Saturday, January 30, 2016

Leaves, Sticks & Shadows



 We do get a little bit of fall color here in Louisiana. I am grateful for what we get (I need to write more about this place, it is such a major part of me).
I took a video on this day. The wind was gently blowing the leaf across the surface of the water in the bird bath. At the time it felt like I was listening to the universe breath. All was quiet and peaceful.
This stick is still sitting on my desk in the country. I'm going to save it for a while and see if I can somehow work it into a piece of art. There's something hopeful about the buds growing in and then the undeniable brokenness of the branch dashing all hope of growth. Life and death on the same little stick. Life is full of such paradoxes.
I'm working hard at understanding what matters most to me, trying to discern my voice from all the voices of authority that rattle around in my head. It seems to me I should have "been done" figured this out. On the other hand, we are never totally done with this task. I read a quote this morning that said:

"If in the last few years you haven't discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead." ~ Gelett Burgess

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Holding The Tension

One of my favorite metaphors about life is the one of us holding the tension. I think of my grandmother, and my mother, and myself, sewing, and adjusting the tension that is necessary to keep the stitches even. When teaching me to hem a garment, my mother quoted my grandmother, saying "If you make your stitches too big, you'll hang your toe in them."

I think of my brother, who, when he was young built himself a bicycle out of scrap parts, and apparently, did not have the tension of the chain quite right, because, somehow, the chain slipped off, or locked up, and he tumbled off the bicycle and broke a leg.

There is a tension we must hold (and constantly adjust) as we raise our children. Some of us have to learn that saying "yes" is not always the most loving thing to say. That holds true in more than our parenting relationships.

I held a different kind of tension this past weekend, when I was in Houston for my second three month checkup. I wonder when I will quit numbering the checkups and just call it "my checkup"? My husband, for the longest time after my son died, knew the exact number of days our son had been gone. I suspect he might still be keeping that tally. I remember my son's words on the back cover of a notebook when he was in a rehab facility: "number of days I been here:" followed by his hash marks that numbered the days. We humans do love to count the days and mark our times.

I have to make five years before I'm declared truly cured. For the first couple of years, those years are measured in three month increments. I was particularly stressed this time around, mostly because they had me scheduled to have my port removed. Before I would see the oncologist. I asked the woman at the pre-procedure meeting if they would know my scan was clear and all was well before they took the port out. She said they wouldn't. That bothered me. I dealt with that, speaking to several people throughout the day, and eventually got the port removal changed to take place after seeing the oncologist (which is how the nurse said it was supposed to have been all along).

Sometimes you just can't make nice and do what the "authorities" tell you to do. Sometimes you just have to make a little noise. As it turns out, in this case, everything would have been perfectly okay whether my port was taken out that morning or that afternoon, but we didn't know that in advance and I was unwilling to take that risk. And that's another of the side effects of my cancer: I'm less willing to sit down and shut up and hang on for the ride.

To make a long story short (oops, too late!), my scan was clear and they did remove the port. As of now, I remain in remission, and I am working to let my life be.





Sunday, January 03, 2016

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil

My sister gave these to my daughter as part of her Christmas present. I "kidnapped" them to take their pictures. I like them a lot. But I got to thinking about how dangerous "see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil" can be, particularly for people who tend to be "good little boys and girls." If we never see or listen or speak of the bad things, they continue on in the way they always have. That's a harmful thing for the more weak and powerless among us.
The road in the background leads up and out from our place in the woods. When we leave town and come in to the country, I am relaxed and ready for the quiet. This year, I want to be more aware of what I am taking out from here as I travel up and out the road to head back to town.

I want to live with more awareness. I want to be a calming presence in the places I go. I also want to be more intentional in the way I use my time.

I also want to blog more. And I want to work on a few creative projects. We shall see how I do. :)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Morning

This might have been my Christmas card this year.
Had I bothered to get it printed out.

For years now, my intention has been to "do better next year."

I had an epiphany this morning:

"Next year" never really gets here.
All we really have is this year, actually only this moment.

Live wisely, my friends. 

Merriest of Christmases
and
Happy New Year.

May we all experience plenty of
joy,
love,
&
peace.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Four Years

It's not my son, but except for the man bun, it could be. He had a similar blue shirt he wore a lot and he was a skateboarder. This guy, he made me lonely for my son when I saw him.

That light. Those shadows. Memories. Vignettes from a dream. 

Every year, I buy a piece of pottery from the December Student Art Show. It's my way of remembering my son's life and honoring his memory.

12.08.15

Four years.

I was recovering from surgery. Weak and vulnerable.

Flashbacks.

I am rendered unable to write complete sentences.

So much shadow.

So much light.

Vignettes of loss.

Longing.

Joy.
 
Gratitude. 
 
Love.
 


 I've heard it said that the pain of grief is the price we pay for love.
There was a time when I would have said I'd just as soon not love or be loved
if I could escape the pain of loss. 
I know now that too would have been a sort of death,
and not at all the the life I would have wanted to live.

Yes, I had a son, and loved my son.
Yes, he is now gone from me.
I have lost.
But also, I have loved.
And it was a good strong love.
I'll carry his love forever in my heart.
And the memories will bring me comfort.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Moving Toward "Enough"

When I get to work of a morning (my grandparents used to say "of a morning" and I like the expression), I park in a large parking lot and then I have a short walk to get to the office. I have two paths I can choose to get to my office. Since I first started working there, my most favored path has been the outside path that follows a meandering brick walkway. There are huge oak trees stretching their branches above me and more often than not, squirrels are playing among the trees. Whether I am going in to work or leaving out from work, it is, for me, a time of grounding and centering, almost always the walk is a brief exercise in contemplation.

I could enter into the building and walk a couple of long hallways to get to our office. That too can be a grounding and centering experience. Any other job I've had, I've always been able to park very close to the entrance, so I've not had this experience of a slow walk into, or out of work. I'm kind of grateful for the longer path to get to work.

I'm still walking fairly regularly. I've even added short bursts of running (or jogging?) into my walk, mostly just because I can. I've never been a runner and I doubt I'll ever be much of one, ever (like never), but there's something freeing for me about the experience. As I do with so many important (and difficult) things, I "sneak up" on the run. I'll be walking along, enjoying myself and settling into a groove when the voices in my head start discussing whether or not now is the time to break into a run. I listen to the clamor for a bit and then I look around at my surroundings and find a marking spot to begin my run and very quickly, I decide on a spot where I will allow myself to stop running and resume walking. And then, suddenly, while the voices are still discussing the matter, my feet and I just take off running. Lately my feet and I have been marking our "stop running" spot just a little further out than either of us think I can go. Achieving that small stretch in going beyond what I think I can do feels so good.

Sometimes I feel almost like featherly when I break out into a run...


Almost. One picture I'm getting when I think of myself breaking out into a run (and imagine I am soaring into flight) is that of a chicken flapping its feathers to jump up on a fence. Not exactly graceful, not exactly flying, but still, extending an effort. And that is me, extending the effort. It's way better than just sitting on the ground saying "But I can't, I can't."

I read this recently, and I like it a lot...

"What is the fullest way that we can live our lives? If we tried to achieve that, then at the end, we'll have no regrets. Whatever the outcome, I tried. As one wise old leader suggested for his epitaph: He did what he could with what he had."

I have regrets. I don't think any of us get by without having regrets. But we can't let them beat us up or cripple us. And we can begin again, now, at this moment, again, to try and do the best we can.

This is a whole 'nother blog post, but what I'd add to the epitaph above, if I were to make it mine, would be "And it was enough."

Yes, mine would say this:

"She did what she could with what she had. And it was enough."


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Considerations

These posts are what I am coming to consider my "after the storm posts." Sometimes I think none of this is any kind of deal, because we all have limited days and we all have storms in our lives. Things come up in my head and this is my place to record them.

When I was last at MD Anderson, a couple of weeks ago, I realized I hadn’t packed anything to bring with me to read while I drank the contrast material. They have paperbacks scattered out everywhere to pick up and read and you can keep them as long as you want. When you’re done with the book, you can leave it in any waiting room for someone else to read. I wanted to read something outside of my normal genre. I was looking for a mystery and would have settled for a romance, provided it wasn’t too cheesy.

But the first book that got my attention was one called “The Girl With All The Gifts,” by MR Carey. It was billed as “the most original thriller you will read this year.” I thought it was a mystery. Once I started reading it, I looked on the spine and saw that it was classified as science fiction, which is a genre I have not had much experience in reading. I got sucked in and it served its purpose which was to help the time pass while I waited. The story was good enough.

But I was reading an interview with the author in the back of the book and saw that they called it a post apocalyptic thriller, which, having come through a colon cancer ordeal, seemed oddly appropriate and appealing to me. Because, here's the thing—They asked him why he thought post apocalyptic thrillers are so popular. His answer was this, "...a lot of post apocalyptic fiction uses the sweeping away of the here-and-now to explore the question of what endures. What defines us. In a new world, born in flames or plague or zombie holocaust, what would we be and how would we change? Would we change at all, or would the same framework resurface and continue to control us?"

And now, nearly a year after my surgery, this is where I find myself, exploring the questions of what endures, and what will I be, and how will I change? And of all the books in the library and waiting rooms of MDA, how is it that I picked this one single book, something I'd probably never have read had I not been desperate for something to read, that has this one little nugget in the back that further affirms and defines my current life task?


After a storm, we assess the damage, and we clean up. That in itself is sometimes a messy task. So I'll extend grace and patience to myself as I work my way through the aftermath of the storm. As I work, I will remember, I will tell stories, I will gather up what can be gathered and I will let go of what has been damaged beyond repair.

This passage certainly has had its price, and it took its toll on me. But mostly, when I look back and consider the aftermath and what is left, I am grateful.