One of my favorite words is “friable.” It is a word I learned when I was working as a surgical assistant and it made an enormous impression on me for two reasons. First, it was accompanied by a visual cue. Second, it sounded to me like what it meant.
friable – adj. easily crumbled or reduced to powder; crumbly
Tumors or masses that were easy to remove from the surrounding tissue were either fluid-filled cysts or other dense collections of cells. But occasionally we would encounter a mass that, when you grabbed it with the forceps to hold it away from the surrounding tissue – to cut it away – little pieces would break off in the tips over and over again. It wasn’t that it was tightly adhered to its location in the body, but that it was fragile and easily broken and it was often challenging to be sure that we removed all of the mass because you couldn’t get it out all in one piece.
Today I feel friable. Not fragile, like glass that will shatter if dropped, but friable, as though if I am pulled on, small fragments will begin to fall off. It is the aftermath of how I felt yesterday which I am not sure there is a word for.
Yesterday afternoon for a few hours I felt very clear. If I were a fiction writer, a novelist who writes about space travel or psychological thrillers, I could use how I felt to form a compelling scene. It is that feeling you don’t get often that immediately follows the diversion of a major catastrophe. Similar to the adrenaline rush you get after narrowly missing another car on the road or barely righting your bicycle when you skid on a patch of wet gravel, but more profound. It is the calm after the initial heart palpitations in which you have a sort of tunnel vision, a clear, calm certainty that you have just done something very important, something that very definitively prevented a horrible set of events from being put into motion. A floating sort of feeling in which the parts of your life that are trivial literally fall away and you are left with a clarity that brings into focus every scent in the air, the dappled color of the leaves on every tree in your path, and each inhale and exhale that fills your cells with oxygen.
Yesterday as the dog and I walked through the neighborhood, I reveled in that feeling. In fact, I bathed in it. I had no other feelings. I harbored no anger toward the person whose heinous actions I prevented. I retained none of the abject fear I had possessed mere hours before, sobbing ugly, ugly tears at what we might have lost. I felt only clarity. I was yet hours from feeling gratitude for the way things worked out, and even farther from today when I simply feel friable.
As I have busied myself in the hours after the girls left for school, making phone calls and paying bills and baking blueberry muffins for the week’s breakfasts, I have felt competent and calm with an underlying sense of this crumbling, a sort of detached knowledge that if I am put under any kind of pressure, I may fall to bits.
*I know this is cryptic, but because of the particulars of the story and those involved, I do not feel at liberty to share the details. I did, however, feel the desperate need to share how it made me feel, if only to write the words down and get them out of my head.