When standing within a waterfall, I stand firm, letting it thunder onto and over me. I laugh, because it is terrifying, and if too weak to feel the pull downward, the dance of balance to not end fallen and smashed where I stand, then it never seemed to count. Standing in a waterfall like that is an attempt at control where it cannot exist.
An extra surge of water and I teeter, my tongue hangs out with the bleat of fear and surprise. My bare feet curl the edge of the rock, balancing against the polish and slick of it. I can see people watching, but I can’t hear them. My mouth is open and I am screaming, but all I hear is the water’s bellow as it rushes and crashes onward, with the sound rebounding and surrounding me.
I’d hike out to the waterfalls, or travel to them. And the unguarded ones, there I could lose myself in the falls, usually past a rusted ‘Danger’ sign. Inside the funnel of thrashing thunder, the sounds inside me, the voices outside, all are distant. The pulse of the river becomes my pulse, slammed into me from above, shaking the heart, ribs, into quivering legs. Inside me, in my mind, I imagine I can hear the howl from the water, pulled from the earth, as it shouts exultant. But the waterfall doesn’t know me, and doesn’t care about me. I remind myself of that. It has no fury, it has no anger, but it still pounds rock to broken shards and I am not made of stone.
I was asked what ‘it’ is like, living now? ‘It’ is that gorgon knot of pain, isolation, and the fingers and connections I feel leaving, no matter how much I yearn. It is this part of dying, while still desperately alive, when they can only watch.
“It is like standing under a waterfall.” My hands, my body are reverberating to the boom of a heart exploding. “It is like standing under the waterfall, and never being able to leave.”
At the gym I train myself to feel the tearing in my heart and keep going, and soon, I hope, I won’t even stagger as the searing pain mixes tears into the sweat rolling down my cheeks.
Feel it pound me, that waterfall, when I walk, when I wheel, when I fall on the floor of the gym, curling as best as I can into the fetal position. I hear thin voices, like whispers from afar coming from outside the body’s din. People’s voices are just noises bouncing off the eardrums, distant, like the wind that bends the dead grass which has pushed up through the snow. In here, I am still under the waterfall, and it shakes me, moving through and past me. I have to remember. Try, damn it, try to remember despite the clamor. Why isn’t it ever silent? I am keening in the back of my throat. No. No, that won’t stop it. I have to stand.
There is no way to ‘become’ the waterfall, for it doesn’t think, it gathers, it falls, and then pools and flows on. There is no managing it, just bracing myself among the thunder, pulling myself up once more. It is there when I am awake, when I dream, in the last moments of consciousness, and the first feeling that I sift through to realize that Linda is over me, the ambi-bag pushing out my cheeks and filling up the lungs…2…3…4 and push, as I breath again. I am back and I feel the roar of the waterfall slamming into me.
That is what ‘holding on’ means. And when I groan, wanting to collapse into wailing and sobbing, I remember that no one has chosen to be here but me. I remember those who held on, the friends who died, so many, and how they looked past the fury and spray and reached out to me because I was new and scared. They had heart.
But god, I get so tired.
It isn’t about ‘spoons’ but rather heart and grit. In the world where I stand and holding on, there is another world, which races past like a freeway, like the M4 of people moving so fast I can barely see them, or hear as they shout out about ‘life’ and ‘too busy.’ To hear 'life' and see the blur moving away while I am lost in precarious living is to hurt. But to do more in life than hurting, reaching beyond that, is like raising an arm from under the smashing weight of the waterfall, a mixture of defiance and joy. And so, there is an accomplishment in the mundane: reading a letter, even just eating is hard won, writing this, sometimes stopping and just breathing; a deep breath while wheeling, noting the last of autumn colours. Seeing the world I love, the people I love from further and further away is always bittersweet, but each moment or hour stolen is filled within not with melancholy but the kind of warm joy felt as a child from each page I read under the sheets. It feels like the memory of tying the knots on my shoes correctly. The secret smiles. There might not be anyone to praise the milestones, and knowing I am more than just blind enduring agony isn’t always enough, but it helps.
I know sometimes, there is in my eyes that pleading of a wounded and long hunted deer, or a fox chased to exhaustion, where beyond the survival, the rapid gasping which barely hold back the mewling, the yelp which asks ‘why?’ And in the eyes and the wail, a sound of desperate misery and the open face aching, delicate from betrayal. The eyes show a spirit battered and succumbed, opened wide, empty beyond the pulsating, the pummeling, and my eyes stop flitting from face to face and settle, staring in hope, asking silently, ‘Will it be over now?’
4 hours ago