Tag Archives: gratitude

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?

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do…

One year ago I had cancer removed from my body.

1_b

This past year has been clouded. I am still working through it. I have identified and dealt with most of what I have been identified at the root. I think one does not go through something like this and remain unchanged.

I am very changed, and that new me is still trying to find her place in the world she has to navigate. This past year I felt like I was knocked down by people who love me, I don’t know why? I don’t know why I feel this way.

I am sure they did not intend to be a part of this trans-formative year, at least in a negative way. I mean they love me… but things they said and did (and frankly say and do) blasted me to my core. The things said were things I could not relate to in a way that was meaningful.

I cry at the drop of a hat, a song I hear, an image I see, the reflection of light off of my son’s hair as he sits next to me. I don’t know that there is any pattern as they can be sad tears, or happy… some even make no sense.

I am still bitter about gratitude. I dove in and tried to be grateful, but people kept telling me I wasn’t grateful enough. I don’t even know what to do with this.  Considering that I always thought I was strong in this area, it is devastating to feel like I have failed.  Especially since it was to people close to me.

 

These gems have life in them: their colors speak… (day 33)

The Day 33 prompt is:

What is/will be the subject of your next book?

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.

Image used from this article.

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.
~George Eliot

My hat tip today goes to Laura Hile, because she had me at pirate!

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.

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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.

The 5-Week Author Blog Challenge 2015 – Day 9

Prompt 9

Describe how the idea for your book first came to you. Where were you? Who was the first person you told? How did they respond?

Goodness, the idea for my first book (the one I wrote and illustrated when I was 6 or so) must have come from a frank discussion about the “birds and the bees” that my mother had with me. I must have asked a ton of questions, because I filled out an entire notebook with what I had learned. I often joke, with a sense of seriousness, that my friends were very lucky having me be the one telling them about the “facts of life” in that proverbial gutter of education of all matters taboo.

In all seriousness though, the story that is still working itself out of me came after telling a friend a story, about how I grew up, when I was in high school.  I don’t recall the story but I do recall their reaction. My friend looked at me and asked if I realized how un-real my life was.  This had never ever occurred to me. My father is a bull-fighter, my mother an adventurer. The life I have is the one I know. It is familiar, and knows of no other alternatives of how it is to be lived. The country that I was born in and the other one nearby that raised me are magic… with ghosts and magic and mysteries that one just has to accept. The terrain of these places are story book, with fences that grow, and many snow-capped active volcanoes, with ties to islands that inspired many where birds are born with bright blue feet or magnetic magenta ones, where other birds puff out a chest so bright red and large that it seems impossible to be real.  I grew up talking to jungle shaman, Amazonian head-shriknkers, writers, poets, artists, musicians, and bullfighters.

I realize how precious that was, to grow up in such a complex environment.

And so it was that one conversation that pinpointed just how unusual it was that prompted me to write something semi-autobiographical about the magical world I grew up in, and it is because of that started me on that journey.

Several attempts have been made, many scrapped because I allowed others to come in and direct the tale to the extent it became theirs and was not mine any more.

I am working on making it mine, one step at a time.

swirly

Today, my hat tip goes to Ashley Howland because her tale about how her book Ghostnapped came to be made me smile, and I love that she had her husband redo the cover when it was re-published.

Messages from my mirror

The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.
~ St. Jerome

Today I scheduled a follow-up eye appointment for October.

As I opened up my calendar I realized that the four months would land on the day before I had my surgery, which was when my eye problems started.

In the eight months since my life was spared and my body was torn apart in order to do that… a lot has happened.

One of the things that I find most striking is that my eyes have changed. I have been trying to figure out what it is that I have noticed.

I am not sure when I started to think my eyes looked different to me, but I recall wondering if somehow my irises had become lighter or cloudier in color. Cataracts at my age?

The crux is that they don’t look happy to me, they looked pained, tired, and perhaps even scared.

I don’t know that I am any of those things, but I am a very different person than I was in 2014 B.D.

That B.D. is Before Diagnosis.

This process has been hard, but the hardest part was learning to stand up for myself. Standing up to a mother and aunt that I know love me, but who felt that age gave them some sort of prize that included tearing me down… I am sure that is (was) not their intent… but as they threw things at me that I would have previously have bowed my head to and ignored but in the middle of my fight to feel whole again seemed unduly cruel coming from them. As I said, I am sure they did not mean it, but they still hurt me very deeply on a level that a doctor could not touch.

I think, perhaps, that is part of the cloudiness that I see in my eyes.

It is also navigating my health after a pretty invasive surgery, the unwanted weight gain, the change in shape, the pain, the aches… the health of my eyes included.

They are better now though, the scars left on them through repeated injury (and a misdiagnosis) are healing, are almost gone. The burden of the change of lifestyle for them is permanent… eye drops for life, they said. Keep them moist, they said. I will, I reply.

But when I got home from my appointment today, I looked in the mirror and still saw that certain kind of cloudiness, and I hoped it was not permanent.

Then there is this.

image1

“Behind these eyes there is a girl trapped within her pain – a girl feeling all the emotions of anger and sadness. She’s fighting for a way out.”
~ Chimnese Davids