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Not all that sparkles is stars

It’s Black Friday Eve, and I’m looking—and looking, and looking—at jewelry.

This is odd for me: not the Black Friday prep, which has long been part of my persona; but the jewelry obsession, as accessorizing has never been much of my thing.

I have a few meaningful exceptions - my wedding and engagement rings, the watch I got after 15 years at Starcom, bracelets from loved ones—but nothing to explain why I am suddenly drawn in by every image on my Instagram feed: ombré gem necklaces, diamonds dangling from earlobes, candy-colored cocktail rings—each more inappropriate to my life than the last.

I’m looking for something, I realize when I finally see something mid-scroll that calls it to mind.

We’ve been into our local jewelry shop quite a few times now. It’s just a few blocks away, but their artistry is internationally known. I have an idea for a necklace I think I might wear, something to commemorate this journey; but I’ve never seen anything like it, and I want it to be both sparkly and something I can wear everyday.

“It should look like someone just threw a smattering of little stars here,” I say, gesturing to my port and collarbone and asking if there is a way to make the setting almost invisible.

Villi has been on the receiving end of one of my briefs before; she nods and sketches thoughtfully each time we come in, every few months, but nothing feels quite right.

Each time, I walk back out with a sinking heart: I worry it’s not coming together for a reason. This necklace is supposed to be special in its finality—the ultimate push present if ever there was one—a spray of stars celebrating the awesome terribleness of an ordeal that changed my life while trying to end it. And maybe I’m not quite ready.

The scans weren’t a surprise this time. I had hoped, but I think I knew. 

Maybe that’s why the news didn’t pack a huge emotional punch. It just felt like another, inevitable step. And, as Monday’s departure for radiation races toward us, I can feel myself letting hopefulness creep back in.

It’s only after I ask myself what’s up with my newfound jewelry fetish that I start to put it together.

The last time I recall being so fixated on sparkly things was when Per and I were talking about getting married; I didn’t need an engagement ring, just a simple band would do—an idea which prompted our first visit to Christopher Duquet, and then very many more, with that simple band getting significantly less simple each time.

“What is UP with me?” I wailed to my then-therapist, confessing that I had started to stalk Harry Winston eBay listings at night like porn.

I’m embarrassed to admit we spent more than one session talking about this ring obsession. It felt so frivolous, and so contrary to my ability to spend practically and manage a budget—even though my recent divorce had admittedly taken a significant toll.

Eventually she helped me to see that a “bling ring” had been a symbol of hope—and in admitting I wanted one, I could let myself believe in a better financial future than the one I had come to find myself in.

Thankfully, my art director husband was as uncompromising as he was optimistic; our financial situation has since changed (and then changed again), but with cancer and the pandemic, so, too, has our interest in spending on vanity items when yoga pants are, let’s face it, pretty great.

Which is why my returned jewelry obsession makes truly no sense at all. But tonight I toss and turn after seeing that pair of circular aerial earrings, so airy and joyful—which made me think perhaps this is the inspiration the necklace wants. Aha! Maybe that’s what I was looking for!

My mind drifts back to it during guided meditation as I try to get back to sleep. The last time I obsessed, it was because something was important. The necklace connection only half-explains it, as I had been thinking about that for over a year already. So why now? Why is this important now?

And just then the words come on the guided meditation:

“You are allowing yourself to believe.”


That’s why.

Or maybe those are just the stars in my eyes.

But I’m feeling as ready as I’ll ever be to start radiation on Monday in New York. Let’s hope this is the last time I’ll need so many stars!

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