Sunday, August 02, 2015

A Convoluted Prayer of Thanksgiving

For all the people in my life who remind me
(who gently admonish me?)
to "Breathe!"

I must really need the reminder because it is a common thing for me to hear.
Or maybe it's just a good thing to say 
when there is nothing else to do.

Still, I am grateful 
for friends who can be present
with me
and breathe with me
when there truly is not much else
that can be done.

To sit in that rather helpless place
with another
is not an easy thing to do. 

Those who can do it well
are a balm to the soul.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Note to Self: Before I Die: Live

I've spent my whole life trying to stay out of trouble with people, some people more than others.

I have scurried around trying to guess what I should be doing, or should have done, so that I am not in trouble with anyone. And sometimes, there are precious few clues as to how to avoid being in trouble.

It is a pitiful way to live.

On the "before I die" board I wrote "live."

I walked an outdoor labyrinth when I was visiting my friends this weekend. I'd only previously walked the canvas labyrinth laid out in the gym of a local church. While walking the labyrinth I was given, among other things, the word "freedom." I felt guilty because I'd told my friend I'd come to the kitchen to visit while she did her thing. She didn't need any help. That's what she said, and I trusted her enough to have meant what she said--there was no need for me to try and find some hidden message in her communication (and that's a related blog post for another day). But the labyrinth called me. My mind was quieted as I walked to the center. Still, on the way out, I fretted because I was being gone so long. Thirty, forty minutes, what is that in the whole grand scheme of life?

And yet, that is how we waste our lives, a minute here, and a minute there.

But I digress.

While walking out from the center of the labyrinth I discussed with myself the option of skipping the path laid to complete the labyrinth and to just stop the walk and go to my friend, like I said I would.

And my spirit told me I, and I alone, held the freedom to choose. Feeling the tautness of freedom placed like a graft in hopes of creating new skin, I breathed a sigh of gratitude and chose to continue the walk.

(And I was in no trouble at all with my friend.)

Today I bless myself with the hope that I will feel the weight of my own (hard earned) freedom and may I truly live before I die.

Thinking about this right now, I know my thoughts are partially influenced by a sermon I had not yet heard when I walked the labyrinth on Friday. The pastor was speaking of troublesome times and referred to the strength of trees, admonishing us to "feel the weight of your trunk" in times of struggle. She also said to "trust your roots." Those two phrases will remain with me for a while. And will eventually show up in one of my thangs, I imagine.

One of the things I loved about the idea of "feeling the weight of your trunk" is that we talk all the time about feeling the weight of negative things (depression, loss, grief, cancer), so why not focus on feeling and being aware of, and grateful for, the weight of more positive things (strength, growth, healing, love)?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hope and Redemption

I've been neglecting my blogging and I don't like that.

My six week checkup was a bit of a fiasco, but I suppose all's well that ends well. The Ct scan showed a spot on the liver> They wanted a closer look at it and so I had to do an MRI. In the words of one of our professors at work, "let me just say this about that"--I was well conditioned to fear MRIs. But I went to have it done, after talking to several people about the thing, and gathering various tips on how to cope while "in the tube." The machine was not open air, but it allegedly had a larger opening than most. I would love eventually to write in more detail about that experience. For now, I'll just say it went far better than I ever expected. And, the spot they say turned out to be a benign mass of "tangled blood vessels" (hemangioma). So everything is clear and I report back to the oncologist in October for my next check up. 
Needless to say, I am beyond excited to have this positive report. I am currently absorbing this information and perhaps inexplicably, I am asking myself the question, "What shall I do now?" Cause, you know, I don't want to waste my privilege. And when one is faced with the possibility of their own demise being way sooner than one expected, one does tend to think about things, perhaps overly so.
The words on this photo are lyrics from an older song. I don't do well at keeping up with current music so I'd never heard of the song or the group but the words do appeal to me. The background is from a photo I'd taken of partially assembled prayer flags I was working on, edited in a "Tiny World" app on my phone.

I'll not be around much for the next several days. I am off to gather again with my camp out tribe sisters from blogland, for our second annual retreat. I'll be seeing old friends again and meeting two friends in person for the very first time!

Thursday, July 09, 2015

When Things Don't Go As Planned

I made six more prayer flags last weekend! These are my five hanging on the end of my porch on my room in the country.

"Be well" and "breathe" are particularly relevant to me right now. I had a mixed up two days when I went for my six week check up. We got there and they informed me they couldn't do the cat scan because they didn't have the pre-certification paperwork. With it being Sunday of a holiday weekend, there was no way for them to communicate with the insurance company (never mind that this appointment had been set for six weeks). We had to leave and come back Monday morning for them to expedite my cat scan. As it turned out, the expediting did no good. They still needed 24 hours to have the scan read, and by the time the scan was done, it was time for my oncologist appointment. But they had called to say there was no use to come to that appointment as they had no results for me. So we came on home, very disappointed. It's hard when you gear yourself up for one thing and something entirely different happens. I'm usually pretty good at adjusting and going with the flow, but this situation took the wind out of my happy little sails. I'm still not quite over it!

I received word yesterday that they see something on my liver and they want to take a closer look. So now I have to go back Tuesday to have an MRI. And return on Friday to see the oncologist and hear the results. The physician assistant started out telling me she didn't want me to worry, that this could be any number of things other than cancer. Let's hope it's just normal for my liver. For right now, I am trying to concentrate on surviving the MRI and trying hard not to think too much about what they might find as a result of the MRI.

These two I made to give away.
And this is one more that is hanging on my porch. I have room for two more at the end of my porch and had already decided I'm make one with hope on it and another one with joy. I may work on them this coming weekend.

And I will remember that I am loved and will work on bathing myself with that awareness so that I can carry it with me into that hulking noisy machine with whom I have a date on Tuesday morning! I'd appreciate any prayers, good thoughts and light you have to offer on my behalf.

I wish I had some strong words of wisdom to offer but I'm not quite over the assault this has been on my hopes that I'd get a definitive word on a clean bill of health. I'll come around, though. 

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

An Instrument of Grace

I checked out several (five) books about and by May Sarton when I took my longish weekend in the country. One of the perks of my job at the local university is that I can check out library books and can keep them for the whole semester! So I generally (mostly, ahem) don't have to worry about missing the return deadline!

I just finished reading Endgame, a journal of her 79th year. In that year she struggled with a lung that kept filling with fluid, a fibrillating heart and irritable bowel syndrome. Of course, she had my sympathies with the last problem! But she didn't want the journal to be all about her illnesses. In the end, it really wasn't. She wrote a lot about the support of friends and about having to learn to ask for and accept help, things I am somewhat acquainted with myself.

There were several quotes I gleaned from my reading. This was one of them I particularly liked...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Show and Tell

For the last two weekends, I have been spending much of my time sewing in my room in the country. I made this prayer flag weekend before last and hung it on a rope across my porch this past weekend. I had the hand print squares left over from a project that never quite got off the ground. I think I'd made the squares to do a lap quilt for one of my children's teachers back when they were in elementary school (many years ago). I don't have a square for any of my children, so I'm not sure whose teacher this project was going to go to! I also had the hearts cut out for yet another project, and used one of them here to cover up the student's name.

I want to make some more flags to hang on my line and flutter in the breeze. While working on this one I thought about the nature of impermanence, and how it felt to work on creating something only to put it out in the environment to let it wear down and eventually rot to nothing.

And I thought about grief and mourning, about the families of the victims of the church shootings in South Carolina, and about the winding journey they will now have to travel. Grief does that to a person, it changes the landscape of the ground you walk on, and you then have to somehow manage to figure out how to walk that new ground.

In the meantime, between me making the prayer flag and now, a certain preacher has come under fire for intimating that some people are stuck in their grief, or desire attention, as though grief has a certain and predictable time table. Also in that time, I picked up my journal to write a bit, and I came upon a prompt I'd written down on a Post-it note. I'd been thinking about it, but hadn't written anything.

The prompt asked the question "What do your hands dream of?" I wrote a bit about my hands dreaming of creating things and being steady enough to have nice handwriting again, and then my mind (and my heart) went a whole new direction, and there was this--

And no, Mr. Feel Good Pastor, I'm not seeking attention, nor am I stuck in my grief. I'm living my life and I am acknowledging and paying attention when my grief seems to want my attention. It is a part of my life now, and I can't turn it on and off at will, nor would I want to. Thank God I don't have to look to you for support in this matter because you'd be about as useless as a side saddle on a jackass.

In other news, the other part of what I wanted to share was that I also worked the last two weekends on sewing together this quilt top. The inner strips were all leftovers from that teacher project I did not do (her loss has been my gain). I wasn't quite satisfied with how the strips came together and with a little inspiration from Pinterest, I decided to add the batik flower insert for a little extra interest. When I did that, my top was too long and skinny, so I added the borders on the side. I debated on whether or not to add matching borders at the top and bottom but have decided not to. My mother asked me about it and I told her I kind of liked quirky the unbalanced look, that it seemed to fit for me. I have no idea why, but both my parents laughed when I said that!

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Life Is Too Short For....

Lately, I’ve been thinking of my friend Denise, who often said that life is too short to drink the morning’s leftover coffee in the afternoon, so make a fresh pot (I’m sure she still says that, though now she says it from a distance, and I sure do miss her)!  Our current coffee pot does not have automatic shut off and so it will cheerfully boil the coffee all day long if we don’t remember to turn it off. 

I hear Denise’s sentiment in my head as I serve myself the charred remains of the morning coffee in the afternoon. And I’ve been wondering: What else is life too short for? What is my post-cancer life too short for?

Everyone’s list would be different, I suppose. I have a lot to be grateful for. But still, I’ve let so many things crawl in through the years and settle down that I would not have allowed if I truly believed I was entitled to choose based on my values, and not on the basis of the many “shoulds” I have allowed to consume my life.

I spent time working in my flower beds in the country this past weekend. Honestly, they are flower beds by default. We had to do something with the area because it had an old stump in it with roots all around and they would get caught up in the lawn mower blades. They were hard to mow over. The stump and the roots are hard to remove. So we dug up what ground we could in that area and started planting flowers. My parents came several weekends ago and weeded many of the weeds and planted new plants. There was a rose bush that could not be planted in the first location we chose because of the roots so we adjusted our plans and moved it to the other side of the bed (where it now seems very happy and is blooming its little heart out).

Anyway, this past weekend, I pulled weeds and a couple of small trees out by the roots in an effort to further define the bed and to make room for more plants. It seems to me the flower bed and my life have a lot in common—many things have happened by default, with no real firm plan in place. I guess one could argue that it worked out okay for both of us. Okay in a raw and organic and occasionally a little wild and beautiful way?

But still, I am left to wonder, what are the things that my life is too short to tolerate? What are the things that need to be pulled out by the roots? What are the things I want to make space for in my life?

There is something else I want to say, but my sense of "should," or maybe, "should not" makes me hesitant to say it.

(Clean up is a bitch, but it is an important part of our life's work.)

Note to self: Life also just seems to work better when clean up is done in a regular and timely fashion.