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Monday, December 31, 2012

Hallelujah Chorus


I know that usually plays on Christmas, and this is New Year’s Eve, but I guess my letter to G-d’s comment box really worked, because, guess what, my cancer is NOT back, and I am going on my trip to Maui tomorrow morning.

I am a terrible last-minute packer, and I realize with all the emotional wear and tear of today, I’m more tired than usual. So…. At least I cleaned out my fridge. Got the cat taken care of. The clothing thing? … Well, let’s just say, it’ll be a mighty busy 4am wake-up call.

I can’t, honestly, believe this is happening. Nothing like this happens to me, as well, I suppose, like something like cancer doesn’t “happen to me.” But, I guess these things do; the “good” and the “bad;” reading a lot of Pema Chodron right now, the attempt to not label things as good or bad.

I can’t tell you how much this past weekend embodied the “one day at a time” thing; I have honestly never felt that kind of “Be In Today” as I did this weekend, so perhaps it was a “good” thing… if I were to label it.

But, it also showed me how I did (mildly) beat myself up for the caffeine and sugar implosions I’ve been allowing myself, even though I know they’re active cancer supporters. So, now I get to watch that, so I can really say, if anything does (or doesn’t) happen, I really tried my best. I really did my best to do what was within my ability and control to control.

I’m not exceedingly pleased about the caffeine reduction/elimination, more than the sugar, honestly. (I keep on saying “honestly,” as if I’m not otherwise honest, or am emphatically MORE honest!)

I’m a little all over the place, which I think an excited, over-tired, nervous-about-tomorrow’s-packing person would be in my position.

Therefore, I will say this. Someone said to me this week, You must be glad to see 2012 end after everything that’s happened. And, you know? I don’t consider it that way. I mean, the cancer is a clusterfuck and I would totally give it back if I could, but here’s a list of other things I did in 2012 that were awesome:

~ Graduated with a Master’s of Fine Arts degree in Poetry
~ Wrote, cried, abandoned, picked back up, and edited a book of poetry that is my thesis
~ Auditioned for plays and a musical
~ Played the piano
~ Painted
~ Went bowling with a girl who’s become one of my best friends
~ Online dated, not altogether disastrously
~ Got into recovery around relationships (the above is not so tidy as it seems!)
~ Hosted my Creativity and Spirituality Workshop for MONEY! (and twice for free!)
~ Got into the Bay Area Modeling Guild
~ Quit the Bay Area Modeling Guild
~ Live modeled for private artists
~ Quit live modeling for private artists
~ Wrote morning pages nearly every day
~ Wrote an increasingly popular blog, sometimes frequently
~ Babysat for some little girls, and introduced them to the woods when they were scared that it was “dirty”
~ Hiked in Tilden Park and all over Piedmont
~ Rode my bike. Once.
~ Walked on Ocean Beach
~ Went camping and built a fire
~ Got a job with some amazing people
~ Performed my poetry at school in a nude suit
~ Performed my poetry at open mics with noticeably more clothing
~ Celebrated six years of not drinking or using drugs, and a year without smoking cigarettes
~ Went to farmer’s markets & baked my own tofu, for crying out loud

~ Did and am doing significant work around self-esteem, receiving, trusting, relationships, boundaries, responsibility, and openness.

This has not been a year that I am voraciously eager to see end; I feel neutral about it. I’ve never been someone who loves or hates the New Year change – it just is. I am curious to meet it as it comes. 

Although, at the very least, it begins with me, on a tropical island. ;)

May you have a safe and happy new year, folks. Honestly, you have no idea how much it’s meant to me to have you in my life. Cheers!!!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Questions? Comments? Please Write. …


He felt his heart pounding fiercely in his chest. How strange that in his dread of death, it pumped all the harder, valiantly keeping him alive. But it would have to stop, and soon. Its beats were numbered. How many would there be time for…?

Slowly, very slowly, he sat up, and as he did so he felt more alive and more aware of his own living body than ever before. Why had he never appreciated what a miracle he was, brain and nerve and bounding heart?...

He stood up. His heart was leaping against his ribs like a frantic bird. Perhaps it knew it had little time left, perhaps it was determined to fulfill a lifetime’s beats before the end.

~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


Dear G-d,

First, I want to thank you for the jumping dance moves that candle flames do, and the curvaceous languid movement of smoke. I want to thank you for the subtle colored ring that sometimes encircles the moon at night. And wind turbines and the impressive horizon they mark over miles and miles of American landscape.

I want to thank you for anything that even feels like it resembles velvet, and for tissue boxes.

I want to thank you for doors, and for my awesome yellow rainboots that allow me to walk directly into the several-inch deep streaming gutter and splosh in the fresh rainfall and smile gleefully and with pure pleasure.

Next, I want to call you into question. For holocausts, with the big and small “H.” For that child who got killed in Les Mis, but who really represents all the children who have died fighting oppression.

I want to call you into question for Aaron, again, even though you’ve told me his overdose was necessary to bring him out of his suffering.

I want to call you into question for my lab counts today.

Which told me that my white blood count has gone down when it shouldn’t have.

Which told me that my immune system is failing for reasons that are plausibly explicable by a recurrence of my cancer.

I want to call you into question for the challenges that turn ordinary people into fighters, and inspirations, and martyrs.

For the challenges that create the monk in Tiananmen Square.

I want to call you into question for the challenges that demanded the untimely death of Alexander McQueen. Really.

My doctor has told me to come into the lab on Monday to check my counts again, to follow the trending of my white cells, if they are indeed going down or if it was a fluke somehow. So, there is nothing for me to worry about now, except that I can’t help but allow the intruding thought of "Recurrence" to frighten me, and to empower me – once a-goddamned-gain – to say, I’m not ready to die. I’m not fucking nearly ready to die.

I would perhaps here again praise something pretty, like the fern, in order to create the proper "compliment sandwich" appropriate for professional feedback, but I’d like to assume you’ve run directly from reading this letter to correct this fluke in my blood as quickly as possible.

Because, as you know, I have a plane to Hawaii to catch. 

Yours, in admiration,
Molly 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Bardo.


My best friend from New Jersey is in town this week, and I’ve decided that, unlike when my brother was in town, I’m going to try my best to stick to my morning routine, despite the guest (as I know it made me a little less serene without it when my bro was here!).

My dad wrote me back from my email asking for less rather than more contact, as I'd asked for space to work some things through. His email was pretty harsh, manipulative, and angry. I read it on Christmas night, as I sat with my best guy friend from SF (well, originally from Philly) at Chinese food, after seeing a movie (the perfect Jewish Christmas, as per our usual 4- or 5-year standing tradition).

I’m, well, a) reaching out for help around it, and b) not letting it dictate how I feel about myself. He wrenched out a whole bunch of ugly things I did before I stopped drinking, as if to say basically, here’s what a fuck-up you’ve been, see how much you need me. Ahem. No.

Then again, maybe that’s not how he meant it, but… really, I think it is.

What occurred to me, though, was that it is nearly exactly what happened with an old friend of mine a few years ago. He’d come to visit me in SF, and hadn’t told his girlfriend that he was actually staying in my apartment (on the couch, in the living room). Later, after he returned home, she found out and confronted him about it, he’d asked me to lie. I told him I wouldn’t. And he got very argumentative, and texted me that, “Everyone was right – you are a bad friend.” …

He’d known that had been a sore spot for me was about how good or not a friend I’d been in the past and, master manipulator, he sought to gouge that sore spot to guilt me into doing what he wanted me to do. – I saw it exactly for what it was: a cheap shot intended to get to me to feel badly enough about myself to say, huh, you know what, I am a bad friend, I better do what he says, so then of course, I’m a good friend. 

The problem with his plan, and with my dad's, is that I actually don't feel bad about those things any more. Yes, those had been places of shame in the past, but guess what?! I'm healthier now! Check that shit out. I don't think of these as places of shame anymore; they've lost the power they had to wound me anymore (or to dictate how I then tried to counter-balance, or numb, them).

Needless to say, I did not lie to his girlfriend, and he and I have barely had contact in these intervening years.

When I read my dad’s email, I remembered this incident with my friend so clearly – it was like a complete duplication of events. “Hey Molly, let me rake over the coals all the ways in which you have been a fuck-up in your life, so you can feel bad about yourself, and then realize that you, of course, need me, and need to cow to how I think this relationship should go.”

Um – not going to happen buddy. A) how hurtful and unkind. B) how lame.

In the end, of course, as always, it’s just sad, you know? It’s just sad that we don’t have the relationship that works for either of us. It’s sad that we’re at such cross-purposes and communication. It’s sad that the love that we want from each other is not the love that we’re getting.

The other thing that occurs to me about it is that I’m not toeing the party line anymore, and that’s fucking with him. When you have a relationship based on a certain dynamic of dependence, and one of the people begins to not play that game anymore, the system begins to fail. Because I am not content any more to play into the game of “wayward daughter needs benevolent father” what happens to the (ahem) “benevolent” father? The game doesn’t work. The system falls apart, and because he’s needed these roles to be as they are, just as I used to in the past, he loses his footing and he retaliates.

I get it. I get that he does feel confused about my asking for more then less contact, but none of it excuses his subsequent, or previous, ill behavior. There will be time for me to assess what my part has been in maintaining and feeding the system of dependency, and potentially for me to admit my part (I’m not an innocent, I know – but nor is it necessary for me to think that owning my part means putting my tail between my legs and admitting some kind of guilt or mea culpa to the grand judger of all).

It’s in-between. As my friend tells me, there’s a concept of the bardo in Tibetan Buddhism, it means the state of being in transition, in the middle, in between. All of our lives are filled with these liminal states, and indeed, life itself can be conceived of as a bardo between birth and death, a pause between the states of “non-being.”

And so it is with me, with you, with us all. In a state of in-between, with how I relate to myself, my dad, the world. I’m in between who and how I was and who and how I want to be. But at least that means I’m moving, yes? At least it means I'm alive.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Movie Wisdom.


In the movie Perks of Being a Wallflower, the main character asks his English teacher why good people go for bad people, romantically. He replies sagely, “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

This line is later repeated by the main character, so you know the writer thought it important enough, this nugget of truth, to repeat, to imprint indelibly in my mind, at least.

I’ve been thinking about this line, and think we can extrapolate the concept to just about anything.

We accept the love we think we deserve.
The dishes we think we deserve (mine were almost all chipped 'til recently).
The job we think we deserve.
The friends we think we deserve.
The excitement we think we deserve.
The handsoap we think we deserve.

We accept the car we think we deserve.
The commute we think we deserve.
The cleanliness we think we deserve.
The responsibility we think we deserve.

We accept the family we think we deserve (if you can stick with that one).

We accept the time for art we think we deserve.
The space for art we think we deserve.

We accept the salary we think we deserve.
The savings we think we deserve.
The books we think we deserve.

How are these all in your life? How are they in mine?

We accept the vacations we think we deserve.

Because in the absence or meagerness of these things, mantra becomes, “Better off that I don’t have…”

Better off I don’t have love, responsibility, savings, friendships, vacations, persistence, self-esteem.

Better off that I don’t have clean dishes, organized closet, pens that work.

Better off, leave me here, I don’t need, I’m not worth, Don’t bother, won’t help, leave me be, leave me alone. Leave me alone. Better off alone.

Better off not trying. Better off not risking. Better off not having. Better off not laughing. Better off not exploring. Better off not acquiring. Better off not enjoying. Better off not living.

We accept the life we think we deserve.

The problem arising is that the distance between what I have thought I deserve and what I think I deserve now is becoming great enough to cause discomfort. And the discomfort is becoming great enough to cause a challenge to former ideas. And the challenge to former ideas is becoming great enough to cause action.

At least, that’s the idea.

The life I think I deserve is changing. To what, I don’t know. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

You know you have cancer, right?


Arghh. My body says, **YAAAwwwNNN** My brain says, Are we done resting yet, huh huh, Are we doing something, going somewhere? Why are we on the couch again, huh? Huh? It’s LIGHT out! Look, there’s even SUN! Are we going outside, huh?

Mother.

Apparently other people are much more compassionate to the fact that I’m recovering from my third round of chemo than I am.

Even the question, as posed by my nurse this morning, “If I were going through chemo, and said I was tired a lot, what would you tell me?” gets my response of, “Well, I know I would tell you to take it easy, but for me…”

It’s hard to let myself acknowledge that I am tired, that my body is not working up to the speed it was, and even simple things (like being awake) make me tired. Especially when I’ve withstood the actual treatment so well, and don’t have any major physical repercussions, I feel like I should (ahem SHOULD – watch word for nonsense and perfectionism) be able to do what I used to.

I used to take hour-long walks; after my last rounds of chemo, I was able to take half-hour, and that was fine, acceptable. Now, I can take 10 minutes, really, without needing to sit down and rest.

Because of this development, however, I have firmly made my plans for my next chemo treatment – I’d been asking my doctor if I could move the next round earlier, so that I could ensure that I would be healthy enough to go on the annual New Year retreat I go on in mid-January. She got back to me today saying I could start on Wednesday if I wanted …

Seeing, or feeling rather, how I’m feeling, I realize that I need more recuperation time. So I asked my doctor if I could wait to start until after the retreat, this way I know I can attend the retreat as my best self, and I get to re-up a little more before the 4th round. She said something I felt was funny, if not mildly insensitive, “Objectively, your body is ready for the next round (i.e. blood counts up, etc.), but I can understand that subjectively, your body feels tired.” Um… yes, does that make it less true?

I’m not that bristled by the comment; I mean, it’s technically true, et al, but it doesn’t make my body feel any more “get up and go” just because objectively it has all the red and white cells it needs!

So, I will wait. Recuperate. Rest, if I let myself.

It felt like a good decision for me, to choose to take care of myself, rather than play by an agenda that doesn’t work for me, and on that note, I will update you on the “dad situation,” since I know several of you have asked me about it.

Well, after I emailed my dad last week to ask him to be in more touch, and getting a marginally increased amount of contact, with no more depth to it than ever, I decided I can’t do this. These conversations may be longer now, but of no more substance; they're not really conversations at all, but more like monologues at each other. Nothing has really changed. And every time he calls, my chest constricts, and I am either exasperated at the timing of the call, or hesitant to pick up because I don’t really like the man much. And so, I wrote him an email yesterday after talking with a woman I trust, and let him know that although I’d just asked for more contact with him, I’d actually like to ask for a break from contact. That I’m “going through some things” (HA!), and will keep him updated as to my treatments.

Yesterday, I also ended a relationship with a woman I’d been meeting with weekly to help guide her through some of the same “self-help” work I’ve done. I’ve been wanting to end this relationship for a while, as it EXHAUSTS me, but I also felt that, "we're in the middle of the work, how can I let her go now, can’t I just get to the end of this little bit with her?…"

No. Finally, no.

So, yesterday was a big day for me. I asked to have no contact with my dad for a while, and I told a woman that I can’t work with her anymore (because of the cancer… she says, not altogether truthfully – but kindly). “Trimming the fat,” is what I called it to my friend. Trimming the fat of relationships that don’t work for me.

Another friend asked me today how I felt in the wake of these moves, and I said… I don’t really know. I feel a little at sea, honestly, which I think is a good thing – to let what will form in the absence of negativity form. I don’t really know how I feel, except perhaps relieved. I think it’ll take a few days to let it settle in that I’m taking time for myself, that I’m putting my needs first, and allowing for them to be met by people who are actually able to meet them.

It’s the end of the year, the time when we settle up the last twelve months; I’m glad I don’t have to go into the new one carrying the burden of relationships that don’t work for me. 

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Origin of Motion


“What would you be doing if you weren’t eating,” she asks.

“Crying,” and I begin to sob, burying my face in a tissue between my palms.

I’m 25, sitting on my therapist’s office sofa, occasionally hearing a streetcar clang past on Market Street.

I’ve just told her that throughout the new self-exploration writing I’d been doing as part of an effort to heal, I’d been eating. A lot.

This story occurs to me tonight, as Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart lays open in front of me, and I spoon melting heaps of an ice cream-and-brownie sundae into my mouth.

I’ve been crying a lot this week. It began before my brother came out to visit, began in the form of anger. Which I think is good. It isn’t just anger at my getting cancer, or at the jobs I’ve taken that make me feel small, or at the drug- and alcohol-addled past that caused me to find myself in tragic situations and that much further behind on achieving rites-of-young-adult-passage. It isn’t just anger that my mom was chronically depressed, or that my dad was alternately rageful and neglectful, or that I thenceforth find myself unable to maintain an intimate relationship, or a truthful and esteemable vision of myself.

It is anger at all of it. Anger at what feels like injustice, cruelty, and callousness. Anger at what feels like abandonment, and misuse, and a vicious turn of the wheel of fate to the left instead of the right.

Anger that smothers the entirety of my internal landscape like a permanent solar eclipse.


I discovered this anger as I contemplated all this “Let it in” mentality everyone’s been telling me lately. I watched in meditation as I screamed myself hoarse against this insistent “Let it in” mantra that’s being shoved at me from all angles, feeling closed in by it, pressured by it, suffocated by this hippie, Buddhist, Berkeley bullshit. “Let it in.” Ha. No.Fucking.Way.

Don’t you know how __(insert: angry, hurt, abandoned, untrusting)__ I am??

Don’t you know how __(insert: hurtful, cruel, apocalyptically vicious)__ You/Life/G-d/Love has been??

Let it in, my ass.

I was amazed at the vehemence of my refusal. My defenses. And it made a boatload of sense to me why I’ve pushed back so hard against all the “Love is the answer” teachings, even as I've purported them myself. I cannot let it in. There's no room for Love -- there’s already a bus in the station, and it’s called resentment, hurt, rage; deep, calcified rage.

So, I actually have a different task in front of me: before “letting it in,” I need to let it go.

I need to sit with letting it go, and not try to make it different or better. I have come to believe that my ideas don't work. That my story is old, and tired, and false. I have come to believe that there might be better ideas, if I can sit in the discomfort of waiting for them to coalesce. 

And so, this week, that looks like crying, a bowlful of ice cream, and an understanding that experiencing the grief (what’s left when rage subsides) as I am, is a good thing. It’s there. It’s always been there. And it’ll be there until I let myself feel it. And release it.

I’ve said it before, and I will again: I have always been afraid that if I allow myself to experience emotions like these, like these power chords of sadness or anger, that they would overwhelm me. That they would never stop. That these emotions would be like a tidal wave, and simply drown me, and I would never recover.

A friend told me, around the same time as my above therapy experience, that the wells of grief and anger are finite. That eventually, they will tap out. That there is only one infinite and true well, and that well is of G-d. So, let myself start, even if I’m scared; let myself put my rage and my grief on paper, or soaked into another box of tissues. It will end, and I haven't drowned yet.

And so, I start again, at a deeper layer, I believe, experiencing these emotions all over again.

The only way through is through. And if I ever want to get to the “Let it in” stage, which (despite my vehement eye-rolling and gut-tensing resistance, defiance, and avoidance) I really do want, then I have to begin to let it go. To let go. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

(F)orcibly (U)nadulterated (N)onsense

"Eponymous." Elfin. Golf. Statue. Hindrance. Place-mark. Dorsal. Evident.

It came to me backwards. I had to catch it by its tail and write it down in reverse.

The Ultimate Have-Nots and the Willy Nillies. Caracticus Pots and the Merry Weathers. Formidable convictions and antipathy. The humours ran golden with bile, stacked on the rug like melted sand. An uproar in the warehouse led to roaring in the streets and tempered glass maligns. Invented for the sole purpose of having a middle finger. Two wasteful benches, settling. Over an understated little number, like two-point-seven. Miraculously, Spats Malloy and the Uptown Goslings. Hugo Bones, himself a wanton eruptor. Ordinarily and eventually fastidious, this currency of autumn patios. If there were to be a farce, the audio would play in tomes of three.

Make the force of it indent upon the soul, the stricture rent open by a tornado of invention. 

Playful wicks of dynamite, we offered a sacrifice of melted crayons and Q-tips doused in Pine-sol.

Mostly spotted but slightly pale, the hairs fell out in patches shaped like Denmark.

Ultimately blue and occasionally gaseous, we injected the slotted spoon into the roiling cement. How can you be so callous and jacquard? How can it become sequestered and imminent? There is no need for the hypocrisy of movement or the icicles of stagnation.

I haven't the clue(!) or the hourglass! Don't tell me to orchestrate the revolution, the turning has happened seven times before. How can it be so materialized: the mechanics of a starfleet optioned for two sequels and a hairshirt? For it isn't often that the employer will birth an oval or subdue a square; it isn't in its nature.

Quietly alarming and sensitive to a fault, the crack lay bare, a salted wound in the painted landscape of verboten. It follows, naturally, that it wouldn't bend, for in so doing, it would necessitate learning the downward dog of joy, that feckless horsen youth.

Orchard games and a penny hat offered under the watchful roof of birth and the vaulted ceiling of disuse.

Be open!, it screams, through the pinhole of time. Be open, says the pansy and his syllabant "S." Have mercy, intones the gizzard and its wrapping, avoiding the factory line toward integration and osmosis.   Its fist stands up, out of the plaid and plaintive oracle. Have mercy, to the ownership of the least visited oxen and the shearling plucked clean of their bark.

Haven't you seen enough?, shouts the earthen sponge, itself a copy of a copy of a do-over. Itself the image of obstinacy and cool-hearted musings. Go forth unto the juicy rectangle of glorious disguise and effulgent harlequin patches. Argue with the intimacy of gated illusion, embolden the woolen sock of Time to its Vesuvian arguments. If it hasn't the lateness or soggy artifice of neglect.

Go. Amber eyes of tabled journeys and sunken ordinances. Go. Turnstyles of hope and silken bodies. I haven't the wormhole to stop you, nor the pageantry of resistance. Bastille yourself from the chains of undergrowth, the moss of stoplight madness.

I haven't the gaul to malign you today, so step forth to the ultimate gaiety. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Molly 2.0


Yesterday, I got with the digital age. After some time of researching, drooling, and envying, I bought a smart phone. Thanks to those generous folk who donated to my Holiday Wish List, I got a new toy.

In addition, I feel that my decision to reach out and let my dad know how I was feeling about things between us was part of a new behavior. I haven’t heard from him yet; don’t know if I will. But, the significant thing to me is that I was honest about how I was feeling, and specifically stated what I wanted and needed. Coming from a woman who is usually circuitous about asking for what I need (this way I won’t be “really” disappointed when or if it doesn’t happen), this is a new and advanced thing.

Letting myself have a new toy is a new thing. Allowing myself to believe that there is “enough” in the world, that I’m allowed to have nice things. That I’m allowed to have fun, just for the sake of fun.

The same night I wrote the last blog, and wrote to my dad, I called up my friend who’d offered me flight miles to Hawaii. I told him that, damnit, I was going to Hawaii, even if it meant postponing my January chemo treatment by 10 days. … My friend was not thrilled to hear that my doctor wasn’t totally on board with this, and it made me pause long enough to talk it out.

Although I was feeling all “New Molly; New Behavior” about the trip (allowing myself to have nice things), … it really falls into the same behavior I’ve always had around money. Constrict, constrict, constrict, then blow a big wad of cash because I can’t stand constriction anymore. Then I feel bad, and constrict again. Rinse, repeat.

Because the reason I’d want to go to Hawaii NOW is not as a reward or a treat, it’s out of scarcity mind. The belief that I can and will never let myself have nice things at an appropriate and planned out time, so I better DO IT NOW, because I can’t guarantee that I’ll ever let myself later.

I can’t guarantee that when my chemo treatment is done in February that I’ll allow myself to go on vacation. After all, I will have to return to work when this is all done – won’t I?, asks my brain. After all, I’ve been off work, but certainly not on vacation for the past 3 months. I simply can’t afford to let myself have a vacation when this is done – I owe my employer. I owe somebody something first, before I can let myself have what I really need.

I wrote a poem once that most people in my class didn’t get, but when I repeated it to my mom a few months ago, she got it perfectly.

Otherwise, who would eat the blackened one?

That’s it. The perfect sentiment of a martyr. The mindset. The set, and stance, of my mind.

As I spoke to my friend on Wednesday night, I started to cry as I talked through why I needed to go to Hawaii now – the realization that I still do what I’ve always done – the realization of how stingy I am with myself, and too, that I don’t believe that it will change.

Luckily, I don’t live in a vacuum, and was able to talk myself calm with my friend, and accept the possibility that when this process, when these treatments are done, I might actually let myself have.

This all came up yesterday too, when I had “Tea and Tarot” with a girlfriend of mine. The idea that by reaching out for help, I will be able to hold abundance. That in reaching out for help on how to organize myself differently, things will work out beyond my wildest dreams.

My wildest dreams right now are pretty stingy. What would it be like to perceive or conceive of something different? But, again, I can’t do this alone – if I try to “figure it out” on my own, I will end up creating the same structure of scarcity that I’ve always had for myself.

So, my friend with the cards yesterday suggested I have an Action Group. An action group is a tool whereby you meet with two people, and … create an action plan. I had one of these meetings with two women over the summer when I was looking for work, and it was very helpful. Far from it being, “check this job board,” we came up with actions like, Play the piano every day. Start blogging again. Ask my friends to give me an asset to add to a list about myself. Things that seemingly have nothing to do with how to get a job.

It was uncomfortable to listen to these women tell me that I would or could find work or joy by doing these hippie things. And where I have discomfort is usually where I need to work the most. It’s not comfortable to allow myself daily time for fun. It’s not comfortable to ask others to help me form actions that might take me to a new level of a profession or career. It’s not comfortable to start to believe that I deserve more than I’ve ever given myself. But this is where the work is.

Over and over, I am told, by cards, friends, teachers, meditations, to allow myself to receive. To receive help, to receive love. To be open to new ideas about how to hold myself and the world. I believe that allowing myself to use the funds that friends donated to buy myself a phone is part of this allowing – I’m still uncomfortable with it – I still feel that old “hoard”/constrict mentality (Don’t spend this money! You will need it later because of your low income!) The belief that comes along with this mentality is that there is not enough and there will never be enough.

My mom offered to send me some make-up for the holidays. She, being a once-certified make-up artist, gets a discount on MAC products (the beauty line, not the Apple product!). I told her that I’d rather she save the money she’d spend on make-up for me to help fund her next trip out to visit me, or to fund our imagined/hoped-for trip to Paris. She said something startling.

“Why can’t I do both?”

What can’t she do both? Send me some make-up AND visit me? Why can’t I do both? Buy a new phone with GIFTED MONEY and be in the reality of my situation?

So, I did. It wasn’t the “blowing a wad of cash” that my brain wants to tell me I did (It wasn’t my money!!! It was a GIFT, stupid stubborn brain!!). I am having to sit, today, in the discomfort of letting myself have. To have needs, to ask for them to be met, and to meet them. To allow my needs to be met.

It’s time for an upgrade. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Talk to me about anger.


For the second time in a week, a certified medical professional has asked me about anger, seemingly out of thin air.

Last week, my therapist asked me how my anger was. We’d been talking about other things, and she asked it without anything that felt to me like a segue. I laughed, Well, if you want to talk about my dad, then I’m sure we could talk about anger. And then we didn't.

Today, at my chiropractor visit, he said to me, Tell me about anger. He’d been poking and prodding various things, checking and making adjustments, talking about nothing emotional whatsoever. I replied, well, there’s stuff up with my dad not showing up during this time. My doctor said he asked because “it is showing up.”

Even though emotionally, I’m not conscious of feeling it, my body is.

Like a good girl, I replied to my dad’s text from the other day with a short email update about my treatment. Very short. Very, what I would interpret as, curt. His text message said that he and his fiancĂ© were so busy with their move to Florida, they’d been up past midnight unpacking. His voicemail to me last week, a call that once again came after dark, after a time I’ve told him I would be unavailable, reported that his whole weekend was a hellish moving process.

I listened to this voicemail ... while I sat in a hospital room receiving cancer treatment.

I’m just so sorry that your move to your retirement house in Florida isn’t going according to your plan. It really must be so fucking hard to have boxes to unpack. Asshole. Insensitive. Inert. Asshole.

So, yes. I’m angry. I’ve been “doing my best.” Trying to “let go of it,” to “work through it,” to remind myself that it’s not about me or a reflection of my self worth. And finally, today, after this question from my doctor, I had it.

This evening, I was listening to a book on tape my friend gave me by Dr. Bernie Siegel, Love, Medicine, and Miracles. In it, he speaks mainly about cancer patients. What links them, what qualities they have in common, and what events or circumstances typically precedes cancer.

I was listening to this tape as I was finally gluing together my teal project.

For many weeks during the summer, I began cutting out chunks of teal from magazines. All shades of Mediterranean and Bahaman. I had a project concept to collage them all together, not sure on or of what, but together, a wall of teal.

Eventually, absent of inspiration of where or how to glue them, I put all these snips and scrolls of teal in a drawer.

Today, I took them out. I dug in my closet, looking for perhaps a wooden board to glue them on, and instead found this large rectangular picture frame I'd found on the street a year ago. I popped the Ikea format out of it, and began to collage on the frame’s inner matting (see photo, it’s hard to explain, and I assure you, the teal comes out better in real life).


The point is, I was engaged in finally doing something that I’d wanted to do for a very long time.

The point is, I heard Bernie Siegel say, “If a person deals with anger or resentment when they first appear, then illness need not occur. When we don’t deal with our emotional needs, we set ourselves up for physical illness.”

I paused the tape and rewound. I wrote the rest down: “Depression is a partial surrender to death and it seems that cancer is despair experienced at the cellular level.”

Fuck. That.

I went to my email, and brought back up the draft I’d composed to my dad when we got into our fight on the phone almost a month ago (the "conversation" when I’d again asked him to call me earlier in the day, and he told me plainly, “This is how it works.”) We’ve had one phone call since then, maybe a minute long. I’ve sent one short email in response to his “moving dilemma.” That’s been all, till today, when I sent him off that second short, curt email.

So, I brought back up the draft, the one where I tell him that my asking to speak to him earlier in the day is not about the time we speak, but rather, I’m asking that we speak at a time when we can have more quality conversations, ones that don’t have to be cut short, because he’s calling me a few minutes before he has to leave to eat dinner, or after dark, when I get the most tired and can’t talk.

The draft says that I want to have more of a relationship with him, if he wants it. If he’s available for it, "I look forward to the opportunity to enhance our relationship."

I deleted the several and many paragraphs I’d added today which told him how unacceptable it was that his moving is a priority over my having cancer. That he can't talk any other time during the day. Unacceptable that his time table is a priority when his daughter is facing a life-threatening illness. I took out all the parts that said how hurt I was. That I felt like I wasn't a priority. Because I will not be that vulnerable to him.

I am so terribly hurt. I am. So, I’m giving him the chance to make it up to me.

Advice from friends had been to let it go, to accept what is. To not go to the empty well again. But I’m not going to the empty well with this one, I think. I’m saying, Look dude, this is what I want. You can show up, or you can’t. I feel like I am giving an ultimatum, and maybe if it doesn't work, I can or will wash my hands forever, or for a while at least. Tell him to stop giving me his pittance. To stop contacting me right now. To stop telling me about his vile, vomituous new wonderful life. Because, do you know how painful it is to have a father who can’t -- No, Won't -- make time for his ill child?

?

It might backfire. I might be setting myself up for disappointment again. But, I'm taking what Dr. Bernie says to heart, what my therapist and my chiro are telling me – Anger is burning me up inside, and I can’t have that anymore. "Accepting" it, isn't working right now. Being in contact with him like this isn't working right now. 

Better that I should tell him? Better that I should give him the chance? Better that I should be the "good daughter" one more goddamned time??.... 

Maybe it’s not the “right thing,” the “enlightened” thing. Maybe it’s not the “recovered” goddamned thing. But right now I don’t care. Choosing to swallow my anger isn't working.

The most common character, says Bernie, of a cancer patient is the compulsive giver. The person who puts others’ needs before their own.

Fuck That. I’m not going to be part of the statistic. !!!!

I’m not going to be part of the statistic. 




Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Does this ever happen to you?


Do you ever decide to make a change, like deciding, okay, now I’m going to eat well and be healthy, and as a show of a last hurrah or a good-bye to your former ways, then binge eat something terrible?

No? Yes? Well, that’s precisely what I did yesterday, and I find it mildly amusing. A friend brought me by a juicer; I’ve been reading this Kick Cancer in the Kitchen book; I’ve been contemplating cooking again. And so yesterday, I did indeed cook. I went to the store and bought organic quinoa and broccoli and an avocado, some happy chicken breasts, and peanut sauce that didn’t have things I couldn’t pronounce in it. I brought it home, and delighted in making something that I hoped would work, but wasn’t sure. (I mean, put peanut sauce on anything, and I’m pretty sure it’s golden.)

I ate this wonderful, and surprisingly fabulous meal. It was really quite good. Then I went out … and bought three slices of chocolate cake. Three. I came home and ate them all.

Once, I’d decided to go vegetarian, and so the day before I was “to begin,” I went and bought some steak. It’s as if I have to get in my last taste of this thing, as if it’ll be off limits forever, or I need to ingest enough to carry me through the rest of my lifetime. I kind of think it’s hilarious and ridiculous at this point. But, it happens.

And, luckily, there’s a chapter in the cancer book called, “It’s Okay to Eat Chocolate and Cry.” We could call that the title of yesterday.

I felt really off yesterday, knowing how wonderful it was outside, but having met a friend at my house in the morning, I hadn’t left it, despite the near *70* degree temperatures outside. So, it was nearing noon, nearing one, and I still hadn’t left, and I was starting to almost panic. There was something fiendish in the way I wanted to leave the house, but didn’t know where to go, or how long I could be out, and didn’t have anyone to play with, and I sat at my computer cursing that there were no zipcars available, and almost started to cry.

That somehow having a car would give me a direction or a purpose for where to go with the rest of my day. I’m in such this limbo right now. I don’t have the energy of a normal person, but I certainly have energy, and CAN’T keep myself cooped up at home. That said, I’m all immuno-suppressed right now, and shouldn’t really be in public too much – but then WHAT THE HELL am I supposed to do all day. I didn’t just want to “go for a walk,” I go for walks all the time – I wanted to do something fun and different, and just couldn’t manage to get out.

Finally, I did. I got myself out of the house despite having no idea where I was going or what I was doing, and my mom called, and I ended up in a heap on someone’s stairs crying about how anchorless and lost I feel and how aimless and lonely and purposeless right now.

I knew how over the top it all was, but that’s how I felt, and I didn’t know how to change it, because I didn’t really know what was wrong, except that I felt off, and not right, and lost.

She started to suggest something about taking a bus to a different part of town, and my brain got in the way with, but I have to be at the doctor at 3pm, and I shouldn’t be taking the public bus, and I don’t know how long it’ll take, and where will I go anyway. …

And a bus crested the hill, and with tears still leaking out my eyes, I ran down the street and caught the bus. I told my mom I’m taking this bus, and I didn’t know where I’d go on it, but I was going.

I ended up where I actually really wanted to go yesterday anyway, before my brain got a hold of me – at the arts reuse depot. It’s a junk shop basically, with everything you can imagine to use as art supplies. I’d been wanting to go to buy a wooden frame that I want to paint a la these frames a friend has in her house.

And, voila. I ended up at the depot, and actually found a frame. I bought a veggie sandwich and some coffee, and caught the bus back to the doctor’s in time.

It all worked out as I’d wanted it to – with the crazy intermission of my brain eating itself.

I simply need to get up and out when I need to. Not hem and haw about where or what. Maybe I’ll end up somewhere stupid, or somewhere bored, but it’s got to be better than staying at home feeling like a self-imposed prisoner. It’s enough to feel caged when I’m in the hospital; it’s unacceptable to cage myself when I’m at home.

With that, I’ll leave you. I have to go meet some folks now – outside. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dear Flat Tush,


In one of my cancer books, it suggests that perhaps we write a letter to the parts of us that have physically changed as a result of cancer and its treatment. Thus, I bring you…


Dear Flat Tush,

I suppose it’s taken me so long to face you, because I can’t keep on turning around and around to try and see you in the full-length mirror. However, now that I have the chance to speak with you more formally, I wanted to tell you I’m sorry.

For so many years, I have put you down, making fun of you for being so flat that you're like a straight line from my back to my thighs. Telling others I can't sit on inflatable rafts for fear of puncturing them with my protuberant butt bones. The times that I've rolled my eyes at how uncomfortable you make it to sit on metal or wooden furniture, wishing, oh wishing, you'd be different. For years I have assumed that you would just go on taking my derision, and put up with being the butt end of my jokes.

But sadly, this has not been the case. Since my developing cancer and becoming, if possible, even more sedentary, you have become … concave.

The scooped-out innards of an ice-cream container, the weird thing a foam pillow does when you press your fist in it, that desperate vision of a bounce-house deflating. 

Oh, Flat Tush, Flat TUSH!

You are now but a former shadow of the flatness that you once were, it seems almost a dream how you were before – I swear, you were actually pert… or pert-like. I promise I only incessantly poked at that crease out of love. That tense/release thing I used to do to pretend you were something more than you were… oh, how insensitive of me!

I see now how lucky I was with you before, and how much we’ll need to firm up a new relationship of trust. I shouldn’t have taken you for granted, Flat Tush. With all that cancer has taken from you, I promise to build you back up to your (only-mildly-flat!) former glory. 

On my honor,
Molly

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lucky.


Home. I am home after spending the week in the hospital. I sat this morning at my breakfast table with the morning light slanting in, the cypress trees I watch build and shed their leaves for these past two years, my peets coffee in a new mug, my morning pages, a metal fork and an actual plate, my space heater licking my calves.

Yesterday evening, I lounged on the couch with my cat curled on the chenille blanket across my lap, and I said something to her that I’ve asked her often and many times: “How did I get so lucky?” How did I get so lucky to have and find you, I have intoned to her over the two years I’ve had her, and lived here in this apartment.

And that line, that question struck me, and I began to cry. Not out of sadness, but out of cognitive dissonance with everything that is, I am still lucky to have her, and to have found her. To sit with my bald head, unemployment, uncertain mortality, and to ask her how I got to be so lucky? … It was a moment, to be sure.

Because, all in all, I’m moving through this. I am not where I was when this all began. In the immediate terror and incredulity. I have more of a sense of what to expect now, and I am not as scared of the times in the hospital, or the times after when I my “counts” get all low. I can pack for the hospital differently now – in fact, I can pack at all. All of this is different than it was in the beginning. I am in a different phase of this – I can feel it, and it feels good, or a million times better at least.

There are still a lot of places I want change and comfort through this. I want to contact the young adult cancer support group. I want to stop eating as much crap because “I deserve it.” But, for today, that’s all I’ll say about what I want to change about me and my situation. Because I’m tired of haranguing myself, honestly.

I’ve put up a whole new set of dates people can sign up on the online calendar to bring me meals daily, but I’ve realized that another part of how I have cared for and nurtured myself has been through cooking. I like to cook. Sure, perhaps I can’t get to the store the same way and spend all that time with you germ-infested folks(!), but I can still do some. And, although asking folks to bring me food daily was important last time I was home, this time, I want the chance to start making food for myself again, if only every other day.

I’ve begun reading a book called Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen, and although it too purports the benefits of vegetarianism, my chiropractor/nutritionist said that especially right now, I don’t go veggie. It’s so strange – I was vegan – VEGAN(!) – the month before I got cancer. The month of August and September, the only animal protein I had was eggs in the morning. (So, yeah, I guess I wasn’t *really* vegan, but for the most part!) So it’s strange to read this book purporting the merits of a whole food, healthy, leafy green diet, …. when.i.was.already.doing.that.

But, “whatever,” as they say.

I do know how to eat, and to some extent cook, healthfully, but there’s a lot to learn, and a lot to branch out from my narrow knowledge of it all. So, I’m looking forward to experimenting. It’s another form of art – it’s always been for me, cooking. There are the months when it’s visual art, or music, and then there are the months it’s cooking. I was marinating and baking my own organic tofu this summer. I was soaking, cooking, and blending my own hummus for Christ’s sake! I was experimenting, I was having fun. It’s another way, I’ve realized that I can have fun within the means and bounds of my body’s abilities right now.

My friend brought me chard from the farmer’s market when she came to round me up from the hospital yesterday; this morning, it made itself into my morning eggs. (I have a thing for eggs.)

Speaking of which, perhaps as TMI as it might be, I don’t know, I got my period again this month. Perhaps that may seem inconsequential to you, … but it means the world to me. It means that last month and this month, despite pouring nuclear shit into a port that feeds directly into my heart, my ovaries are still working. It means that I withstand this chemo stuff better than most people expect. I don’t get nauseous, or puke, or get mouth sores, or skin rashes. Like Bella saying she was made to be a vampire, I was perhaps made to withstand chemo. (and that is the dorkiest reference you may have from me today)

But, it’s huge, guys. It’s a big deal to me to see that despite all of this trauma and ruffianism that is happening to my body, there are systems that are still working. It means that I might not have hot flashes at 31, or have to shop the feminine lubrication aisle. It means my body still works.

I am alive. I have heat, water, housing, finances, internet, food, family, friends, a kitty, clothing, and I live off of one of the best streets in the area.

I’ve been thrown off the course of where I was (but then too, I had no idea where that course was going, so perhaps I wasn’t on one at all), and today, I find myself, Lucky. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Healthy Resource Management.


Since my conversation with Renee last week about allowing myself to receive from others (and thereby interpret from a Higher Power) instead of exhausting myself from my own reserves, I’ve been considering how I manage resources.

For the most part, I live within very meager means; I always have. I don’t really live extravagantly, and would go on shopping binges to make up for the time I kept such a tight lid on everything. My apartment is perfect for what I need it to be, except for the lack of artist space in it. My computer is perfect, except that the operating system is so old, I can’t access the Kaiser email system without refreshing four times. My clothing is perfect, except that the majority of the clothing is several years and a style old. And my love life is perfect, except for the aching lack of intimacy and connection.

When I have resources coming toward me, I tend to either reject them or blow through them quickly, so I can be back at smallness again, where I’m familiar, if not comfortable. On my blog site, I can see what blogs have been read recently, and for some reason, someone accessed and read one from 2010 called “too much to ask,” so I went back to read it myself. It's all about how to allow myself to receive good things. Hmm. Sounds familiar. I know there’s another blog about a meditation in which I was supposed to be allowing myself to receive light from benevolent sources, but I refused to allow that light in and kept my guard up like Wonder Woman’s bracelets – you’re not getting in here! Pew! Pew! I have been working on how to manage resources for years, and have been rejecting them for years.

I have a free ticket to; If you want me to put you in touch with; Sure, you can show your art here …

And I let these connections languish. Those things are for people who can sustain momentum and movement. As evidenced to myself by myself, I’m a person who manages resources by rejecting or blowing through them – what kind of a manager is that – of course I can’t possibly contact your friend - "I don't have it in me."

I'm just becoming more aware right now of how habitual this process is for me, of keeping myself small and insulated and insular. And of how exhausting, and ineffectual it is.

The problem is that I don’t want to be small or ineffectual, and that’s where I run against myself. So, I’m back to the suggestion from Renee last week about allowing my former, or current, rather, way of doing things dissolve without attempting to figure out how to put them back together. I know this way isn’t working, but I don’t actually know a different or better way. So, I have to allow it to resolve itself – which, of course, is a frightening prospect, but not as frightening as continuing to live in a shoebox existence.

Things that come to mind like ordering a 'monologues for women' book, but I don’t actually look one up. The flight lesson thing that’s been on my list of things I want to do for years. The ice skating thing I was talking about yesterday – a free trip to the rink to do something fun for myself … well, I’m just so busy over here being UNfun.

No wonder I feel so tired; this lack of fun. This lack of flow. My therapist was very astute yesterday when she finally put it in no uncertain terms: I am ambivalent about intimacy. I both desperately desire it, and am terrified of it. It’s the same coin as “resources.” I want, but I’m scared. I want to move forward, or differently, but goddamned, I don’t know what that’ll look like. She and I have been working on this forever, but it was the first time I really got to see my hemming and hawing about connection and relationships, an energetic exchange in its own right.

In the relationships that I have had, they have been an unequal exchange, again, like with my “stuff,” allowing me to subsist with less than I actually want, and rejecting those options that look more healthy – like blowing through a chunk of cash, so I’m back at square one, I will take your genuine desire to know me better as a threat to my way of life.

My way of life isn’t working.

I want it to work better. I have to trust that if I let go of what I currently and already know that I will be taken care of.

I hate the maudlin nature of this quote, and I have my doubts, but it’s been coming to mind over the last few days nevertheless:

When you take a leap of faith, G-d will either catch you, or you will be given wings to fly.

I know the ultimate cheesiness of that sentiment, but if I’m at the end of what I know how to do, there really isn’t anything left except to leap, and trust that whatever comes, somehow and eventually, it will be better and healthier for me than what is. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Two Fun Things.


In contrast with yesterday, today I got to write my morning pages before the chemo began, and just now, I got to go up to the 12th floor and sit with a group of folks for an hour and try not to think about myself. – I admit it was hard; the self-centered thing is hard to kick, in this and, certainly other situations. But there was someone there talking about struggling against themselves, and trying to “get it right,” and I knew the kind of pain he was going through to stop living in a self-destructive way, and I felt empathy.

Empathy is a tough thing when you have cancer. Like this morning, when my nurse told me that she hated to work weekends around the holidays, because she never gets her Christmas shopping done in time.  – I found it hard to have empathy, even though, surely, somewhere, I do recognize it must be frustrating once again for someone to want to do things “right,” and not getting them done that way.

I also, this morning, got to speak with my therapist on the phone, which was also helpful. I didn’t get to the meditation or the blog until now, … and to be honest, I haven’t gotten to the meditation at all. But, at least I’m not as ornery as yesterday. Getting out of this room for an hour helped.

Knowing, that most likely I will be released tomorrow after I receive my final dose of chemo Round 3 tonight from 9-midnight, well, that helps too.

I think I’ve decided that I’d rather do the Hawaii thing when I can really appreciate it. There is, however, the fear that once this treatment thing is over, I’ll jump right back into the fray, and will once again have no time or money for the things that I’d really like to do.

I am scared shitless of doing the same things again and again. Of going back to a sedentary life.

So, part of this let’s go to Hawaii NOW thing is to preemptively strike against my own pattern – but… that’s not really a sustainable solution either.

Furthermore, if I push out my treatment instead of taking it on schedule, this all winds up a longer process, which isn’t what I want either. So, I think I’m going to aim to go to the retreat in January (in Napa, not Maui!) after my chemo treatment. We’ll see – it’ll be my intention. My health does come first, but it’s hard to know right now what is the primary mode of health I’m meaning when I say that.

Is it my mental health? Treatable (in theory and fantasy) by a trip to somewhere warm and totally far away from this. Is it my spiritual health? Treatable (in theory and fantasy) by a trip up to the Napa hills for a day and a half. Is it my physical health that is “the most important thing” to me right now? Treatable by maintaining my course of chemotherapy treatments.

I don’t know. All of them are important to me, obviously. But what are ways that I can support my mental and spiritual health without compromising my physical health, and all the vice versas?

Well, that’s something that came up on the phone today with my therapist. What would I do that was fun? What can I still physically do that is fun? If I weren’t a cancer patient, what would I be doing for fun? …. Hm, that really stumped me, as the reality was I wasn’t having too much fun before all this began anyway.

I did come up with something – I’ve taken myself ice skating a few times over the last year, beginning last holiday season with the most marvelous date with me and my inner child/little girl, who insisted on Hot Chocolate when the skating was done.

I’ve gone since then, just for fun, because I’m terrible, and I have an amazing time being terrible. I flail, and have to let 10-year-olds pass by me as we all hold on to the guard rail for dear life; I laugh my bloody ass off is what I do, and have a smile a meter wide. I love being silly like that – enjoying myself for the pure sense of not caring what it looks like, how good I am, if it’s cool. I love it. That is joy to me.

I have a friend who works at a skating rink here in Oakland, and she’s told me several times that I can just text her when I want to go, and she’ll hook me up. She told me this almost a year ago - but still I haven't gone. When I get my strength back from this round, I want to do that. I want to laugh. I am so tired of not laughing.

The other “how can Molly have fun” thing that was come up with (it was a short list) was to go up to visit Sonoma, to take a day trip. Although I began visiting up there when there was a crew of young, hilarious, create-fun-out-of-anything 20somethings, they’re now a group of 30somethings dispersed somewhat – but the sense is still there. I feel, and have always felt better, when I go up there. Like my heart is being poured in, filled in from the bottom up with this silvery liquid I didn’t know I was dying of thirst for. Every time I go, I feel that "I can breathe bigger up there."

They know how to laugh up there. I don’t know that particularly this group of friends will still be up there or available; but I can try to see if I can’t get a day to make it work – to drive out into those rolling hills, to arrive to do nothing except be atrociously silly and know how much fun that is.

So, these are my two fun things. My two intentions right now to inject some levity into this somber scene that is cancer treatment.

Having set down the whole Am I going to die question, now I want to know how I’m going to live. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cancer is Boring.


You sit around and wait to get better enough, so that you can then get sick enough to get better.

I’m bored with the whole thing. All the time spent waiting, when I feel I should be all “carpe diem,” but I can’t climb a flight of stairs without getting winded.

I feel like a self-pitying fool, and quite self-centered to boot, with all the time and energy that I focus on me, and others focus on me – the doctors and nurses, and medications and lab results, and blood tests and urine checks ... Can’t you focus on someone else for a minute – can’t I get out of dodge, please?

That’s what part of my mood is. I asked my doctor if I could push back January’s chemo session in order to go to my annual women’s retreat. It means starting about 10 days after we normally would, which I don’t think is a big deal, but I’m not a doctor. He said there’s no study that ethically could test if we push people back 10 days, so he doesn’t know, but he’s not totally behind my request either.

And so, I feel like when the fuck does anything get to be fun again? I’ve had two legitimately fun days, when I went to a Halloween party, and I went to the beach, and it wasn’t about me, or doctors, or cancer, or hospitals. It was about being a goddamned girl, living a goddamned life. Where the fuck is that anymore? 

Knowing that I’m probably going to go on the retreat, or thinking so before I asked my doctor this morning, I started to wonder if I couldn’t also get farther away from this all – like Hawaii far – before the retreat then. And I started to put out feelers to people who know people, and lo, there’s a willing and friendly person in Maui, and a friend with willing air miles.

But, then the talk with the doctor, and a talk with my mom – and why would I want to go to one of the most gorgeous places on earth, a place I've never been, when I can’t even walk a half hour on flat ground? Why would I want to carpe if I can’t enjoy the diem?

I don’t. I just want to not be doing this, this sad, pathetic, self-pity thing. This thing where I sit around and wait to get sick, and sit around and wait to get healthy, and then do it all over again.

The good part is that I’m now familiar enough with this to know what to expect; but the bad part is, I now know what to expect.

I can expect to feel lethargic, and have to append every single text with, “but text me beforehand, just to check that I’m up to it.” I can expect to watch t.v. shows on DVD, even though I’m tired of watching them. I can expect to read spiritual literature every day, and know that it means something to me, but can’t change how fucking stupid and boring this all is.

I was bored with my job; I got cancer. I’m bored with cancer; I should get a job.

I don’t really know what to do. This is where I am, and what I have to do now. The disease and the cure don’t care that I’m tired of them, I have to do it anyway. I don’t want to die.

But I can’t really call this living. 

(I imagine this is where someone posts that poster of the kitten in a tree, saying Hang In There.) Puke. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Halfway to Health


As of noon today, I am halfway through my chemotherapy treatment. 

As in, I completed 3 of the 6 doses that make up Round 3, and Round 3 is halfway to the total of 5 I will have. 10 weeks, it’s been since I was diagnosed with Leukemia, and I guess the total of the 20 weeks of my life for a life is not so bad. But, I’m tired today, from the cumulative effects of it all.

This morning I was writing my morning pages, and just as I wrote that I was feeling kind of off today, just then, I got a phone call from a woman I know who’d had cancer and wanted to know if she could drop off some cancer-fighting affirmation CDs someone had given to her during treatment. At the exact same time that I was on the phone with her, I got a text from another friend saying that she wanted to cover the remaining cost of the women’s new year’s retreat I’ve gone on for the past 4 years. … And that her mother-in-law, a 4-time cancer survivor, wanted to donate funds to my holiday wish list as well.

Talk about timing.

A friend texted me a few weeks ago, and in her great empathy, she said that she wished she had a magic power that could make all this go away. I replied that she does have a magic power: "The same power that saved Harry Potter’s life over and over again – Love."

Cheesy and hokey as my reply to her was (and knowing it was just a good line) ;) I do believe that to be true. That love can heal; that love can save.

Sometimes, as we all know, “love” is not enough. It doesn’t change the person you want to change in the ways you want them to change. It’s not enough to bridge gaps between lovers that have value mismatches. Love isn’t always enough to make everything alright … But it doesn't hurt, does it?

Well, except in that song, “Love Hurts”…

Today, this halfway mark, is a nondescript day with rain lightly falling and a grey view of the construction site out my window. It’s a worker-bee kind of day, doing what it’s supposed to be doing, without much pomp or circumstance. But, it has been dotted by these moments of care and love – a friend with a coffee; one with a bowl of soup; another, a new book and hat; still others, a donation.

I’ve been trying to actively catalogue these gifts of human kindness as shows of Universal love and kindness, and so I’ve sort of begun keeping a list of all these things. The list is already very, very long.

(And that’s it for my, “I’m tired, but I wanted to stamp the occasion and check in with you” blog. Thank you for reading – I hope your reading material picks up from here) ;)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Twin Hospital Beds


There was a time, a decade ago, when I was also in a hospital, when I also was bald, and when I also was frightened of what was happening to me.

In most aspects, these are entirely different experiences, but it's been hard for me at present to not recollect and compare the two.

At the time, at 21, I was committed to a hospital for erratic behavior that others close to me (though there weren’t very many anymore) interpreted as apparent manic, perhaps bipolar, behavior: I had shaved my head. I had torn down posters that belonged to my college roommates and left them strewn about. I had missed enough classes to not be graduating with my roommates. And I had cursed out my father before being kicked out.

What these people close to me did not know was that I was drinking daily, dating a guy who sold psychedelic mushrooms and fed me liberally from his store, and was stoned most of the time.

Therefore, in my addled opinion, all the above “erratic” behavior was justifiable by me: I was helping, I was expressing myself, I was partying, man. ...

Nonetheless, I found myself for two and a half months behind the thick glass of institutional windows and locked ward doors.

This was not a highlight of my existence. And yet. The first night I was brought onto the “watch ward,” they wheeled another college student in on a gurney who, shaking his fist at the sky, bellowed, “DO NOT GO GENTLY INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT!!” And I thought to myself that all of this nonsense, this adventure, as I saw it at the time, would make great fodder for the book I would one day write about myself.

Very few people came to visit me in that ward. My family, and my best friend.

And the rabbi from my synagogue who knew me from Sunday school age.

To contrast this sad sad scene …

This time, I’ve also had rabbis come to visit me. Rabbis who I now work with, a rabbi who I just happened to befriend almost 5 years ago, and another who sent me a gift card to Whole Foods.

This time, tons of people have visited me, and tons of people know that I’m here and are sending cards, gifts, thoughts, texts. Prayers. 

This time, I am not huddled over a toilet to retch up pills that made me dull. Or rooming with a girl who sincerely believed helicopters were following her. Or picking at (the admittedly same) dull food with a man who got drunk and laid down on the train tracks. 

Like last time, my brother has given me books to cheer me up. Like last time, that same best friend is coming to visit me.

But, the contrast with who I am now and who is showing up for me now, the vastness of my circle of friends, and the enormity of their (your) heart and generosity – ... the contrast is staggering.

I am still bald, unable to leave the hospital, and dependent on doctors who prescribe me things I’d rather not take. Like then, I am battling a life-threatening disease, then called addiction, now called cancer. But, unlike then – I have a sense of who I am beyond this disease. I have a belief in who I am and things greater than who I am (like Love, for example) to ground me during my fear. And I have faith that this chaos can be met with fortitude and with the occasional breath of levity.

Though both, I’d wager, make for pretty interesting writing. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Getting it.


Today, I’ll go into the hospital for Round 3 of chemo. This is 3 of 5 rounds, and so, I’m almost halfway there. I’m psyched. I feel like there’s an end to this. Or this portion of it at least.

This morning, I tried a different style of meditation. It’s one that my friend said she does: she lights a candle, and sits, writing down whatever comes. I’ve never “written” during meditation before – but, I’ll tell you, it worked.

Sure, there are all the initial thoughts about stuff that needs to be done, etc. Some of which I wrote down, some of which was just chatter. But, then I got to some good stuff, and was writing down some new prompt questions for my workshop that I’m facilitating this morning for some of my women friends.

I didn’t “have it in me” prior to this morning to think up new questions, and so it was a marvelous thing to just have these new questions come – there’s a journaling portion at the beginning of the workshop to explore some of our ideas around creativity and spirituality (hence the name of the workshop!), and I’ve used the same prompts for over a year, but wasn’t sure how I’d “get” new ones. I’ve been so tired, I even thought about canceling today, but I am actually feeling more enthusiastic about the whole thing now.

This morning, it was raining kennels, rather than cats and dogs, and I interpreted the aching, raging winds and the slap of the rain against my windows as a show of this Universal power that I’ve been trying to become open to. That the show of that kind of roar of the elements is proof, or evidence, or a sample of what is available to me, should I allow myself to be available.

Last night, I looked up the cancer blog “Life, Interrupted.” I identified like gangbusters. And, too, I recognize a hint – well, maybe more than a hint – of jealousy. Which sounds preposterous. Being jealous of a woman with Leukemia. But... She’s got a blog on the New York Times website. She’s got a boyfriend supporting her. She gets to occasionally stay in the home she grew up in, in the town she grew up in, with both parents present to care for her. And, she got to save some of her eggs.

So, yeah. I’m envious of that. But, I don’t envy what she talks about for her bone marrow transplant or her experience of chemo. She had to go with transplant, as her cancer didn’t go into remission after the first round of chemo, as mine did. I don’t envy her nausea, mouth sores, or physical pain.

Instead, what I “get” are friends who come to help me pack up for this next round. I get people texting me to ask what they can bring me and when they can see me. I get to acknowledge that I’ve puked once in this whole process and that nausea has been at a minimum, if at all. And I get to state that I got my period this month, which bodes well for how my soldiering ovaries are bearing forth through the chemo.

Also, I’m in remission.

I get to have my brother arrive next Saturday, and know that he’ll play me guitar, and we’ll sing together, no matter how well or not this round goes. I get to have my best friend from New Jersey come out right after Christmas. I get to have my friend Debby deliver a prayer I'm writing to Israel, where she’s going this week.

I don’t have to envy her. I do envy her her blog, but, really, I also get to have people continue to tell me that my own writing means something to them – and no matter the scale, that actually is what is important to me. I have a friend, too, who’s offered to help me if I want to “take my writing to the next level,” and put me in touch with people she knows.

I am not devoid or absent of resources. And these are all external ones. I’ve been trying so hard to dig deep within myself to “make it work,” to make decisions, to do my own cooking, laundry, walk to places that I can get rides to instead. I’ve been trying to hold the ache and the hurt of what’s happened with my dad all by myself. I’ve been trying to figure out what happens when Round 5 will be done – who I will be, what I will do, where I will live.

I don’t need to do this.

My friend came by to do acupuncture on me yesterday, and he confirmed physically what I’ve been expressing emotionally – my systems are exhausted. They/I am tired on so many levels. I don’t need to do more on my own.

I’ve been using coffee to back-balance the fatigue I feel, which makes me a little chagrined, as coffee creates an acidic environment in your body, which means it’s a breeding ground for cancer.

I could identify so much with what the Life, Interrupted author talks about – asking the question with everything you do, Is this the best? Is this the best choice of food or activity? Is this the best use of my time, is this the best thing on the menu, is this the best restaurant, is this the best conversation, is this the best movie to see? Is this the best way to spend this precious Tick Tocking time? No wonder I’m exhausted.

So much of what she talks about, I can relate to. It was strange to read her sentence, I assume that people with cancer will know what I’m talking about. I do. I am a person, I won't say "with," but who has had cancer. I do get it. I am part, now, of a club that I never wanted to be a member of, but which has allowed me to see and experience things that the majority of the population doesn’t.

I don’t take pride in this, but I do take it as a chance to greatly expand my capacity for empathy. There is a whole portion of humans now whom I can relate to, and understand. I know before all this, I would read these touching and emotional stories and accounts, or I would hear of someone with cancer, survived or not, and I would momentarily feel affected. And then I’d move on. That’s someone else’s experience, not mine ("Thank G-d," perhaps I’d add, if I were feeling aware).

But, it is different now. I “get,” as in understand, things that I never would or have. I don’t admire my position, but I recognize the quasi-unique place that I am now in.

What this means, or will mean, I don’t know. It doesn’t really have to “mean” anything. Just that I feel more attuned to a larger part of the human race. And I guess that does “mean” something.