Today I met Rosemary.
(I hope she knows that she was the final straw of inspiration gathered to start this little creative outlet. So here goes. )
Rosemary is a stocky, 60-something year old woman with sparse, inch long blonde hair. As I plonked my weights down in the enclosed workout room of the gym you can escape to when creepy guys encroach, we got talking. I don’t like talking to people when I exercise, especially not at the gym. I pulled my headphones off in a sweat, to catch the last part of her sentence. Something about how the girl outside was complaining about exercise. Rosemary was laughing and shaking her head as she tottered around the exercise bike to adjust it. “I never used to say fuck” she said… “but fuuuck.”
Long story short; Rosemary was supposed to die 5 years ago.
She has a terminal diagnosis. Breast cancer. Her decrepit strands were the remains of her regenerating cells, despite rounds upon rounds of chemo. Her entire body was swollen due to the copious amounts of medication she was on. As she hoisted her stout self up and swung her leg over the exercise bike, she added that she had recently had a knee reconstruction and that the big blue sleeve she had around her right arm was due to burns she got from her cancer treatment. A big blue $1000 sleeve that had to be regularly replaced.
I found myself beckoning for more of her life story, music paused and breath now steady. My attention was all hers. She cycled along and told me how many “licorice bullet” lumps they found, that she must have missed. How her chest grew “fire engine red” which was a symptom of her breast cancer. This was a sign that was waved away by multiple doctors, one time with antibiotics and another with a diagnosis of sea lice irritation from her early morning ocean swims.
5th opinion lucky right?
Rosemary spent 30 years in the fitness industry and had a degree in health science. She part joked, part lamented about how she “did everything right.” Never smoked, drank or did drugs… but how she wished she had. I reassured her that there is certainly still time!
I don’t believe in the divine, let alone divine appointments. But, encounters like this do make me wonder. After this swift unravelling of Rosemary, I felt comfortable to do a bit of my own and told her a little bit about the series of unfortunate events that my year has, and seemingly continues, to lead me through. I wasn’t expecting her advice (or lackthereof). She told me I was ready for a break down. That I’d go through hell. I’m not one to be dramatic, but I told her I already had.
The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.Eckhart Tolle
There are some points in life where we have to harness every inch of our willpower to draw a distinct line between logic/reason and emotion. Sometimes it is the only way to be able navigate treacherous emotional waters. I told her that in my view, all we have is the now. The past can’t touch us and the future never really arrives. “Huh”, she pondered. “I’ve never really thought about it like that.”
My heart wilted as Rosemary mentioned nonchalantly, “No one wants to know you when you’ve got cancer, especially when it’s terminal.” I wanted to know her. I’m grateful for our meeting. Throughout our encounter, I had taken comfort in her matter of fact disposition. And somehow, as our stories melted together, the inspiration appeared mutual.
To my surprise she called ME “brave girl.” She warned me about all the deaths of hikers and climbers in the Himalayas, as I told her that I was about to venture off on my own for some solitude amongst the mountains.
Finally, I asked Rosemary how she pulls herself through each day, to which she responded:
“Everyday is a bonus.”