Saturday, April 12, 2008

A day thinking about compassion

Today I had the good fortune to go to two events from the Seeds of Compassion organization. The first had three panelists talking about the impact of teaching compassion to youth, and what are obligations are in that regard; the second had, as its primary speaker, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama tells funny little jokes, and then laughs with gleeful mischief at his own jokes. He is slightly self depricating, saying "I'm just one man, and there are 6 billion people....I'm just one in six billion, not so special," and he even answered one question with, "That's a very big question. Hmmmm. I don't know!"

It is impossible not to love him. They say that babies can tell the intentions of those who care for them, and I would say that those around the Dalai Lama are babies in his watchful care, and we can tell he loves us, and we're ready to respond with delight.

I have a lot of thinking to do about what I saw and heard in the past two days. It can not be summed up with a pithy little quote, though there were plenty of quotable quotes (my favorite of which is "War is outdated," - think about that one for a while). The most important part of the events was not what occurred, it's what is to occur next.

The event was about bringing compassion into action. The word "action' came up over and over and over again. What am I to do with my love of compassion? How can I make it more active in my house? How can I be patient with Tessa when she is feeling her emotions all hot and angry, so that treat her with compassion instead of frustration? How can I communicate my needs to Ryan in a way that is compassionate of his needs instead of demanding? How can I practice compassion in my community? How much of my "self" must I give to this worthy cause?

I'm not sure, but I think the answer is "all." All of my self. 100%.

I've heard a quote a few times lately that goes something like this. "If you want to help someone, help them. If you want to help yourself, help someone." Today the Dalai Lama said that it is "wise selfish" to give compassion to others because in the end it makes the world a better place for yourself. We can be compassionate out of selfishness - we wish to live in peace and harmony and so while we may be compassionate to others, we do it for ourselves.

If this is the case (and I can't see any flaws in the logic to indicate otherwise), then I must give all of myself, in an effort to save myself.

And lest you think I'm about to become some crazy martyr lady, let me remind you that compassion toward self is part of this. The "program" if there even is a program involves time for self-care. It encourages friendship. It places great emphasis on family, on community. It allows for religious faith (of course!), for education, for reflection and meditation. All of these things are things I want for myself, of course. If I could feel peace, and ahve those things too, well, I'd have to say that I had it made.

So I'm ruminating on it. What is my role?

Is it work to cure breast cancer?
Is it building for Habitat for Humanity?
Is it creating a compassion program at Alki Elementary (our family's new "home" for the next few years)
Is it work within WSUU?
Is it writing for breast cancer survivors?
Is it "merely" being an agent of peace within my own household (which, frankly, is a lot harder than those other things on the list...!)?

I'm grateful to have the opportunity to reflect on such things.

I'm grateful that Qwest Field was filled with others who also walked away ready to have these discussions. This is not work to be done alone, and I think that the time has come to do it together now.

I didn't spend my time at Qwest feeling the pain of my chest (yes it hurts. Yes, I had to take an Aleve while I was there. But while His Holiness was speaking, I could only see and hear him...not feel pain.) I didn't walk away feeling sorry for my surgeries, for my disease. I walked away feeling hopeful.

So tonight I reflect with gratitude on this opportunity.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dalai Lama Weekend

I've just dropped off Tessa at preschool, and my Dalai Lama weekend begins.

Michele is picking me up at about 11:30, and while Tessa goes off with Grammy & Grandpa on a motorhome weekend in Anacortes (she's so excited she's dancing around talking about it), I will go to the first of my three events for Seeds of Compassion.

Then, this evening, Ryan and I are going to go on a date. We'll do a happy hour (inexpensive!) downtown, and then we'll see the S.A.M. Romans exhibit (on loan from the Louvre). Usually Ryan's not a museum guy, but he's fascinated with the Romans, and so this is particularly interesting to him....and I love museums of just about all kinds. If I can hold it together (hmmm not sure how likely it is) I'd like to see the movie Juno downtown...but certainly no promises there.

And then tomorrow it's TWO more Dalai Lama events, including the main one at Qwest Field.

The Dalai Lama is the human being that I most respect in the world. His integrity, intelligence, kindness and compassion are unparalleled. I am in awe at his ability to find deep joy in the midst of great sorrow. I could learn an immense amount from him, and I've been reading his books, and learning about him for a while now. To see him in person is like a gift. (Actually, it IS a gift. The tickets were free.)

So, this morning I need to hustle around and pack Tessa's weekend back for Grammy to pick up, and tidy the house, and return phone calls....but I'm so excited for what is to follow.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A good start to the day

I woke up today with a headache, as I have every day since surgery, but today I woke up with something else, too....a sense of calm. WOW. I can't tell you how I've missed that.

Today I feel more filled with hope, and the possibilities for joy, than in a long while. How does one describe such feelings? It's not a bouncy, energetic's quieter. It's peaceful. And I'll take it!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Every day a bit longer

I am able to make it longer each day. Today I've made it this far - amazing.

A good day.


One of the girls on the YSC died today.

Another one gone.

Another motherless child (a girl about Tessa's age).

I need the support of women who have been in my shoes, but it's sad and lonely when those women are dying. Of course, more are living than dying, but three deaths in two (?) weeks is enough to make anyone ill.

It's not fair. I don't understand it.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

One foot in front of the other

Yesterday I made it in mothering-land until about 3:45pm. Today I hope to make it until at least 5, and maybe beyond. Beth has Tessa for a couple of hours this morning (playdate with Anna - the girls love each other), and then it's preschool for Tessa while I go visit my lovely shrink. I'm actually a bit nervous about driving so far - my body is so tired and driving involves shoulder checks and sitting in one position and such but I know I can do it, we'll just see how tired it makes me.

And since when does a 20 minute drive exhaust me? Argh.

I realized a couple of things yesterday:

1) The sensations I've been feeling (nausea, fatigue, headaches, digestive issues, etc) are most similar to chemo. Yuck. There are some memories I don't want to relive.

2) The drugs were too much for me. I actually do not remember anything from the day of surgery - I took an Ativan before going in - until about Friday? Saturday? - which is really scary. I read my own blog and I'm thinking "hmmm I guess I remember that" but it's really, really fuzzy. Wow. I have little snippets of memory, but I can't link the days together. It's frightening. I think I'd rather have the pain than that. Or would I? It's sort of confusing.

I'm taking it slow. One foot in front of the other. Minor house chores (made Tessa's breakfast - our new favorite of oatmeal mixed with berries, non-fat-plain-yogurt, and maple syrup; laundry; unloading dishwasher...I'm not too ambitious), going for a short walk with Shep after this (I think it will be good for both of us), going to the good doc, having another quiet evening at home.

It's only been a week (less!) and I barely remember what it feels like to be normal. My head is so fuzzy from this experience. But each day is better than the one before it so I'm trying to remember that this, too, shall pass.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Brilliant ideas

The first brilliant idea is from Heather and Beth, who offered to drive Tessa home from gymnastics so that I could rest. I took them up on it - Heather had the carseat, so she's actually doing the favor, but I'm grateful to them both. THANK YOU Heather for taking Tessa for a couple of hours to prevent me from melting down!

My second brilliant idea came while I was listening to NPR in the car on the way back from gymnastics, sans Tessa. I don't usually listen with her because it's too hard to multitask and listen to full articles with her interruptions, and because often the subject matter is too adult for her.

So today I was listening about the horrors of the war in Iraq, and it came to me. I have a solution!

My solution: the US gov't withdraws entirely. Wait, don't stop reading, there's more. In their place, the US gov't pays maybe 1/3 of the current annual costs of the war to humanitarian organizations to go in there and fix things.

Habitat for Humanity could help rebuild people's homes
Amnesty International could start righting some wrongs
The Peace Corp could get involved
....and just about any other decent organization you can think of. We'd send over a bunch of do-gooders who didn't have a political or financial motive, and we'd leave it to them to fix it. We'd provide them with funding to fix it themselves.

Frankly, I'm convinced that it would cost a lot less to have a bunch of do-gooders over there cobbling solutions together than it would to have people out on the streets shooting each other and blowing things up. Especially when it's about blowing families up.....

Don't tell me my plan is flawed. Don't tell me that I'm a liberal optimist and that I haven't thought it through. Don't tell me that the US Gov't is strong and powerful and if they can't fix it then how are a bunch of civilians going to do anything. Don't even say a word! Just imagine the possibilities. I know that the "unrest" there (what a euphemism) isn't simple. I know! I know that there are many, many problems to solve. I know I probably haven't named the best groups for the job.

But imagine the possibilities. Imagine people working together as a community. Imagine trying to end a war with love, not weapons.

Good God I'm trying to be John Lennon - and look how he ended up. Yikes.

Anyway, I know that I'm a liberal-optmist-pascifist-unschooled-in-political-theory-etc. I know. I don't care. I'm so sick of this war - of all wars, of course, but we hear the most about this war - and frankly I don't think I've heard a single plan better than my plan yet. There HAS to be a better way! My way costs less money (hey I do have a degree in economics, for those of you who have forgotten), acknowledges humans' basic needs (dignity, respect, free speech, FOOD, housing, safety, etc.) and offers alternatives never currently used so nobody can prove to me that they wouldn't work.

So I like my plan. Call me whatever names you want, but don't post them here. This isn't a political blog, and I'm not a politico (obviously). It's just that this war is so **** frustrating to me. Mothers like me are losing sons and daughters. IT IS NOT OKAY.

Getting off my soapbox now.

Not worried about infection today

Small update before we head to Beth & Anna's.

I've decided that last night I was being paranoid. My breast is red and bruised because it's radiated tissue that has been operated on. I feel bad because I had surgery with anesthesia and narcotics, my diet is off, and I've been sedentary.

Enough said.

Sorry if I dragged anyone else into my paranoia!

Monday is a fresh start

Today I'm a full time Mommy. Tessa is snuggled up to me in bed as I'm typing, happy as can be that her mama is paying attention and planning on spending a whole day with her.

I'm certain to be tired by evening, but that is okay. I'm feeling very DONE with being a patient.

Our list of tasks is small today:
- Buy tape for Tessa's art projects
- Plan a playdate for Tessa (maybe with Anna, who has been gone for over a week)
- Take Tessa to gymnastics

The rest of the day will fill itself up. I am looking forward to spending time with my daughter.

And now, enough of the blog, and off we go. Wish me luck - I don't want to collapse at noon! (And if I do, I have people I can call, don't worry....)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Fuzzy head

I'm worried that I'm getting an infection. My left breast, which had more revisions than the right and is the radiated side (meaning more issues in general) is very red and I think the red is growing. I thought it was bruising, but now I'm not so sure.

I'm going to call the doc tomorrow to ask. I also feel lightheaded, even without narcotics, and I get these sort of waves of nausea accompanied by lightheadedness. (Not thinking about brain mets. Not thinking about brain mets. NOT. Okay, so I am. But I'm telling myself to stop it.)

It's probably just my system messed up from surgery. Who knows. But I don't like it.

I came home from the movie, put on pjs, and have been in bed all afternoon, much to Tessa's disappointment. She wants more from me. I read her stories today and she acted like it was the best thing in the world. I want to give her more than a half hour of attention without dying to get up and run away (she's so wiggly, and she wants to be close, and she bumps and bumps and bumps into me...).

But Tessa is so sweet. Ryan made me coffee this morning, and Tessa delivered it to me. And Tessa has made me countless pieces of artwork over the past week. She's handled this with a lot of grace for a five year old.

I want to get back to more normal, even the not-so-normal normal looks good rigiht now. I'm tired of feeling crummy.

Working it through

I had a terrible night's sleep last night.

I dreamed that Melinda and Cathy came to my room while I was sleeping, and they were debating whether they should take me with them. In my dream, I said, "Please! No! I'm not ready to die!" and they were very kind but explained that it wasn't their choice, but that they had to take someone. I begged them not to take me, to take someone else instead....and woke up crying.


Now let it be said here that I don't see Melinda and Cathy as "ghosties" - I see them as magnificent women. In this dream, they were not demons, and they were not happy about their role, and they were there to help....but I begged them not to take me.

It's no secret that I don't want to die, that fears rest upon me, and that it's not surprising that my fears would work themselves out in dreams. That didn't make it any less terrifying.

And then this morning we went to church, which meant that for the first time I put on a full set of clothes, and shoes, and made it outside. It was good to go to church, and share my gratitude for the help the congregation has given.

Two more cancer moments after that...

After church I was tired, so while Ryan and Tessa headed to the Farmer's Market, I channel surfed at home. But the movie that looked like a cute romance set in Seattle (my first thought was "hey that's Hammering Man!") turned about to be about a woman with cancer. And within 10 minutes of my turning it on, she was dead. Damn. That was not uplifting.

And then Heather took me to the movies in West Seattle, and we saw the light comedy "27 Dresses." In general, it was just what I needed - light, funny, girl-movie, only 2 miles from home - but with one drawback. In the opening scene, we meet a little girl named Tess whose mom just died. That is not at all the focus of the movie, but that's how it starts.

Well, CRAP. That's not funny.

I really hope that I can adjust to my new reality where stuff like this doesn't hit me quite so hard. The movie was good, and it wasn't ruined for me because of that opening scene....but it did sting.

I'm sure it'll get easier when I'm not hurting, when my body is more healed, when I'm not so tired from surgery. But it's all a bit of a stretch right now.