Friday, July 11, 2008

Beauty Meets Beauty

Endings and Beginnings

Today is Ryan's last day at Varolii. Our family has very mixed feelings about it, of course, but I am trying to reflect on the fact that this is a new beginning just as much as it is an ending.

When I was first diagnosed, I watched "The Survivor Movie" online, and it deeply touched me. It's a PowerPoint presentation set to music, and it's aimed at cancer patients. One screen in particular really touched me (and always makes me cry): it's a picture of someone being rushed to the ER on a stretcher, and the caption reads something like, "Setbacks are a chance to re-learn the lesson." I think the reason it touched me so much was twofold: one, of course, is that setbacks are scary; more importantly, though, is that (two) setbacks are just a part of the journey. This idea - that it is somehow natural and normal to have setbacks - is comforting to me. It reminds me that a setback is not the end, it's a detour, and that perhaps something is to be gained by it.

Setbacks are still scary. But when I can remember it, they are also filled with possibility. A chance to get things right, to find a new path, to embark on a new journey.

Yesterday, our "setback" was a gift in disguise: when our plans for the day fell through and friends were busy, Tessa and I went to the zoo just the two of us. We did things at our own pace. We saw only the things that appealed to us. We talked, held hands, and laughed together. I was 100% attentive to Tessa, not distracted by one of my own friends, and Tessa in return was a delight to be with. We shared jokes, we shared a cheeseburger, we shared sunblock. Simple, and lovely.

Today will be different for us, but hopefully also a great day. It's the West Seattle Street Fair, and Susan & the boys are coming to play with us. Tessa is dreaming of bouncy houses and face painting, and I'm looking forward to seeing the kids play together and share the excitement. It's always a treat to see Susan, and I'm looking forward to that, too.

Today is a day of quiet contemplation for Ryan, I think. I'm wishing him peace, and hope in the new beginning, even as this chapter ends.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

One day at a time

Friends are asking, "How are you?" and I think that my honest answer is "Okay. I'm taking it one day at a time."

I do not know what the future holds.

I'm trying to make the most out of today; to do what must be done, and to remember to seek joy.

Today Tessa and I are about to hop on the bus to go to the zoo. Our plans fell through at the last minute (no big deal) and a couple of phone calls didn't find us a playdate, so it will be a Mother-Daughter day. That actually sounds quite nice, and we haven't used our zoo membership in a while. The bus takes us straight there, so we'll be green about it.

I hope that you, too, are doing well. I won't lie and say that I feel fantastic - I don't - but I'm okay.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Fabulous Podcast

I bumped into a link that is a podcast of Barbara Kingsolver talking about her book Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. I've been filing this afternoon (brain dead work) and so I doubled clicked, and I've listened to it for the better part of the last hour. It was an hour well spent.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Barbara Kingsolver; it is because of her that I have a gardent this year. The data that she shared, her stories ("yarns" she calls them) of her garden, and the proposal that she made that an average person could grow a successful garden inspired me to take that leap of faith. Even though our harvests are just starting, it has been an incredibly rewarding experience, and I am interested in all things Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

I am intrigued by the other podcasts listed on the site, as well. My sweet mother-in-law passed along a Kate Braestrup book and there is an interview with her on the site, as well, and I'll listen to it next.

I am interested in learning about faith from multiple sources; this is a novel one. I will be back often.

(PS It's free. I could listen on my NEW iPod - the hand-me-down from Libby that I am SO grateful to receive - but I've been listening on our laptop since I'm home alone.)

More surgery plans

Today I visited the plastic surgeon. We have agreed that in October, he will:
- exchange the expanders out, and put in implants
- remove the attempts to build nipples
- remove the keloid scar on my eye from said attempt

I will go from being a D cup to a B cup in an effort to metaphorically and physically make my breasts a smaller part of my life.

The plastic surgeon is pushing me to have further surgeries (he calls them "procedures" but there is still anesthesia and a knife involved) to remove the rest of the aereola complex (he can only remove part in the next surgery) and to create new nipples.

I can't agree to that right now. All I know is that I will do another surgery in October, and that I will be glad to have it behind me.

It's difficult to go to his office. I want to scream or cry but instead I put on a favorite skirt to boost my confidence and walk in and say politely, "Hello, doctor," and "Have a nice day." He's a nice man (and he's doing a project for Operation Smile, which I respect immensely) and it's not him that is the's the whole mess that I need to see him for in the first place that makes me crazy.

Human frailty

Today I am thinking about how everyone -myself included, or perhaps most of all - makes mistakes. I am thinking about how some mistakes are easily corrected with an "oops, I'm sorry!" and how some take years to heal. Most mistakes, of course, fall somewhere in the middle.

I'm thinking about labeling of "good" and "bad" and how we accept, deny, or give these labels. I'm thinking about how few things truly deserve such blanket statements; there are elements of good and bad in just about everything, and certainly in everyone.

I'm thinking about how to correct mistakes, and how to respond to them. I'm thinking about hurt feelings - mine and others' - and how to best address them.

I'm wondering where the line between owning one's own feelings and placing blame or credit on others for those feelings belongs.

Lots of things are provoking these thoughts. I have several people in my life who have marriages in trouble, and who are struggling to do the right thing, and to make the right decision. Ryan and I have certainly used angry words with each other (in addition to loving words, of course), and I wonder how to own, address, recover from those words. I have friends who awe me with their superpowers of kindness, and they remind me that they, too, are frail. I have acquaintances who baffle me with their thoughtlessness, and I struggle not to label them, and to remember that they, too, are merely human.

And myself....I struggle with my own frailty, my own mistakes. I truly, deeply want to be the best person that I can be, and to give more in this world than I take. I want to work hard, I want to relax in the sunshine, and I want to find the balance between the two. I want to be a living example of compassion to others, while not ignoring my own need for compassion. I want to remain true to my convictions, while not forcing them upon others. I want to try to avoid mistakes, especially of the hurtful variety, but forgive myself when I make mistakes. But I also don't want to let myself off the hook for my mistakes, but to work to correct them (which is a form of forgiveness, I think). I neither want to make more, nor less, out of my mistakes than what they really are. And I recognize that my pursuit of compassion is anything but a done deal...I have a lot to learn. More than I thought, even, and I never thought I had it figured out.

Some thoughts from others about human frailty, forgiveness, and compassion:

“As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery… we have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger, attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness.” - The Dalai Lama

"...and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us..." - The Lord's Prayer

Yael Naim's song "New Soul" speaks to me, too.

I'm a new soul
I came to this strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit bout how to give and take
But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear
Finding myself making every possible mistake


See I'm a young soul in this very strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit bout what is true and fake
But why all this hate? try to communicate
Finding trust and love is not always easy to make

Forward Momentum

I have a big list of things to accomplish today while Tessa is with my mom. I'm undermotivated, but this will not be a good I'm working on it now.

Off to the races.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Getting it together

I found PollyAnna hiding in the closet, and dragged her out and demanded her attendance.

I'm okay. I will be okay.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


I think I'm having another breakdown.

I feel overwhelmed and unable to cope.

I utterly regret going off Lexapro, and I wish that Dr. Baer hadn't moved.

Ryan's job loss, tension at our house, fears about the future (job and financial and health).... I just feel overwhelmed. I feel like everything is topsy-turvy, and I don't know which end is up.

I will get through this. I always do, somehow. I just don't know where the well of strength went. I am totally at a loss as to what to do, think, say. I feel "wrong." I feel like an idiot that I thought it would get easier. I feel like a fool.

To top it off, today somebody said something unkind to me. It made me cry, even though I should be angry, but I haven't got it in me to be angry today. Just a small, stupid, petty thing, but it hurt my feelings on a day when I was a bundle of hurt anyway.

It's a bad day.

The breakdown thing is real - I have "racing thoughts" and I'm swirling in a sea of negativity. Ryan was working on his resume and had to come home because I couldn't stop crying in front of Tessa. That kid will be scarred for life if our household keeps up this crap....and that only makes me cry more. Is the second breakdown as bad as the first? Or will my knowledge of the cycle make it better? I feel like a lunatic - nothing good seems possible, nothing seems good, and I trust nothing. I'm waiting for yet another punch to the seems likely it will come soon.

I'm waiting for the cancer to return. I hear it whispering to me.

I will do what I need to do.
- Call the new therapist number
- Start taking Lexapro once again (and stay on it even when I get "better")
- Meet with Rev. Peg to get some wisdom
- Put on my big girl panties and get over it

Today sucks. This week sucks.

At church today there was a quote, and I'm trying to believe it today.
First they ignore you.
Then they laugh at you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win.
-- Ghandi

I don't feel it or believe it, but it is fuel for thought. Today I'm a mess, and a laughing stock. Maybe tomorrow will be better.