I’ve always claimed it bullshit when people say illness makes you better appreciate the beauty in each blade of grass. But it intensifies beauty. It makes your chest hurt and your shoulder blades feel like wings will split out of them. Your skin vibrates and you are keenly aware of every nerve. Every moment feels like a snapshot, yet full of life. Too full of life. It hurts to be on these mountain tops. The air is too thin. People say that depression physically hurts, but so does too much happiness. We’re not meant to fly so close to the sun. We’re not meant to twirl in everlasting circles.

It feels sometimes like I’m having to feel 80 years worth of happiness all at once in case I don’t have the time to spread it out. Who wrote that story about the afterlife, where you experience all your life events over again as discrete units — all your sleeping at once, all your bathing at once, all your moments of pain stacked one on top of the other? Sometimes life feels like this; this actual life.


If the peaks are defined by motion and explosion, lightness and light, the valleys are defined by stillness; woodenness. The chest does not burst open, but is heavy as though pinned by a boulder to the ground. As great as our capacity to feel joy is our capacity to feel sorrow. Someone said something like that once. And this sorrow is the price we pay to experience overwhelming happiness — happiness that is hard to enjoy since it leaves you so raw. I’m certainly in a valley right now, experiencing a little tristesse after three weeks of intense pleasure. I don’t even know why, really. My tumor markers came down. I don’t have to make any new treatment decisions for at least a month. I am going away. And still.


I read something recently about teenage girls or by a teenage girl that said essentially, I want to experience all the emotions there are to feel. I want to feel all the different intensities. And it made me wistful for those days of flat ground, when all that existed was horizon and sky.

About Alicia Louise

I'm a writer, editor, fact checker, storyteller, events organizer, chronically busy yet endlessly lazy, mildly neurotic (though I keep the neuroses well-hidden, one hopes) 32-year-old with recurrent ovarian cancer. I like people and good writing and straight talk. I have a hard time feeling sorry for people, including myself, but the people that I love, I love passionately; one may even say creepily. I try to keep that mostly to myself. I'd like to be charming, but I'm usually just a mess. I'm like a gull slamming into your windshield.
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9 Responses to Blue

  1. Ashley Winnington-Ball says:

    I think you mean David Eagleman’s book Sum. xo.

  2. rroserred says:

    Hi Alicia. Checking in. Reread your Peaks, Valleys, Plains. Over this weekend I found myself really upset and in shock over the shooting, since I live in Colorado, used to live in Aurora, and know exactly where that theatre is. I just feel so sad, so sad. There was a six year-old girl who died, and her mom (25) has a bullet in her neck they can’t remove and had another in her abdomen, and isn’t stable enough yet to be told about her daughter. Oh god. So, I’m just kind of shocked and sad. And wrote a post on sadness. And now I’m writing one on gun control. But other life goes on. And other ups and downs are still with us. And I’m thinking of you and hoping you are resting, or maybe on your travels, which is even better. I’ll check in again.

  3. Gilleen says:

    I read your blog at work. I even check it regularly for updates, because WordPress has decided to be difficult and doesn’t send me notifications. But it doesn’t matter because what you write is intriguing. Popcorn and candy floss!

  4. Wordgirl says:

    Hi Alicia,
    I wonder how we found one another — the twitter-verse — perhaps Eden, an old blogging friend — a little fold in the universe. This is such a beautifully written post — it took my breath away. You just read a post I wrote about my dearest friend in the world, my heart, she shares your name as a matter of fact. Thank you for finding your way to me — if you don’t mind I’d like to visit here too.


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