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!
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.
Little girl Blair, don’t forget to breathe. You are loved. Never ever forget that.
Describe your process for outlining your book. What do you do to stay organized? Do you use a software like Scrivener? Index cards? Sticky notes? Giant posterboards taped to the wall?
Is it OK to say that I do most of this in my head? While this is where I do most of my work, I do create documents to help navigate the complexities of the story I am trying to tell. I create a folder for everything related to the story.
Some of the documents include;
basic cast of characters; this gets added to as I navigate through the story
a narrative outline
separate documents with key interactions with other characters named by the other characters
files with background research (say, international travel in 1960 or the various forms of love, philosophy)
a character spread sheet
the story – in bits
the story as a whole
Wow, I guess there is more to my madness than I thought. I have thought about going the route of purchasing something but frugal is a gentle word for me and I would hate myself for buying something and not using the hell out of it! So, that option is out for me… at least for now!
I wish that I could say that these work well for me… but I don’t write enough to think it is particularly effective. I suppose though, I should celebrate that there is something actually that is written down.
Here is a second excerpt:
Clara’s parents suffered each other, as that is what unhappy married people did in those days, suffer the space the other occupied in their lives, though the pain was diminished by Clara’s presence in their life and was only acutely felt when she was not near them.
Katarina and Victor managed to have one other child, after Clara and because of Clara. Her presence alone was able to ignite another night of passion, though it was short-lived because she could not stay next to them. They had boy who was conceived on a night that neither parents recalls after putting Clara to bed, and thus the baby boy was entrusted with the gift of oblivion. Clotilde, who had become a faithful servant to the family prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus when she pulled Theodore from Katarina’s body. Later, Clotilde would claim that she heard angels weep when Theo was born. Clotilde felt a devout devotion to the child as well, partly due, of course, to the presence of Clara in the room with them.
As a schoolgirl she had friends in everyone that crossed her path, and her presence alone would manage to make even the most vile of bullies and hateful people to stop what they were doing and the most meek to smile and wave. She was a remarkably happy girl, she had been taught to curtsy to everyone she met. Adults were filled with delight as this beautiful little girls with her pony tails in corkscrew curls would stretch one leg out behind her and dip low on the leg in front, lowering her head in a gesture of respect. The adult for whom this gesture was being performed would often roar with delight and little Clara would look up and beam at the happiness in their faces.
Clotilde watched Clara grow and realized that while Clara was a happy child, that there was something amiss. Clotilde surmised that perhaps it was that Clara felt very lonely as her ability to love was unsurpassed by any other person around. Clotilde surmised that the young girl in some way suffered through the tremendous amount of love that she exuded and that it was not that she did not feel love, it was that Clara had yet to meet someone who would fill her heart with the kind of love that created her and for that, she was still much too young. Clotilde was not entirely wrong, for it was indeed that Clara longed to be loved as much as she was capable of loving but it was not the kind of love Clotilde imagined.
Anyone have any thoughts? Am I being silly for sharing?
My hat tip today goes to Habit Daddy… aside from posting pictures of a beloved park near my home, shares with me a transition from night-owl to morning person and what it has brought us…. he advocated for vodka in a previous post of his and I kind of like the idea! A good read!
For the past 5 weeks I have consumed at least 10 jars of peanut butter. At least 10 JARS! This is crazy.
It is like one of those insane cravings that can’t be sated. It has to be smooth – or as they say in peanut butter parlance – “creamy”.
Yes, I tried to curb the insatiable craving by buying a jar of the crunchy (or chunky) stuff. It merely slowed down the intake, but not enough to think it was effective. It was actually a catalyst for a dangerous turn in this craving period. I had to eat it with chocolate. Yummy combo yes, but not when you are a super dark dark chocolate lover and find that combination is heinous….so you run out and buy some crappy milk chocolate to make it palatable. And even if you return to the no sugar added creamy peanut butter your love, the taste for hints of milk chocolate remains. So, I elevated the experience buy snagging some of my son’s Lindt’s.
Only to find the creaminess of their center the absolutely perfect complement to the spoonfuls of peanut butter that I have been shoveling ion my mouth. It was heaven, though there is a lot more guilt from digging in to my son’s stash of favorite chocolates.
Creamy peanut butter, it is really awesome.
“Who uses crunchy peanut butter?” he asked the room. “You might as well eat squirrel shit.”
~ Michael Thomas Ford, The Road Home
I am not sure about the source of the craving, but the all-knowing Google gave me the impression that this is not an isolated thing, that there are many people out there with a hankerin’ for the thing I most currently consider a nectar of the gods.
There is a possibility that I am in desperate need of something that my body has been missing, much like the fierce beef carnivore I would become back in the days when I actually got my period. The interesting thing now, since I don’t get a bloody period, but do get a hormonal one is that I still crave beef, just not with as fierce a drive.
Let us get back to peanut butter. Creamy peanut butter!!!
It is insane, I am carrying around jars of peanut butter with me, I make runs to the grocery store when I polish a jar off. I have bought big jars, and normal jars. I eat it straight out of the jar.
My husband must think I am crazy, but even he has helped me give in to this madness by running to the store late at night to help keep me in stock.
It has to be plain or chocolate, no bread, no jelly… just peanut butter. and lately some chocolate is nice (but not required). Preferably off a spoon, but a knife or fork will do.
At least one site says that it helps fight stress. Maybe so. It makes sense, the past year has been stressful in a novel way. If peanut butter saves me through it, it is indeed the fruit of the gods… and gloriously explains my 30 pound weight gain.
And when I thought about it some more, I saw so many possibilities and had to chuckle at the notion that each one had at least one “rule violation”.
I thought about one dealing with the many faces of cancer; from the physicians that find it, the pathologists that decipher it, the oncologists that treat it, the people who have endured it, the families of those who suffered it, the nurses who care for them, the scientists researching it.
It would be good, but it is a theme and violates the programming rules.
Then I thought about what it was like growing up as a third culture kid, and how cool it would be to get other people who grew up that way. I think my friend Doralice would have some wonderful insights, as would my friend Sparrow, and my friends Jeff and Erica. I think it would be interesting to give voice to that kind of experience. It is a bit unusual.
I have met so many interesting people, I would love to have an event to hear them talk… the Jivaro indian that had to flee his tribe because he wouldn’t convert, the people who started putumayo, the circus people, the rodeo folks, singers, entrepreneurs of the ridiculous, those off grid (the hardest to organize), photographers, movie stars, cartoonists in the golden era, explorers, survivors, hedonists, narcissists, and so on.
That got me to thinking about what would happened if I was told I had to give a Ted talk… kind of talk could I give? what would it be about?
My ideas for Ted events is large…. but the list of things I feel I would be qualified to talk about is pretty non-existent.
I suppose I could talk about how being diagnosed with cancer was life changing in some spectacularly subtle ways… or what it was like being born to a bullfighter father and an explorer mother, though that is really their stories. About being a child of divorce (booooooring). What it was like managing a high stress pregnancy, most of which was spent on bed rest (gag me).
At this point in my life, I think I would talk about why I think vaccines are important, from a theoretical view, and cultural view, and prevention view, a mothers view, a survivors view,
What would your Ted talk be about?
*stands for examine your zipper, pretty darn quick, before I look (a childhood phrase)
So, for starters — the biopsy was totally just scar tissue.
But that event led to some pretty radical discoveries.
One thing is that I deeply resent is the people that tried to write my cancer story for me.
There were people who tried to decide my treatment option.
There were people who told people false information about my diagnosis, and refused to tell the real one. “It was DES, that is my story and I am sticking to it”, they said. (for the record, it was not caused by DES).
Oh, who am I kidding it was one person!
The fact that this person is also a cancer survivor makes me all the more incredulous. And bitter. And angry.
The one place I don’t feel gentler and kinder is in those who try to take from me.
We don’t live in a world where we have to whisper the word cancer any more, where the sheets and mattresses are tossed because they are “contagious”…
It is my story.
I don’t like people who interrupt my story with thoughtless perversions of their own.
We seem to live in a land of poor listeners…
I resent the anti-vaccine movement. My cancer is vaccine preventable. Men and women get cancer from a virus called HPV – we have a vaccine for that. Why on this earth would anyone choose to risk getting cancer????
I had a preemie, a medically fragile baby… to think how clueless I was when I took him out with me after he was born… it makes my heart hurt. I don’t feel much kindness towards my friends who support vaccines but pretend to be anti-vaxxers because they are afraid of conflict (or in one case because they thought it was ironic and funny) .I don’t feel much kindness to my friends putting seriously and DANGEROUSLY false information out there about the problems with vaccines.
I lost god, or God, or G_D or however one wishes to spell it.
I am totally fine with this, I actually feel some relief in some ways.
It, ironically enough, happened on Easter Sunday.
I was reading some blogs, and came across a few that made claims that were completely incompatible with my thoughts on God… and as I pondered that incompatibility I asked myself about the roots of that… and came to the conclusion that I can’t buy what they said. That I think everything is far grander than they think and that they are so limited in what God means… And just like that, I left God where he belongs, in the hearts of people that need that.
I still strongly believe that religion (in any form) has some very important cultural fundamentals and is vital for many people who struggle to make sense of things… but that as I struggle to make sense of things, that ideas on God no longer require fitting in. I am happy. I would encourage people to find God… I just don’t. I don’t need re-birth in a Christian sense, I don’t need to be saved in a Christian sense, I don’t need those things at all to find my path in this world. I can make all of those transitions and shifts without God. I also don’t consider this to be a simple kind of faith.
To be fair, though… most of the things that caused me to go were about Jesus. Not God, that is if you consider them separate (in any form) and while I followed a Christian based spiritual path, I never felt that Christ was my “It” guy. I had believed that I understood God, but that all got called in to question. And I realized that the version of God that I had in my heart was based on the magnificence of things, most of those things being based on reason, some of those things based on how I made sense of the world. But, and here was the kicker, I really did not need God to keep that delight in magnificence. It was there even as I let go. I still deeply love this world. I am not about to become an atheist poster child. I don’t even like the word atheist. But I don’t feel like I fit the mold for agnostic any more either.
I am still navigating this path… but I am ok, I don’t see it as a path of reason, it is just my path.
Maybe, someday, I will change my mind again, though I feel less inclined to care. It just is.
The team I am working with has been UNBELIEVABLY supportive… but it is so hard to get buy in from other folks.
I struggle with that.
But it may have been that I had an unscheduled visit to my oncologist today.
Something I am not supposed to be doing at this point.
So I went in and saw my doctors nurse practitioner. Who performed a biopsy.
I have had biopsies before, in that area… it hurt like a motherf*&%#r.
Even though she told me that it was my job to assume it was due to scar tissue, she also told me it was her job to rule out recurrence. She reassured me that it looked like granulation (BTW – don’t Google it).
What makes this situation even crazier is that the woman who did my biopsy is also a woman who will be on the panel for the movie screening.
Following up that I am helping to host a conversation about a preventable cancer
and that one of the panelists will have seen my girly-bits, I just got word who a second panelist will be and…. guess what??????
She has seen my girly bits too.
She was there when my son was born, as in the room… standing right between my husband and my mother.
So, I am trying to find the beauty of all of this. So, “this” being a weird place in my life (waiting for biopsy results) the week before I am helping host an event. The event which happens to be about something that most likely got me into the biopsy situation in the first place.
Anyway, the big shift for me has been to try and be kinder, gentler, more gracious… and yet stay my own person.
Hard to do when you are in a lot of pain.
The biopsy was really painful, it still hurts as I type this some 12 hours later.
I still have so much to be grateful for, But it is kind of nerve wracking to be in my position, again… you know, waiting for results. Not the most fun place to be.
Anyway, after my ridiculously painful “procedure” I yelled out “fuck, that hurts” and immediately apologized and lay on the exam table, in tears, for a while. The nurse practitioner who took the biopsy was so very kind and seemed very distressed by my reaction.
I was pretty shocked by it too. It was, however, really painful. I have had biopsies of my girly bits before, without any numbing agent, and it was nothing like this.
At one point, during the second “grab” for tissue I screamed out “oh fuck that hurts”, and then immediately apologized. I am generally not one to curse much… I was embarrassed.
I lay on that exam table, tears streaming down my face, trying to get back to a normal breathing, staring at the bright light above me wishing there was something like a rainbow pooping unicorn to look at…
The nurse practitioner held my hand, asked me how I was feeling, helped me get some of my ibuprofen and drink it down. She seemed very concerned. All very kind considering that she had just learned she would be speaking at the HPV movie thing and that I was involved.
After my breathing got back to normal and the tears stopped falling down my face, she told me to lay there as long as I needed. She, and the other NP with her, quietly left the room. I lay on that exam table, and the tears came back.
It was a pity party I suppose. I lay there crying and trying to remember to be thankful that this was an experience in which I had had tremendous luck. No chemo. No radiation. a tumor the size of a grain of salt.
I lay there looking at the light above me. Trying to make it something more than just a light, making a distraction from the pain in my internal surgical site and the pain in my heart.
My heart did hurt, I had a vaccine preventable disease.
Let me say that again, I was diagnosed with a vaccine preventable disease.
One that would have prevented everything, a sub-total hysterectomy, worry, agony… and today’s darn biopsy.
It is a vaccine preventable disease.
Granted, I was born before this miracle vaccine was developed. But it is a vaccine preventable disease.
And as I ran through a list of people I do not particularly care for, not one of them and not one of their children were eligible for my wanting them to suffer what I had suffered through, I AM suffering through.
Vaccinate your children. In some cases yourself. Your boys. Your girls. This alternative is not fun. not fun at all. The HPV vaccine is good for kids aged 9 to adults aged 26.
A year ago, I had sent my son off to Europe and missed him terribly.
I think it was the Starbucks app of the week that was a picture a day app. I downloaded it, because;
1) it was free
2) I was thinking about documenting how much I missed my son
So, I took the selfie… and time flowed and I stuck to it and yesterday I got a notice that I had taken 365 photos.
One year, one insane year.
A son sent abroad at a very young age and being diagnosed with cancer. Not really sure which was hardest at the inception.
I missed my son terribly and was so happy when I reunited with him.
And hearing you have cancer sucks, sucks, sucks… and somehow it infiltrates everything.
But I missed my son and that was the hardest thing ever, and yes.. in a way, it was harder than being told one has cancer.
But the cancer things has its own craziness, craziness that makes everything outside the norm seem so much scarier.
So here is that one year of selfies, and as I sit here trying to figure out what all to tell my oncologist when I call him tomorrow, I think I look so much happier now than I did when I missed my son so much!
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.
~ Albert Camus
It was late on December 20th, 2014 and I was still recovering from my surgery. I read an email from my friend Gail in which she asked if the Junior League of Phoenix (JLP) would be interested in hosting a movie screening. Gail works at The Arizona Partnership for Immunization. It was this movie screening:
I watched the trailer. I called her to talk on the phone. I pretty much told her that I didn’t know but I would find a way. We talked about how I could manage this in my capacity as the member training committee chair and we came up with a plan. The next morning I sent out some emails to my Team Leader in the Junior League and my co-chair. Both were supportive. Gail and I discussed venues and what options we had. We decided that my cousin, who is Lead pastor at Scottsdale First Church of the Nazarene, would be a good person to approach. So an email went to him. I received immediate replies and all were supportive. Here I am 2 months later. The JLP team lead I serve under, has allowed for this to become a bigger deal within the JLP. More partnerships have developed and are included below. Our goal is to provide one large movie screening with a panel that is targeting about 200 viewers. If you are local – please save the date: Date: Thursday, April 9th 2015 Location: Scottsdale First Church of the Nazarene 2340 N Hayden Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85257 Time: 5:30 – 9:00 pm / Movie starts at approx 6:30 Tentative Agenda: Sign in opens with a meet and greet: 5:30 Movie and topic is introduced and screened 6:30 (movie is 80 minutes long) Panel discussion at end of film closing meet and greet