Category Archives: philosophy

poetry of deliberate awkwardness

One of the things with the notion of love is that there is a form of reciprocity that is involved  -  and yes, this is a generality… I can already think of instances where love is not expected to be reciprocated.


I love heart shaped rocks

I love road runners

I love Ecuador

I can say that I am pretty darn sure none of those love me back, (though I have an internal argument that countries/cities/regions can love someone but that is not really relevant to today’s thoughts) but that is not the kind of love of relationships.

I love my son, I am sure he loves me back.

I love my family, I am sure they love me back.

I love my friends, I am sure they love me back.

However…

Lyric Poetry, painted by Henry Oliver Walker (Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington D.C.).

Many of us do not take the time to notice and acknowledge how beautiful we are as humans.~ unknown

So, here is where I can say that in general I am really hard on myself. I don’t know that I am a beautiful human… I would like to think I am, but I can’t verify that I am with any certainty (you could ask my mom, and she would say yes, but she is my mom and of course she has to believe that…). 

If we have beautiful on one end of a spectrum I really can’t say that I think I would be on that end. If we have a  complete spectrum of beauty I can’t say that I would be on an end or even in the middle.. since there is something in the way we approach beauty that runs from good to bad that in some sense one part is better than another.

It is pretty sick, isn’t it. 

I mean, I look at my family, all my family and I am just wowed by how beautiful they are. I just can’t manage to apply to to myself.

I saw this Ted talk  and it struck a chord, though I think he may too easily dismiss duty in terms of love… but, I do think he has something in his ideas about loving the deliberate awkwardness of being human.

I am most definitely on a scale that measures that.


Love, American style

Do you remember that TV Show?

 I mean what is not to love about a show that depicts comedic American love stories using a flugelhorn to highlight it? It made silly out to be the root of romantic love.



I actually was only privy to summer re-runs when we would visit the US, but growing up overseas lent itself to think of America as some sort of different place, where EVERYTHING happened differently. That would include love.

 Aside from my childishly absurd notions that Americans had a different kind of love from elsewhere in the world… I have always been fascinated by this “emotion”, love.

 Of course, I am not the first. Those dead old white dudes (the Greek philosophers) did a pretty good job at trying to define it. But in all my years pondering the whole notion, I felt like they had missed something. Of course, this depends on who you listen to… but in general there are four Greek words for love… though some claim that there are six words.

Source


But the notion of love has always been interesting. There was a post in the New York Times that struck a chord. The idea that love can be induced in a clinical setting with a clinical method seemed intriguing.

 As I pondered the idea of being able to make two people fall in love, I wondered if this “test” was more about being vulnerable and honest rather than that there was a method to allow a couple to fall in love… I mean, that I was curious about what these questions would do outside of a “couple” type setting — what would happen if a parent and child followed the regimen, for example. Surely love was dependent on certain pre-sets. A willingness to fall in love, an attraction to the other individual at its root (which begs another question on attraction identity could this method allow gay people of opposite sexes to fall in love, for example), and even the mood at the time of the “experiement”.

 So, in a fit of my orneriness and willingness to buck systems and not follow “protocols” I decided to ask my husband and son the first set of questions.

 It was interesting. I learned things about each of them I never would have imagined, though nothing so significant that it induced a stronger feeling of love or something of that nature. However, it was a nice conversation and no one seemed bothered by the questions. 

I stopped after the first set of the questions in part because I had asked them in the car as we were on a family errand and the errand had come to a close, but also to think about how that portion had gone… plus, the second set includes a question about how you feel about your mother and that is an interesting question to ask a ten year old son (I would need to adapt the question in terms of intent, but how to capture that same essence… I mean, mothers have a pretty profound role in our lives for the bad or the good).

 So, it seems (at least on the surface) as if those studies tend to focus on fostering the eros end of a love spectrum, but since I seem to see that it is about being willing to be vulnerable that there should be more cross-love application… meaning it could create something in maternal our wifely love as well. 

I have yet to try the 4 minute staring part of the experiment, but I will. 
Though it reminds me of a boyfriend I had in college that asked me to do that with him, stare into each-others eyes for a few minutes, and it seemed too intense to try at that time… especially since I hated being looked at in those years (think bangs over the face) and would not have that kind of protection. I would have felt too vulnerable.

 However, and perhaps this is the thing I have sensed was missing — its that for all these words describing different kinds of love, and for all these questions to help one fall in love… isn’t there one word, one thing, at the root of each of them that crosses all these definitions and actions and if so, what is that? What causes all of these things to be classified under the word love.

 What does that mean for love?

Revisiting 7 and then 8 – and perhaps a dash on 9 – Find the Beautiful

Revisiting 7

I suppose my last post was a bit premature, though it was true. It is amazing how something gentle can shift everything, even if it is only temporary.

After my post, I went to a meeting for an organization I belong to. I expected to get lots of hugs and inquiries about my health and my status. I was looking forward to thanking people in person for their kindness, but felt shy about the possible attention.

The hugs were nice, the kind words and gestures were appreciated. I was glad to have gone and it was not as much of a burden to my shy side as I thought it might be,

But at the end, as I was walking away.  One of the friends who was there often for me asked me how I was and I replied with my usual. I am good, lots to be thankful for, one day at a time. She grabbed my arm and said lets sit and tell me what you mean by this one day at a time thing? 

I was stunned, she had latched on the the subtle nuance of such an expression and knew that my words were far cheerier than I felt. 

So we sat down, and I tried to explain that navigating the whole thing is complex. Yes, I fully see that there is so much that is good but that there is still the tough that needs to be dealt with. Being told you have cancer is more complex that I had thought, especially given the provisions that no chemo or radiation is needed, like those somehow would allow (key word here is allow)  someone to feel like shit. Please don’t think I am trying to diminish chemo or radiation and that people who have to go through that are somehow exception in some regard… because they actually are exception. What I feel like I am missing is permission to grieve this process and that my grieving is allowed to be more than just sad.  After I feebly tried to communicate these ideas to her, I just looked at the hands in my lap and said, I want to be allowed my pity party, I just don’t know how.

She touched my arm and said you are allowed a pity party and I want to be invited, lets go get some wine together soon.

It was so beautiful being allowed to feel this way instead of being held to strict gratitude. My heart filled with something, I would hope it was grace. 

I am not sure she knew what I was talking about or understood what I was trying to say, but she asked and then listened… holy moly… what a gift. She asked, she allowed me to tell her something closer to the truth about how I am feeling, In a world dependent on daily platitudes (“How are you?” – “I am OK”) it was mind altering to pass that realm and move in to more of the brutal truth.

It is part of the dynamic between celebrating that I don’t need chemo or radiation or that my tumor was so freakishly small AND the whole truth in that it was fucking cancer and it robbed me of some things that I held dear. I am grieving.




I don’t think I am headed to deterioration. I know I will be fine, but this is a part of what has happened and is happening to me. I own it. 

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.”  ~ William Shakespeare

Then 8

After the sincere gesture of my dear friend, I felt more lighthearted yesterday. It was a busy day, work with extra duties, rush to help Squink finish his homework, a school meeting for an exchange program, and cub scouts.

I was too busy to notice much more than the heaviness of my surgery site.

A dash of 9

We all woke up early, and in good moods. I even served Squink some oatmeal and let him eat it in bed. On my way to the kitchen, I noticed how amazingly pretty my orchid plant was. 

It was beautiful. 


Squink was beautiful. 



My family was beautiful. And somehow everything else seemed less important.

Life is beautiful – 6 & 7

Yesterday was tough, it is a tough spot right now. 

In my attempt to find the beauty, I failed… I mean, I had that poem, but I really found it the day before… and the rest seemed average and even hard.

It all, life, feels sorta like that – hard. 

I feel completely helpless in some ways (some very new ways) because I am just in a state… angry, mad, desolate to name but a few and all of them in one big huge swirling mass of emotional baggage.

I have no patience for this kind of nonsense. I have too much to do.

And, people keep calling me back to earth and reminding me that my behaviour is inappropriate. Which adds to this feeling of mixed mass emotions swirling and boiling and festering. Shame, I suppose. I am better than being an angry person.

I have moments of average, and when I see my son or husband I can claim joy. But that seems so selfish, in a way, to allow my son and husband to be my bringers of joy… what a HUGE burden to place on them. Guilt, I suppose. 

I am trying to remember to breathe, to mediate, to pray… but the words that come to mind when I do this are hard, and angry, and as my family reminds me… inappropriate.

I have and see so much to be grateful for, but these crazy emotions are so difficult to manage. 

How does one throw themselves a gentle pity party?


So let me conclude by stating that I suppose that the beauty I was able to find is that (#6) I am alive and (#7) I have people who love me. There is comfort in that. But, there is a tinge of insincerity in my heart with these right now. impatience, I suppose. 

The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within – strength, courage, dignity.  ~ Ruby Dee  

Find the beautiful 1 – 4

1. Having my mother, brother, and nephews over for a dinner of Wiener Schnitzel.


2.  A gentle and quiet day in bed, watching Netflix and having my husband make some more surprise Wiener Schnitzel for lunch.


Some Wiener Schnitzel being pan fried (photo stolen from Schatzy’s “The Facebook” page” – Thank you Schatz



3. Seeing my mom for dinner, drinking a strong margarita with her. Laughing.



4. Getting my first test results back and having them be normal.  

NORMAL!!!!!!!!!!

Dinner with a group of girl-friends. Coming home to a fire in our fireplace.

The fireplace in our living room




“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” ~ Anne Frank 

Remission

At my last appointment my doctor used this word.

It should be a joyous word, shouldn’t it.
Not a question.
It was a blow to hear it.
As I told a friend, I had somehow thought I was exempt from THAT status.  So, when he dictated his notes and used the term to describe me, I was totally taken aback.
It’s really hard to navigate this disease, especially when there is no chemo, no radiation. It’s like a free pass.
If I were sick from those, I think people would be much nicer about my mental state…
But I LOOK FINE…
So, I must FEEL FINE…
But feeling fine is a lot of work. More work than it’s ever been before.

Find the beautiful

THAT

Find the beautiful

Yes, that…

is my theme for this year.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson  


Finding the beautiful… it is very present in the external. 

But as I navigated just how ugly it was to go through this cancer thing, how easy it was for people to forget that it is my battle, and I had to find myself repeatedly trying to forgive… I lost my place. And I was so hurt by people that I am close to (who are ashamed of my diagnosis, who couldn’t/can’t talk to me about what was/is happening, who took things from me with out asking, who made things harder for me….) that I forgot to stop and find the beautiful.

So, fuck the folks who take away from this… they can live with their choices.

And I am so lucky, because I have people in my life who can help me do that. So, I have to let them in and help me see what I need to see.

I,  am so excited. Because, you see, this year, 2015, I get to find the beautiful.

Yes, that…

is really my theme for this year. 

"Sorry about your whore cancer, lady"

I am getting  fighting  AT  (ok, ok) resisting giving in to the angry stage.

I think.

I keep get the strangest urge to throw bottles at walls, so I can watch and hear them break.

I get why this happened to me. I just don’t like that it happened (is happening) and I don’t like the stigma.

So, The Onion, known for its tongue in cheek humorous articles, published this article.

Considering that current experts estimate that 70% of Americans have been infected with HPV, it is pretty spot on and does it pretty well.

I actually thought it was clever, but the problem was that I happened to see the link on The Facebook (here).  And the first comment I saw, was the one I used as the title of this post.

That is the thing, there is that stigma. Hell, I have family members that I could see using the same or similar terminology. And it is so “unspoken” among most people.

And it hit a raw nerve. Because this is something women have the consequences to, not men. So women get called all sorts of horrid things.

Here is the thing. I don’t think I am a whore. Never was.

But I feel like I am being called that. And it is pretty prevalent, the stigma about women who get it. There is just so much about this I want to scream at.

I mean having your life attached to the word cancer is bad enough, but cervical cancer?!?!?! “That slut cancer”.

Consequences, I suppose. I try to make it less hurtful… but I can’t seem to right now. I was never a slut.

I get angry. I get really pretty fucking angry. And it ebbs and flows and I try to keep it at bay because I don’t want it to consume me. And I don’t know what to do about it.

holding the darkness at bay

So, after feeling a down due to yesterdays ramblings and self flagellation I find I need to pick myself back up.

The other day someone came to me and asked how I was. I told her that is is a day by day process. That I feel good, that I am grateful for so much.

She went on to ask if I had experienced any dark moments, any depression, and tears. She added that her sister is a doctor and had told her to expect me to get to that point at sometime.

I cried when I got the first message. there is something about being told to call an oncologist that puts a certain indescribable pressure on your heart. To hear it while alone in an office, is hard because it means that you have to call people and share the news – and I will be very, very honest, that I was tempted to not tell anyone. Though I imagined that my husband and mom would have been extremely upset with me had I gone this route – in spite of that though, I can’t tell you how tempted I was.

I even called the oncologist first. I called my physician back and asked for a copy of the pathology report we talked about the long wait until my oncology appointment and then what the report meant in terms of what was happening inside my body. I went and sat by the fax and waited for the report to arrive (he was sending it right after we hung up). I got it and sat in my office, reading (memorizing) and mulling the news, tears in my eyes. I dried them, and decided I had to call my husband and so… I called my husband and told him the news. He was devastated (he had been a young boy when his mother had gone through two cancer diagnoses, I think that what was happening to me brought all those memories back) and I had to be strong and reassuring. After I hung up, I sat in the office some more, tears in my eyes again. Bracing myself for the call to my mom. She was walking into a meeting when she answered. I heard that stop in her voice. It was the same stop when I felt when I had to schedule an appointment with a hematologist oncologist for Squink after he was born.  Granted that was just for some jaundice we did not seem to be able to get rid of, and I knew that it was the hematology part we were seeing rather than the oncology part, but still – it isn’t something you want to deal with as a mom, your babies should never see an oncologist, that should be the rule.

So that was a quick conversation and I sat in my office again, a sense of “why me?” prevailed. My boss who had gone through that cancer route walked by and noticed I was upset, came in and I shared the news with her. After that, the next 24 hours are kind of a blur. I know I called my dad, and he was probably the hardest one to tell… but only because I had no idea how he would react, and he has a tendency to avoid bad things and go on and pretend as if they did not happen so the idea that he would ignore me in this was something I considered highly probable. I only remember that at some point by the end of that night, I was sick of talking to people. Wait, I love talking to people what it was is that I was sick of re-telling the story, the news. I just did not want to have to say that damned word again.

That has been the darkest point so far.

The days following are still a blur. I talked to my siblings, texted with Prima. Made arrangements for all the responsibilities in my life that would be put on hold. Sent out a group email to women who I adore. Friends put me on prayer lists, and I got through the interminable wait until that appointment. Once I saw the oncologist, it felt so much better, because there was a plan. I knew what was happening and it felt good.

I would even say that I was a bit jubilant the day before my surgery, because that mass of mutating cells was getting removed.

I was in the hospital almost a week, determined that this whole thing would not bring me down. I have managed to stay positive through the rest, even that horrid backslide where, through projectile vomiting and other effluvia, fever spikes and chills all intertwined with a general sense of feeling horrid, I lost over 10 pounds, got dark circles around my eyes and began to lose hair. I was still in a good place.

I have these moments that seem to want to step in to those dark shadows; when I noticed that there is an area near my incision is numb (normal, but a strange feeling), talking to someone else who has gone through this process evokes some teariness, after time spent wondering if I am avoiding dealing with something, being told I hurt peoples feelings all brought forth some form of gloom to my mindset.

Thankfully, they are able to be beaten back.  And I think that is my job right now.

So, when it comes to gratitude I may be, unintentionally, a selfish twat*

* in the sense of being a foolish or despicable person, not the other thing.

So we have this:

gratitude     [grat-i-tood, -tyood]
noun
1. the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful:
“He expressed his gratitude to everyone on the staff.”

But the thing about being grateful, gratitude, is that it is contingent on several factors:

Feeling it (this is the super easy part)
acknowledging the feeling (this is manageable)

but the hard part comes in the next steps…

communicating the gratitude to the person/place/thing for which you are grateful.
communicating it effectively.

When my grandmother died, I wrote her eulogy.

I was devastated by her passing away, I was extremely sad and trying to be strong because of my mother and aunt, after all they were allowed to indulge in a deeper sorrow than I could.

So, I wrote these words of gratitude into the eulogy and while I think it was a wonderful and powerful tribute, I know, I KNOW, that I inadvertently left people out of it and who should have been included. Which means I know I hurt peoples feelings.

Having your efforts acknowledged is important. I know this from both personal experience and from the lack of a personal experience.

As I navigate my recovery from surgery and everything and have posted my gratitude here I have managed to hurt people I love, both in omission and in not enough. I feel sick about these. The thing is, this is a journal and because it is public I have to tread lightly. But I treat it as a means of processing, of navigating things that can be public. But that is not easy in the aether – It has been requested of me, in the past, that I remove things, that I not include things, that I redact things… and I have honored those. but it has created a careful ground to tread upon.

I am not allowed to talk about or post photos of my [relationship intentionally held back].
I have been requested to limit discussions about others I love and about some personal experiences.
Squink and I revisit what I can post about him here on a regular basis.

So, I suppose that this is not truly my journal… it comes out as an allowable letter to the world based on my life and its experiences as long as I don’t violate some things. I am OK with this.

But, lets get back to gratitude.

Felling grateful is a humbling experience. Because to get to that feeling you have to go through some kind of vulnerability and being vulnerable is not easy in the sense that is a state of being that we seek.  I mean I don’t really know many people who seek to be vulnerable… I tend to think of us humans as trying to avoid being vulnerable.

So here is where I am a twat – inherent in gratitude is sharing it. I have written almost 40 thank you notes (and there are more to be written) to people that helped me along this path… that supported me, that checked in on me and that overall, made me feel like I had a wonderful group of folks supporting me… so what I lack, is that ability to let these people know I am grateful in a manner that conveys just how grateful I am. Because gratitude felt is only part of the experience, gratitude is a social thing (even if you are grateful for a gorgeous sunset or other in-animate thing). So the art in gratitude is that you share it effectively. I suck at that part. I feel gratitude intensely, I tear up and get that pain in your chest that is a good pain, but I have found that is the easy part.

The hard part is going to the next step of acknowledging your gratitude and announcing it.

It is easy for things like my deep gratitude for how the desert smells after a rain – for example – I can post the word “Creosote” on “The Facebook” and people who have spent time in a desert rain get it.

But, saying “I am grateful for what you did to me, thank you” is hard. It is hard because a “thank you” doesn’t cover it. And often, especially in more complex relationships, there is a back story that might be just as important… and in terms of this block of a small thank you notes, how do you put that all out there and say “thank you for the totality of what you did for me” without sounding like a freaking Hallmark card (not that hallmark is bad, they make wonderful cards and I buy them when I buy cards)?

So perhaps, this is my big lesson for the rest of my life… to try and get better at this. Because, while I am very comfortable with feeling at it, when it comes to professing it – I really do suck at it.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward