A Mirrored Pool of Thought

At age 14 Sylvia Plath wrote, “How frail the human heart must be – a mirrored pool of thought.” Years ago when I read this I thought it a deep sentiment for an adolescent. Watching Jordan struggle with her own mirrored pool of thought this week, the poem found new meaning.

Physically, Jordan is recovering well. She adeptly moves around the house, only occasionally needing to balance herself. She appears to have less visual impairment. Nearly gone is the one-eyed squint she adopted when watching television or focusing on an object for awhile. Her appetite is back and she’s singing again.

Yet recovery requires more than physical recuperation. Jordan struggles with her own thoughts. Sometimes, she is troubled by her mind’s misperceptions. The brain is a delicate organ. It will take time for her internal CPU to finish the reboot process. The experience is often frightening for her. She is reluctant to share this fear. But occasionally it wells up and pours out of her in revealing statements – statements adults would struggle to shape themselves. For example, tonight, as I lay beside her, she said to me, “I miss me.”

Make no mistake, Jordan is getting better. Jeanette and I whisper sentiments of gratification to one another throughout the day. We relish hearing Jordan string improvisational lyrics together on our atrium patio again. Her fine motor skills are improving at a fast pace. She’s coloring again. Our little girl is returning to us, and we love it.

For all her improvements, sometimes she just gets blue. I suppose it’s important to remember that she is haunted by three interlocking traumas. First, there is the physiological trauma of the surgery. Only time will heal this wound. Our brain tissue is our cognitive memory bank. When it is disturbed, how we see the world is literally affected.

In addition to the real, physiological side-effects, Jordan is also dealing with post-operative emotional trauma. She’s been through a lot. It was undoubtedly scary. It probably hurt. And on top of it all, she was drugged out of consciousness for nearly four hours.

Finally, she’s processing the fact that she must fight a life-threatening disease. However well she may have handled the news, a diagnosis of cancer must be every bit as hard for a child to process as it is for an adult. When she is melancholy, I’m certain a part of it is connected to her diagnosis. I think to myself how scared I would be. I have no idea how I would react, and even less of an idea of how I would perceive it with the eyes of a child. This must explain why she’s having nightmares and raising concerns about “bad things” in her head.

Watching Jordan go through this is agonizing. We do everything to keep her spirits up. 90% of the time we are successful. But there is that 10% of the time where nothing we say or do can lift her. It is probably healthy to let her go through those moments of sadness and emotion, but knowing this doesn’t make it comforting. I have faith that in time, this too will pass.

She had trouble falling asleep tonight. I picked her up and we danced slowly as I sang some of her favorite songs. She requested “Baby Mine.” I started the song, crooning with my best lounge voice. Her arm wrapped around my neck. After a few lines, she patted my back with her hand. I recalled how she would do this when she was just an infant and I wondered who was comforting who.

Baby mine, don’t you cry.
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Rest your head close to my heart, never to part, baby of mine.