On Tuesday, the same day my father-in-law, one of the best men on earth, finally got home after intense heart surgery, Michael and I learned a tiny almost-nothingness in my right lung is not quite so tiny anymore. The type of cancer I first got in 2005 has been called aggressive, and fortunately so are the specialists who care for me. We don’t know if this spot is cancer, but it’s really too little and too out of the way to biopsy, so we’re going after it, as they say. The surgery will be a simple video-assisted scope. Well, it should be simple for a highly trained surgeon, I mean. He’ll cut it out – all the way out. Then, even if it turns out to be cancer, I’m cured again.
Now, collective sigh. Cuz it’s all going to be okay. I was just writing about it. I had it saved in a little draft on the backside of my website before I even discovered this little nuisance. Here’s what I was thinking:
I’ve mentioned how much I loved The Dark Knight Rises – how it had all the elements, a list which must include (for me) a little hope. I like the light at the end of the tunnel, or – even better – the whole bloody sunrise. I felt happy at the end of The Dark Knight Rises sort of like the happy that comes at the end of Shawshank, only the former made us endure three full films of Will This Ever Turn Around rather than the three hours of Shawshank. And when The Dark Knight rose, that is one of the many things of which I sat in awe – as in, literally sat, staring at the screen, in awe. The creative discipline it took to tell us that full story with all its hideous jokers, its corruption, its heartbreak, the dark hero and his demons, the friends who loved him and wanted so desperately to see him fully redeemed – three films of that suspense before they gave us the sunrise. How did they do it? Knowing Robin would show up in the third one, how did they leave him out of the others? Knowing Bruce would finally stop breaking Alfred’s heart, how did they make Alfred cry so many times beforehand? Knowing Batman would eventually be immortalized and honored, how did they not cut corners on his journey there?
I am determined to learn this lesson for my own storytelling – the ones I tell on paper and the one I live. I don’t want to be broken anymore. I’m tired of all the cancer. I feel like we all struggle through Tuesdays and weekends and seasons – one after another – just wondering when the next hard phone call will come, another reality that is, as John Green writes it, a side effect of dying. I wish it weren’t true. I wish Eden had lasted. At least I think I do.
But then we come through yet another horror. We’re better after it, and stronger. We can’t believe we came through, and we’re so proud and so relieved that we did, that it feels even more happy than the happy that came before. We reach the sunrise after the dark, cold night, and it was worth it.
It takes discipline to write the whole story, including all the sad before the beautiful. Similarly, it takes strength to be the story, to trust our rough and broken life, ends up at beautiful, too.