Tag Archives: philosophy

the sky is empty

“I talk to God but the sky is empty.”
~ Sylvia Plath

Ge’ez, Sylvia Plath is sure a downer!

When I was little, I thought my grandparents lived in heaven, not because they were dead, but because they lived in Arizona (a stretch to see how I got here, I can imagine, but bear with me)….

I came to visit them with this kind of sky:

From this kind of sky:

So, when we went to visit (usually in early summer) our plane went up above the clouds, but never came back down through them… so, they must have lived in heaven, right? Please, also note that this was also around the time I was very saddened that Zeus and the pantheon of gods was not “real” and that my mother found me once, kneeling in the front yard praying to the moon-god. I was a wildly spiritual child.

Considering my family did not practice any real form of faith as I was growing up, they were Protestant in Roman Catholic countries after all – and any Protestants that lived where we were tended to be evangelical missionaries and not the most fun to be around – add in that we were considered to be “converted” and there were all those heathen Roman Catholics and indigenous cultures that needed to be saved. 

Many people tell you to lean in to your faith in trying times like this. It is amazing how much you seek something out, something that requires faith. But looking for something that is comfortable, that does not mean I must have a rebirth in any fashion, that means I don’t have to believe fossils were put on earth by satan to lure us to his evil ends,  something other than the spiritual connection to the cancer I got is because I have mommy issues, something other than I am not godly and got cancer because I am being punished… 

fuck – fuck – fuck – fuck

FUCK

How do you find faith in the midst of such fucking insanity.

Notice that is not a question, though it probably should be.

Anyway.

I learned that I had a sizable chunk of muscle removed with my last surgery. Granted, it was not the breast surgery removal of days of yore when women begged for a radical (nay, they wanted uber radical) mastectomy – the kind that took out muscle and bone (think ribs and clavicles). I’m missing 2 inches of chest wall muscle… and I’m still in disbelief… faith.

The way humans think is sometimes shocking to me. BUT, and it is a YUUUUUGE “but”, I get it. While my head understands that if treated correctly a lumpectomy has the same results as a mastectomy and you heal faster – but WTF does treating something correctly mean? My tumor was muscle adjacent, so does that mean that one of those a$$hole cancer monsters escaped and is it hiding somewhere? Somewhere that chemo and radiation can’t find?  Faith.

This is where finding faith again is crucial – but it is so freaking different this go around, faith that is.

If you are prone to that which is beyond the physical and don’t judge, I can share how I am re-learning how to lean in to faith again.  The thing is, I will most likely appear a heretic to you.

The one thing I know, is that I don’t think faith is about re-birth (that concept is what caused me to abandon faith before)… if it is for you, that is awesome – but I don’t buy it one effin’ iota.

I, beautifully enough, am finding this process of rediscovering faith kinda cool. and a bit painful.

It is especially nice since there is a disquiet in this process, of being a person diagnosed with cancer. It was present the first time and it is present again this time.  The subtleties of it that I experienced the first time is magnified, but both of my cancer experiences, so far, are incredibly similar… at least internally.

Because my first round was stage 1 and caught super early and only required surgery it was subtle. I felt like a fraud of a cancer patient because phht, it just needed surgery. People (most of them), aside from the time during the surgery put me at the bottom or low-end of a cancer continuum (that was practically equated with being cancer free).

In this round, where I am currently listed as stage 2B (and probably only because they did not take out more nodes and we will see if that changes after the next battery of test results come in), it is still sufficiently low on that continuum that I still feel like a fraud (though only less so because, after all, it looks like I am getting chemo and radiation this time) and the news about the cancer itself has just gotten progressively worse. Many of those same folks from my first experience are still like “well, you aren’t dying”.

I am adding silently  in my head; “that I know of” because I am still waiting for more tests and results of tests.

No, I am not dying (well, at least I don’t think so, but as I said… I will have a more definitive answer after I see the results of the next test). Trust me I celebrate that!  I am not healthy, I have a chronic disease that gives me (according to my radiation oncologist) an 81% 5 year survival rate (though this varies depending on the sites with such data). Yes, 81% is super awesome, but before this all went down I was with most others and had the general average population of a smidgen over 98% . A 17% drop in my life expectancy is still a crappy thing to have as a part of my life.

Trying to balance a good attitude with crippling doubts is a strange place to be.

I struggle. The struggle is real. Not because I have a Christian need for an after-life – but because I want to be more than just a life form – I want something divine to be a part of this experience, I want to lean in to something when I am so riddled and consumed with anxiety. A set of rituals that I can be a part of, a community where I feel like I belong. IN my head I often say to myself, I just want to be loved through this.

I read about Sherman Alexie today, something that I struggled with, but which spoke to the spiritual little girl in me that the unseen world is there for those that listen.  (the story is here).

I have found great comfort in so many people in my life, women and men – willing to be a part of this process with me.  I hate to lean on them, how do you answer the unanswerable to someone like me desperately seeking?

 

 

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tickling the tail of a sleeping dragon

“tickling the tail of a sleeping dragon”.
~ Richard Feynman (the story behind this quote)

There is an infinitesimal moment in certain kinds of situations that have about them a sense of the surreal, of suspended animation, of some sort of unexplainable something that detaches you from your surroundings and yet manages to implode you into them. Everything makes sense, yet nothing does.

Getting told gut wrenching news can be one of them.

I had wanted to come here and put into written posterity my fight with Hello Kitty that lead to a paisley shaped second degree burn. A story such as this had elements of the absurd coupled with a funny anecdote about managing pain, discomfort, and numbness after surgery.

I’ve been pondering, as well, putting down the why… as in why I share this “journey” in the way I do. (side note: I hate the word journey in this case… Journey is a beautiful word, cancer should never be a part of its etymology)

But really, all I “feel” like I want to do right now is to throw things and break them while cussing like an angry drunken sailor… at least until I see that in the whole scheme of things I’m pretty lucky and behaving like that impulse, is pretty self-indulgent and whiney so I don’t and just end up having to tell my husband that I’m talking to myself again.

I do talk to myself quite a lot now, primarily because I start thinking of people who have expressed some dislike towards me and it’s me asking them if they’re happy now that I’ve got cancer… again.  It’s a crazy conversation I am having with myself. I figure it is how I am processing the whole fault of this situation – as in it is my fault while trying to understand why – I must be a terrible person, but I don’t think I am but maybe those who do think I am can understand this and I am, I guess, trying to see it through their eyes. Again, I can see this is a clinical process, but it is one I am going through – it is so weird.

May be that I need to be appropriately embarrassed by my “fight” with Hello Kitty, and get my mind off of this sinking hell hole of self-pity or self-loathing.  The “why me” is a constant battle in managing a chronic disease such as mine, even more so this second go around. I fight it through humor and laughing at myself.

So, back to Hello Kitty, and this popsicle eating dollar store Hello Kitty gel ice pack in particular…

This is the beast that burnt me

In a nutshell, I wasn’t thinking one single bit.

I sleep on my side, and on the side where I had my surgery in particular. I am one of those people who turns in to a heat emitting furnace when sleeping which made my incision sites (yes, there are two) feel warm, too warm. So, I would wake up and stumble to the kitchen, open up my freezer and take out one of my perfectly sized Hello Kitty gel ice packs and put them in my sports bra and head back to sleep. The instant cooling felt wonderful and in such a state nary a consideration was given to the fact that I put a gel pack straight on my skin. Please take this as a warning, doing this is unbelievably stupid and I know better and still did it.

The resulting second degree burn is paisley shaped and about two inches long and an inch wide, its blister has popped. I will admit that I have to fight the urge to draw on it and make it pretty, if only to be a distraction that I jumped up a whole stage in cancer.

All of these distractions I give myself feel like I am tickling the tail of a sleeping dragon, because the medical news I get never seems to get any better, just gut-wrenchingly worse.

::tickle::tickle::

 

Making me mad 6/365

Today I am supposed to write about what is making me mad.

I used to love this magazine, the back page folding exercise was a favorite right next to Spy Vs Spy. 

Aside from nostalgia about the magazine, nothing much comes to mind. I am sure i get mad, but it is those fleeting surges that are really rather insignificant; like yesterday when I was standing at the top step of my porch when my mini great dane decides to jump on me and I almost fell back – but that isn’t anger it is really fear.

I drove to work this morning thinking about this… “what do I get mad about”.

  • One that has been pointed out to me is that I do not like being teased, especially if there can be any inference about my being stupid.
  • I hate people who make fun of others. I try really hard not to do this myself, not always successfully.

Other things upset me, but they do not quite make me mad.

 

 

(from here)

My favorite accessory 5/365

 

My favorite accessory is probably my extra earring. A small gold hoop on my left ear.

I have talked about it a few times before…. like here, here,  and here.

It seems so strange to talk about this earring on a day (day after, actually) that someone famous died.   And normally I think I would have let the fact that David Bowie died just slide past with a certain wistfulness. But not now.

The news says he died of cancer, that horrible fucking beast of a disease. He had been fighting it for 18 months.  Which fits the same schedule of my own “fight” with this beast.  18 months ago I cut a vacation short because my doctor called with the pathology reports. I don’t know what kind of cancer he had, but that is probably irrelevant. Cancer sucks, it just fucking sucks.  So here I sit, mired with some sense of something that is indescribable – a dash of survivors guilt, gratitude, thankfulness, sorrow – it is a crazy mix. It has its own sound track, his songs that seemed to play at those strange little milestones in one’s life,

One of the more interesting things to come across my social media feeds is a David Bowie reading list. A list of 100 books that he allegedly found to have some influence or importance. I have read 27 from that list, all of those would be on my list of 100 . Some I have no interest in reading, but in careful consideration I think it is more about the cultural milieu in which we found ourselves and I have my equivalence.

It’s a god-awful small affair
To the girl with the mousy hair
But her mummy is yelling “No”
And her daddy has told her to go
But her friend is nowhere to be seen
Now she walks
through her sunken dream
To the seat with the clearest view
And she’s hooked to the silver screen
But the film is a saddening bore
For she’s lived it
ten times or more
She could spit in the eyes of fools
As they ask her to focus on

It’s a god-awful small affair
To the girl with the mousy hair
But her mummy is yelling “No”
And her daddy has told her to go
But her friend is nowhere to be seen
Now she walks
through her sunken dream
To the seat with the clearest view
And she’s hooked to the silver screen
But the film is a saddening bore
For she’s lived it
ten times or more
She could spit in the eyes of fools
As they ask her to focus on

~ David Bowie – Life on Mars?

(from here)

What made me smile 4/365

 

 

It is nice to be smiling again! I lost it (the desire to smile) in the midst of my “recovery” from cancer surgery.  I think it is coming back!

So, it is bed time, and I lay here with my newly repaired laptop and wonder to myself… what made me smile…

There were a lot of good things that happened today.

I got up and made an amazing salad and a ton of turkey bacon for a meeting. I had an amazingly productive board retreat (where the aforementioned food items were served). My second meeting was canceled so got to take a break and go pick up my lap top. I then went to a coffee shop and got myself a latte, then dinner out.

Of all of these, I think the delight at getting my laptop back is the most inescapable. I am delighted that my “brother from another mother” agreed to look at it and fix it up! He even loaded some special treats (like the new OS) on it for me. I am actually smiling here as I type this out, looking at my feels almost new, but most certainly improved, lap top.

(from here)

Current favorite snack 3/365

A trip to get my laptop fixed delayed this post.

I must admit that this topic feels a bit too easy and simple to write about, I am in the mood for meaty, and  my current favorite snack doesn’t fall in to that category.

Currently, I am in love with peanut butter… actually, I am still in love with peanut butter.

I tried to use almond butter, cashew butter, powdered peanut butter to see if I could curb the hankering… no such luck.

I love with apple, and love it even more with a hint of chocolate and salt.

I wonder if this is related to some vitamin deficiency?

 

(from here)

Can people change? 1/365

OK, let me try this – writing every day for one year.

People change, very much and in very many ways. As my son likes to remind me… our taste buds get totally replaced every seven years (his justification when he doesn’t like how something tastes). Our skin gets replaced, our hair grows, our nails lengthen, our skin loses its elasticity… we physically change.

So, I guess we emotionally change too. We become something as a result of our experiences… kinder, gentler, fiercer, meaner, more cruel, more crazy, more lazy.

Change happens.

Doesn’t means it is all good.

Doesn’t mean it is all bad.

but we can hope for improvement.

(from here)

Is there such a thing as an art based EULA?

“A good book deserves an active reading. The activity of reading does not stop with the work of understanding what a book says. It must be completed by the work of criticism, the work of judging. The undemanding reader fails to satisfy this requirement, probably even more than he fails to analyze and interpret. He not only makes no effort to understand; he also dismisses a book simply by putting it aside and forgetting it. Worse than faintly praising it, he damns it by giving it no critical consideration whatever.”
~ Mortimer J. Adler, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading

One of the biggest arguments I ever got into when I was in college was about artist (and specifically to the discussion then, authors) responsibility.  It was one of those life changing conversations and it has played out in my mins for the last 25 years in varying forms and with multiple applications.

One of the concepts that was brought up minimally then, but seems much more relevant now is that of the artists spectator. The actors viewer, the artists watcher, the authors reader.  I would argue that art is a social process, there is an end-user and a silently understood agreement (a EULA, if you will) between the artist and the one who “experiences” the art. I am not saying that a painter paints for a specific audience, I am saying the artist paints for an audience. This plays out in many ways.  I am not speaking to message of the art form, nor am I speaking to interpretation of the art form. I am speaking about the end-user. The watcher, reader, listener, or viewer.

I think we readers, watchers, viewers have gotten piss spoor about this part of the social contact. I know of only a very few people who consistently do these things actively, and even they slip up. We have gotten lazy, we react before fully reading, watching, listening or viewing. It may be that artists have stopped giving a shit about that their audience thinks or responds to their work, but on some level they have to want the people who experience their works to not pass by it in ignorance? I don’t know.

I, personally, write in the hope that the person reading my works thinks about something.  While I may be working through something deeply personal, having a reader respond often offers me greater insight. If they misunderstand, it helps me learn how to be clearer.

 

 

I have a friend that writes. They have an incredible vocabulary, though it is sometimes a bit archaic. They are pretty good at giving the reader what they want them to react to. I would say it is a mark of a good writer.  The interesting thing with my friend though, is that there is a general laziness with interpersonal conversation. That is frustrating. I imagine that the marvels and instant gratification of social media play out in these things.  Based on how I see communication working out now a-days, people seem to like to get their panties in bunch. They read a post, or see a picture and form these hard-line reactions.

I am no saint in this regard. I caught myself doing it all the time. it was to the point where it became personally embarrassing. Thankfully I have some friends who loved me enough to tell me to go back, read it again.  So, I would pull my panties out and go back. And 99% of the time, I had reacted rather than read.

So, what are some things that I do that help me know I am doing this?

If something pisses me off, I go back and read or look at it again. Occasionally I will read it out loud, or view it in a different place.  I pinpoint the words/images that I am reacting to. I ask myself what are they trying to communicate? If I am still unclear, I ask questions.  Am I reacting very strongly, then take a break and go back to it later (in instant gratification land, this can feel tough). In the case of written work, write it out. Look up words that you may not be sure about how they are being used (this one has been fun, for my friend with the archaic vocabulary, I sent them a list of all the words I had looked up when I had read their work… I thought it a fun conversation).

In the world where texting, email, posts, and comments have become a regular form of communication, it might behoove us all to become better at what I might call active appreciation.  Actually, you do whatever you want… but as for me, I am going to try to listen, watch, read, and view  with more attention.

whose boat is on the running stream…

“What should I possibly have to tell you, oh venerable one? Perhaps that you’re searching far too much? That in all that searching, you don’t find the time for finding?”
~ Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

ecbracletred22-020

We are cleaning house to host Christmas. And as is often the case on such endeavors (at least in my life) things have been found that elicit powerful and profound reactions.

I was tidying up our mantle and found a stone jar with a fossil lid. Curious, and willing to delay the tidying up to explore, I opened it up only to discover something I probably needed to find.

It was a 5 foot long string of red beads.

as i pulled the strand out, I thought back on when I must have bought it. 17 years ago, when I was in Quito and roaming one of the many folks selling things in the parks.  I remember picking this one out because it had two “gold” beads in it.  I twisted the string of beads onto my wrist, feeling a simple pleasure as I felt them wrap around.

It is a simple standard of beauty that has carried with me. Many of the indigenous women, of varying tribes, in Ecuador wear them. It is said to ward of evil and to protect the wearer. One will see these wrapped in various widths and on various ages of the women in Ecuador. Red bracelets are actually something pretty widespread and come in a variety of materials.  It is a familiar one to me, and I have worn it on my wrists for these past few days, a certain level of comfort in seeing its length wrapped around my wrist. I touch them, roll them against my skin, admiring the variety of sizes the beads come in.

Last night, I was in the bath tub and wondered if the string would suffer from getting wet. I rolled and untangled my bracelet and gently laid it out to dry.  This morning I picked it up and twisted it back on my wrist.  There was such a comfort in that ritual. I wondered how many other women had gone about starting their day by twisting these beads around their wrist, in a mix of superstition, habit, and because of the gentleness of it.

 

red beads
This is my red bead bracelet.

“For such is the way of it: to find and lose, as it seems to those whose boat is on the running stream.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

ignoring my limits

​In our society, the women who break down barriers are those who ignore limits.
~ Arnold Schwarzenegger​
I would hope that women get exposed, personally, to women who break down barriers. Actually, I hope that men get exposed to women who break barriers too, because this is still something that needs to happen.  I am lucky, in 1980 my cousin was the second best archer in the world. Amazon comparisons aside, this was HUGE. Women have been slinging arrows for eons, but to get to a level where you are second best… in the world… wow, she is pretty impressive in this respect (and many others).  How wonderful is it that we live in a world where we see more women breaking barriers and becoming awesome at what they do.

This took a long time to come for me. Born in an era that was just starting to feel out the women’s rights movement.  Add to that the fact that I was born and raised in countries that have very “traditional” roles for women. So, breaking barriers was not something I even thought about until, that is, I moved to the United States. Before that, I think my most adventurous aspiration was to be a flamenco dancer.

Now, please know that I do not mean to demean flamenco dancers by that statement.  There is a ton of back story to that. My father bullfights. I spent the first ten years of my life either watching him bullfight or helping out at our ranch that raised fighting bulls. Bullfighting is the glue that hold my relationship together with my father. I live in a world where I both hate it and love it. My more intimate knowledge about it provides for this. Like many things in life, it is both beautiful and brutal.

My father is well-respected among bullfighting circles around the world.  I went to visit a friend of his when I was an adult and he told me how he met my dad. My dad had been trying to get a chance to bullfight right after we had moved from Spain to Ecuador, but it is not something one can just go to the park and find a pick-up game.  So this friend of my fathers recalls that he ans his friends kept getting these calls about this silly American that wanted to join them in a bullring. After several months they realized that they were not going to get rid of his persistence so they had him come along.  At this point in the conversation, my father’s friend looks me in the eyes and tell how he and all his friends saw my dad get in the ring and were stunned by how good a bullfighter my father was.  He is still good. Anyway, I grew up with enough privilege that I really believed that I would end up a mother of many children with a wealthy enough husband and live in a country other than the USA. Needless to say that did not happen.

I recall moving to the US just at the start of the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment. Which was the same time that my cousin was an Olympic archer, my aunt had won Emmy’s and was becoming an artist. There was something empowering and horribly frightening about this. So, at this point in my life, my tweens and early teens, I realized I could be anything I wanted to be if I wanted it hard enough.
So, I hung on to my dream of having lots of children (I have always wanted six, for what it is worth) but now I could be that and do anything. In high school I was stunned when a friend stopped me after me describing my future self and said that it was great I had these ideas about what I would do with my children, but she had noticed that I never mentioned their father or a husband. I am sure that my mother had to work so very hard and had to fight to provide for my brother and I after my father took off with another  woman and left us high and dry was the impetus for this visioning I was doing.
So, I chased dreams.
It wasn’t until I was thirty that I was able to revisit my father and his bullfighting passion. I was back in the US and newly married and he invited me to join him for a special convention in Texas.  Through a random series of events I was able to share a room with a female bullfighter. I had never even really imagined this. I was aware of women like  Conchita Cintrón and Bette Ford, but hadn’t really thought about it in terms of how many crazy walls they had to tear down.  To put this in perceptive, in 1998 I attended the bullfights in Ecuador and on the last day I asked the man who was our former veterinarian if I could join him in the callejon (the inner ring, where the bullfighters and their assistants hang out in a bull ring). His reply was to tell me that I could because that the ban on women being there had been lifted a few years ago… which makes the ban on women in the inner circle to have been lifted around 1997!!!
So, here I was in a room with a woman bullfighter by the name of Raquel Martinez. A petite and beautiful blond woman. I felt like her opposite in everything, I was tall to her short, brunette to her blond, squishy to her toned, make up less to her flawless make-up. I was in awe. Never in my growing up as my father’s daughter had I ever considered this, and now in the presence of a woman bullfighter I was in awe. She was kind, gracious, gentle… had a great sense of humor, she was both strong and vulnerable. It was an amazing time. She was the first woman I ever asked for make-up advice. We talked about the men we had loved, and how crazy it was to try to be a woman bullfighter. I have not seen her since that time, but she has remained on of my treasured experiences. She was part of a group of women who were tearing down walls, and she was amazing.
For the record, I do not want to be a bullfighter… I would much rather dance the flamenco.