I like to collect trinkets from nature. Physical representations of memories that cannot be contained. It’s usually not much. A leaf with a ruby hue. An acorn the size of a ping pong ball. A shell so pristine and white I still question whether or not it’s real. And rocks. I seem to have a thing for rocks.
I developed a love for the flat, worn rocks I’d find on the shoreline of a beach I lived near for 15 years. Walks to clear my head or enjoy the scenery would always result in at least a few new additions to my growing collection. A collection growing so fast I had been politely urged by my husband to set some free. Even so, I would still let them line my pockets.
I am drawn to these rocks for a few reasons. In a quick glance at their simple beauty they seem delicate. A deeper look reveals they’re strong and unyielding. They remind me how jagged edges become smooth, how being worn down can make you whole. I lived that process. I know it isn’t easy and every day I carry the weight of it. Sometimes I carry that weight to remember how to survive and sometimes I carry it because I forget I have to let go.
We all carry weight, little pebbles that line our pockets. Reminders of where we are, where we’ve been. The daily things. Work, family, kids. The minor nuisances. Flat tire, traffic, leaky roof, the extra bill you weren’t expecting. Bigger things. Divorce, illness, death, calamity. Each rock has its own weight, its own shape. Some we carry for brief moments, some for a lifetime.
Six years ago, back when I didn’t have this tumor, minor nuisances lined my pockets. Pebbles the size of tear drops, light as air. I’d hear them knock together as I walked, reminded of their presence, but not bothered by it. I found the lump and added a rock or three. More conscious of the growing weight.
Diagnosis. Surgery, Recovery.
I’ve no more room. Pockets full.
The cost, both emotional and financial. The time. The depressive hangover. The reality.
An avalanche of stones, overflowing. Too big, too fast. I hear them before I see them. I can’t see the end until it’s there.
As soon as the avalanche is gone, after being jerked hither and yon, I’m back to tiny pebbles knocking around in loose pockets as I walk, unaided, unfettered. Like it never happened. Back to square one. Just minor nuisances. Not bothered.
I had that recurrence, but my legs were strong. I could bear the weight. It was familiar, less scary. Then drug after drug after failure, I felt the weight. Tiny teardrops to eggs to baseballs. The rocks grew, the heaviness multiplied. Like the rocks themselves, I was beat down, tumbled end over end. Rough edges, softened. Polished to a smooth finish. Lighter, more refined.
I’ve shed the excess weight, but still I carry these stones. I bear this weight. The worry. The memories of what was once inconceivable. The looks on the faces of those who love me. The fear, projection. What if? Why?
The difference now? What stones to carry and why. Do I bear your weight with mine? Can I afford to? Can my sanity bear the load? Do I worry about the what ifs? Yes, involuntarily so, until I feel the weight. Until my pockets become too full. Then I pitch a pebble or two and watch them sink into the sea because I can’t survive another avalanche.
And that’s how it goes when you’re sick. I only have room for so many pebbles to line my pockets. I can’t bear all the weight all the time. Some get thrown hither and yon, some are worth the space, the time, the strength to carry. But, in the end, these pockets only hold so much and I can’t survive another avalanche. I won’t. I promise you.
So, I only hold so many rocks. Not too many. I can’t. I won’t. I’ll reject the weight. But I’ll always carry some because the worry never goes away. Nor the fear. The minor nuisances are always around. The weight, it’s there. I feel it. It’s familiar. I appreciate the smooth edges. I know how they came about. Tumbled end over end until the excess shakes loose. They’re beautiful, those rocks. But my pockets can only hold so much.