Colors, Shapes, and Years

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I tiptoe around my broken heart, understanding the fragility, the way that when needed you crack an egg ever so gently against a bowl before letting the guts run everywhere. I realize, only when I can find time to quiet my mind, that I can’t pretend this doesn’t exist anymore.  It seems that with so many distractions these days we amaze ourselves by not holding on to any one emotion for more than a minute at a time, let alone feeling it, processing it, and then healing from it.  And if we admit that our lives aren’t perfect, what kind of doom and gloom will meet us then?  I think about the second I feel like I’m going to break how easy it is to just rock out to a Beyoncé song in the car or turn on the TV and envelop myself in some crazy Real Housewives, or pick up my phone and look at NY Times articles or Facebook feeds—all in order to pretend like my heart is not that cracked stupid fragile eggshell with the guts spilling out everywhere.

I wonder what would happen to my soul if I actually admitted that at times it feels as though my circumstances have completely and utterly demolished me. Would this be surrendering (i.e. giving up) or merely being authentic in a world so filled with faux this and faux that?  Social media has led us to believe that everybody else’s world is filled with perfect black and white photos of the all-American families with 2.5 kids, a dog and a white picket fence.  (And if I can’t post picture after picture of selfies with my kids then I can at least post my travels around the world.  I mean, I need to feel good about myself, right?  In reality I post my vacation pics because I love sharing my joy and passions with others, but I understand how vacation pics can = selfie pics with kids.  Too much of anything can be annoying, I know).  Would I—Could I?—become a happier person if I really let myself grieve for the fact that some others have what I want, what I will never have?

I let myself feel the disappointment in not carrying on a legacy. In not giving my parent’s another grandchild (especially one who lives close by and who they would be so engaged with).  Sometimes I regret not getting pregnant before the cancer spread, but then I think about how difficult it would be to face my own mortality knowing that I had a child (or children) that I may never see grow up.  It is times like these that I am a mess, so confused, so vulnerable, so full of gratitude that I do not have to worry about children, that I can focus my worry solely on the people that already exist in my life who thankfully don’t need me the way that a child needs its parent.  (I am not minimizing how much my husband or family or friends need me, but I understand that “need” may be different than the demands of a child).

It feels like a punishment, at times, and I think of stories that I’ve read where people say “I know somebody with cancer and then this bad thing happened to them and then this happened and you know what? I never heard them complain.”  Um, I’m not going to be that person.  Sorry.  Trying to get pregnant for over a year and spending every other day driving to get your blood taken and then going through IVF and getting pregnant and then having a miscarriage and then being diagnosed with an incurable cancer– oh yeah, no complaints here. I feel like I’m beaten down every month when I get an e-bill to pay for storing my frozen eggs. Not complain?  I’m not going to be become a miserable hermit, but I’m certainly not going to live a life under false pretenses, either.  And this is where my guilt kicks in:  Shouldn’t I just be grateful that I’m alive? As long as I’m breathing– which is more than I can say for others who have had cancer– maybe I should just keep my mouth shut.

But back to that beaten down thing.  I’ve left the door just a crack open on having children  because I haven’t been ready to give up on that dream.  And while that seemed the safe thing to do, and I think that it made sense at the time of the decision, I realize now that hanging out in limbo is actually just slowly crushing my spirit.

I think about my options and how in my line of work I discuss with people how they may not like all of their options, but most of the time we do have them. I hate all of my options.  Not have kids.  Have kids but not with SHL (that isn’t really an option).  Have kids with SHL and have him resent me for the rest of his life and/or be scared that he may have to raise them alone.  Discard my eggs.  Go to a fertility doctor and find out whether or not the eggs are viable, then discard them no matter what.  If they are viable, donate them.  Can’t do it.  As much as I would love to help another couple start a family, I have been through enough pain already and can’t imagine somebody else having my kids.

Yes, I hate all of my options.

But I listen to my gut, and the voice that lives deep down inside of us all has become so much more clear over the last three years of meditation. I now have a much better sense of what my head is telling me and what my heart is telling me.  And this time, both say to let go.  Grieve as if I have lost a limb.  Explain to the world and to other women maybe going through something similar that it is the most unfair thing in the world to wake up one day and literally go from imagining a life where you’re a Mom, to a life where you’re not, all in the blink of an eye, but it cannot (I repeat, it cannot) ruin the rest of your life.  I feel like the rug was pulled out from underneath me and I also feel like nobody can understand.  It is a feeling of deep, deep loneliness.  And I wonder if there are other people out there who have had to give up a dream but who also refused to let it define the rest of their lives. I tell my story because it is the only way I know how to heal, and I tell it in case somebody else needs to hear these words; the words that I wish I could hear from others.

Cancer has taught me an awful lot about life, things that I wish I knew sooner but realize that where I am today, where I stand, is just where I am meant to be (or at least this is what we tell ourselves), nothing to be done about the past (this is true). Things unfold in the most mysterious of ways and I can’t even begin to understand the crumbling, shattering illogical way that things sometimes pan out.  Good people have bad things happen to them.  Bad people have good things happen to them.  And so on.  It reminds me of the book that I read by Rabbi Harold Kushner called “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”  He wrote it after he lost his son to a horrible disease.  But being honest, I still don’t quite understand why this is the way that things unravel (and though I do believe in g-d, I don’t believe that he has a hand in these terrible things that can happen), and it does feel like unraveling.  Like I’m caught up in a pattern of colors and shapes and numbers that I sometimes just can’t untangle myself from.  The color of death.  The shape of the baby that would have been.  The number of years predicted that I will live.

I refuse to pretend anymore like my heart is not in a million little pieces, but truth be told, I have been grieving over this since the day I was diagnosed; I still remember the room at Dana-Farber, I still remember my doctor telling us that most people with my diagnosis decide not to have children, and I can still feel the stillness of the air as we tried to take in this enormous life-changing piece of information.  It felt like time literally stood still and you could hear a pin drop.

My heart breaks but then I travel and live freely and find deeper and more loving connections with SHL than I ever thought possible and I follow my dreams of manifesting a life for myself where my words somehow have power and somehow, help other people to remember that a dream lost does not represent a life without breath. I have to think that these things may not exist if we had children.   I refuse to pretend like any of the decisions that SHL and I need to make are easy.  But I also refuse to let it crush my spirit, to let it define me as a woman let alone a person, to never live fully because one door has closed.  One dream has closed its eyes, but I have to believe that other dreams are just about to awaken.

who-you-are

 

The Monster with Wide Eyes

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And just like that, July becomes August. All of a sudden I notice a shift in the air, difficult to describe in words but everything feels different; the rain, the heat breaking, the sun shifting mindlessly over the house at the end of the day, just a little bit earlier than even the day before.  The light has changed seemingly from July 31st to August 1st.  The last stretch of summer.

Summer always reminds me that the rest of the year feels like a completely different world than June-September, and it makes total sense. At this time of year we go to the beach (water has proven time and again to be cathartic to many of us, forget about the lobster rolls and sandcastles), we spend more time with family and friends, we take more days off of work, we make excuses to go get that ice cream cone that we may not “allow ourselves” in the winter or stop for a $6 iced coffee because it’s so blazing hot outside.  For me, my office becomes quieter, slower, and more relaxed.  The sense of anxiety and the rush to get things done just doesn’t feel as profound in the summer.  I love that it takes me 5 minutes less to get to work in the mornings (less traffic) and that when I get home from work there is still oodles of light and I feel like I have another half a day to get things done or take a walk or read before wanting to fall asleep in that deep slumber the way you do in the wintertime.

But we turn a page on the calendar and I can already feel the anticipation of the fall rolling around outside of Augusts’ edges. We know that we will have a whole month left of the beach and the light and the ice cream, and yet we start to feel the “Back to school” jitters with their  ads everywhere (just writing it makes me sick) and stores start to stock up on jeans and sweaters and boots and true to form, just as human beings so often do, we already have one foot in the door of autumn.

I hate it.

So I look to meditation to ground me, to keep me here, on Tuesday August 2nd, and nowhere else.  Not even this weekend when we fly down to Austin for a friend’s 40th birthday party.  As much as I want to be there already, I also don’t want to lose sight of today.  What miracles may I see if I am truly in tune with the present? It is so hard to be in the here-and-now.  We must practice if we wish to slow things down, to let go of depression around the past and anxiety around the future.

It’s an ongoing process, a struggle really. My mind constantly wants to be in the future as if I can somehow protect myself from anything that may happen if I think of it beforehand. If we worry about the future then we can prepare ourselves if something bad happens, right?

So not right.

So I tell myself that to live in the future is to create anxiety (and to live in the past is to create depression). But here today, I remind myself that no matter what may happen, I.Can.Handle.It.

And I have to keep telling myself that, because I don’t always believe it.

It’s always easy to say and not so easy to do. Don’t let the months in between scans ruin the days that you are lucky enough to have, I say to myself over and over again, as if my brain is trying to work out a complex math problem and the more I roll it around in my head the more I can figure it out.

I work on acknowledging my fear, instead of stuffing it deep down inside where nobody can ever get to it.  I picture a monster under my bed just like when I was a little girl and instead of pulling the covers up over my head like I so long to do, I wearily slide out from underneath the warmth of the bed and get down on my hands and knees.  And sure enough, there it is:  The monster lurking in the dark, just waiting to take me down.   “Hi Monster,” I whisper in the sleepy night.  It looks at me with wide eyes, just as surprised to see me as I am surprised that I can admit it lives there.  I get back up again and with a quick sweep of the room to see what else lurks in the dark crevices (who else can I worry about at 2am?), I pull the soft sheet around me and listen to the ceiling fan whirl.  The fear is there.  I have acknowledged it.  I am as scared as I will allow myself to be, and I begin my falling asleep ritual all over again as I put the state capitals in alphabetical order– anything so that I don’t think about death.  I have seen the monster, but now I need to move on to sleep and the next day and all of the good that lives beneath the fear.  If I start going down the rabbit hole of cancer at night, sleep will evade me forever.

Kris Carr says to invite your fears to tea (I’d actually much rather invite her to tea), and I am sure that you too can apply this to any facet of your life, for I know that I am not the only one who has fears. She believes that once we acknowledge them, process them, and work with them, then we can truly begin to heal.  One thing I know for sure is that the more I face my fears, the more I need coping skills.

My friends are very often supportive of me spending the free time that I have on myself; travel, spending quality time with SHL, geting that massage or pedicure, reading my book, meditating or going on spiritual or health and wellness retreats. But the truth is, all of us should probably be doing these things (or whatever feels “healing” to you), and yet we feel such a sense of heftiness on our shoulders to do for others, take care of others, and not appear to be “selfish” to the rest of the world.  So much of what we do depends upon how we think others will view us, doesn’t it?  Our kids, our parent’s, our spouses, our friends, our co-workers, our neighbors?

I’m sure there are a lot of Mom’s out there who would love to get a babysitter or put their kids in front of a video and do something nice for themselves; go take a bubble bath, a long walk, read a magazine, call a friend (call me!), those things when your kids are young that I bet feel so luxurious.  And even though I don’t have kids, I still feel confident in saying that probably if women (especially) didn’t feel guilty, they actually could find the time to do more of these things.  (I don’t cook for SHL or do his laundry, instead I’m usually working out or taking a warm shower or meditating while he is making dinner.  Does this make me a bad wife?). But what would the world think if you left your kids once a week for a date night with your husband?  Or what if you spent the whole weekend away while your parent’s or a babysitter watched the kids?  What if you left them at daycare in the gym and spent 2 hours taking a class and getting a steam?  If you have that kind of free time, shouldn’t you be with them?  (And I understand that very often you want to be with them.  I’m talking more about the times when you need to work on self-care). Or is it OK to spend quality time with them, when you are really feeling happy and present, over quantity time when you’re so overwhelmed with life that all you want to do is cry?

I somewhat get it; as much as I can without being a mother. The only thing I can say with my own demands and pressures to be a good wife, daughter, sister, friend, aunt and social worker (of which I take these resonsbilities very seriously) is that when I do for myself, I almost always do better for others.  Although I don’t have the day-to-day responsibilities of taking care of a dependent (unless you count my husband, in which case I think we’d both agree that I’m the dependent in the relationship!) I still firmly believe that we have choices.

The truth is, I take advantage of life because things have changed.  I woke up one day to doctors giving me an expiration date. And I don’t live by this expiration date, I refuse to in fact, but it is an overall feeling that has colored my world:  Do now.  YOLO (You only live once).  No point in putting off having fun.  And I sometimes wonder what my life would look like right now if I didn’t have cancer.  SHL and I would probably have children, but would be having this much fun?

I often think to myself:  Years (and years and years) down the road, when I take my last breath on this earth, will I wish that I had lived out others dreams for me?  Will I wish that I hadn’t taken that day off of work?  Will I wish that I hadn’t spent money on seeing the world, or flying to be with a loved one?  You know the answer and so do I.

I feel that up until the diagnosis of an incurable cancer I had lived an amazing life filled with all kinds of deeply rooted treasures, it was just harder for me to see through the haze of depression, anxiety, and insecurity.  These things still exist, but I am more aware of how important it is to clear the cobwebs as best as I can so that the universe can give me what I truly want.

Cancer or no cancer, I hope that you can read this and relate and maybe decide that you too want to spend more time focusing on your own happiness, with the double whammy that not only will you be glowing and living a life fulfilled, but your family will the better for it.  It’s hard, of course it is.  I can hear you mumbling to yourself right now, shaking your head, “She doesn’t know how hard it is.  I’m working and I have two kids and my husband travels and I have no family in the area and it’s.hard.” It sure is.  I wouldn’t wish that kind of stress upon anybody.  But shift your perspective, make a change or two, and do for yourself as much as you do for others, and see what happens.  Is having cancer hard?  It’s the hardest thing that I have ever gone through, with the exception of losing the ability to have children.  SHL and I now have a life ahead filled with mysteries that nobody our age should ever have.

It doesn’t always work, I can tell you that. There are days when I have the resources to go get a massage or not have to take care of kids after a long day of work and yet I still struggle with carving out enough time to cook a healthy meal, work out, or even just figure out today what will make me happy.  So I empathize with you and want us to support each other in creating the happiest lives for ourselves possible.  Let’s go easy on ourselves, OK?  And take it day-by-day.

Because life wasn’t meant to be taken so seriously. And since today is the only day that you actually have any control over, I hope it is a good one.

My mantra?  Look that monster in the eye, acknowledge that it lives, but do not let it take away your hope or your love of life, ever.

At the Surface

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“Love is love is love.”  ~ Lin-Manual Miranda.

 

For days now I’ve felt like my emotions are right at the surface, and truth be told, I don’t like it one bit. It feels unnerving to never know if I am going to laugh or cry.  Some days start out fine, hopeful even, and end in sobs that put me into a deep if nightmare-induced sleep.

It all started after the Stanford rape case, but continued to get worse after the mass shooting in Orlando. I’m going to be perfectly honest, even if it makes me sound like a monster: I was almost numb to the whole thing the second I heard it.  In thinking about how I reacted and felt days later, I realized that a small little wall went up inside of my heart which said, “Oh no you don’t.  I am not going to even process this one.”  I was too afraid to really sit with what had happened to those innocent people who were just spending a Saturday night out with their friends.  It reminded me of what happened in Paris last year.  It reminded me of an old friend being trapped and killed in the Pentagon on 9/11.  It wasn’t just about the weapon used (though that had a lot to do with it) or who was targeted, it also just ignited that trauma flame that lives within all of us.  It reminded me of so much that I wanted to grow a shell and climb into a hard piece of protective wear that I could stay in as long as I needed to. What was I fearful of?  Perhaps that I would break down and never be able to pull myself back together again.

I’ve always been a really sensitive person.  Like, intensely sensitive.  When I was younger and we’d talk about our “flaws” in school I would always say that I was “too” sensitive.  Now, even as an adult, when I think about just how much my parent’s love me or how lucky I am to have SHL hold my hand at Dana-Farber, I have to breathe in the tears quickly and a good chunk of the time I can’t even do it fast enough and I have to pretend like I have allergies.  I can cry at the drop of a hat.  I can walk by a homeless person or see a dog with three legs and weep like the tears have been at the edge of my eyelids forever and were just waiting to be released.  It seems no wonder that I became a social worker.

Sometimes I think maybe it would be easier if I could just find a way to turn off that faucet, to maybe not feel quite as much, or maybe just not as intensely.  I love that my heart wants to explode with joy at times, but I hate when it wants to explode with sadness and anger and helplessness. But of course, if we can’t feel anything we escape the pain but we miss the bliss as well.

And yet I wonder, if I didn’t let myself pour my soul out into the world, perhaps the anxiety, sadness, fear and depression that living with these tragedies across the globe creates, as well as my own incurable cancer, all would just fester and then ultimately explode (or more likely, implode).  And at the same time, I do truly believe that the more we stuff deep down inside, the more it can effect our physical health for the worse.  So, we must find ways to cope. (Thank you, meditation).

I oscillate between dreaming of unicorns and having nightmares filled with bloodshed.

I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around another senseless shooting, just as I am sure that nobody in their right mind can. I am sad for human beings, I am sad for the LGBT community (of which I fully support, especially my friends who have been brave enough to live the life they deserve) and I am sad for people who think that some kind of gun control isn’t worth it because we’ll never be able to fully get guns off of the streets anyway and if you can carry a handgun you should be able to carry an assault rifle (Who needs an assault rifle?  For what purpose?).  No matter what we believe about the Constitution and our country, I would like to believe above all else that we don’t want any more innocent lives lost this way.  That this is never what the Founding Fathers had in mind for the future of our country.

I am reminded of after 9/11 (of which I can still hear the helicopters flying overhead and the smell from the WTC burning just a few miles from where I lived uptown), when so many conspiracies were floating around (and still are). Some people would say to me, “How can you not even consider the fact that our government could have not just known that this could happen, but could have even had something to do with it?”

My response was and will always be the same. “I just can’t wake up and get out of bed every day thinking that my government could have let such a thing happen.”  Perhaps this is what is wrong with the world; people like me who would rather pull the covers over their head than let any other theory ring true.  I honestly don’t know that I could get out of bed if I really and truly believed that our government had anything to do with that day.

But do I really want to pull the covers over my head?  No.  As the years go on and I have more maturity and investment in our well-being and understanding the country’s strengths and weaknesses, what I really want is to make a difference.  This is why I chose social work:  I just couldn’t stand the thought of going about my life as if no human suffering occurred when I felt that I could have had some kind of impact to help ease the pain of others.  It’s been an incredibly difficult career choice but also amazingly fulfilling and selfishly, when I have been able to help people even just a little bit, it feels like I could hang-glide off of a mountain without the hang-glide.

And so I ask everybody that I come into contact with these days: What can average American citizens such as myself do?  Is there ANY kind of power that I have that I am just not tapping into?  There are so many issues that I feel passionately about and I try to live my life in alignment with my own values; I try to be good to others as I would have others be good to me, no matter race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, etc.   The Golden Rule:  Do unto others as they would do unto you. This does not make me perfect.  This just makes me a believer that as long as you’re not hurting anybody else, you should have the right to go off and lead any kind of life that makes you happy.

Now how do I get everybody in the world to just agree with me?  I say with sarcasm of course but we each believe that we are right and if only others would see it, the world would be such a more peaceful place, right?

I go back to the Stanford College swimmer rape case and the fact that this white, All-American wealthy athlete only got 6 months in jail, and I feel my emotions swell again underneath the tide until they are at the surface and I almost feel like I could drown. There is lots more to this case that we’re not hearing about on Facebook or through petitions such as the reasons for having an independent judiciary (and thinking about white supremacists trying to impeach Chief Justice Earl Warren after he agreed to make school serration illegal in Brown V. Board of Education). This is not just about the judge, it is also about the fact that it is possible to convict somebody of this heinous crime and only have them serve 6 months in jail and that is still staying within the limits of the law.  Having said that, the fact that we could have somebody in such a position of power who could make such a horrendously anti-victim/anti-woman ruling just makes my heart sink into my shoes.  I think about all of my friends who could have been Emily Doe and I think about my friends who are Emily Doe and it makes me so sick.  There are the emotions again, and I swallow my tears but never my compassion for people who are intrinsically intertwined with these tragedies.

There’s that helpless feeling again.

And yet the fact remains that blow after blow seems to be splayed across our TV screens and newspapers. A toddler is dragged into a lake by an alligator.  A singer is shot while giving autographs.  50 innocent people at a club in Orlando lose their life for absolutely no.good.reason.

We are at war, but not just with our outside enemies who do not agree with our Western culture/beliefs, but also with each other and with fate and being at the wrong place at the wrong time and mother nature. Sometimes it all just feels like too much.

We cannot seem to agree what should be done about anything; guns, abortion, the economy, creating new jobs, global warming.  People are becoming angrier and angrier, more stressed, irritable and glued to social media as a way to what?  Not actually deal with what is right in front of them?  Maybe.  I can’t say that I feel like I can always control my posting or scrolling or liking.  I find afterwards that I feel it is all a waste of time and yet I need to connect because somehow if I disconnect and don’t know what’s going than that makes me feel naïve and out of touch.  Or… Maybe we’re all so busy on social media trying to get others to think that our lives (and our husbands/wives/children/families/jobs/houses) are so perfect because if we let anybody else into the cracks in our homes or souls, we ourselves would crumble. And with the world seemingly crumbling beneath our feet, this is our last way of holding on for dear life.

I hear a senator say that the answer is to pray and I think how offensive this must be to people that do not pray/believe in religion or G-d and to people who have lost loved ones by guns.  For some people praying is an essential part of our beings, but we as a country clearly need more than that:  We need action.  I think about my friend HB  who, though it took 15 years, passed a bill in the State of Massachusetts (3 strikes and you’re out) in the memory of her sister M who was taken way too soon and by somebody that never should have been let out of jail in the first place.  15 years.  But she and her family never stopped trying.  And we can’t either.

I find it hard to believe that we can’t find a way to make some kind of a change; that ultimately, we are giving our enemies exactly what they want: For us to turn on each other.  For us to debate (which is OK as long as it is healthy debating that is guiding us toward a bigger and better solution) and yell and argue and start fighting tangentially about other things that don’t really matter– but then ultimately not be able to come together and make a decision for the betterment of the United States, and more importantly, for the betterment of human kind.

I feel like at any moment you could touch me with a feather and knock me down. I feel grateful that I can hug my family and friends but terrified that they could be taken away from me and not just by things as awful as car accidents or disease, but now from random shootings as well.  I feel crazed because like everybody, I just know that my beliefs are “the right ones.” I feel like I could cry for days and sleep for days and then maybe what seems to happen after every tragedy will happen again… We’ll raise our flags and post our comments and shake our fists and then things will go back to some kind of normal.

My emotions are right there at the surface and sometimes, I worry that my sorrow will just swallow me whole.  But I won’t let it.  And in this mess, this whole mess that seems to encompass the entire world, I stay strong in the notion that we can still try to find some answers.  I refuse to give up on myself and I refuse to give up on the world.

Sheep and Shamrocks

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I can’t believe how quickly time is flying by now that the air has warmed and the sky is blue again. After what seemed like months of rain and cold and little spring, I’m not going to complain about 85 degree and sunny days here in Boston!  It’s such a beautiful time of year!

It’s amazing to me how slowly winter seemed to creep on… and on. Looking back on it I realize now that I didn’t feel well for 6 months; when you figure that’s half of a year it seems really startling.  I’m so grateful that feeling better though is correlating with the nicer weather.  There’s nothing that I’d love to do more than just play hooky all summer long and go to the beach and have FUN!

Alas, I did just return from a week of fun; an annual mother/daughter trip to Ireland. My Mom and I have been traveling together since I graduated from high school in 1995 and she took me to NYC for a weekend of theater and shopping.  Ever since then we’ve tried to do trips and though we’ve had to miss some years, this vacation we think was our 17th together!  We’ve done local things like the Berkshires and Maine, as well as Charleston, San Francisco, and Arizona.  We’ve also done some international things too like the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Belize, Peru and Iceland.  Since we hadn’t traveled for an entire week together in over 5 years (since before I got married) and with the winter being as difficult as it was on all of us with my health, we decided to go abroad again and hit up Ireland.

I had heard nice things about the country but didn’t know much about it except for sheep and shamrocks. Now that we’ve returned I can confidently say that it is a lovely country and I would nudge anybody with wanderlust to go explore there.  We stayed at an old schoolhouse converted into a small hotel, and we spent about a day and a half in Dublin—a perfect amount of time—(it’s not the prettiest city but they do have wonderful museums, pubs, and woolen shops).  We spent one whole day sightseeing; the Guinness Factory with drinks at the Gravity Bar with 360 degree views of the city; the Chester Beaty Library where we saw a Torah and other religious artifacts; the Writers Museum (cool for my Mom and I love who love literature); the General Post Office which had a beautiful exhibit (and a film almost as boring as Antietam) about the 1916 uprising, a huge part of Irish history; the Hugh Lane Gallery (too modern and sparse for my taste, but did enjoy seeing a reconstructed Francis Bacon studio and film/interview regarding the artist); and eating burgers in a pub with a beer garden called Murphy’s.

Driving out towards the countryside was beautiful, and we drove through Galway to a town called Cong where we stayed at a well-known castle called Ashford. Immaculate grounds, beautiful views of a lake, lunch outside, an early morning horseback ride (English saddle!  And my horse Willow was a “muncher” so I spent much of my time trying to get him to stay on the trail but he was a total sweetie pie) and petting the “dogs of the castle” which were Irish wolfhounds and loved to have their bellies rubbed—was spectacular.

We soon stopped at a little café on the side of the road expecting cuteness as you can only seem to do in Europe. Owned by a mother and daughter (how very appropriate for us!) we sampled a cheese board of local cheeses that melted in our mouths and fresh salad and tried elderflower for the first time.  We drove on to the Cliffs of Moher (the Cliffs of Insanity backdrop used for one of my very favorite movies, The Princess Bride) and took a boat ride underneath the cliffs to get the full scope of just how tall they really are!  705 feet at the highest point!  Lots of birds live underneath the cliffs because they have no predators down there so we got to see things like Puffins.  Afterwards we continued driving on until we got to out next stop, a hotel next to a national park that would be our “home base” for the next couple of days.  From there we did the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula, oohed and ahhhed over Inch Beach with the cars being able to drive right up seemingly to the ocean and the sound of sheep baaing up on a hill.  We went to a farm and fed baby sheep and held a baby goat.  On our hotel property were lots of sheep, cattle (black Kerry cows, adorable) and deer.  We fell asleep to the lull of baaing sheep at night.

And my Mom and I?  Well, we travel so well together.  No stress!  We want to do the same things, we’re always on time, we’re flexible and can go with the flow, and we both like a combination of sightseeing and some R&R.  We laughed and talked and ate and drank and then laughed some more.  (We also inevitably end up giggling whenever we take selfies). I am the luckiest woman alive to feel that my Mom and I are the best of friends.  Somehow, my Mom has managed to be a mother and a friend all rolled into one since the day I was born, and I love and respect her for it immensely.  Along with my hubby, I could never live with cancer if it wasn’t for her taking such good care of me in so many different ways.

Oh, on to food and shopping, too important to miss if you’re traveling with us girls.

Murphy’s (different Murphy’s) ice cream only found in Ireland should really come to the States. No artificial flavors and the cookies and butterscotch flavors just melt in your mouth (they’re also known for their sea salt ice cream which we didn’t love, but what an interesting concept!).  Great sweaters and the Jameson Distillery was a fun way of trying out different whiskeys.  I ended up with a cocktail of whiskey and ginger-ale and fresh lime.  Between a Guinness and a Whiskey though I would go for the beer.

The people—the NICEST that I have ever encountered. In all of my travels I have had some great experiences with locals, but the Irish really take it to a whole other level.  We never heard a car honk the whole week (unless it was our driver or a taxi beeping at somebody else to say hi, sticking their hands out the window and grinning widely shouting to each other in cute Irish accents).  On those long, narrow and windy roads very often only one car could fit at a time and it was never an issue who would back up and let the other go (whereas in the States I can only imagine how many middle fingers would be given in a situation like that).   Oh, and last but way way not least, the chocolate over there is SO MUCH BETTER than anything that we have here!

Now that we have been home for about 5 days, it’s on to planning our next adventure.  SHL and I need some time away, just the two of us, to regroup and recharge.  It’s been a long winter, and cancer among other things have depleted me.  Thankfully, travel is a possibility in my world, and it feeds my soul.

 

 

Final Tally for Team Lozier Mini Golf Fundraiser of 2016

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I just wanted to let you all the final number of just how much we raised during our Second Annual Team Lozier Mini Golf Fundraiser!  Between the pay-to-play rate the day of, the opportunity drawing and the “Help Me” Package, the amazingly generous online donations and my parent’s matching us dollar for dollar, the total is…

Drum-roll please…

$13,732.00!!!!

We did it!  We raised more than last year and so within the last two years of this fundraiser we have contributed about $25,000 to the Melanoma Center at Dana-Farber!  My heart is bursting with love and pride at how amazingly special my family and friends are that they would make this happen.

Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough!

With hope, love, gratitude and mulligans for those tricky mini-golf holes,

Sam xoxo

Cherry On Top

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“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”     Maya Angelou

It takes a lot for me to have a day where I don’t think about cancer. Even on the good days when I am manifesting abundance and having fun, it is still there.  The reminder can come in something subtle like a song on my iTunes that I associate with the summer I was diagnosed, or something sky-writing huge like getting a call at work from a client who says that their family member has a Stage IV cancer and is going to die.

I tell you this so that you will fully appreciate just how special last Saturday was, at our Second Annual Team Lozier Mini Golf Fundraiser. Though we were there specifically to raise money for the Melanoma Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute where I am treated, I wasn’t thinking about cancer at all (I realized later).

Yes, maybe I was too busy making sure that the day went off without a hitch; that people were enjoying themselves, that they knew where to purchase our “Help Me” golf package (those Mulligans sure come in handy!) or the opportunity drawing tickets; that everybody had something to eat and drink at the lunch afterwards at my parent’s house, that my nephew was close-by and having fun and that SHL and the rest of my family were feeling good.

Or maybe, it is just that I feel so alive when I’m with my family and friends. Nothing makes me feel happier than a sunny day with the people I love having fun.  What could be better?  Add in some grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream sundaes and wow, what a Saturday!

I have just been absolutely blown away by the kindness, warmth, loyalty and dedication that you all have shown not just to me, but to my family as well. As I said to Kris Carr through tears last summer at the Chopra Center, “Thank you will just never seem like enough.”

How will I ever thank you?

I will thrive. I will live, and I will live a life worth living.  I will help others.  I will look after myself but I will give back, too.  I will love you and stand by you and be there for you as well.  That is how I will thank you.

It is because of YOU that I expect that we exceeded our goal even from last year! I’m in the process now of adding up our pay-to-play, “Help Me” golf package, opportunity drawing tickets, and online donations so that I can give you our grand tally (and then my parent’s will MATCH THAT DONATION DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR!).  I can’t wait to announce it soon!

So the day that we were raising money for cancer was the day that I wasn’t thinking about cancer at all.  That is just another gift that you gave me that day on top of the gifts that I had already received (monetary yes but also gifts of your hope and love).  Like the sundae wasn’t already spilling over enough, you added a big ol’ cherry on top!

You helped me to be thinking about how much I was looking forward to seeing everybody; from my work friends that I see every day to an old co-worker who I hadn’t seen in 5 years, to family friends that I only get to see a few times a year to my camp friends to my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew who flew in from MD for the occasion, to my “new friends” who have rallied around me as if they have known me forever.

I was thinking about whether or not I’d have time to play a round of mini-golf myself (I did because of the kindness of friends who helped collect money and tickets and sign people in so that I could play; my contact at the Jimmy Fund Josh and I got to play a whole round which ended in a tie!).  I was thinking about the party at my parent’s house afterward, about the kids running around enjoying the ice cream sundaes and the sun beaming brightly on us after days and days of recent rain.

I was thinking about how it fills my heart to the brim to see SHL being himself and having so much fun with people that have only been in his life since he moved here (the warmth of our Team make him feel like they have known him forever).  I was thinking about who the lucky winners would be of our opportunity drawing and our family BBQ that night, just the 7 of us.  I was thinking about getting to squeeze my pop tart nephew M and maybe read him a story that night and how happy I was to be surrounded by so many people that I deeply love.

Those of you could not attend the fundraising event—you were there in spirit. I felt ya!

So, we play golf together. We break bread together.  We’re there for each other when the chips are down, and we’re there for each other when the going gets really good. That my friends, is love.

With hope, gratitude, lots of holes-in-one, grilled cheese sandwiches and lots of ooey gooey love being sent your way,

Sam xoxo

Enough

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It all started with Instagram, which I found funny because I always put that in a “safer” category than Facebook. Scrolling through the News Feed on FB never, ever makes me feel better about myself, my life, my accomplishments, my anything (so why do I keep doing it?).  On Instagram I follow more “inspirational” media like Chalkboard Mag, Deepak Chopra, El Camino Travel, Elizabeth Gilbert, Gabby Bernstein, Brene Brown and Kris Carr (of course). Seeing posts from Erin Stutland on the benefits of positive thinking during exercise, new yoga poses from Tara Stiles, and recipes of low-sugar brownies from Deliciously Ella (who seems to have a life of perfection but actually I think that she is refreshingly grounded and incredibly grateful for what she has) usually makes me feel happy, even if I don’t up exercising or meditating or baking or doing yoga that day (or the next).

I take full responsibility for the fact that not only am I on social media, but also understanding when people post their doings and/or pictures, they are not doing so with ill intent, and they are not doing it thinking of me. The world does not revolve around Sam!  I get it.  But we all can be a little self-absorbed sometimes and think that it does, right?  When people post about their babies, kids, husbands, homes, jobs, vacations, and just day-to-day life, I can pretty much bet that they’re not thinking, “I wonder how Sam, who is living with cancer, will interpret this post or this picture?”  It sounds ridiculous to even say.

But certainly, I can’t be the only one to see a post and construe it based on my own unique blueprint of my life, can I? We have all had life experiences that only we can truly understand.  They have happened to us, and to nobody else.  No two people feel the exact same thing.  Even somebody else living with a Stage IV cancer does not know exactly what it is like to be in my shoes, nor do I know exactly what it is like to be in theirs.

I’ve spent a good chunk of my life comparing myself to others, and I think about this a lot because it feels “normal” because that’s what we as human beings tend to do, but also like wasted time. Was I really not a Delta Gamma in college because I didn’t want to be associated with unkind women, or because I wasn’t thin or blonde enough?  Should I have been “more Jewish” along the way?  Could I have…?  Should I have…?  Why didn’t I…?  Instead of spending the time loving and cherishing myself, I spent it wondering why I didn’t measure up.  My grades were never perfect, I was never the most popular girl anywhere– though always had great friends– and did I get married “too late” in life?  We bought a beautiful home, but was it as beautiful as somebody else’s?  Social media has just compounded these insecurities.

It was only after I was diagnosed with the metastatic liver melanoma that I began looking at life in such a different way.  Whether it’s true or not, when somebody starts a timer on your life and begins counting down (doctors who told me I may only have a certain amount of time to live, though I never asked) you begin to look at things in a brand new light. All of a sudden, it seemed the only things important were my health, my husband, family, friends, joy, love, and having fun.  That was it.  My job or career as a social worker gave me an altruistic outlet for my compassion, but I mainly stuck around for the money and the health insurance. Of course I am still human, but forgiveness became just a little bit easier.  I wanted to have fun.  I felt that if I had to live with cancer and could not have children, that I was “owed” anything else in the world that I wanted.

It doesn’t exactly work that way, I know. But it did shift things; it shook my world to the very core, turning it upside down like a shaken snow-globe except now down was up and it felt right, better, healthier.  I found myself wishing that I had always cherished myself, always meditated, always played hooky from work to go to a water park in the summer with my husband, always tried to remind myself that I am doing the best that I can.  What more can I ask of myself?  It does not take away the days when I beat myself up for having a can of soda or not working out or being unkind to somebody or skipping a workout or feeling guilty when I can’t be at work.  But those days occur just a little bit less often now.  The less I obsess over food and how I measure up to other people, the happier I am.  It’s taken me almost 40 years and cancer to figure this out and I’m grateful for how far I’ve come, and yet there are still plenty of days when I wonder if having more money or the opportunity to quit my job and become a full-time writer or being able to physically have children would mean that my life was more “meaningful.”  (Truth be told, it’s really about the latter).

Which brings me to the recent Instagram post that rocked my world, and to which somebody else may have read the exact same thing and not had nearly the same thought that I did, which was this: Being married is nice, having a home is nice.  Working is nice.  Spending your career helping others is nice. Having a life with amazing friends and fun outings and seeing the world is… Well, nice.  But it does not compare—could never compare—to having a baby.  At least, that is how I interpreted this particular post.

And all of a sudden, my week turned from grumpy to downright cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat-everything-I’m-doing-will-never-be-enough.

Mother’s Day didn’t make things any easier (and I couldn’t help but think:  How come there isn’t an “I fucking live with cancer” holiday?).  I counted my lucky stars, blessings, thanked g-d and the universe that I have my Mom, and that not only do I have her, but that she is my rock and my best friend.  I wrapped her gift (a keychain with a feather on it that inscribed on the back thanked her for always letting me fly) and SHL brought her flowers and we gave her cards and took her to lunch and it was wonderful. But it felt as though every single post on Facebook (and why was I on Facebook, anyway?) was a jab right in the heart when I thought about the fact that I’ll never get to have my own Mother’s Day.  (I mentioned to Sean how insensitive it seemed both to those that can’t have children as well as those who no longer have their Mom’s, and he didn’t disagree, but he did say, “How far could that go?”  And he’s right.  Am I not going to post pictures of my summer vacation because others may not have the money to travel?  See where I’m going with this?).

A few days after Mother’s Day my interpretation of this one post put me into a tail-spin. OMG am I just biding my time working and going to game night with friends and planning summer vacations until I die, and then G-d will say, “Well, her life was OK I guess, but she didn’t have kids.”

All of a sudden it occurred to me: If somebody feels like their life before a child was “nice” but not nearly as meaningful, what does that say about my life without children?  And all of the other people in the world who don’t have children either?  And even if this person believed that to be true, is that what I must believe as well?  Was this my own insecurity, my own grief, or social media (or perhaps, all of the above?).  It forced me to look in the mirror and think about all of the things that I try so hard never to think about, like the fact that I will never give my nephew a cousin to play with or see my daughter walk down the aisle or have grandchildren.

Traveling the world is great and a dream of mine (I get such a high from being interwoven with other cultures and experiencing first-hand just how much beauty there is in the world), and it’s what I aim to do with the freedom that I have and dare I say it a benefit of not having kids, but is it “enough?” And what if it isn’t?  Who decides?

In social work there are very often times when you just help people sort through their issues; it’s not necessarily about giving them an “answer” per se.  But other times when you sit with a client and there is a real concrete problem, you may want to have an answer. You feel their eyes on you, you’re the “expert” and what good is that social work degree, license, and years of clinical experience if you don’t know everything?  But the truth is, very often you don’t know how to solve somebody else’s problem.  You may simply sit with them, reflect back to them what you hear in a non-judgmental way, and offer empathy.  You may say “I’m not sure that I have the answer yet,” when they look at you like “What the hell am I supposed to do now?”  Sometimes, your job is just to bear witness.

And this seems to be one of those times, when I simply do not have an answer and I am bearing witness to my own pain that it seems I must go through (so tired of “going through” things) in order to stop doubting myself. There is one part of me that knows that my life is full, brimming with happiness and joy because I happen to have the most amazing people in my life that make it so.  That I am enough.  With kids, without kids, I.am.enough.  Maybe I didn’t feel this way or recognize it BC (before cancer), but I do now.  Sometimes.

The other part of me, the part that is coping and learning to live with loss and grief, is also wondering if though my birthright is to be happy, maybe I’ll never really be as happy as I could have been if I had children of my own.

This is the guts of cancer, I suppose; it can make you feel like nothing is ever enough, or in turn it can make you feel like you have more than you’ll ever know what to do with.  As I go through this journey, as I live and breathe with cancer and the good and the bad,  I realize that is up to me and nobody else to decide which it will be.  The bottom line?  I am not willing to give up on my precious life or myself, no matter what.

Making Up For Lost Joy

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It is so interesting how time can either slowly slide by like soft-dripping honey (where you feel stuck in a long moment) or it can glide by in the blink of an eye. Time is such a funny thing, isn’t it?

For some reason it has been so hard for me to write this piece. I’ve sat down at my desk many times and have multiple drafts in my folder, yet I can’t seem to write anything that I feel really captures the last few weeks (months?).  Mostly I think I’ve been too physically tired and emotionally drained to really make much sense.  But I’ve been wanting to reach out and connect, since when I write I almost always feel a huge weight off my shoulders afterwards.  And I like feeling like you and I are linked in some way even though for some of us we’re just communicating through this blog.

One of the things that I know I said in one of those drafts was that I was sorry if I wasn’t in touch much after the last surgery. In fact, about a week and half afterwards a good friend of mine sent me a text:  “I don’t want to bother you if you are in pain or don’t feel like talking, but I’m worried and just want to make sure that the surgery went OK.”  Oh my gosh—had I forgotten to tell this dear friend that I was OK?  I felt horrible.  She was completely understanding but for me, it really put under a microscope just how out-of-it and exhausted I was.

The last surgery was a month ago, wow. It feels like longer. See there’s that time thing.  I want to start with the good news that still gives me goose bumps, which is that the surgery went well, and all of my doctors were very happy afterwards.  This time there were five lesions to get in the liver and they got ’em all, thank g-d!  Also thank you g-d/the universe/my guardian angels they did not see anything else while there.  I spent one night in the hospital and had a scan the next morning to confirm the results.  The second my surgeon entered the room to tell us this good news, Sean and I grabbed glances and hands and I immediately called my family to tell them (my parents were with SHL during the surgery and while I was in recovery, but SHL stayed overnight with me in the hospital).

A few days later as I was recovering at home, the pain got increasingly worse and I felt like I could not manage it on my own, so my Mom took me to the Emergency Room at the hospital where I had my surgery. No matter how long I’ve been intertwined in the medical system, there are still some things that I just can’t understand, like why it took so long for them to give me something for the pain once I got there (nurses kept coming in and out taking vitals and saying that they were waiting for the pharmacy?  It all seemed so absurd).

But then after scans my surgeon walked into the room (for those of you not entirely familiar with medical scenarios, to have your surgeon check in on you while in the ER is not just a given, but this guy is the bees knees) and he said with a smile, “Good news! It’s a kidney stone.”  This still makes me laugh when I think of it.  Now you may be thinking to yourselves, “On what planet is a kidney stone good news?” But even my Mom and I breathed a sigh of relief.  Though kidney stones can cause an excruciating amount of pain, I think that we all felt relieved that my pain was not cancer-related or internal bleeding after the surgery.  They finally were able to get me somewhat comfortable and kept me overnight for observation.

Thankfully I found out yesterday after an ultrasound and an x-ray that the kidney stone has indeed passed on its own!  Gooooo body!

Waking up the last week or two without any pain has been A-MAZING.  Not that I wish that any of you ever experience chronic pain or discomfort, but if you do, when you start to feel better it’s like the whole world is one of the kaleidoscopes you used to be enthralled with as a kid.  Everything takes on new colors and shapes (and even tastes when you finally get your appetite back) and everything just seems that much more beautiful through a new lens.  It’s definitely taking me some time to get back on my feet with my health and wellness, but I just put my FitBit back on and I am not only working on my physicality, I’m also working on being gentle with myself.  It has been a long road of anxiety around food and drink and cancer and exercise and one of my providers keeps urging me to be healthy, but to “Enjoy life!”  That may mean ice cream on a night like tonight, when it’s our first 80 degree day here in Boston.

So, I’ve written and re-written this part of the blog a million times.  Most of the times were filled with details of my exhaustion and difficulty getting out of bed in between surgeries; my fear and anxiety at the thought of the surgery ultimately not working.  But I don’t want to live there anymore; I want to live here, now.  I want to live for the days like today when I have the energy to walk and write and call friends and really be present in my own life.  It’s been a painful (physically and emotionally) time, but I got through it.

I have a lot of time to make up for, a lot of joy that was lost in these last few months, so if you see me sky-diving or bungee jumping or hopping on a last minute flight to Bali, don’t be surprised!  (OK, you got me:  More likely this is going to look like going out to dinner spur-of-the-moment, treating myself to a facial, or working hard on our upcoming Jimmy Fund Team Lozier Mini Golf Fundraiser!).

One of the things that has me living small at times is my magical thinking, but getting through these last few months with three surgeries in two months and 20 + doctors appointments and 10 + scans has me thinking:  What if you ask for something from the universe and instead of being punished, like you fear, you get what you want?  So here goes:

I get an immense amount of pleasure from living in the moment, but I am also planning for the future, whether there is a cure for this cancer or not.  Because to live any other way is not to live.   ♥

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lot of Sparkle

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You know that excitement when you’re on a roller-coaster that you’ve never been on before, and you’re wondering if you should have agreed to this but you’re also feeling so freakin’ excited? You haven’t gotten to the scary part yet or made a loop or anything and you almost feel giddy, right before your stomach drops?  Well I’ve never been a big fan of the stomach dropping, but the moments before of pure delight and fun are something that I wish I could bottle.

I felt it yesterday, that roller-coaster feeling. I don’t remember the last time that its lived within me, and it shook me to my very core (but in such a good way).  I stopped what I was doing and listened to my body, immediately recognizing that whatever was making me feel this way is something that I should clearly be trying to incorporate more of into my life.

Yesterday was one of those sparkly, good days. There have been some since December; the most thoughtful packages have arrived from friends with things to ease my tired body like lotions and socks and books and chocolates and more than that, just knowing that people are thinking of me makes me feel, well, not alone (you can’t put a price on that).  There have been days like my birthday where I am with SHL and we just play and forget about work and bills and chores and cancer and surgery.  There have been days spent with my nephew where we played soccer and read bedtime stories together and made pancakes.  Those are sparkly days and I’ve loved them, they’ve just been few and far between over the last few months with all of the doctor’s appointments, scans, work, kidney stone and then more intensely the liver ablation surgery.

But yesterday was filled to the brim with goodness, and I delighted in it at every turn. I had absolutely no idea when I got out of bed that so many lovely things would happen.  It started with me calling Brigham and Women’s Hospital and tracking down the name of the nurse who took such amazing care of me after the last surgery.  I wanted to nominate her for the Boston Globe’s “Salute to Nurses” that will run in May and the nurse who took my call was so thrilled to hear this that she said she wanted me back on their floor after my next surgery on Monday to take care of me again.  She said that she couldn’t promise anything, but that she would text her nurse manager and do her best.  It may seem like a little thing (?) but I literally wanted to cry when I got off of the phone with her.  I felt so touched that not just my family wanted to take care of me, but strangers did so as well.  Yes they’re nurses and that’s what they do, but it seemed completely above and beyond to try and get me back onto their floor.  I felt taken care of, which to me is a feeling of security, something that you want to hold on to so hard when you have an illness that makes everything you know feel so threatened.

Shortly after that I had lunch with my Jimmy-Fund contact, a new contact this year, meeting him for the first time. We hit it off immediately, debating whether or not Jerry Seinfeld is still funny and doing Larry David impressions of Bernie Sanders.  Anybody that gets my sense of humor is golden in my book!  Josh gave me so many great ideas for our upcoming second annual Team Lozier mini-golf fundraiser, I began to get more and more excited.  We raised a little over $12,000 last year and we want to raise even more this year!  Stay tuned for how we do!

I came back to work with a pep in my step. Connecting with new people, directing a tournament and raising funds for my doctor, nominating this nurse, and then seeing on both Facebook and Twitter a picture of SHL and myself from last year’s event with a blurb about the Jimmy Fund just made my heart soar.  The more that we can get the word out on Dana Farber, the Jimmy Fund, good patient care, better communication with doctors (who really do want to take the best care of us possible), the better. Something about all of this just feels right.

I came home last night on Cloud 9. I couldn’t stop telling SHL about my day.  “And then this happened, and then that happened…!”   Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something, or maybe I’m starting to get the courage to ask for things of the universe (ugh, scary…maybe).  I feel as though I am just finally waking up and opening my eyes and seeing that the world is full of miracles, opportunities, and synchronicity.  (These are things that I always thought were so hard to obtain before).

I thought that the day couldn’t get any better until I saw that a package was waiting for me on the counter. It was a beautiful mug from a friend of mine from college that she had made just for me on Etsy.  Hot pink with a gold heart (she had no idea those are the colors in my office where I imagine great things happening with my writing) and then the words “love myself just as I am.”  I broke out into a full-on smile because I knew just where she was getting this from.  Last summer my friend M and I wrote down on index cards at the Chopra Center one intention that we wanted to leave behind there.  I had written down “Love myself just as I am.”  A tall feat, I had thought at the time.  I had shared it with my friend D because we’ve always supported each other in our greatest goals for health and happiness.  She had remembered and had given me the mug so that whenever I look at it I can always be reminded that to love ourselves is one of the greatest gifts that we can receive.

So as I approach my next surgery with fear, optimism, dread, and hope, and as I await the results while still in the hospital, I listen to what these important pieces of life are telling my heart and my soul. Write.  Speak.  I hear the voice that says, “Tell your story.”  I have to begin to let go of thinking that I need to know how to take care of myself effortlessly before I can help others.  I do nothing flawlessly. But maybe I don’t have to get it perfectly to help others; just maybe.

What is your heart and soul telling you?  Follow it.  xo.

To love myself

 

Chopra Center card

 

A Little Elbow Grease Can Go A Long Way

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It is such a complicated world that we live in, isn’t it? Though it feels that things are just getting increasingly more complicated throughout the years, I know that as long as man has roamed the earth there has been hunger, pain, suffering, and war (stick with me here, it gets better).

I’ve been thinking a great deal about the negative aspects of the world lately because of all of this election nonsense. I say nonsense because in what other country do they start campaigning and throwing commercials in our face for a year and a half before the actual election?  It gets to be sickening after a while.

Of course the other piece that is even more sickening than that—and destructive—is Trump. He was in my dream last night, or shall I say nightmare, walking the beach with these crazy sunglasses on, his lips pouting, his hair flopping in the breeze.  Why I’m dreaming about Trump (and without a shirt on!) I don’t know; as if it doesn’t cause enough stomach aches in real life, now he has to show up when I’m sleeping, too.

I don’t follow politics as closely as the rest of my family, but enough to know that I am scared. What has been disheartening for me is to see people at his rallies cheering when he says something despicable, whether it’s racist, violent, delusional, or just plain dumb.  I think living in my little bubble here outside of Boston sometimes has me forget that there are plenty of people in the country (never mind the world) who don’t necessarily think like I do (not like everybody in this neck of the woods thinks exactly the same, but the north east is pretty progressive and liberal compared to some other parts of the country).  I am just going to say it and maybe it seems dramatic, but not only am I scared for people living in poverty and people facing racism in their everyday lives and people who somehow think that Trump can give them a leg up just because he doesn’t have a history of being a known face in politics (instead he’s known for real estate, beauty pageants, and the Apprentice), but I am scared for Jewish people.  There, I said it.  I’ve had little itty-bitty bouts of anti-Semitism thrown my way in my 39 years, but I have a feeling that things could get a lot (lot) more crazy if he was in charge.

Remember I said that it would get better?

Having said all of this, I want to lean towards the light because otherwise, it seems hard to get out of bed some days, doesn’t it? When we think about all of the suffering in the world?  This morning I was listening to Andrea Bocelli in my car on the way to work and I can just never get over how beautiful his voice is; it still gives me goose bumps after all these years.  And it made me smile—knowing that in a world so full of bad, there is also so much beauty.  I thought about a call that I got recently at my job from a man who was out of work and scared that he and his wife and four children were going to lose their home.  I asked if he had gone to a food pantry and he said yes, occasionally, but then had stopped, because he “felt like others needed it more.”  He said that when he did finally get back on his feet, however that would happen, he told his kids that they were going to buy food and give it to the homeless in their town.  My mouth dropped open—here was a man who was suffering, who had taken care of his family and worked and then gotten sick and now was living without any real guarantee of keeping his home or putting food on the table, and here he was already thinking about other people.  It again reminded me of the goodness in this world.

And that’s what we need, especially now, I think: To be reminded of all of the good that surrounds us, because there truly is so much of it.  A friend who will come over and watch a cancer documentary with you knowing that boxes of tissues will have to be present, food from a friend of a friend who you have never met but who hears your story and then drops off pasta and meatloaf after a surgery, the friend who has her Mom’s bible study all praying for you (whether we have faith in the same religion or not, a prayer is a prayer and I could not be more grateful for the healing prayers being sent to me with such love).  The light of this world can be seen in a person, an animal, an object, a feeling, but it is important to look for it, to acknowledge it, to place it in not just a fleeting thought, but a forever-lasting book of gratitude.

My friend M says that after a tough time she began to wake up every day looking for the “play” in life. Now she sees it more often than she ever has because she is open to seeing it.  I love this expression:  Not “You have to see it to believe it, but “You have to believe it to see it.”

I look for signs, miracles, feather, beauty. I recently turned 39 and SHL took me up to NH and you should have seen the look on his face before we left– so excited to get me away for a few days so that I could just untangle myself from the surgeries and the to-do lists and work and the anxiety.  I really felt it; not just the exuberance at being able to play for 5 straight days, but also the way in which he was taking care of me. I felt and still feel the joy in getting birthday wishes from my closest circle of friends to people I grew up with, people I went to college with, and people I worked with.  I seek out connections and I try to stay-in-the-moment, to realize that today is all that any of us have.  Realistically there are days when I can’t do it, but the days that I can, I bask in it.

I know that everybody has a right to their own likes and dislikes, perceptions of the world and values, and I understand that getting older can be difficult. But I love my birthday because it is a celebration of being alive, of being loved, and of making wishes.  And I pray for lots and lots (and lots) more birthdays so that I can cultivate even more joy and fun in my life.   I don’t think that life was meant to be this hard, but I’m realizing now that by default at times it certainly can be.  Sometimes maybe we need to put a little bit of elbow grease into making things feel easier (which seems counter-intuitive, but what I mean by this is that instead of sitting back and not being open to change, a little bit of hard work and insightfulness into self-care and joyful living can be enough to move the energy around) .  What does this mean to you?  For me it means that I listen to my gut, I meditate, I weep when I need to, but ultimately anything that crowds out my joy has got to go (as much as it can).

Lean towards the light, I hear Gabby Bernstein say. And so I do.