diagnosed, and god, it seems far more terrifying than having to drag myself through boring treatment after boring treatment, all at the slim hope of getting it all out.
      i'm hraesvelg & have added you — and i love exchanging stories and craft. i'm also on twitter (@hrasvelgveritas) and instagram @hraesvelg — and most often are on all of these at once.
      thank you again. ❤

      • sayfin says:

        You’re a very generous writer. I think that what you’re going through is incredibly hard. There is no easy part to something like cancer. The regimens, the hospital, the sickness, the side effects, the family, the feelings, the time. It’s all hard.
        I’m really buoyed by your words, though, and your honesty, even about something so crap. It’s powerful to be able to communicate so well about something so big.

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