Category Archives: Attitude

Clarity.

I am at an interesting place. Truly.

Part of this comes from an overriding sense of it’s time to close up shop-ness. A nice way of saying, I might be dying.

That. But also (and this is the scenario I much prefer), all that hard work is paying off. I’m talking about personal growth and my quest to be a better, saner version of myself. Not long ago my son Peter, our little mensch, made the observation that I was at my most reasonable. I realize that sounds like an incomplete sentence but I knew exactly what he meant. It’s a high compliment and just like my favorite word ok, does not overstate.

I’ve been through a little bit of hell in this lifetime of mine. The good news is there is always a potential benefit to struggle. Think of it as stairs versus escalator. They both get you to the same place but one gives you a bit of a workout, thereby building muscle.

I am strong in body and in spirit. And also brave enough to regard myself with compassion but not charity. This is thread the needle time. And if I want to hold it all together I need to lighten the load. Let go of what is not essential. Revel in that which is.

Reach. But also maintain reason. Rise to the occasion.

Eyes

wide

open.

The heart is a muscle

And you damn well better use it. Even if—sometimes especially if—it hurts. Love is the heavy lifting when it comes to this little pump. Love, love and more love.

Heartbreak? It’s real but, in the same way a tree requires wind in order to put down deep roots, a heart can do with a good gale now and again. Yes, really. Loving and losing is our greatest fear. But that is also what makes love so very precious.

The hardest part of living with a disease like lung cancer is the loss. If you make the decision to establish connections with people who are facing the sort of survival stats we have, well, you need to understand from the get-go that death is going to be a frequent part of the equation.

It sucks, and sometimes it overwhelms as well.

I asked my oncologist, Dr. Alice Shaw, how she dealt with losing patients. Her response was that she viewed her role as a thoracic oncologist as a privilege. That caring for someone (in all senses of the word) as they faced extraordinary circumstances was an honor.

Her response struck me, because it is exactly the way I feel. Privileged to love so very many. Honored to share this fucking journey. And in awe of the fact that my heart–although at times so very heavy–has only grown stronger.

Life is hard, and avoiding that reality is not going to make anything easier. Nor is letting your heart go all flabby, just because you’re afraid of giving it a workout. Use it or lose it y’all. Live. Love. Heart, eyes and mind wide open.

xoxoxo

While sleeping

I just got back from a week in California, compliments of my friends Wendy and Cristina. More details and photos to follow. But first this.

On the fifth night I dreamt of a black and white woodpecker with wingtips burned to ash. The next morning I was having coffee with Wendy at the table when I looked out the window to where a bird was pulling suet from a feeder. It was a Hairy Woodpecker, just like the one in my dream.

On night six I had a dream that I was dancing. I felt like Shirley Temple in my full skirted dress; jumping and leaping and twirling about. Again and again people would stop to tell me what an amazing dancer I was.

In my waking state I am far from confident per my ability to dance; lack of coordination coupled with an inability to follow direction and a sense of rhythm that is best described as uniquely mine. I dance alone or in the company of alcohol or some other source of disinhibition.

To be able to dance like that in my dreams is almost as good as flying. Perhaps my wings have been singed (after all, I have been flying rather close to the sun) but who’s to say they are not yet airworthy.

Dream on.

xo

Where your thoughts hang out

My daughter Jemesii was an amazingly precocious child. Highly verbal and given to preternatural wisdom. One day, at the ripe old age of maybe two, she said something that I shall never forget: ‘Dreams are where your thoughts go at night.’

Well yes, of course. Seemingly a simple observation but oh so much more.

Dreams are one of the reasons I love to sleep. When I am dreaming it is as if I have opened the door from one place to another. A magical place, strange and yet so familiar. From one self (waking) to another (sleeping).

Over the past two nights I’ve had a pair of dreams that seemed particularly powerful. In the first I am watching four elk graze when they turn and start moving toward me. Then I see the tiger. And then the tiger sees me. I begin to run and the only shelter is a screened in porch. I get there just before the tiger and quickly latch the door. To my surprise and great relief, the tiger simply regards me through the flimsy wood frame and wire mesh and then turns to go. I think to myself that sometimes a simple barrier is enough to protect oneself from danger. But there is more. Because this barrier is transparent, I can still see the tiger. Now he is far below and menacing a group of people gathered on the beach. They do the oddest thing (or perhaps it is the only thing to do, although I think I would have jumped into the water). They simply turn their backs to the tiger and of course this does nothing to stop him from attacking.

In the second dream I am standing in a series of lines, waiting to get into a cafeteria. At one point a number of us sit together on a wall and I share the fact that the previous night I had been very stoned while looking at the night sky. And that I had been able to hear the throb and hum of the universe. This is met with silence but an Indian man, who is also some sort of teacher, approaches me later and says ‘Absolutely. It is all moving, all the time, and that is what you heard. I too have felt it.’ The subtle (or not so subtle) wind of existence. Life. Energy. It. Us. Connected.

Where my thoughts go during the day: a captured moment.

Perfect alignment

The first thing I saw upon opening my eyes today was the planet Mars. Cold little fire in the early morning sky.

‘Hey Mars’, I said. ‘Save me.’ To which Mars calmly replied: ‘I got nothing.’

Honestly, I was somewhat taken aback. But as I stared across the millions of miles of space, I saw not Mars but the light of the Sun, reflected. And I thought about the other side of this star-like planet, now sheathed in darkness. A jet passed high above. I pictured the passengers inside, people on their way somewhere. So far and yet so close as well.

A bird flew past the window; fast. And then some more, buffeted by the breeze. Mars was growing dimmer, and I had to concentrate to keep it in focus. Two more jets, their contrails now lit by the rising Sun. Seagulls, playfully riding the thermals.

All this I could see. Yet the air was also filled with microorganisms, invisible to the eye but very much part of this marvelous froth of life. I felt this overwhelming connection to everything and nothing, as nothing was actually something. And I understood with a clarity that felt like pure joy that even when I was no longer me, life would go on.

At last glance, the bright planet was obscured by daylight. Far, far away. There, but not there.

Thanks for nothing Mars 😉

Nice-ness

So life might be bonking me on the head a tad but there’s some mighty fine shit going on as well.

Take my birthday. Child number two, my son August, took his mama to dinner. Sushi boat and Mai Tais. Yummy yummy ice cream. Paid for by my spawn (a term of endearment in our family). Really quite special and a rite of passage for us both.

Aug and Aug’s mom Linnea

And then there’s the Advair situation. My friend Lynda mailed me an inhaler pronto with the promise of another to follow and a whole bunch of other folks offered to send some as well. However, just the other day I received a package from another friend, Ginny, with six of those puppies inside so I am all set. 

She who prefers not to be named (but thank you) set me up with a massage which I’m going to be taking advantage of in the next couple of days and I am STOKED. I’m the sort of person who likes to go to the dentist because it means someone is touching me and there’s been all too little of that going on as of late. If you know what I mean 😉

Got a guardian angel out there as well—who out of discretion will remain unnamed but he’s friends with some of you as well. Several months ago he just went and made a large deposit in my paypal account. A loan to be paid back when I am able. Unbelievably kind, generous, and knowing. Asking for assistance is not easy for me and frankly the only way this could have happened is the way he chose to do it.

I’ve also got some other loose ends to tie up getting rid of my vintage clothing and replacing the floor in my little airstream. Local friends have offered to help me with both. 

A neighbor paid the fee for my key to be replaced when I lost those. Another friend (girlfriend of a friend but now my friend too 😉 ) is keeping me on track with my book. She is just what the doctor ordered—sassy, smart, incredibly organized. Exactly the sort of task master I am in desperate need of.

And of course I have received many, many messages of support and encouragement.

So, as you can see, I am RICH in friends. Almost obscenely wealthy. And there is no form of plenty I would rather have.

And the overcome

Because we all need a can-do story now and again.

So. If the part fourteen years have taught me anything, it’s how to power through. Not saying that such an approach is 100% effective but then again, sometimes scrappiness and un utter lack of hesitation is key.

My son Peter and I have our inside version of the joke is on the universe (not us). It goes like this: ‘It’s impossible, now let’s do it.’ Oh, and we have. Both alone and together.

A couple of prime examples. When I began my first clinical trial in October of 2008, I was three months into ‘you have three to five months left to live’. In other words, officially a dying woman. I also lived up past Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, a good two and one half hours from the hospital without traffic. I drove myself both to and from the hospital in the same day for all of my trial visits. And yes, I was married at the time and it wasn’t until much later that I would feel angry about the fact that I made those trips alone. However, more importantly, I did it. And, of note, I am no longer married 😉

Getting Peter into private school was a monumental effort as well. I was going through chemo and I would lay on the couch as he wrote essays and then when I was feeling better, we would go on tours and interviews. When he got into Phillips Exeter Academy it was an immense sense of accomplishment. And when it was time for him to apply for college, we repeated this routine, as I would go and hang out in his room at PEA while he wrote, just to offer support. Of course, it was his own academic prowess that got him into MIT.

When I left my marriage, I was post chemo and pre lorlatinib, my health again failing. Some close friends helped me move the heavier items but I drove the 26 foot truck myself—a first. The day it was due to be returned I had one more load and a seemingly impossible deadline but I simply told myself that failure was not an option and I got the job done.

Of course, some situations truly would be impossible without assistance. I own a little airstream trailer, and the parking lot here at the lofts is being hot topped. That meant I had to move my trailer but when August and I tried to hook up the hitch, we discovered the mechanism was rusted into place. One of my neighbors suggested that if we got enough people, perhaps we could simply lift the the hitch onto the ball. So, the next day, we did just that. Six people lifted a 3500 pound trailer by the hitch, gently placing it on the ball of my truck as I deftly (yes, deftness was mandatory, failure not an option) inched it into place at just the right moment. Not probable, but possible.