Rooms

I heard a part of a poem today that yelled out for attention and in the seconds the words were read, I was transported in memory and feeling.

“I remember rooms that have had their part

    In the steady slowing down of the heart.”

The words pushed me into the ‘comfy’ room of my diagnosis. The room with the plush yet hygienic seats and Ikea art on the walls. The room with the nervous student doctor, breast care nurse and surgeon who told me gently, “I’m afraid it is cancer.” The room where I lost my delusional certainty that everything would be alright and that I would live forever. The room where time and space expanded and my heart did indeed seem to slow.

When I heard these lines of the poem ‘Rooms’ I urgently Googled it to find the author, Charlotte Mew. The poem is about being rebuffed and the heart slowing down is likely a reference to the rejection of love. It’s not about cancer. But that isn’t the point. There’s a human feeling she captured that connected me to her.  Quite suddenly the people I cared about expanded to include a Victorian woman who killed herself with Lysol 44 years before I was born. All it took was sixteen words.

I felt compelled to share my experience because this past week has felt like we as human beings are more distant from each other than ever. That separation ended bloody. I fear that the coming weeks will push us further apart and the world will get uglier in increments.

But today I was reminded by a dead stranger from an unknowable past that human experiences can be shared. Those shared experiences can bridge difference, bond us, connect us in time and space. She showed me that intimacy and understanding can smash open our idea of who we love, break bread with, who we cry and laugh with, who we welcome into our tribe.

I want to trump my fears and expand that tribe.

I want to stay intimate. I don’t want us to be separate from each other.

Charlotte Mew wrote ‘Rooms’ about a lack of love. She lived in a time and place when her love was not accepted, when her very being as a gay woman was rejected. It doesn’t make a jot of difference to her sadness that so many years later, I shed tears for her loss. That I care deeply about the cruelties inflicted on her. It will make a difference that those tears count in this time and in this place.

I strive now for love. I struggle now for understanding. Come into my room where the heart speeds and races and is eagerly waiting to be shared.