There has been lots of normal in the last week or so. Recovery from the first lung surgery is a relatively lightweight affair. Other than some constant tenderness and mild soreness, I'm feeling generally pretty good. Energy level is still not up to my old speed, but I guess I've gotten used to the slower me and notice it less.
Thinking about it closely, however, there are subtle changes in what denotes normal nowadays. No matter what I am doing in a day, I have this near constant awareness of the import of everything. Even the simple daily things (like morning coffee or cooking a meal) are enjoyed at a heightened level. I realize this is an effect of the many internal conversations I've had about mortality over the months of this year. But I am a little surprised that the intensity of my awareness has yet to dim. Perhaps I am lucky and this is a permanent mental change. It certainly makes every day, even those filled with basic things, that much more special.
There are moments in every single day where I think "I am so happy to be able to enjoy [this]," but also a moment every day filled with "what if this day/week is it, what could I have done instead." I've got places to go and people to do things with, and I don't want to miss any opportunity anymore. My doctors haven't had direct prognosis conversations with me. I'm not sure if any of them have dealt with a stage 4 patient that has youth and health on their side. These two factors are what everyone is banking on to get me through all the treatment and surgeries. And though we are working towards "cure", everyone knows it is only one possibility. More likely is remission for a while (hopefully a long while). The years to follow all this will be full of regular scans and tests to keep an eye out for recurrence. This is what bothers me more than anything else. That I will get a reprieve and the next bout will be truly harsh.
But I bat those negative feelings away and focus on my present. I give myself over to the details of every experience: the smell and heat of a fresh cup of tea, the warmth and gentle strength of a friend's hug, the softness of my cat's fur and the resonance of her purring, I close my eyes to better catch the details of a song. I experience and cherish things with a depth that was rarely present before. And I recognize this ability as a blessing. Through everything that has happened this year, and all to come, I have lived well, possibly better than before. This 'new normal' is far more emotionally dynamic than the old normal. I was never as engaged or present as I am now. It makes for a headier, fuller existence. My days feel longer somehow. There is a lighted edge to each new memory made. Normal has now crossed the threshold towards extraordinary. For this I am thankful.