On Knowing What This Might Mean
Impermanence now seems
permanently etched in my mind-
cherry blossom girl.
When setting up my blog I was torn between two Japanese philosophies to sum up how I was feeling. Kintsugi (which you can see I plumped for in the end!) was one, but I also love the concept of mono no aware. Literally translated as ‘the pathos of things’, or often ‘an empathy toward things’, it derives from the Japanese word mono, meaning ‘thing’, and aware which was a Henian period expression of measured surprise (like ‘oh! or ah!). So it’s often been translated as ‘the ‘ahh-ness’ of things, of life, and love. It’s an awareness of the impermanence or transience of things, and a fleeting feeling of wistfulness or slight sadness at their passing. Or it can also refer to that deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.
So as in kintsugi where the flaws and broken bits are party of an object’s story and add to its beauty, in mono no aware the transience of all things simply heightens your appreciation of their beauty, and evokes a gentle sadness at their passing. I think living with a life limiting illness does that to you – it’s a bittersweet state to be in.
In Japan, cherry blossoms are often a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life . The transience of the blossoms, the beauty and short flowering period mean they have often been taken to symbolise mortality. The events of last week with my rubbish scan results have made me consider my mortality once more. I often think of the other young women I’ve known from various support groups for secondary breast cancer. I look at photos or names and feel a wave of sadness and fear when I realise so many have left us already. Young women – mothers, sisters, wives, friends, workmates. Women who had everything to live for. I think of their beauty and strength and character and humour, i think of my cherry blossom girls.
Usually I’m happy to live in a convenient bubble of denial, burst only by occasional hospital visits or treatment or updates, good and bad, from others I know on a similar journey. For the first time though things seem a bit too real. For the first time I’ve realised I am impermanent, that things are changing and I can’t outwit this disease for ever. For the first time I feel like cancer may just have the upper hand.
I’ll call its bluff for now though…