Monday, February 08, 2016

Upon Beginning My 61st Year

A note to my 60th year:

I spent considerable time thinking about what all I'd do for my 60th year. Imagine my consternation when, sometime in October, I realized I'd been living my 60th year all year long and it was almost finished! I had to wrap my head around the fact that come today, February 8, I'd be finishing my 60th year and would be beginning my 61st year! My bad, 60th year. But let me tell you, I really didn't do you too shabby, all things considered.

Want to hear a little of it, 60th year, in no particular order? Here's an incomplete summary, 60th year: I survived chemo! After 5 years of not having a car, I got another car. Her name's Li'l Jade. I got a pair of red cowboy boots. I made prayer flags and gave some away. I made a quilt top (which I still need to finish). I started walking for exercise again. I got afraid to eat and lost a considerable amount of weight. I went to San Antonio to see my blog sister friends. After over 20 years, I began again to play tennis. I made an origami paper crane (and made ne'er another one!). I read a sci-fi book. I went back to swimming lessons. I returned to my spiritual book club.

I continue to learn: to accept myself as the authority on my life and how to live it, that often, in spite of my best fretting, things tend to work out, seemingly little things often mean so much to others, life is not always easy, or fair. I do want to live. Occasionally I've thought I might rather not, but all that changed when colon cancer arrived again. I wanted to survive!

Another thing, which I already knew, I have loved ones and friends who shine much light into my life, particularly when my times seem the darkest.

And now, in beginning my 61st year, my advice to myself is to be steady, stay calm, breathe, look for the joy, and be grateful.

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
Happy New Year.

May we all experience plenty of

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.


Four years.

I was recovering from surgery. Weak and vulnerable.


I am rendered unable to write complete sentences.

So much shadow.

So much light.

Vignettes of loss.



 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."