Today I am supposed to write about what is making me mad.
Aside from nostalgia about the magazine, nothing much comes to mind. I am sure i get mad, but it is those fleeting surges that are really rather insignificant; like yesterday when I was standing at the top step of my porch when my mini great dane decides to jump on me and I almost fell back – but that isn’t anger it is really fear.
I drove to work this morning thinking about this… “what do I get mad about”.
One that has been pointed out to me is that I do not like being teased, especially if there can be any inference about my being stupid.
I hate people who make fun of others. I try really hard not to do this myself, not always successfully.
Other things upset me, but they do not quite make me mad.
“What should I possibly have to tell you, oh venerable one? Perhaps that you’re searching far too much? That in all that searching, you don’t find the time for finding?”
~ Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
We are cleaning house to host Christmas. And as is often the case on such endeavors (at least in my life) things have been found that elicit powerful and profound reactions.
I was tidying up our mantle and found a stone jar with a fossil lid. Curious, and willing to delay the tidying up to explore, I opened it up only to discover something I probably needed to find.
It was a 5 foot long string of red beads.
as i pulled the strand out, I thought back on when I must have bought it. 17 years ago, when I was in Quito and roaming one of the many folks selling things in the parks. I remember picking this one out because it had two “gold” beads in it. I twisted the string of beads onto my wrist, feeling a simple pleasure as I felt them wrap around.
It is a simple standard of beauty that has carried with me. Many of the indigenous women, of varying tribes, in Ecuador wear them. It is said to ward of evil and to protect the wearer. One will see these wrapped in various widths and on various ages of the women in Ecuador. Red bracelets are actually something pretty widespread and come in a variety of materials. It is a familiar one to me, and I have worn it on my wrists for these past few days, a certain level of comfort in seeing its length wrapped around my wrist. I touch them, roll them against my skin, admiring the variety of sizes the beads come in.
Last night, I was in the bath tub and wondered if the string would suffer from getting wet. I rolled and untangled my bracelet and gently laid it out to dry. This morning I picked it up and twisted it back on my wrist. There was such a comfort in that ritual. I wondered how many other women had gone about starting their day by twisting these beads around their wrist, in a mix of superstition, habit, and because of the gentleness of it.
“For such is the way of it: to find and lose, as it seems to those whose boat is on the running stream.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
“some moments are nice, some are nicer, some are even worth writing about.”
~ Charles Bukowski
I am reflecting on the gentlenesses that life has a tendency to bring. Those moments that are often soft, quiet… almost imperceptible. Moments, though, that are imbued with something that makes them stand out from other moments… not because they are nice, nor because they are even nicer, but because they somehow separate themselves from the other memories and cast a soft glow where they stand. They don’t have to be personally significant, often one is a mere observer or pulled in by the experience.
I love those moments. I should write about them more.
This past March, sufficiently recovered (physically) to travel, my son (Squink) and I set off to Mexico to meet his student exchange family. A formal program through my son’s school that introduced kids to foreign travel and boosted their language skills. It was a delight. I got to know some parents much better and was reminded why there are parents that I would do best to avoid!
So, Squink and I hopped on a luxury bus with a ton of other parents and their children and made our way south to Old Mexico!
I had a glorious time, met some wonderful parents. Our Mexican counterpart (the parents) hosted us at a wonderful beach party. There was loads of laughter and fun. There was a lot of food, and chasing, and merriment.
A mother, one that had been Squinks soccer coach in first grade, on the trip with us revealed that this was her first beach experience. She had never seen one before and how delighted she was to have the experience. She was a little timid about getting in the water though. She and another mom and I had all laid our towels on the sand together (me for protection from a mother in our group that I find to be insanely manipulative) . We shared our snacks and laughed… this was in and of itself, a great moment… but it was destined to be greater. We walked along the water line with the mother and managed to get her to put her feet in the water and seemed happy to stay there… but the other mother and I insisted it was not the full experience. She was nervous, did not want to do it alone.. so the other mother and I looked at each other and declared that we would go in with her… and nervous exchange and we were tossing off our t-shirts and getting down to our suits, and we all ran towards the water and jumped in, all the way in.
We all raised our head from the water at about the same time, laughing and smiling. checking into how the others felt. Our kids had seen our mad dash into the water and we had them swimming around us. In terms of being a mom, it was a rare experience, especially with women who are not close confidantes. There was a purity in that moment that made that simple act of jumping in the water together something magnificent, something to be treasured. I equate that experience for the mom who had just had her first ocean experience with the first time I saw snow. It had a magical mystery to it, and that first time I saw snow was magical.
While there are many wonderful memories from that trip, the one I describe here was magic. On the long bus ride back home, I told the mother (with previous ocean experience) that was with us when we jumped in the water that it was my favorite part of the trip, she looked at me across the aisle and said to me “mine too”.
I know not to question it too much, to just accept that it happened and treasure it like I do.
“I like the posture, but not the yoga. I like the inebriated morning, but not the opium. I like the flower but not the garden, the moment but not the dream. Quiet, my love. Be still. I am sleeping.”
~ Roman Payne
Today, during what was originally supposed to be a quick glance through my Facebook feed I read the words “IN WOMEN WITH PERSISTENT CERVICAL CANCER”.
It was in all caps too. PERSISTENT CERVICAL CANCER.
the urge to cry from worry
I stared at my screen thinking; Is this a thing? Can women get cervical cancer… on repeat…
My joints started to ache, my skin flushed with needle pricks, my face got hot, I held my breath.
Is this really a thing?
How did I miss this… I mean, I am a medical school dropout for chrissake… one who has worked or volunteered in breast and cervical cancer issues for most of her adult life…
In my head, in that stunned moment after reading that, I had the idea that some women just kept getting cervical cancer… like one gets a cold… they are both viruses, after all.
So, I (somewhat reluctantly, yet with incredible haste) went to my very trusted medical internet sites to see if there was such a thing (complete with a search for an applicable ICD9 code) as Persistent Cervical Cancer.
the urge to cry from relief
Turns out, it is another way of saying metastatic cervical cancer, and just as I had thought before I had read that post cervical cancer recurrence rates (really, it is 5 year survivor rates) are linked to stage of initial diagnosis.
I wonder if my conversation with a person (a woman who had also had a cancer diagnosis, though of a different variety) just minutes before seeing this, where we talked about how certain things just tend to have an initial thought that you have a recurrence, played into how I reacted (what a sentence this is?!).
Word of advice; do not, for the love of well made chicken soup and all other things holy, ever ever ever Google the words and look at the images for “The brutal art of being”.
“There is brutality and there is honesty. There is no such thing as brutal honesty.”
~ Robert Anthony.
That said, living is brutal. It is hard on our bodies, what with that getting old crap… then there are certain aspects of how we treat one another. Why the fuck are we so stupidly cruel to each other?
There is another part of me that kind of finds this sentiment above a bit ridiculous. I mean, we are animals after all, it’s not like opposable thumbs and the ability to breast feed instantly granted us some sort of “nice card”. As a matter of fuck fact, I learned at an early age that life had this brutal part to it. Between friends with bodyguards, sleeping in the same room as my brother so one of us would have the chance to scream for help in case we were kidnapped, watching my dad routinely killing bulls through his grand love-affair with bullfighting… this were in my face demonstrations that life could have a nasty bitter after-taste. It is super interesting to note that the same place that gave me all this… hmmm….. brutality, if you will…. also gave me magic. Beautiful, glorious magic.
I, at this very moment, am wondering if I lost the ability to see this magic? A temporary (I would hope) blindness? Or maybe I am seeing another side to the magic, and I need to learn to recognize it. Perhaps it left when my faith in the divine disappeared in a puff of smoke? When I used to feel this kind of angst (for the lack of a better work and to a much lesser degree) I used to think it was a part of my search for grace. Maybe it is an extension of searching for grace? A more fevered search.
When I left my life behind and moved to Ecuador to attend medical school, one of the more incredible things that happened was that a boy followed me there. I had no idea that he loved me, but he did. My Ecua-mami (my mother figure in Ecuador) and I talked about how this made me feel… I was nervous and apprehensive, I had never even considered even an attraction to him, yet here I was planning a vacation with him. We talked about assumptions and implications. She told me that I would make my own decisions, but that life would, in a way, make them for me. That is exactly what happened.
I never was able to love him the way I think he wanted me to. I learned recently, that he just earned a significant year chip in the Bill and Bob club. This dramatically coincides with when he realized I was not going to spend the rest of my life with him. While I can’t confirm that his experience with me served as some catalyst, my gut tells me it plays into that. Life is brutal. I took so much for granted with him, though not in a shameful way. I still think about that experience traveling around Ecuador with him with a certain fondness. It was, however, rather brutal… thankfully it was imbued with a certain magic that the landscape provided and in some ways became one of those significant romantic moment of ones in my life.
So, fondness… there is a gentle art to fondness. I used to be a master of it… it being genuine fondness. Maybe this is where I should explore next. That area is a place in my experience, my life, where some hard truths about self are to be acknowledged (like the story of the boy above, for example). The nice thing is that fondness is gentle, and even the hardest of these truths are tempered with a certain gentleness.
I woke up this morning in a jolly mood, probably because I was able to get relatively uninterrupted sleep for over 7 hours… considering I was averaging 4 – 5 hours, it was a vast improvement.
I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.
~Emily Bronte in Wuthering Heights
When I woke up, I listened to the silence in the still dark house, then took inventory of my body… which is a silly way of saying I paid attention to all my parts to take a chance to notice anything… usually it is the things like “headache”, “sore feet”, “happy heart”… Today it was just jolly, not from or at a certain spot, but just jolly.
I love silence, I love it very much. When I can be in silence with people is when I know we are good friends. Now, it isn’t that I demand we not speak, but when those moments that are silent, which can be as awkward as they can be beautiful… those moments are like a big reveal.
I love having a house full of people and waking up that next morning and taking my moment of silence, and being able to hear the love from the previous day still resonating off my walls. I love those moments.
As I sit here writing about it, I realize that somehow I have forgotten this habit of mine this past year. How wonderful that it has returned.
A quiet moment
Let’s all sit, silently, and feel the magic in the room, the possibility of connection and the optimism we gain when we know we are in it together.
Another day without the dark tinge… sometimes, I imagine that the tinge looks like the gravelings in Dead like Me.
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.
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?
The story I am writing about centers around a young woman named Clara and how her life is filled with love… a gift imbued through some magical experience had during her parents conceiving her. It is a story about how love has so many faces and how it is so important for humans to experience it. The story looks at how love contrasts with so many different emotions (as personality types). It examines the duality of life, but with rose-colored glasses. It begins with a description of Clara and her family and how they fit in to her ancestry. It follows her as she navigates out of childhood and moves into maturity. It examines the people she loves and how they are part of the magic spell she was cast upon her conception. It is a story about the role of others in personal redemption stories. It is about love, all the different kinds of love.
I remember, as a child, sitting in my gated front yard in Quito, Ecuador, looking at the people passing by on the street in front of me. A mix of men in hats, women in indigenous clothing carrying a small child strapped to their back and leading a yellow dog on a rope used as a leash. Considering the tremendous difference between the huge Spanish colonial home behind me and the various levels of poverty and status in front of me…
I knew the gate was to keep people out, in part because I was young and vulnerable and with a high potential to be kidnapped. I stared at the glass shards embedded on the top of the wall surrounding our property, and thinking that the sun glinting off the various colors of glass made them look like jewels. This memory, combines with many others serve as background material for the story. I had a truly magical childhood. While it was not without some pain, it was still magical and I want to re-tell it in the style of literature that came from that part of the world.
These gems have life in them: their colors speak, say what words fail of.
My hat tip today goes to Laura Hile, because she had me at pirate!
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.
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.