The Katie Murray Blog: Heart Listening

Heart Listening.

I keep throwing away all my old clothes - anything that reminds of my pre-cancer self and myself in treatment. Especially the clothes I was wearing just before the diagnosis in the winter of 2019. Our clothes hold our stories. And when I open my soft-green wooden drawers and hear the confusion and pain, I know I will never put them back on my new body.They smell of betrayal to me. I can barely bring myself to pick them up and touch them, they stare at me in my tumbled drawers and ask: how did you not know you had a 7cm tumour in your right breast?  The ‘good news’ jumpsuit’ I celebrated the unexpected news that the 9cm tumor on my adrenal gland was benign? Gone. I can’t imagine putting my legs into it’s happy turquoise without drowning in the sea of images that are lodged, the fear and isolation of the surgery at the height of Covid. So they go to the charity shop - the Cancer Research one, naturally. And I tell myself I’m shedding skin, that it’s a natural thing to do, to get rid of everything you used to be.

Bags and bags leave the house. My hair grows. I realise I have no idea who I am now.

Bags and bags leave the house, looking for new owners. My eyelashes are back and my hair grows. Curly now too, which is a treat. I have no idea who I am now.

But I know how I want to feel. It comes quietly and invisibly, like seeds caught on the breeze. I know I would rather watch my plants grow than track the changes in my face. I used to look for lines and wrinkles, signs of getting older, grey hairs would horrify me. Really they did. That all seems absurd now to me.

Still bags of clothes leave the house. They are impatiently ripped from their chaotic slumber, where they are quite unaware of how much they offend me. They are ripped out like unwanted weeds, and there is a repulsion, a gut-churning disgust inside me. I feel it and do not know what to do with it. So the clothes get stuffed in bags. Then they sit patiently in the hallway. I like to build them up, the relief and lightness is proportional to the weight that is left, dropped off, handed over. And when I have a good day - or something imperceptible shifts inside me - then I will buy a second hand dress, somebody else’s old pain re-fashioned, or sometimes a plant, and there will be a silent and private ceremony between me and the dress or the plant. This one is for Hope, I might whisper to the ground or the threads as they swirl around my sun-tanned knees. This one is for listening to your heart, slowing down to make space to talk to your heart and to listen to her honeyed voice. The burnt sienna earth might warm up under my fingers as I plant these words. This one is to mark the changes that are hard to see, to celebrate the progress only your soul or your faithful heart can feel.

I now know the beauty of stillness. I feel the quiet moments like bursting buds. I know if I put my hand on my heart I can hear my heart speaking to me, the tender, warm, honey-coated, deep voice of my heart. I may not know who I am but I know I hear my heart speaking. I know I feel. I know it brings me comfort.