Tag Archives: invisible

The brutal art of being… is shockingly gentle

​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.

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sitting present in the darkness

This past year and some has been a weird process. I have been angrier than I have ever been before. I have been meaner than I was ever before. I have been sadder and more confused. Those are only part of the whole experience…

I have also been lifted higher, I have had moments of intensity that I cannot compare to any prior experience, I have been deeply humbled by people who I never thought cared…

It was super intense…  It is intense.

I am in one of those places today, high off of my birthday (yesterday) greetings, feeling peaceful and loved… in a place where the dark tinge hasn’t invaded my space. I am reflective, and trying to pull myself together in this moment.

Navigating these crazy mix of emotions has been exhausting.  I am sure it has also been exhausting for those who are close to me and can see how much they torment me.

I would see a therapist, but geez.. the one time I tried it took a really bizarre accident to find the most perfect psychiatrist for me to talk to, and any after just were a joke in comparison.  I know this is temporary, and I don’t want to put myself on a course of medication (though I recognize its value,  and think they should be used… it is not for me… not at this time).  My previous experience with fighting off things like this was similar in that it came after a serious illness. What I learned then, that I believe applies now, is that I need to live this craziness and work through it and I am using the strategies I learned then to help, and they are.  The one caveat this time is that I, at a time, was rather dependent on others to take care of my basic needs… and most really let me down.  I think it is that as I prepared myself for surgery, I let go… I promised myself that I would let others take care of me. So I did, and frankly, I still ended up having to take care of myself. Please know that I am talking basic needs, like food… some of the people taking care of me couldn’t even do that to help. So, I suppose I am mad at them, and definitely mad at myself.  I was trained from an early age to take care of things, now this does not mean I keep a clean house, far from that… but I am the type that will carry all the groceries, even if I am shopping with others, mainly because they walk away from the car and leave them all there for someone else and I am like “hell if I am walking up and down my porch stairs more than once, I am taking all these fuckers (bags of groceries) in right now”.  Fuck, am I stubborn or what?

Anyway, lots of thinking about all this crap and how to get myself back in to a happy place is going on. I try not to let it get me down, but it is really in my face at times. I amble through my daily life, trying to make sense of it all, trying to make sense of a world that has changed for me. Repeating tiny mantras about how “lucky I am”, or how “this world has so much wonderful for me” flutter through my head as my body tries to grasp them and hold them close to my heart. I was a much happier person 18 months ago, when I embarked on this path, and I have learned that grief, this kind of grief (the one for loss of self, rather than loss of others) is pretty fucking intense. I have changed, I cuss more… a lot more. I didn’t use to, I saved them for occasions that seemed to benefit from a well placed expletive.

There is so much complexity to this. It involves being disappointed by members of my own family and in tun trying to figure out if I had unrealistic expectations for them… because if I didn’t have the unrealistic expectations, and they really did disappoint me, that kind of makes me kind of stupid.  So, there have been a lot of questions I have been asking myself, and I am not the type that is afraid of hard questions… so that has been easy. Learning how human I am has been a mix of easy and hard. Working through stupid things people thoughtlessly said to me and which, for some stupid reason, are ringing bells and demanding my attention has been strange. There is this strange mix of braggadocio and humility in my self reflections that is a little tough to manage.  I think though, that I am starting to tell myself that I like myself again, and that is a good thing.

This shit is supposed to make me happy… follow up from yesterday

So, almost immediately (lets call it a Latin American immediately, it was probably 25 minutes 8 hours) after I posted my little ditty yesterday, I came across this: 21 Simple “Non-Spiritual” Things that make for Daily Happiness.

This came up in an image search using the words “making me happy” seemed an apt descriptor. Cat!

So the first thing you see is a happy young Paul Newman. Which is fine, but for me it was really about his nipples.

Have I written about the weird fascination I have developed about men’s nipples since I had the cancer cut out of me? No? Maybe? I dunno, but it is this bizarre thing that I noticed shortly after coming home from the hospital and watching Netflix… It is one of those feelings like one might get when they become fascinated by a car accident, rubbernecking their way past it all attention focused on the crash and not on the road in front of them.

So, my first thought was Nipples are a “non-spiritual” thing that makes for daily happiness? I don’t think so?

But I read on, and decided I had to try it out and here are my observations:

1. Touch water. Which feel good type thinks telling a fire sign that they should play with water to feel better is obviously a narrow minded water sign… I played with fire, sat with the family in front of it while drinking warm turmeric hot chocolate.

2. Sweat once a day. I did, enjoyed it too! 😉

3. Eat real food. I ate a small piece of my fudge pecan pie, because it is that good.

4. Support, subscribe, read a good magazine (print or online) that’s better than you are—with a hot drink of coffee or tea and a little sunshine and quiet.  I don’t believe that anything is better than anything else, it is not even a matter of degrees – shit just is so this one pissed me off because who or what the fuck is better than I am and to its contrary, what the fuck am I better than?  So, in lieu of this better than shite, I picked up a favorite book.

 5. Keep our clothes off the floor.  PASS
6. Community.  OK, so some of my friends (many who took care of me while I recovered) and I adopted a single mom with stage 3 breast cancer this Christmas… knowing how fucktastic cancer makes the holidays I do feel good about this one! Most of us went shopping together the other day and it was all kinds of awesome!
7. Don’t be afraid to be a fool.  I am not really afraid to go here, I do it often… BUT, and it happens to be a big huge BUT… I have to do it, if someone else does this to me, I crumple like a dead witch that had water poured over her! Working on letting others tease me with cruelty.

8. Work in an office, or live with, a dog. I have “Flash aaaahhhh ahhh Savior of the Universe Gordon Boba Fett [redacted last name to protect the unborn].

9. Breathe in and out, slowly, once a day. Thankfully, I have to do this or I can’t get out of bed.

10. Never eat while standing up, or driving. I rarely eat in these situations, though I might want to consider no longer eating at my desk because that is how I consume massive  jars of peanut butter.

11. Never cell phone while talking, or walking. I hate it when people do this to me, seems only fair.

12. Hike. I walk, on occasion.

13. Stop obsessing about one’s own happiness. I don’t think I obsess about this, though it would be nice to feel less of the angry ennui.

14. Put on a favorite song and sing it out, like we mean it. Yes, during most commutes home.

15. Pick up trash in the street. I try to do this every day, try – don’t always – but never saw this as a way to feel less grumpy.

16. Watch a movie and eat a little too much ice cream/pop corn/vegan ice cream/edamame/nuts. With peanut butter!

17. Put a few photos of loved ones around. I do this, in many ways.

18. Be honest. an important value I hold dear.

19. Sleep more. My fit bit helps me keep tabs on this. Interestingly enough I find that on the night I have time to drink turmeric milk (with or without hot chocolate) I tend to sleep really well.

20. Write. this. here. meh.

21. Meditate. Ever since I became inspired to teach my son to meditate I have had to do this every night. He loves it, we usually play some you-tube videos for this, but I stay with him for a bit and play along.

 

And… just because I love to self torture, here are my reflections on how I tried to fight being grumpy the “elephant journal way” with the suggestions not listed above (regurgitate much elephant journal?):

4. Friends – phew, this is hard – I have two days worth of texts from friends that I have to reply to because they want to do something for my birthday.

5. Sunshine. Arizona.

7. Flirt – I work in a school who would be my main contacts, that is just creepy.

8. Dress well. I have played dress up all week. It helps.

11. Relax. Give in. Hardest. Thing. Ever.

the sleepers in that quiet earth… (day 4)

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.
~ unknown

 

Another day without the dark tinge… sometimes, I imagine that the tinge looks like the gravelings in Dead like Me.

gravelings – creepy little shits

 

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.

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

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.

 

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.

This is going to be hard, and it was (day 3)

Today I gird my loins (ironic, huh?) through  step three of the suggestions this article has for addressing the negative:

3. Next, identify the specific emotions that arise in you as a result of said thoughts. What do they feel like? Is there tightening in your chest? Is your stomach turning or is there a throbbing sensation in your head? Again, any emotion that causes dis-ease is applicable.

[deep breath]

Well, this is going to be hard.

I will start with the easier one for me to discuss, the shame. The  shame is like a flush, it is deep and internal. I feel it come from my heart, and it rises into my throat. It weighs heavily in my brain.  I met, one night, with a friend who is my mentor, she was trying to find women in the Mormon community that would be a word of mouth conduit for encouraging immunization, specifically the HPV vaccine. I invited a Mormon friend to join us.  My friend shared that she had had cervical cancer, and explained that her marriage was to a much older man. The three Mormon women at the table with us, one of whom was a physician,  all nodded their heads in agreement… as if to say, of course, he was an older man and obviously slept with someone else. I was dumbstruck that they all went that route, especially the physician. I was so perturbed by that, that I said that I am a survivor too. They all looked a bit perplexed… they were presented with a situation that they could not discount by blaming the older husband… there was a strange silence. That silence was so full of judgement. I can excuse all of them but the physician, she really should have known better (even if she was a Mormon). I remember watching them around the table, after I shared my cervical cancer status, they all cast their eyes away… I was tempted to mention that I was a DES daughter to help them ease whatever it was they were thinking… but I felt that women who were in that position needed to manage their own thoughts about the disease. I felt shame in that instant, and it was coupled with being judged.

On, being judged. In the early 90’s I worked with my mother on a breast and cervical cancer program in our community. It was a nursing model and one that used lay health educators. I recall my mother telling me that women who had cervical cancer either had husbands that were philanderers or who were themselves “loose”. I feel like those who understand that cervical cancer is transmitted this way judge me. I want to start screaming my sexual history (which is really no ones business other than mine). The judgement plays itself out similar to the shame, but it filled with some indignation. I need to want to explain but with a sense that I really should not have to. I feel this in my stomach,  I get a horrid stomach ache when I feel judged.

There is a related story in which I would say I felt grace. Six months after my surgery I helped host an event to educate people about HPV and the HPV vaccine. One of the other community partners invited a male survivor. He had an HPV related cancer in his throat. During the social hour before the actual event, I talked to him. He told me he was a survivor, and I looked at him and said “So, am I”. We stared in each others eyes. It was as if we had found a kindred spirit. There was a brief moment of silence. And he then whispered at me, “So, you understand”. I felt grace in that moment. I was spiritually lifted in a way  I hadn’t’ been for the 10 months prior. I am so grateful I had that moment.

In terms of the betrayal. I think the hardest think one has to go through might be learning how fallible ones parents are.  The anger I feel at my mom and my aunt is fierce and fiery. When I think about how many times my mother felt that she needed to tell me that I needed to be more grateful to my aunt, to understand that she is awful about being nurturing that for her it was a tremendous success. I feel a heat start in my chest. I feel angry that my mother failed to see that I had recognized that, that my aunt felt that somehow she had gone above and beyond the group of friends and stranger that had organized dinners to be delivered to my home. Really, it was on par. I had thanked her as much as I had thanked them, the only thing being that I realized that taking a dinner to family you don’t really know was a generous act. The underlying thought is that if someone you do know is ill, you actually do, in fact, offer to help. After the burning fire of anger and sense of betrayal form in my chest, it moves to my jaw where I begin to clench my teeth as if I am trying to stop myself from yelling.

These usually all come together at the same time, starting with any one, will lead to the others. It feels like a vicious circle. I also feel like I need to get closure.  Often when they all come together, I wish for a state of non-being. I do not mean in any way that I want to kill myself, but it is more like wishing that I were not sentient, that I were not here, that I had never been. I hate it when I get to this point, thankfully it is not all that frequent that I get that bad.

My mother has apologized to me (I did demand it), though I got the distinct impression she has no idea what for.

Action:

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.

E62EDBED-16E4-46FD-B424-D4875F8D33E9

IMG_7461

Blair, you are an amazingly little girl. You live boldly, you love boldly. You have only made human mistakes, and you should not be ashamed of anything that happens to you because of them. You have an amazingly wonderful gift of learning from your mistakes, quickly and deeply. I see you striving so hard to be a good person, that is a good thing, because it means you are.

You willed always be judged, it is an unfair circumstance that we live in a world where people love to cast judgement. So, remember that you don’t need to do that for them. Go to your tendency to look at yourself, learn from it deeply and honestly as you often do. Move on, don’t let that dampen your spirit. No matter what other may say or think, you are a nice person, you always will be.

People will betray you. It is sad. They will betray you in so many ways. They will leave you without rhyme or reason, they will use sacred confidences and toss them out without thought to any consequences other than their right to do so. They will hurt you physically and emotionally. Don’t let them take away your view that the world is still glorious, that mean-ness and cruelty are the exception not the rule. Don’t let them belittle that you believe there is more good in the world than things dark and sordid.

What a difference a year makes

In 27 days I will celebrate one year of remission.

Today, I reflect on one year since I got the telephone call.

At 8:58 AM my doctor left a message that did not pop up on my phone for  at least another 20 minutes.

I was at work, and my office is in a cellular black hole. I was unable to listen to the message through my phone. I had to call my voicemail from a land line. I learned that I had cancer via voice mail.

I’ve left the voicemail unheard, like this, since, that day.

I remember looking at my desk, that space between my keyboard and the edge, staring at the wood as I listened. He gave me the pathology report results, and then gave me some names and numbers of oncologists to call, and of course asked me to call him back if I wanted.

I remember taking a very deep breath. I had a moment of overwhelming helplessness. Didn’t know what I should do first. I didn’t want to call my husband or my family. I tried to think of a way to get through this without telling anyone. I realized that was going to be impossible. I decided to take care of business. I think this all happened in 16 seconds. I called and made an appointment with the first oncologist he had recommended and then called my doctor back.

So began something I had not signed up for.

Looking back, I can honestly tell you that in so many way this has been the darkest year of my life.

I try to hang on to those moments that gave me moments of brightness, but it’s some of the hardest most desperate hanging on I’ve ever done…

Especially during those times when recurrence, in spite of a “98%” survival rate (which is the same as any of us pretty much) becomes that focus on the knowledge that I am on that low end of that 98%  spectrum and a swirling mess begins. I wish I could invoke my husbands Austrian pragmatism and just eschew that as silliness.

Actually, there is a part of me that can. What ends up happening is that I have conflict.

So, since I have dedicated October to mindfulness I want to explore how I can manage this conflict. I hate feeling the way I’ve felt this past year.  This article gives some clear steps on how to do that:

  1. Whenever you become aware of negative thoughts and emotions arising, rather than ignoring them, or setting them aside for later, identify, acknowledge, and honor them.

Identify: As a result of my cancer diagnosis; I am scared. I am angry. I am sad. I feel lonely. I feel ugly. I feel unloved. I worry that it will come back, every little pain or ache can bring that worry to mind. I feel unworthy. I feel like crying. I feel tired.  I feel selfish for being so sad and upset about these emotions. I feel let down. I feel like family is a joke. I am heartbroken that my mother chose to defend my aunt and berate me just a few months after my surgery when I was trying to find the good things in this. I’m angry that my aunt was a crybaby about my not thanking her enough. I feel like friends can bring greater value in times of stress (and this haunts me). I feel weak. I feel like a failure. I feel judged. I feel helpless. I feel like something I considered vital was beat out of me by this cancer, and by those I love. I am heartbroken to realize I no longer think I’m a kind person.  I miss the pre-cancer me.

Acknowledge: I clearly can see that these are all related to my diagnosis and experiences relating to all that has happened to me in the past year.

Honor: I have tried to do this, this is where I am stuck.

This past weekend I was at a leadership retreat where we did an exercise in which we had to picture us as an 8 or 9 year old.


I was told to picture that little girl in front of me. And tell her that I loved her. That she was bright, and kind, generous, and beautiful… loved. I was to caress her cheek, and hug her. I was to tell her she was valuable, important, strong, and brave.


2. Become very clear on what the specific upset is by identifying the exact thoughts that are bothering you. Are they self-judging, bad memories, or anxiety about future events? Any thought that causes dis-ease in you, regardless of past, present or future is applicable.
3. Next, indentify the specific emotions that arise in you as a result of said thoughts. What do they feel like? Is there tightening in your chest? Is your stomach turning or is there a throbbing sensation in your head? Again, any emotion that causes dis-ease is applicable.

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.

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.

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.)

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.

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