Tag Archives: search

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

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If it quacks like a duck… it must be stunned

Today, during what was originally supposed to be a quick glance through my Facebook feed I read the words “IN WOMEN WITH PERSISTENT CERVICAL CANCER”.

It was in all caps too. PERSISTENT CERVICAL CANCER.

fuck

the urge to cry from worry

fuck

I stared at my screen thinking; Is this a thing? Can women get cervical cancer… on repeat…

My joints started to ache, my skin flushed with needle pricks, my face got hot, I held my breath.

Is this really a thing?

How did I miss this… I mean, I am a medical school dropout for chrissake… one who has worked or volunteered in breast and cervical cancer issues for most of her adult life…

In my head, in that stunned moment after reading that, I had the idea that some women just kept getting cervical cancer… like one gets a cold… they are both viruses, after all.

So, I (somewhat reluctantly, yet with incredible haste) went to my very trusted medical internet sites to see if there was such a thing (complete with a search for an applicable ICD9 code) as Persistent Cervical Cancer.

OK.

deep breath

the urge to cry from relief

Turns out, it is another way of saying metastatic cervical cancer, and just as I had thought before I had read that post cervical cancer recurrence rates (really, it is 5 year survivor rates) are linked to stage of initial diagnosis.

fuck

I wonder if my conversation with a person (a woman who had also had a cancer diagnosis, though of a different variety) just minutes before seeing this, where we talked about how certain things just tend to have an initial thought that you have a recurrence, played into how I reacted (what a sentence this is?!).

Your tooth hurts  – it has spread.

You get a bruise – it has spread.

You have an ache – it is a tumor.

but… maybe not.

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.

Ten things that make me happy… tempered with a healthy dose of bitter

Sometimes it helps to list shiny, happy things out especially when I am feeling dark and curmudgeonly…. as a clue as to how dark and curmudgeonly I am feeling I am fighting the instinct to start out this paragraph with “Some people have told me that this is a stupid thing to do but sometimes it helps…”

It seems like I am one angry mother fucker as of late. Just ask my mother, she would agree.

1.  My son, when I feel all dark and evil inside, I look at my son in the eyes and there is so much goodness in there that he saves me from myself (at least in terms of letting the dark win), I also feel really guilty that I do this, seems like a lot of pressure to put on him though he has no idea what goes on inside my head, So, my son, he makes me happy.

2. Giving – giving of my time mostly, since I don’t have a lot of money. My husband hates this part of me, told me the other night “I wish I were a charity so you would be with me”

OMG – I am two in and already they are deeply tempered with crotchety…. how do I fix this?

3.  The color orange. It makes me happy. This is in spite of the fact that I was told by an “wu-wu” artist that orange is the low color on the totem pole and that only real cool people love purple – what a douche!  I still love the color orange, purple reminds me of mean old ladies that hit you with their umbrellas.

4. Stupid games on my phone; Yahtzee anyone? How about Draw Free (I play this with my son, which is actually awesome), Cascade, Smurfs 2, Criminal Case, Words Streak, Words with Friends, or Trivia Crack.  It is treasured mindlessness.

5. My Fitbit – love it for its reminders of how crappy I sleep when I am in a uptown funk!

6. Meat. I love meat. It is something dead.

7. Boots, I love boots. It is cold out now, they help keep my feet warm.

8. Friends, they always manage to come out when I need them most. I can’t imagine that I am an easy friend to have.

9.  Coffee. I have brought myself to the point where I only take one cup a day, and I take it with cream only. But it is a glorious 12 minutes of so of my every morning!

10. My husband. Paragon of patience with me.  He reminds me to be happy, even when he is his grumpiest self!

 

Shit I obsess about when I am not drinking… (day 3)

which is ironic because I only drink as an after thought…  as in “oh yeah, we have that bottle of red wine   scotch   rum  hard cider   beer   red wine  that we should open”.

I like drinking but it is not something I think about or have to do… in all honesty, some friends think I am a borderline teetotaler, ready to take a hatchet to en evil barrel of alcohol. It is a nice after thought, and can be awesome when used and abused in certain circumstances.

The medical school drop-out in me tends to get all worked up about talking about alcohol because we were taught to double what most people tell us they drink… alcohol and sex are two things most folks are willing to lie to their physicians about.

Which brings me to the think I have been thinking about…

I mentioned in my last post that I went to see a dermatologist because… “hey, skin cancer is another form of cancer and I have proven excellent at making that nasty beast grow, so get checked girlfriend, you live in Arizona”.

Which was good, because at the end of my appointment my deliciously “young American of Brazilian ancestry but in love with Medellin, Colombia” doctor grabbed my shoulders, looked me straight in the eyes and said “Your skin looks fine to me. Nothing suspicious. See you in a year, unless something changes”.

Phew, right?

So, as he held my gaze to tell me the fabulous news that my body had managed to not get “the cancer” again… I noticed something.

He had a bruise under his left eye… like right under his eye. My hot young doctor had a freakin’ black eye!!!! it was a beautiful yellow bruise with a slight magenta center, like an under eye sunset. The colors were rather beautiful!

like this, only a bruise, not make up, and with man eyes.

And I think I must have tilted my head when I noticed it, which I think he must have noticed because I am pretty sure he smiled at me in that “lets keep that between us” kind of way that only hot Latin men are wont to do!

So, since that moment I have been thinking about it, and considering the plethora of things that may have caused it…

Can I tell you how magical that has been? I can try, but I don’t think I can…

It has been so wonderful to think that he got into a tele-novela style fight over a girl while dancing away wearing too tight shirt and pants while in a trendy dance club, or that he opened a bottle of wine incorrectly as he was trying to pour his beloved a glass of wine, or he had a momentary lapse of muscular coordination while trying to cook a date some dinner and opened the cupboard into his eye due to his nervousness…  really, the stories in my head have kind of been endless.

So the magic?

Not once has the dark tinge invaded my space today!

 

The world was moving… (day 1)

and she was right there with it (and she was).

The world is a shockingly cruel place. I grew up with that, a poverty among a large part of the population that seems to permeate the walls, a father that, along with his friends ritually and habitually killed bulls, earthquakes, mudslides, riots, threats of kidnapping… to name just a few.

The crazy thing was that in spite of all this harsh brutal reality there was an ability to see the world for a magical place. It is that kind of place that inspired writers and artists like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Frida Kahlo,

So, I am not sure where I lost the internalized potion of this influence.  But, lost it I did.

I found it again, in a simple post that talked about the importance of grieving.

Grieving is not pretty, it can be dark and stormy, a swirling mass of emotions.  It is, however, a part of “the process”.

So when considered in that light, grief can become glorious… except that glorious is too strong a word.

Grief however, was the thing that was hard coming to recently. It became lost in platitudes like “you are so lucky”, “you will come through this a better person”, and “life is tough, get a grip”.

Grief is a very natural by-product of life. Hold it closely, don’t fight it. Don’t ignore it.

 

Grief is like a moving river, so that’s what I mean by it’s always changing. It’s a strange thing to say because I’m at heart an optimistic person, but I would say in some ways it just gets worse. 
~ Michelle Williams   

Don’t fear the reaper

A friend posed a link to this on Facebook – Everything Doesn’t Happen For A Reason

I was thunderstruck… it hit me hard and in the gut.

So, I think my hang up on being told  “life is tough, get a grip” was that I interpreted it to mean that I had no right to grieve.

Now, I have no idea if that was the intent of what my mother told me, but it most certainly came across to me that way.

And created and angst that permeated everything… I still have a hard time wanting to trust her or my aunt with anything related to how I am feeling and how I am doing. I suppose, since they are family, that I need to get past that, but like all matters it will take time.

However, being told it was OK to grieve began that catharsis my body was looking for.  I am reminded about how I felt when, after a year of trying to figure out what was wrong with me while I was in college, a weird circumstance led my physician and I to a diagnosis. That relief, that it was Valley Fever, was intense. A huge high, one that allowed my doctor and I to make better decisions about my health care. This included my attending a mindfulness based stress reduction class.  That class was a game changer for me, and I have never regretted taking it.

So, now that I was armed with permission to grieve, I did and I am and I feel ok about where I am and where I am going.

I have chosen to continue advocating for cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine. That there is something that can help prevent this from showing up in young women (and young men, in terms of other HPV related cancers) is something worth being willing to talk about.

Last night I was able to attend a local chapter of Dining for Women and was asked to speak about Cervical cancer, HPV, and the Amazon basin. This is the program that DFW is supporting this month;  DB Peru. The organization did their work in researching it, I loved everything about it and what it wanted to do.

I had such a great time talking with these women. I was invited by a friend of mine through the Junior League of Phoenix. This group had been meeting for nine years, and I could see why – they were funny, a bit irreverent, celebratory… they had everything that makes something work as done by women.

I wonder if I should work on getting a chapter started? Any takers?

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

One year ago I had cancer removed from my body.

1_b

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

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.