Tag Archives: blair

Shit I obsess about when I am not drinking… (day 3)

which is ironic because I only drink as an after thought…  as in “oh yeah, we have that bottle of red wine   scotch   rum  hard cider   beer   red wine  that we should open”.

I like drinking but it is not something I think about or have to do… in all honesty, some friends think I am a borderline teetotaler, ready to take a hatchet to en evil barrel of alcohol. It is a nice after thought, and can be awesome when used and abused in certain circumstances.

The medical school drop-out in me tends to get all worked up about talking about alcohol because we were taught to double what most people tell us they drink… alcohol and sex are two things most folks are willing to lie to their physicians about.

Which brings me to the think I have been thinking about…

I mentioned in my last post that I went to see a dermatologist because… “hey, skin cancer is another form of cancer and I have proven excellent at making that nasty beast grow, so get checked girlfriend, you live in Arizona”.

Which was good, because at the end of my appointment my deliciously “young American of Brazilian ancestry but in love with Medellin, Colombia” doctor grabbed my shoulders, looked me straight in the eyes and said “Your skin looks fine to me. Nothing suspicious. See you in a year, unless something changes”.

Phew, right?

So, as he held my gaze to tell me the fabulous news that my body had managed to not get “the cancer” again… I noticed something.

He had a bruise under his left eye… like right under his eye. My hot young doctor had a freakin’ black eye!!!! it was a beautiful yellow bruise with a slight magenta center, like an under eye sunset. The colors were rather beautiful!

like this, only a bruise, not make up, and with man eyes.

And I think I must have tilted my head when I noticed it, which I think he must have noticed because I am pretty sure he smiled at me in that “lets keep that between us” kind of way that only hot Latin men are wont to do!

So, since that moment I have been thinking about it, and considering the plethora of things that may have caused it…

Can I tell you how magical that has been? I can try, but I don’t think I can…

It has been so wonderful to think that he got into a tele-novela style fight over a girl while dancing away wearing too tight shirt and pants while in a trendy dance club, or that he opened a bottle of wine incorrectly as he was trying to pour his beloved a glass of wine, or he had a momentary lapse of muscular coordination while trying to cook a date some dinner and opened the cupboard into his eye due to his nervousness…  really, the stories in my head have kind of been endless.

So the magic?

Not once has the dark tinge invaded my space today!

 

Time may change me… (day 2)

But I can’t trace time…

 

I have always loved this song, it is allegedly a happy accident of a song that was written during a good time in Bowie’s life.  It has always been so  sober a song for me.

This year, as I reflect on how time has changed me… I am ever so much more aware that I can’t do anything about time… other than perhaps to prepare for it.

This came to me as I sat in my dermatologists office today getting screened for skin cancer. I have never been checked out, and have a history of sunburns so bad that I went into shock.

I am currently running this weird mind game where I vacillate between knowing that my post cancer survival rate is beyond awesome, but it is also no guarantee.  There is some country music star that had recurrence, her cervical cancer had spread to her colon and she decided to terminate treatment and go home to live out the rest of her life. So I see this news and i get that feeling of dread all over my body, like something awful has happened… and I feel a little nauseous, and teary. My illogical brain has taken over.

This was something I have observed in others who have gotten the cancer diagnosis, this paralyzing fear of recurrence. In my case it is so ridiculous, my cancer was found so early that my “5 year survival rate” is the same as someone who has not had cancer… But “The Cancer” it changed me, and I can’t do anything about it really. Sure I can choose how to manifest it all but the fact is that there is a change that would not otherwise be there. I don’t think I can come out of this transformed into a new magnificent Blair, where some form of transcendence has occurred and I am a “child of god”, this has a dark tinge to it that I don’t yet understand. As I weave my way around this new dark tinge, taking it all in, I have to consider how much I will let it own me. Own me it does, this dark tinge. I saw this only because this dark tinge wound its way around me and changed me. I am still trying to figure it out, but I am better at being immune to crazy and even more so about knowing what I am going through.

​These children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware of what they’re going through.
~ David Bowie​

The world was moving… (day 1)

and she was right there with it (and she was).

The world is a shockingly cruel place. I grew up with that, a poverty among a large part of the population that seems to permeate the walls, a father that, along with his friends ritually and habitually killed bulls, earthquakes, mudslides, riots, threats of kidnapping… to name just a few.

The crazy thing was that in spite of all this harsh brutal reality there was an ability to see the world for a magical place. It is that kind of place that inspired writers and artists like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Frida Kahlo,

So, I am not sure where I lost the internalized potion of this influence.  But, lost it I did.

I found it again, in a simple post that talked about the importance of grieving.

Grieving is not pretty, it can be dark and stormy, a swirling mass of emotions.  It is, however, a part of “the process”.

So when considered in that light, grief can become glorious… except that glorious is too strong a word.

Grief however, was the thing that was hard coming to recently. It became lost in platitudes like “you are so lucky”, “you will come through this a better person”, and “life is tough, get a grip”.

Grief is a very natural by-product of life. Hold it closely, don’t fight it. Don’t ignore it.

 

Grief is like a moving river, so that’s what I mean by it’s always changing. It’s a strange thing to say because I’m at heart an optimistic person, but I would say in some ways it just gets worse. 
~ Michelle Williams   

Take a Letter Maria…

This is an open letter to Tim Lawrence from The Adversity Within. I actually did send this to him via email.  I put some things in that email that I felt worthy of sharing here as well.

Dear Tim,
Thank you for your posts. They gave me permission to grieve. I find that almost funny to write to you… I don’t consider myself someone who would be adverse to allowing grief to flow as it needs, but that is exactly where I found myself. This was not my first bout with a trauma that induced grief. It was the first one that left me confused and scared and that I stopped grieving in. I read your last post “Everything Doesn’t Happen For a Reason”, shared through social media. It prompted some interesting discussion about what it meant for us to have people there “for” us or “with” us. It was semantic nitpicking, but it was interesting. The article, that conversation, and the perusal of other things you have written caused me to realize that somewhere along my recovery, in my case from a cancer diagnosis and treatment plan, I had stopped grieving… and what was so beautiful was that I now had permission to return to it with as much grace as I needed.  That moment of realization, was really powerful.
I am a believer that gratitude should be honestly and freely given, so I give you thanks for your part in returning me back to myself (in a metaphorical sense, of course). I know I was me this whole time, but I felt more like the me I like when I stopped being so stubborn about grief.

The weight that was lifted upon the realization that this is what had happened to me; that I had stopped my grieving process right smack at the start was startling, tear invoking, and almost as traumatic as the state of stanched grief I had been experiencing. The caveat between them being that once grief was allowed back in, the feelings ebbed and flowed when grief was allowed versus rigid discomfort from when I was in the constant state of disavowal.

I have a tendency to manage grief with occasional bouts of extending gratitude (which is, ironically, what I was doing when I believe I stopped my grieving process). I am not sure what happened this time, it felt different. I am not sure where it came from; this idea that I had to own feigned stoicism… perhaps from the idea that while I had it bad, it was not as bad as others. Perhaps from listening too closely to family and friends as they repeatedly told me “you are so lucky”. I don’t know, really where this craziness started… but I can smile about it now, I can know that I am still grieving, though more purposefully now.

Most thankfully and with new-found mournfulness,
Blair Necessities (sic)

Don’t fear the reaper

A friend posed a link to this on Facebook – Everything Doesn’t Happen For A Reason

I was thunderstruck… it hit me hard and in the gut.

So, I think my hang up on being told  “life is tough, get a grip” was that I interpreted it to mean that I had no right to grieve.

Now, I have no idea if that was the intent of what my mother told me, but it most certainly came across to me that way.

And created and angst that permeated everything… I still have a hard time wanting to trust her or my aunt with anything related to how I am feeling and how I am doing. I suppose, since they are family, that I need to get past that, but like all matters it will take time.

However, being told it was OK to grieve began that catharsis my body was looking for.  I am reminded about how I felt when, after a year of trying to figure out what was wrong with me while I was in college, a weird circumstance led my physician and I to a diagnosis. That relief, that it was Valley Fever, was intense. A huge high, one that allowed my doctor and I to make better decisions about my health care. This included my attending a mindfulness based stress reduction class.  That class was a game changer for me, and I have never regretted taking it.

So, now that I was armed with permission to grieve, I did and I am and I feel ok about where I am and where I am going.

I have chosen to continue advocating for cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine. That there is something that can help prevent this from showing up in young women (and young men, in terms of other HPV related cancers) is something worth being willing to talk about.

Last night I was able to attend a local chapter of Dining for Women and was asked to speak about Cervical cancer, HPV, and the Amazon basin. This is the program that DFW is supporting this month;  DB Peru. The organization did their work in researching it, I loved everything about it and what it wanted to do.

I had such a great time talking with these women. I was invited by a friend of mine through the Junior League of Phoenix. This group had been meeting for nine years, and I could see why – they were funny, a bit irreverent, celebratory… they had everything that makes something work as done by women.

I wonder if I should work on getting a chapter started? Any takers?

Shout, shout, let it all out (day 32)

The Day 32 prompt is:

Time for some shout-outs. This may mimic your acknowledgement page, but whom would you like to publicly thank for their help in creating your book or completing it to the point where it is presently?

As I ponder why it is that I have reached this certain place in my writing I have several people to thank.

 

My son, who allows me to keep magic realism alive. The other day we were walking and I was telling him that I wanted to show him where I grew up because it is so magical. He turned to me, puzzled and asked what that means. I told him that “it is in everything, the way the sun rises and sets at what seems like the same exact time every day… the way an evening fog will roll in and make everything seem so mysterious, it is where fences grow. “He stopped and asked, “the fences grow?” I told him that they will “cut slats of wood and will use them to build the fence, and those that are dug into the earth will start to grow branches and leaves.” He understood what I meant by magic. He allows me to bring that to him, here is the beautiful dusty desert that we live in now.

My husband, with his rigorous Austrian ways promotes a certain discipline for doing things that we enjoy. That discipline and work ethic is to be envied and emulated. I am not sure he understands magic realism, but he fully supports me imagining it.

My mother, a fine editor and academic story-teller.

My friend Bill, who has an amazing ability to pull out a story in days. His getting started  on his stories prompted me to work on mine. His first book bring a lot of magic realism in to it, though I am not sure if he would agree, though it is possibly allegorical since he is, after all, a philosophy  major. He has often offered me tips and strategies  that have worked for him. I think he is responsible for me getting as much down as I have.

My friend Kelli, the first time I met her she was at a party taking pictures of Nepalese momo’s and I remember her with her camera to her face talking to a group of people following her around the party about where she was in her first book. She mentioned she had a blog at that time, so I found it and started following her in my feed reader. I that party was the first time that I thought I could actually do this book writing thing. She is now working on her second book, I am very excited for her!

Embracing my perfect imperfectness

And now we are at the last step of the suggestions this article has for addressing the negative:

7. Next, mentally (or verbally) say to the image that you know it’s there and you promise to care for and hold it with compassion until it’s ready to go. Do your best to say these words from a very sincere place in your heart.

I think the most shocking, and not surprising (in an after the realization  kind of way) was that I have a deep need to forgive myself for getting cancer… which sounds so shockingly ridiculous on some levels.  I think it has something to do with what this article touches on.  As I approach the finish line of one year of what we call remission, I have to say this was one of the most difficult and vile parts of my life. I am not sure where this heartbreak comes from… when I ponder why this is how I feel, so many things pop into my mind.  The is nothing gentle about cancer. I think I am saddest that I was not able to prevent it from taking so much from me.  How does one forgive cancer? Forgive that it took part of your body, but also part of those more ephemeral human attributes like my heart, my courage, my joy, my hope. It is as if I was Pandora and when I opened my box and let all the evils of the world escape. I will tend to this new part of me with great care, I will strive to forgive myself. This kind of vulnerable is shocking to me, as someone who has considered herself to be strong and had that reinforced by others. The great news is that getting cancer and living life are not pass/fail. I will find something beautiful from all this, even if it is just giving in to my own vulnerabilities. IN the end, after all, all the negative are things I allowed or brought in to my life and maybe on some level I knew I needed to go through them .

Action – reflection:

I was at a leadership retreat recently where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year-old. We were to talk to her about how wonderful she was, because it is easier to do that than to tell ourselves. It is much easier and carries a much deeper felt reaction to do this exercise.

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Little girl Blair, embrace your humanity it is wonderful and strong. It has a resiliency that will keep you persevering. Realize just how much control you have over your own life, and don’t forget that your own life affects others just as others affect you! Carry on with gentleness.

 

Sleep, Pretty baby, Do not cry, And I will sing a lullaby. (day 6)

I now get to step six of the suggestions this article has for addressing the negative:

6. This step is where everything begins to change! Once you have the mental images of what your thoughts and emotions look like (and even if there’s no image at all, this practice still works), picture yourself holding the image (or lack thereof) in the same way a mother holds a newborn baby. Picture the image of your painful thought and emotion wrapped in a warm blanket, being held with very loving care closely to your heart, your chest, as you extend it very sincere compassion from your heart center. (You can also use the imagery of wrapping the thought/emotion in a warm blanket and placing it in a baby carriage, and rocking the carriage back and forth.)

It is interesting to get to this point and realize that in some way, I have been doing this when I talk to little girl Blair at the end of each exercise leading up to this one. I don’t know what I should do other than what it says. I will start by saying that it is awkward to picture myself rocking a lava-lamp like image like I did my own baby. I am not attached to it, I don’t particularly like this image-child. But I am guessing the intent is to see these emotions as something that come from a need for love. So, I am picturing myself trying to love it. It feels much like the way I came to love the color orange.

orange

Growing up in South America my friends and I often talked about how much we loved one color over another, but it never occurred to me to hate a color… at least until I moved to the USA. In “America” stating one favorite color was often a conversation that included what colors we did not like… and I recall sitting in my classroom, with girls proclaiming a love for pink or red or purple and boys loving blue or green… While this gender division for color preference was a bit of a surprise was the number of child who emphatically stated a dislike for yellow, and a hatred for orange.  I was so taken aback as one child after the other made these proclamations, and as someone who loved all color having to pick one, and not knowing which… but seeing how much people disliked orange aroused something in me, something that felt sorry that it was so disliked and when my turn came, I proclaimed my love for orange. I don’t recall what I said for the color I disliked, I probably said I did not dislike any color.   I embraced orange, which took some getting used to, after all I really did not have a favorite… but tried it on, as they might say, as my favorite. So here I am over 35 years later fully loving of that magnificent color orange.

So, I am trying to love this image of my feelings in a similar way.  It feels awkward, but manageable.

Action – reflection:

I was at a leadership retreat recently where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year-old. We were to talk to her about how wonderful she was, because it is easier to do that than to tell ourselves. It is much easier and carries a much deeper felt reaction to do this exercise.

IMG_7461                 E62EDBED-16E4-46FD-B424-D4875F8D33E9

Little girl Blair, love as fiercely as you have since you were a baby, and keep doing it for the rest of your life. It will serve you well.

 

Every breath you take (day 5)

I now get to step five of the suggestions this article has for addressing the negative:

5. Breathe. We’re at the half way mark and I’d like to offer you a sincere congratulations on completing the first half! Our natural tendency is to suppress these uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, often telling ourselves that we’ll deal with them later—but honestly, does later ever come? Unfortunately for most of us, it never does. So even just by taking the time to become conscious of, and identify these unpleasant thoughts and emotions is a huge step! Let’s not stop there however, because here’s where the really good stuff starts to happen.

For the past week, I have been taking part in the mindfulness summit. I can say that this has all been very complimentary to what I am trying to accomplish personally. I first learn about mindfulness from my doctor.   For the previous year I had endured a health problem that we had trouble trying to identify. I was sleeping almost 20 hours a day on average, and felt a lethargy like no other. I know something was wrong, but I had no idea what.  A fluke helped us diagnose me with valley fever, and the immense relief was fleeting. After a year of intense worry, I was frayed and very depressed and prone to sudden and intense anxiety. My doctor, as luck would have it, was a practitioner of MBSR, and was getting ready to host a session for willing patients. It was something that my insurance at the time would cover. I signed on right away. I hated being medicated for the anxiety and depression. I took his 8 week course and my life was changed. This happened about 20 years ago, I have had maybe 3 anxiety attacks since then and all within the first six months after I finished the course.  Within three months after finishing the class, we decided to stop my medication. I felt like a new person in so many ways. I was able to bring a mindfulness to everything I was doing.

My cancer diagnosis, really threw it a curve-ball. While I don’t think I was having anxiety attacks, I was experiencing something very different, though built-in with anxiety. As I found myself less able to manage the stress that I had been able to manage in my early days of practicing MBSR. A friend mentioned that she was considering doing it, I told her she should and then realized that I might need to have a chance to revisit those lessons. That I had most defiantly moved away from a life of intention and presence.  I decided to bring my son on this journey with me. In part because another friend was talking about how the school he works at is bring in mindfulness to their curriculum, for both students and teachers.  If they could do this with kids, I certainly could with my son. So, I found a free online class, and we started the lessons.

They are something that I consider both easy, and not easy. They make you ask yourself some interesting questions and you have to make some big choices about the person you want to be.   While not a physically taxing endeavor, it can be emotionally.  I had to realize that I was not in a very good place. That it had to do with how my family and I behaved before, during and after my diagnosis. That I could not be accountable for them, but I could be accountable for myself. Sounds easy, it really wasn’t.

I have since learned that it is not unusual to experience the year or so after your treatment options end with more intensity than any other part. This article outlines pretty well, though it speaks to breast cancer which is not what I have had.

“But for many, the time after treatment is a stage of uncertainty physically, mentally and socially.”

I find thoughts of maybe I should have asked for Chemo just in case (I did not need it, my stage 1a1 and type, said it was not necessary), mixed in with concerns over aches and pains being signs of recurrence. This is all a brain trick. On one hand I know better, but my body doesn’t believe me.

I have arrived at a point where I know this is ok. I have three weeks of my efforts and personal mindful mediation coupled with one week of mindfulness summit behind me, these experiences have re-awakened me to less of that negativity that was invading my space. I look forward to my future much more than

The next steps are vaguely reminiscent of the aspect I have been including as a reflection at the end. I wonder how this will go. ♥

Action – reflection:

I was at a leadership retreat recently where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year-old. We were to talk to her about how wonderful she was, because it is easier to do that than to tell ourselves. It is much easier and carries a much deeper felt reaction to do this exercise.

IMG_7461                 E62EDBED-16E4-46FD-B424-D4875F8D33E9

Little girl Blair, don’t forget to breathe. You are loved. Never ever forget that.

monkey see, monkey do… (day 4)

For the past several days I have visualized my way through step four of the suggestions this article has for addressing the negative:

4. Once you’ve clearly identified the thought(s) and emotion(s), close your eyes and explore the imagery they subsequently create in your mind (once you’re familiar with the practice, you won’t always need to close your eyes—i.e., if you’re driving, or in public you can still do this.) Do the thoughts and emotions create colors, shapes, figures? Are they abstract or clear? The important thing is to let your thoughts and emotions create the imagery while you simply become aware of what they are.

Action – part 1: I am already in a much better place, though I wonder if it is just circumstance and I will again fall in to that well of negativity. I am hoping it is that I am actually better at managing that stress.

I also found out that a very dear friend of mine has passed away. A crueller than usual death in that she was young, much younger than I am and I don’t consider myself old,  and perfectly fine the week before.  A friendship that spanned countries and ages. I will miss her dearly, she was difficult and wonderful and just everything anyone would want in a good friend.

Action – Part two: The emotions are much harder to bring up now. But they were masses of reds and greens… blurred, and reminiscent of a lava lamp with roiling and boiling and always changing. These shapes were pictured as being in my chest and arms, surrounded by a dark gray or black.

sourcemagma

Action – reflection:

I was at a leadership retreat recently where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year-old. We were to talk to her about how wonderful she was, because it is easier to do that than to tell ourselves. It is much easier and carries a much deeper felt reaction to do this exercise.

IMG_7461                 E62EDBED-16E4-46FD-B424-D4875F8D33E9

Little girl Blair; don’t be discouraged. Life has so many ups and downs. You have been blessed with a gift to live in an upstage, even when folks would call it a down. You have a gift for being able to learn from your mistakes. Stay with that. Don’t let yourself be invited to a place where you are forced to celebrate failures, that doesn’t work for you, it brings you down… instead you should keep using the failure as your lesson learned, love the mistake for what gifts it brought you and move on, it is what you do best.