Motion, Commotion, and Compassion

4

OK, so here it is folks.  Something that I’m not “supposed to say” as one who lives with cancer.  Oh and who made up that rule?  Me of course.

Time is so precious.  I get it!  But sometimes things get in the way of you appreciating time– like treatment-induced diabetes and hypoglycemia and eye doctor appointments where they actually put a wire speculum on your eye to keep it open for a shot that hopefully stops abnormal blood vessels from growing– and to try and push yourself against that time and struggle is just too much.

I’m on auto-pilot.  The days are a little bit of a blur.   I don’t feel quite like myself and I’m not doing much about it.

There, I said it.  The hours, minutes, seconds that are so precious when living with an incurable disease have begun to run into each other like a sentence that makes no sense.  Perfect because cancer makes no sense.

It’s been over 3 weeks since I heard from my doctor that he doesn’t think my current treatment is working; if it seems like things are moving like molasses-slow it’s because they are.  Usually I would have had a plan by now.  But my doctor went on vacation (uh, can he do that?  I have cancer), and now I’ve been waiting to see another doctor for a different kind of consult (got to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.  It’s too huge of a decision to make without doing your homework).  And believe me, we’re on the ball.  But I guess if they’re in no rush, this means that I’m not about to croak any day, so I take this as a good sign?

It gives me so much time to think about the croaking thing.  To think about the choices that I have to make– so grateful that there are choices, but we never really know if we’re picking the “right” thing or not.  Nobody can tell us, nothing is a guarantee.  We rely on the “one day at a time” and “listening to our intuition” and “doing the best research that we can,” and we give it up to g-d and the universe and pray that these decisions result in more time.  More time to find a cure. More life.  More love.

Please g-d.

Here’s the truth:  I’m just going through the motions.  Not when it comes to figuring out the next steps of my treatment plan, but just rolling through the days that entail work and cleaning the house and catching up on emails.  When my alarm goes off at 7 in the morning I think about how much money I would pay to be able to stay in bed until I’m good and ready to get up.  When I’m at work it’s usually a nice distraction from the rest of the world, though some days it’s harder than others to help others.  When I rest my head on the pillow at the end of the day I sometimes feel so relieved that I don’t have to talk or write or type or listen or do anything.  I just want to close my eyes and not have to do anything.  Did I mention that I love doing nothing right now?

Life feels so exhausting right now.

I long to get back to the me who feels in her own body, who feels grounded and filled to the brim with hope and possibility.  I long to feel like myself; I can’t put that exactly into words, I’ll just know it when I feel it again.

And, for the first time maybe ever, I let myself release and give in to the universe without any guilt (or as little guilt as I’ve ever felt).  I wish that I was taking better care of myself; wish that I hadn’t eaten that (frozen) left-over birthday cake weeks after my birthday, wish that I could move my body even in slow-motion on the arc trainer in my basement, wish that I could sleep more.  But I let it go.  I stop resisting.  This is how it is right now; cake and couch and getting up at 7am M-F.  “Let go,” I tell myself when I am rewarded with sleep (or even just with my nice comfy warm bed).  I’m not letting go of hope or action and I’m not giving up, I’m just trying to bathe myself in compassion, for all that I have and am going through.

This may actually be what my body and mind need right now:  Stop the soul-searching, just be, watch Real Housewives and put off paying the bills and put off even writing because you’re too much in your own head.  Don’t do much of what you don’t want to do, because so much time during the week is taken up with doctor’s appointments and needles and tests and too much thinking.

I’m going through the motions all while trying to quiet the commotion in my brain.

These are the thoughts of a cancer patient.

 

30 Things I Learned in My 30’s

2

On my the eve of my 40th birthday, as I leave the 30’s and enter into a new decade, I share with you the 30 things that I learned over the last 10 years:

  1. There are way more than 30 things that I’ve learned in this decade.
  2. I believe in miracles.
  3. Get a second opinion.  ALWAYS get a second medical opinion.
  4. When in doubt, sleep on it.
  5. Practice compassion towards yourself and others–everybody is doing the best they can with the tools they have.
  6. Meditation can save your life.
  7. If meditation doesn’t save your life, find something else– anything else– that grounds you and helps you cope with life’s ups and downs.
  8. Find what sets your heart on fire and do it.  For me, that’s traveling and I want to have adventures all over the world with SHL.
  9. Do what you want to do, when you want to do it, as long as you’re not selfish or hurting anybody else.  Life is filled with responsibility and crap; the rest of the time, enjoy yourself.
  10. Surround yourself with people who are not just like-minded in how they treat you and others, but who have positive energy/vibes.  Life is too short to get caught up in bullshit.  Leave that in middle/high school.
  11. When you feel like life throws you a curve ball and you’re in the trenches, do something nice for somebody else.
  12. Clean up your side of the street (as Gabby Bernstein says).  It’s the only side you actually have any control over.
  13. Have an open mind.  If I didn’t, I never would have met my husband through Facebook.  After all, he lived in Canada!  Where did I think that relationship could go?  Turned out, this random guy from Facebook is my soul-mate.
  14. Be authentic.  You don’t have to write a blog or post your every feeling on Facebook, but just be yourself in whatever way feels good to you.  It’s way too much energy and effort not to be.  And for what?  This is the only life we’ve got, we mine as well make it our own.
  15. The deeper you go with the people you feel safe enough to be vulnerable with, the greater the love and support that you will feel in your own life.  Guaranteed (if you open yourself up to the people who “get it” and “get” you).
  16. Nobody’s life is perfect, even though it may look like it.
  17. Find others who you can look up to; I have learned so much about love, self-compassion, healing, forgiveness and being in the present moment from Kris, Gabby, Lolly Galvin, Ella Woodward, Brenee Brown, Glennon Doyle Melton, Geralyn Lucas, Matthew Zachary, and many others who are constantly striving to live their best lives possible while helping others.  We don’t know it all; admit that you don’t and learn from others.
  18. If you have a miscarriage, even before hearing a heartbeat, you’ll never stop loving that baby that could have been, and wondering who they could have grown up to be.
  19. Show up for anyone and everyone who means something to you.  Whatever that looks like, just show up, in any way.
  20. Say you’re sorry.  Oh man, I know this is hard, but it can be so freeing, so humbling, and it can even take your closest relationships to a whole new level.
  21. Give second chances.  Boy am I glad that I have and that others have done so for me too.
  22. When life hands you lemons and you don’t know what else the f*ck to do, follow these steps:  1) Take out some small candy bars of your choice 2) Put them into a zip lock bag 3) Put the zip lock bag on a sturdy cutting board, 4) Proceed to smash candy with a rolling pin or a cooking pan.  5) If your tears don’t taint it, turn that smashed candy into the best g-d damn ice cream cake your friends have ever tasted.
  23. Cry, when it comes naturally.  Let it flow.  Let it heal and ground you.  Don’t ever force it back inside; it will only come out in other, unhealthy ways.  As painful as suffering is, suffer.  Face it.  It allows you to be more in the present moment.
  24. Have gratitude for everything– I mean the big stuff (your family, spouse, kids, health, money to take care of your basic needs and then some, home, friends, job, whatever) to the “little” stuff (warm shower, running water, birds singing, a dog’s smile, crocuses blooming, a funny movie, a beautiful meal, coffee with a good friend, a warm embrace, a note from a loved one, a cat-like peaceful nap, a great piece of chocolate).  Then remember:  There really is no such thing as a “little” thing after all.
  25. Let the gratitude rise to the surface in an organic way.  It’s nice to keep gratitude lists and have a daily practice (I do), but there will be some days when life hands you a big bag of shit and you don’t want to say “thank you.”  That’s OK.  Be true to your soul.  Say thank you when you mean it.  That’s the best kind of gratitude, the authentic kind.  The kind when you’re eating lunch with your best friend and you realize how freakin’ lucky you are that tears just melt down your face.  That’s gratitude.
  26. If there is something that you want, go after it.  Our only limitations are in our own minds.
  27. Take your own advice.
  28. If you only read one “self-help” book, let it be something by Thich Nhat Hanh.
  29. There is no map.  Really.  We may think we are destined for one thing, but if a door closes, promise yourself that you will still live a great life, despite what you think you don’t have. You create your own journey, nobody else can tell us what great is.
  30. Love.  Love deeply, gently, authentically, without expectations, passionately, and with abandon.

31) Bonus:  Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Extra bonus: If you ever need to spend the night in the hospital, bring your own toothbrush. For the love of g-d, BYOE (bring your own everything!).

Love,

Sam xoxo

When

0

When?  This is what I want to ask.

When will it be enough?

When will it stop?

When will I heal?

I struggle to surrender to the outcome.  This doesn’t mean giving up, this means accepting my circumstances, letting go of what I cannot control, and controlling what I can.

Seven days before my 40th birthday my oncologist looks at me solemnly while my physician assistant sits nearby looking down at the floor.

“The treatment’s not working the way that we had hoped.”

How can I ever trust myself, my gut, my intuition, my heart, ever again?

No days are ever perfect but my meditations lately and the quiet in my heart had told me that the treatment was working.  Is working. Even if not perfectly, it was doing something.

They’ve grown.  The tumors, they haven’t shrunk or stabilized as we had hoped, they’ve actually grown.  I think I hear numbers as to how big (or small, gratefully) they are, but I don’t remember.

I don’t remember much after hearing that the treatment isn’t working.  I think my Mom and I ask questions because that is typical of us, so many questions, but I don’t remember the answers.  My Mom writes things down in her notebook but I am sure that she’ll look at that piece of paper later and wonder how the words got there.

We go to the hospital cafeteria, hold warm cups of coffee between our shaking hands, and cry.  We let go of the warmth and hug each other; this brings more warmth and yet also a great, deep sadness than my heart could ever hope for or know.

Beforehand, through a stream of tears that I couldn’t even try to control, I ask my oncologist and my physician assistant to stay hopeful with me.  I let them know that I understand that this part of their job must be very tough (hence the look on their faces) but that I still feel hopeful and optimistic, and I need them to stay with me in that place.

They agree; “this is why we’re going to come up with another treatment plan”, they say.

There are some cancers with no treatment options available, so I remember that and hold that bit close to my heart, feeling thankful that there are options available to me. But I also wish that there were more, is that selfish?  Ungrateful?  There aren’t that many options and my mind wonders if this FDA-approved treatment didn’t work, will a clinical trial?

My friend S points out that even to get to a clinical trial, there has to be some real hope there.  “It’s not just some guy mixing up a potion in a basement!” And she gives me hope and laughter all at once.

Three years ago, almost exactly, I got news that though my immunotherapy at the time seemed to be helping, after a while things started to grow again too.  I remember thinking that I had been doing so many positive visualizations and such, how could this happen?

And then SHL said something so powerful to me that I’ve never, ever forgotten it.

He said, “But what if you weren’t doing all of that?  Maybe it could have been even worse.”

I can’t tell you how much this thought brings me peace.  Meditation is the gift that I give to myself every day, or frequently, anyway.  Visualizations of white healing light, reiki, looking for the miracles every day, gratitude, giving myself the space to not get out of bed, drinking green juice and then having a piece of cake… These are all things that make up who I am.  Who knows who I would be without these things?  They bring me calm, they bring me peace, they make me a better person for SHL and for all of you (I hope).

The day of the scans last week I thought to myself: “Look for the miracles.”  It’s always a stressful day but I believe that there are miracles to be found perhaps not every single day, but a lot.

The day of the follow-up with my oncologist, I thought to myself “Look for the miracles.”

Later in the day after I got home from the doctors appointment and showered and took an Ativan, I climbed into bed and closed my eyes.  I wondered if there had been a miracle that I just hadn’t seen.  Thinking of the possibility that there may never be a cure or that treatment may not work and I may die from this clouded everything.

I saw no miracles.

Since then I remember that thank g-d the tumors are small.  There are still options to try.  I still have those tools that make some of this bearable, like meditation and massages, sleep and love.

Sometimes our miracles look differently than we thought they would.

I don’t want to die.  I’m not ready.

After I was diagnosed with the treatment-induced diabetes (which most likely has ruined my pancreas and despite not being on the medication anymore, I will probably still have diabetes for the rest of my life), I hit a wall.  I relished smashing pieces of candy with a rolling pin for an ice cream cake that I was making for my friends who host game night.  I mean, I went to town so hard on that poor candy that SHL looked frightened.  (If those snickers could talk). I wandered around the house muttering and complained and took my time feeling sorry for myself.  I now check my sugar three times a day and the prick of that needle is actually way worse than giving yourself insulin, in my opinion.  The four doses of insulin that I give myself every day and the pill that I take in the morning and the monitoring my carbs is all way easier than that stupid little needle that has made my fingers all calloused and tender to the touch (yesterday my index finger touched a box as I was getting rid of some recycling and a wave of pain went through my whole body).

When?  I want to ask.  As if somebody is pouring me a glass of bullshit, and I’m done.

I have had enough.

What does this mean, exactly?  I’m not sure.  I know that I’m not done fighting, not even close.  I know that I’m not done living a phenomenal life.  I know that I’m not done loving or being loved.

Tomorrow is my 40th birthday.  I’m not nearly done.

But sometimes, life hands you lemons and instead of lemonade, you just want to take those lemons and beat them with a baseball bat.  Not into a cool summer drink, but into a pulpy oblivion.

I have had enough of scans and doctor’s appointments and achy legs and insulin and of being scared, of being angry, of being fearful.  I don’t want this anymore, don’t know if I can handle it anymore.  People say that I’m brave and strong and inspirational, but I just see it as living.  Breathing.  Surviving.  And sometimes, with the right timing, yes– thriving.

Sometimes.

And so, since I’m not yet done with life, and I refuse to believe that life is done with me, not even close to it, I keep on.  But some days I honestly do stay in bed because the thought of even brushing my teeth or putting on clothes makes me tired.  Makes me feel like crying.

I do it my way.

That is the only way that I can do it.

When.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am The Sky

0

you-are-the-sky

“Is that the best you’ve got?” I wanted to scream into the shades of blue in Tulum.  I could feel the sand slip between my toes and underneath the heels of my feet until nothing seemed to support them, as if I was suspended between little ripples of water. Each wave reminded me of a different choice, decision, path, obstacle and heartache in my life, and when I looked into the exposed space/shelter I thought “I will not let you push me down.”  Wave after wave after wave hits the shore.  And yet, I am the sky.

I dig my feet deep into the velvety sand, anchor my body in balance the best that I can, arms up and at my side, and wait for the next wave.  I want to be mindful of every second.  I want to feel the sun actually sink beyond that first layer of skin, warming my heart.  I am scared of drowning.  But I never ever want to forget that I am the sky.

I don’t want to anticipate that a big wave will approach; it is exhausting trying not to think of the future but also so tiring trying to stay in the present.  I don’t want to anticipate it but sometimes I can see it.  It’s miles off or it’s close, or sometimes I turn my back and get knocked over. And yet, I remember through the tenderness of the sand and the heat from the sun and the stillness of the meditation and the difficult stretches in yoga that each time I am able to stand upright and let the waves hit me and then pass, each time a wave knocks me down but I find my core, I will get up again. Because I am the sky.

Standing underneath this giant blue horizon, I finally understood just how much I wish to not be defeated.  Because I still have so much more to do.  So much love that still needs to live.  I need to take care of you.  I am the sky.

When Geralyn Lucas was getting her chemotherapy and her days were filled with needles and nausea she would say “I am the sky,” reminding herself that none of those awful things could stick to her… And now I say it too, beneath the sky itself.  Now when I have to check my glucose levels I say it out loud as well, as the prick of the needle makes that little red circle of blood come to the surface on my already calloused fingers.   I have just found out that I have treatment-induced diabetes, and life has changed once again.  I was always thoughtful about my eating, but now I have to count carbs and make sure to have my pens with me and not go too long without eating and know what to do if my blood sugar gets too low (like it did while in Mexico; sweating, shaking, downing glucose tablets at 3 in the morning). Checking my levels with that damn glucose monitor that actually hurts more than the 3 doses of insulin that I must give myself every day.  Another “thing to get through,”  although there really is no “through it”– with any of this– there is only learning to live with it.  But I tell myself through the anger and the confusion that these feelings of loss and sadness and betrayal cannot stick to me, because I am the sky.

Geralyn named her first-born “Skye,” even though they said that she could never have children.  She is the sky.  I am the sky.  We are all the sky.

“Face it then fight it” has become my new motto (after a lot of swearing, eating chocolate– pre-diabetes– and crying tears that fall all over my steering wheel at red lights). The clouds are there, some days filled with rain and gloom and some days rays of sunshine and all kinds of the highs and lows just like life.  I grieve–I am encouraged to do so which is a relief– and I try to face my fears through compassion and loving acceptance. I try.  I think this is what matters.   I also thank g-d and my lucky stars for things like doctors, treatment (I got the diabetes because of the treatment but the treatment could be– will be– saving my life), reiki, massages, yoga, green juice, coffee, gratitude confetti, naps, and the ocean. Yes, the ocean.  Because of the waves I can do so much more than I ever thought that I could do.  Isn’t that strange, how adversity gives you so much more of yourself because you can either sink or swim?  It’s a double-edged sword; I would do anything not to have to navigate huge waves, but since I do, I am a different person than I was four years ago.  I am the sky.

I go low– really low– because it is so unfair and so sad, and then I go high because I have to accept after grieving.  I have to remember the blessings.  I have to do both– cry and scream and be grateful because that is who I am.  I feel good, bad, indifferent, numb, crumbling, rigid, loving, accepting, stable, inconsistent.  I am human.  I think of my friends and family and want to weep for how much unconditional love they have shown me.  I can weep.  I am still the sky.

Geralyn said it, and now so do I.  No matter how many needles they stick in us, no matter what else happens, everything else is just the weather.

We are the sky.

Creation of Chaos

2

Out taking a walk I hear the dribble dribble of a basketball; it’s actually warm enough in January in Massachusetts to be out in the driveway shooting some hoops.  I see a kid, a teenager, in a white sweatshirt with the hood up, jeans and sneakers and it looks like he’s just entertaining himself on a Sunday afternoon the way my brother used to when he was that age.

All of a sudden tears unexpectedly well up in my eyes and I think about my nuclear family.  Sometimes it strikes me as absurd and strange that in our American culture many of us grow up so closely with our parents and siblings and then when we leave the house, everything becomes so different and we become so spread apart.  (Especially after people get married and have kids).  I think about the sound of the basketball on the pavement back on Moran Circle where we lived until I was 9 and my brother was 13; about how the backboard and hoop got stolen one night on our quiet little suburban street, and we couldn’t believe that our dog Benji didn’t even give us a little bark to let us know.  I think about the vacations that my parents took us on; eating pineapple in Hawaii and drinking tea in Moscow and having a picnic not far from Rainbow Bridge in Utah.  There was cross-country skiing in Concord, dinners with my Grandma at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, and watching the little planes take off and land in Marlboro while eating mint-chocolate chip ice cream. My Dad started me off early collecting things like bottle caps and pins that said “I love the piano” and my jean jacket just couldn’t hold them all.  My Mom and I would spend summers when I returned home from camp doing errands together (I loved it) and playing jacks on our cold tile floor. I remember my brother and I videotaped by my Dad as we told each other secrets and took long walks on the beach, lying on rocks like salamanders and soaking up that Cape Cod sun.  Us!

There are seven of us now, including spouses and kids, and we’re probably all together three times a year.  (Sometimes we get lucky and it’s four).  I know for a lot of families it’s way less, depending upon how far you live from everybody (and for some of you it’s way more).  But with geographical distance and jobs and health and kids, our time together is limited.  (And OK, maybe we get along better because we don’t see each other every weekend?  I can feel people nodding their heads.  You get it.  You would protect your family from a lion but you don’t necessarily want to do a Sunday brunch every weekend!).  And still, it just strikes me as funny, and a little bit sad, that I went from those family of four vacations to us being together only a few times a year.

As I continued to walk, I started to think about time, and relationships, and faith.  I have faith in my family, that they’ll never abandon me, that they’ll never stop loving me, that they’ll always tolerate my “mess.”  (And I’m not just talking about that nuclear family anymore; now my husband, sister-in-law and nephew are my family too.  And then I remember that things are supposed to change and shift and evolve and now, instead of just the four of us, we have SHL and my SIL and my nephew and how could we ever life without them now?  — We couldn’t!).

But lately, I’ve had faith in little more than that.  For only the second time since I was diagnosed, after coping with some side-effects that bring about more doctors appointments, change, and unknown, did I tell myself recently that I can understand how somebody with a chronic illness could, at some point, want to give up.

And as I walk I think about those who have worries, but who basically live a “normal life”, and I feel more separated from you than ever.  My insides ache not knowing or remembering what that feels like.  I feel as though I have a huge knot in my brain that is tied up in fear and everything else…well everything else just feels sort of foggy.  I long to unravel the ties that make up this fear, but every time I make a little progress gently undoing what has been done, another piece comes along and adds itself to the creation of chaos.

I’ve worked so hard over the last 3 + years on authenticity, managing my disease, trying to live life to the fullest, working hard on my perception of food and cancer and challenges and movement.  I’ve had days where I couldn’t get out of bed, and I’ve had days where I’ve knocked it out of the park at work and slept in SHL’s arms.  This is life, I understand, the motion of the waves, the wavering faith (if you’ve ever had anything bad happen to you), the broken heart that fills up with gold in those cracks where it has been broken, just as the Japanese believe that is the best way to mend a broken object. They believe that if something has suffered damage and has a history, it is more beautiful.

I long to remember the beauty in my own life; I know it is there. And I know that gold must course through those shards, so many of them living within me.  It is just so hard to see and feel the beauty right now, through the unknowns and the fear and the injustice of it all.

I think about how I had no say in this at all, and then I remember how much more I’ve learned to love life since all of this happened.  I like to think that I have no control, but my words carefully remind me that I’ve had many choices, that I have chosen to make my life better even while living with tumors.

I continue to go to my mat and sometimes that helps, imaging cords of love and compassion between myself and the world, between myself and the cancer.  I see a rose-gold energy that twinkles and encompasses my body and keeps me safe; and yet, outside of that meditation time, it does not keep me safe from everything.  What am I to believe?

Gabby Bernstein always says that the “Universe has your back,” and I used to believe it, until one bad thing after another happened.  If you believe in the law of attraction than my mindset needs to change shape because I don’t want to call negativity into my life either.  I want to face the suffering (as much as I really don’t), only in the hopes of being able to mend my own broken objects, my heart, my faith, my confidence.  Can you understand the dilemma just festering in my heart?

I understand that trying to face suffering while trying to let go seems impossible, but in the end again my words help me to understand that they actually fit together.  And so, I will find my way back, I will let the course take me where it needs to.  I will get through this because I have to, because my work and love is not yet done.

I can’t wait until I can tell you all that yes, the universe really does have my back.  And in the meantime, I need to have my own.

 

Latitude from Gratitude

0

Can we just talk about some latitude for gratitude, please?  Since being diagnosed with cancer the second time around, I have made gratitude a daily practice.  I have found that it lifts me up when I’m down, procures me to live life with more intention, heart, and adventurous spirit, and has saved me many times from throwing myself a big old pity party.

And yet, I realized the other day, it is not great to tick off a list of things that you’re grateful for when you’re not really connecting to those things.

Case in point:  I’m in the shower the other night and I’m washing the day off of me and thinking about my top 5 favorite things, because one of those is a nice long, warm shower, when I start to go through my list of things to be thankful for.  I do this almost every night and sometimes it brings me relief, sometimes joy, sometimes tears, and sometimes quite honestly it’s just a few seconds of thankfulness and then I’m putting my pj’s on and thinking about what the next episode of The Affair will bring. Hey, I’m human.

But this other night, while I ticked off the things that I was grateful for that day (the warm shower, having a job, SHL and my family, not having treatment on that day, my new cozy pajamas, that cup of hot chocolate that I indulged in, my plans to see friends in the coming weeks), I realized that I was actually feeling kind of numb.

It’s not that I wasn’t grateful for all of those crazy-good things, of course. But on that particular day I was actually just feeling like I needed to get through the day.  Now this isn’t my usual motto– “just get through the day;” I like to make sure that in fact that I am not just going through the motions, but on this evening I was just so.tired.  And a little bit crabby, too.  Work has been busy and my fatigue has gotten the best of me lately, with little energy to work out or do much around the house, napping every day for hours and feeling a little “out of sync” with the rest of the world.

And then I realized:  Gratitude as part of a daily practice is wonderful, but only if you can really connect to it.  If you can really feel the appreciation like a bubble in your heart ready to explode with that feeling you get when you realize that you have so much.  

I know I have so much.  But lately (the past few days), I’ve also been feeling the injustice around having cancer.  Around decisions being made for me, like not being able to have children or how often I need to go to the doctor (8 sets of scans in 12 months doesn’t give you much of a reprieve from worrying).

And nobody really knows what to say, because nobody knows what it’s like to walk in my shoes, just as I don’t know what it is like to walk in yours.  And this brings up the lonely part; the part where I know people try, and love me, and say comforting things, but in reality there are times when I just feel so damn alone.  Out of sync with others my age, thinking about my mortality and things that most of my friends aren’t thinking about.  Worrying about things that most people my age thank goodness don’t have to worry about.

And on these days, I don’t always want to turn to gratitude.  Sometimes I want to turn to chocolate, or sleep, or a funny movie.  Some days I want to hibernate.  Some days I want to yell.  Some days I want to cry so hard I fall to the floor.  Some days I actually like being at work so I can not think about cancer or the decisions already made for me or my next scans for at least a few minutes at a time.

I used to think that if I said something like what I just did, lighting would strike me. That g-d or the universe would punish me.  It was superstitious, it was harmful, and it was holding me back from allowing myself to really feel grief.  But now that I am trying to deal with suffering head-on, I realize that I need to allow myself those days where I don’t feel like I have to say, “Yeah, but it could be so much worse.”  We all know that it could, but there are times when it is also OK to say “this feels like despair.” Sometimes even though you know that things could be worse, it’s actually irrelevant, believe it or not.  Because to dismiss grief or anxiety or depression or suffering with “it could always be worse” is to dismiss authenticity, and in turn, to dismiss a person.  And I’ve learned, the very hard way, that often than not when you’re authentic with your feelings, they don’t get the best of you.

And so I what a yearn to say to the world is, please don’t dismiss me.  (I bet we’ve all felt this way at one time or another in our lives!). Please give me some latitude.  Please know that gratitude lives in my heart forever, but some days, my authentic self is one that hurts.

I’ve been working on trying to see things with more compassion– especially with those that annoy, frustrate, or hurt me.

Now I’d like to work on allowing myself that same compassion.

I know that we’re all our worst critics.  But I’m finally willing to give myself a little latitude.  Are you?  XO.

The View

3

With the “New Year, New Me” memes all over social media, I think about the differences between setting intentions, and thinking that we need to change who we are.

My friend E sent me a great post from Wanderlust (www.wanderlust.com) with this message of her own:  “I like this post…! Is it an unusual message to like yourself as you are?  Every other message seems to imply that we need to change, to improve. What a refreshing perspective!”

YES!  I know!  I agree!  I hear you!  I wanted to reach through the computer and hug her (which I always do anyway, but it felt reliving to know that others feel the same way.  Sometimes, I just want to “be”).

Just as often as we hear about the many ways that we can work to change ourselves (be kinder, forgive, workout more, workout harder, eat less sugar, eat more veggies, and the list goes on and on…), these days if you’re on the spirituality path, you may also hear the words “self-acceptance” and “self-love.” Somewhere, deep in our hearts (and social media outlets), we hear that call.   I must admit that when I used to hear those words it was as good as somebody speaking a foreign language to me.  “I’ll never get there,” I used to think.

And I’m still not there.  But I’m closer, which seems ironic given that the older I get, the more I know that I’m set in my ways.  Loving myself seems like harder work than ever, and yet more important than ever.

Here is what I know, now:

I love intentions over resolutions, revelations over regret, and magic over mayhem.

The days when I set an intention in my heart, and keep it close, are usually the days when I am better able to spot miracles.  The days when I’m better able to manage any calamity, work or otherwise, that comes my way.  The days when I am more present. Present for the most part, but still me.  (Which FYI could mean “Freaking out Sam.”  I’m still human.  If I didn’t admit that I still freak out ALL OF THE TIME over LOTS OF DIFFERENT THINGS than eventually the jig would be up.  Somebody would find me out.  Or SHL would rat me out!).     Never!

But it is within this groove of self-love that I find intentions sprouting from my heart organically.  As I did some loving yoga stretches the other day, after three days in bed with a cold and feeling icky, I stopped mid-stretch and thought, “I love you, you.” WHAT?!  It kind of came out of nowhere and took me by surprise.  Throughout the last 3 years I’ve very much wanted to love every single inch of me, especially the part of my body where the tumors reside, but that seemed impossible.  How can you love your liver when you have liver melanoma?  But when you change the way you see things, the things that you see change.  I suddenly realized that my liver is, thank g-d, still functioning well.  I started to see that gratitude leads to insight which leads to confidence which leads to learning to love yourself for exactly who you are today.  And while this may sometimes feel like climbing a very steep, very scary mountain, the hard work has its benefits.

I guess my intention is to see the good.  The view from up here is beautiful.  And while I know it won’t be my view every day, today I cherish it and accept its beauty in the moment for what it is.

Life.

XOXO.

Sunrise

 

 

 

There Always Is

0

Dear G-d,

How are you?  Does anybody ever ask you that?  I know it’s usually about how we are.   Anyway it’s Sam here (chuckle, I know you know who it is), coming at you from zip code 02052.  Just wanted to say thank you for the good stuff this year.  Yeah I mean, a lot of things really sucked or felt scary in 2016 (Brexit, Syria, talk about building a wall?  Really?  David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Alan Rickman, Alan Thicke, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds… TRUMP?).  But there were some good things, too, of course.

But first:

I will not compare my suffering to the atrocities that have gone on around the world, but I’d like to reflect on what kind of a year it has been for me, personally.  Is it selfish of me to talk about that G-d, when there is so much turmoil, division and fear in the world?  I pray for those who need our help, and I pray that I will figure out a way to be some kind of light in the world.  Can I pray for myself, too?  That’s OK, right?

This year I had 7 sets of scans and 6 of them showed growth or suspicious looking things in my liver.  I had 3 surgeries (almost 4 but was woken up from the anesthesia as the surgery could not be done), and countless doctor’s appointments.  Blood, IV’s, the waiting, the waiting… The waiting.  There was a lot of fear this year, a lot of unknown.

I’ve learned some really hard lessons this year, G-d, and I suppose I should start with that, because it’s always nice to end on a high note (that’s why SATC went off the air after 6 seasons).

Anyway, I didn’t ask for these lessons, but we never really do, huh?

I have learned that the dark and stormy days are just as bad as you think they will be, and you can’t sugar coat the bad stuff.  The stuff of life.  But I’ve learned that leaning in to the suffering, at least a little bit, can actually help to release some of the fear.  I’ve learned that I’ll probably always be afraid but also, it’s cool to live for today.  And if you don’t know what to do, sleep on it.  I totally learned that this year.

I have learned that some fractured things stay fractured.  Some things unravel and never get tied back up again.  Other things slowly form their way back to some kind of normal semblance and you can’t imagine how you ever got through that tangled web of difficulties.

But you did.

I’ve learned that fear can be felt in all different parts of the body, not just the stomach and the heart, but even the tippy toes.  Fear can live everywhere, and if you don’t learn how to manage it, it can take over your life.

But then I found the mantra, “Everything I need, I already have,” and it kind of changed my life.  I wanted to believe that you and the universe (are you one and the same?) had my back, but I was stuck between being afraid to think anything was certain, and the painful uncertainty of life. Stuck between some strong magical thinking, and a body that I did not know (or understand).

Somehow, learning to stay in the realm of hope, living right underneath it (for the most part), and having a sense of humor combined with the warm comfort of spirituality and love, can heal.  Oh yes it can.

At the end of December we tend to think of past years, saying goodbye to the old, rejoicing in the rebirth of the new.

I remember ushering in 2013 with SHL and friends, feeling as though that was going to be the year that we got our baby.  Instead, I got cancer.

I’ve never been a resolution kind of girl.  I just don’t see how all of a sudden I’m going to stop craving chocolate and start craving 5am workouts between 11:59pm on December 31st, and 12:00am on January 1st.

I do the best I can every day.  Some days I really “mess” it up, and other days I nail it with such gusto I feel like I should be on the cover of a magazine.  Most days I’m somewhere in between.

(Another thing learned in 2016 is that “mess” is actually just life.  So you either embrace it and live your truth, or you miss out BIG TIME).

A friend recently sent me an email from a motivational blogger with some intriguing questions with which to look back on the year, and to set some intentions for the coming year.  One of the things that she asks is:  “What do you want to let go of?”

I thought long and hard about this one.  I’m not a hoarder per se, but I do still have some birthday cards that my 3rd grade teacher has sent to me over the years, a signed baseball that an old Minnesota Twins player gave me at Fenway Park back around 1986, and an old broken necklace that I never got fixed and is totally out of style, but I just can’t bear to get rid of.

Here is what I do want to let go of:

  • Self-loathing
  • Carrying around responsibility that everything I eat, drink do or say has caused my cancer.  Carrying around the “It’s my fault” clause.
  • Fear of heights, but only for the good stuff like going on a hot air balloon ride.
  • Control.  Especially of my spouse.  It grows out of anxiety and now that I know that, I am finding it a little bit easier to let go (and admit).  But it’s hard, and I’d like to try and continue working on this.
  • The “little things.”  I’m constantly aware of this (while giving myself some space on it; just because I have cancer doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes want to give somebody the finger for some silly little reason), and I think it needs to stay on the list for 2017.  Dishes in the sink, getting mad when I let somebody into traffic and they don’t thank me (SHL says not to do it for that reason, but it’s just a pet-peeve of mine!), people not doing what I think they should be doing at work.  Get.Over.It.  Focus on the “bigger stuff.”
  • The “mean girl.”  I was never a bully as a kid, so why would I bully myself as an adult?
  • The thought that I can’t do something.  I hate when people tell me that I can’t do something (“You may only live for _ many years.”  What do you know?!  Or  “You can’t pass this math class.”  Well looky here, I just got a B).  And yet, I tell myself that I can’t do things all the time.  “You’re not (fill in the blank) so you can’t do it.  I”m tired of telling myself that I can’t do something.  There are only limitations if you believe that there are limitations (thank you for the reminder M!).

So no resolutions.  Instead, intentions.  This is what speaks to me and has in 2016. So here is what I intend for 2017:

I intend to start every day with a fresh, clean slate.

I intend to believe in myself and my capacity for greatness.

I intend to keep tapping into my potential.

I intend to love greatly, deeply, and authentically.

I intend not to hold back on life.

I intend to say YES to things that I want to do, and NO to those that I don’t (within reason).

I intend to write, speak my voice, help others, share my wisdom and my faults/mistakes/lessons learned.

I intend to stay healthy.

I intend to continue tapping into all the happiness that is available to me.

I intend to live in the light.

I intend to keep singing show-tunes around the house, in the car, at work…

I intend to never stop sneezing the “Kobrick Sneeze.”

I intend to eat a hot fudge sundae any damn time I want.

I intend to eat a rainbow of healthy foods in between the ice cream sundaes.

I intend to move my body.

I intend to help others.

I intend to vacation/travel the hell out of 2017.

I intend to live with hope.  (That’s so my jam. Wonder if that term will still be popular in 2017?).

I intend to be the best wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, social worker, and cancer advocate that I can be.  This doesn’t mean striving for perfection, this means living my truth.  In this way, I will be good for those that I love, and good for myself.

I started to make a list of all of my blessings and all of the fun that I had in 2016 which immediately put me in a better state of mind about what I had deemed as a really crappy year.  Maybe you should try it too!  Here is my list…

Thank you 2016 for the girls sleepover with my camp friends, Ireland with my Mom, Spain and Morocco with SHL, surprising A for her birthday, being in Miami w/ M, forming really beautiful new friendships, loving my old friends, going to the beach with my nephew, having my brother sit with me for my first treatment this year, finding gratitude confetti, having the time off work to deepen my spiritual practice, meditation, my spiritual teachers (Kris, Gabby, Glennon, Deepak Chopra, and lots more), meeting Geralyn Lucas (a-mazing), applying skin masks with my cousin (thank you for living over a Sephora!), feather tattoos (also courtesy of my cousin), street tennis, the best Mexican brunch ever, finding the Super Woman pose and doing it w/ my Mom whenever things get stressful, the love and snuggles that I receive from my kitties, SHL’s US citizenship, sitting on the Schwartz Panel for Compassionate Care, speaking to Jimmy Fund fundraisers, getting a piece published on the Dana-Farber blog, nurturing my relationships with the ever-amazing Cancer Hope Network (Hi Sarah!), going to NH for my birthday with SHL and having him serenade me on the street with a random guy’s guitar, all of the beautiful flowers and care packages sent to me during my recoveries, finding the joy in adult coloring books, all of the abudance of love and generosity by those who support our Team Lozier Mini-Golf Fundaiser (raised over $14,000 this year!  Major props to you guys, my parents, and to Josh & Katie at Dana-Farber/Jimmy Fund who help us so much!), gratitude to SHL for cooking so many delicious meals for me (who knew I married such a little chef?), game nights with new friends (who me, competitive?), red lipstick, Red Sox, cozy socks, my first (and last) wheat-grass shot…

And last, but never least, I am so grateful for the immunotherapy that I am receiving at Dana-Farber.  I am grateful that it seems to be helping, I am grateful that I can get the treatment, and I am grateful for my doctors, nurses, and everybody who gives of themselves at Dana-Farber.

You know what’s so cool, G-d?  As soon as I started to think about the GOOD in 2016, all of those awesome things just came rushing back!  And the bad just kind of took a back seat while I got to relive some of the light-filled stuff.  Huh, there was more than I thought.

There always is.

Wishing you all a bright, love-filled, super healthy and amazingly happy New Year. Bring it on 2017!

Peace, love, health, gratitude confetti, unicorns, green juices, ice cream sundaes, miracles, feathers, ladybugs, warriors, and love.

Sam XOXO

Thinking about the joys of 2016, here are some of the “Greatest Hits:”

 

 

 

Warrior, Ladybug Sightings, and the Lotus

2

Here is my most recent Team Lozier email update:

Dear Team Lozier,

Yesterday we learned that Carrie Fisher (i.e. Princess Leia) passed away. I like Star Wars but I must admit, I was more familiar with her work from When Harry Met Sally (one of my all-time favorite movies).  She had an interesting (and very often difficult) life. (Now there was somebody who colored outside the lines).

She was kind of a badass, right?

And the epitome of light and darkness, like all of us.

We all knew Princess Leia as a Princess and a Warrior, wouldn’t you agree? Which got me to thinking about how we see ourselves and how the world views us.  Do they ever match up to be one and the same?

I began to wonder about the toughness and grace that somebody must show to be deemed both a Warrior and a Princess. I wondered about the word “Warrior” so I looked up its exact definition, which is this: “A brave or experienced soldier or fighter.”

Hmmm.

Then I looked up “brave” and found this: “Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.”

What is the difference between courage and bravery, I wondered? Hi-ho, hi-ho, back to Google I go…

Courage: “The ability to do something that frightens one. Or strength in the face of pain or grief.”

I could have looked up “strength” but I decided to just leave it at that. :)

But strength is a tough one, isn’t it? What’s strong to me may not be strong to you, and vice versa.  Is it “strong” to work through cancer treatments?  Is it weak not to?  Is it “strong” to get up and get out of bed every day when you have cancer?  What is your alternative?  (Not a good one, certainly).

I would like to be both a Warrior and a Princess I think, but for different reasons. If I was a princess then perhaps I could live in a castle and have my iced latte brought to me every morning with just the perfect amount of ice or… Off with your head! I would like to be a warrior because I think that would be much more exciting and fulfilling.

Then I thought about who I know, and how many of those people have faced adversity, challenges, and the ups and downs of life. I see that we’re all brave in some capacity.  And, if you’ve never been afraid or have never shown courage, then could that be a signal that you’re never really out of your comfort zone? And who knows what goodness lies there?

And speaking of comfort zones, I am never more out of mine than when I wait for test results (but who isn’t?).

I had my scans on Friday; the first since I began this immunotherapy treatment. The date had been on the calendar for months and as the day got closer, my fear started shoving against the door the way those monsters do.  “Let me out!” it kept saying repeatedly.

I had been using all kinds of tools to cope with the fear– mostly healthy ones– like seeing friends, taking long walks, and meditating (the unhealthy one may have been the amount of brownies that I consumed leading up to this appointment!). Also talking sometimes about the fear helps too, and sometimes just being with it silently helps as well.

Then, kind of out nowhere, I had this revelation:

When we completely avoid suffering, it only makes our fear that much worse. Whatever we’re afraid of lurks in those dark corners, but we spend so much time trying to push it out of our minds that we can never really be present in our own lives. (Also sometimes we just have to push it aside in order to be able to get out of bed every morning.  Nobody can face their suffering 24/7).  A few weeks before my doctor’s appointment I thought about the Thich Nhat Hanh book that I read a few years ago entitled “No Mud No Lotus.” The second I looked that horror in the eye and acknowledged my worst fear, it retreated– just a little bit.  Like, for a second.  That second was one of the best moments of my life.

But, like all human beings, we fear and we struggle and we try to make reason of things, and those “one second revelations” are hard to maintain because well, we’re human. I practice– a lot– the way that I talk to myself.  Am I beating myself up or letting myself “off the hook?” (Which really means just loving myself, “flaws” and all). I practice forgiveness (of myself and others), but also try to get the “ick” out of my life when it shows up. And I practice being aware of all of the abundance in my life.  “I have all that I need and more” is a mantra that I use when the monster under the bed wants to play.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.  And other times, I let that monster come out just so I can look it in the eye and admit the truth that something very real exists.  It does not mean anything other than that; it exists.  But I think admitting that is part of learning to live with grief. And other times I just ignore it completely in order to continue on and not lose my mind.

The waiting for test results I can only relate to torture. Bamboo shoots under the nails ain’t got nothing on this. I can’t quite put into words how difficult it is to go home after having scans (trying to read the technologists face even though they’re not allowed to say a peep) and wait– this time for 4 days– to hear what the doctor will say.  Are the tumors shrinking?  Are they growing? (Sometimes they say that they get worse before they get better).  There were so many tumors there when I first started my treatment, are there any more? Have they spread anywhere else?  Will I make it to my 40th birthday in March? Seriously– these are the things that go through your mind while you wait.

I start sweating. Through the night I wake up drenched in sweat, often having strange dreams where people tell me that they’re “very worried” or just crowded nightmares where I’m trying to run away from something bad but my legs are like concrete.

Sean and I went to the Berkshires this past weekend just to try and give ourselves a little reprieve from it all; the snowboarding (him) and reading by the fire (me) and eating nice meals (us) was a nice distraction from it all (as much as it could be).

I was up for 3.5 hours yesterday morning before I got to talk to my doctor. Some of the longest and hardest hours of my life.  It seemed like this would be a big appointment, waiting to see if there is any indication that the medicine may be working yet.

It is.

The tumors are stable right now. There is one that they are watching because it has changed a little bit and so that is of concern, but I will be scanned again in another couple of months and if it continues to change than we’ll deal with it then.

 We’ll deal with it. If we have to, we’ll deal with it.

In the meantime, it was the first time in a year that we have gotten good news.  From last December 2015 up until now, every appointment has been either “We see something suspicious and we’re watching it” or “We need to do something like surgery or immunotherapy” or “There are more. Lots more.”  Eight sets of scans since last December, and this was the first in a year where I heard the word “Stable.”  I’ve never loved a word as much as I did when I heard it yesterday.

(This one to watch isn’t “good” of course, but all things considered, you can’t get too much better than this report).

The practice, the meditation, the body and mind visualizes, the prayers, the self-love, the suffering, all lead me to here. The spirituality that I have found since being diagnosed with cancer has, in a way, saved me almost as much as the medicine.  Because if you can’t cope, then how can you let the medicine help you fight?

Speaking of miracles, many of you know that I believe in things like lady bugs, feathers, and gratitude confetti.

A few days before, as Sean and I were packing for the Berkshires, I found a ladybug on the blanket on the end of my bed! Many of you probably know that lady bugs are good luck, but my friend Marla and I also believe that when we see a lady bug it is her sister Lisa who passed away a few years ago watching over us.

(This is what one website says about lady bugs: The appearance of a Ladybug heralds a time of luck in which our wishes begin to be fulfilled. Higher goals and new heights are now possible. Worries begin to dissipate. New happiness comes about. This insect also cautions not to try to hard or go to fast to fulfill our dreams. Let things flow at their natural pace. In the due course of time, our wishes will all come true. Alternatively she could be signaling that you can leave your worries behind and that new happiness is on its way. This species of beetle signals you to to not be scared to live your own truth. Protect your truth and know that it is yours to honor.)

Live your own truth! You can handle the truth! 

OK, lady bug a few days before doctor’s appointment, duly-noted. Then in the Berkshires I see another ladybug sitting right on my night table!  Sean says he just found it on the bed and put it there.  Two?  In winter?  Whoa.

Then as we’re packing to come home I find ANOTHER one! (I know it was a different one because this one was a deeper red with more spots than the other one).  What?  THREE?  And when we get home, the lady bug that I had originally seen on my blanket had found its way to my night table there too!  Three lady bugs and four sightings!

Kind of amazing, right? Between the lady bugs, my new-found understanding of getting a little bit closer to suffering to live a more present life, and the way that my meditation practice has been comforting me, I felt like I was (I am) on to something.  Out from the murky waters of the mud comes the lotus, remember?  Sometimes getting there is so painful, but the more I let myself authentically roll around in the awful, disgusting mud, the more beautiful and hard-earned the lotus seems when it arrives.

But I can’t give all the credit to lady bugs, my meditation practice, or all of the prayers that go out there to g-d and the universe (though g-d and the universe get a lot of props and so do you for praying for me as well). I also have to give some love and credit to the immunotherapy which is helping me to kick some serious cancer ass, as well as to my doctors and all doctors, researchers, scientists, and donors who have made creating these medicines and having them available to the public possible. Gratitude!

And so I leave you with this my friends: It is OK to make your health and happiness a priority. In fact, it is your birthright. 

We are all Warriors, Team Lozier.

With hope, love, gratitude, feathers, gratitude confetti, and lady bug sightings,

Sam xoxo

Becoming The Flower

2

“When we know how to suffer, we suffer much, much less.”  ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

The other morning I “invited my fears to tea.”  (Well, coffee, but I’ll get to that in a moment). I had heard Kris recommend doing this many times, but had never really understood it– or practiced it– until that particular morning.  I was driving to work and all of a sudden I felt like I was going to have an anxiety attack.  My heart started to slowly beat faster and faster and it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest.  Tears started to well up in my eyes and I asked myself, “How much waiting and unknown can one person take?”  Living with cancer isn’t just about living with cancer, it’s also about living with treatments and scans and tests and doctor’s appointments and doctor’s faces and doctor’s voices and all of the little nuances that only we as patients (or family members) pick up in the inflection of their voices.  We don’t yet know how well my treatments are working (though I stay very positive that I am kicking some serious cancer ass) and that waiting and wondering is starting to take its toll on me.

(And also, I don’t like tea.  I wish I did, I know it’s so healthy for you and have you tried this kind of tea and that kind of tea and there’s GREEN tea and BLACK tea and on and on.  It’s like when you tell people that you don’t like fish.  Oh, but have you tried it this way and that way?!  I DON’T LIKE TEA.  Instead, I will invite my fears to have an iced soy latte with me.  Now that, I can get on board with).

The first thing Kris says to do is not try not to get hysterical, but to open your heart, breathe, and listen.  It sounds utterly ridiculous when you’re in the throws of believing that death could be just around the corner, but I tried it that morning anyway.

First, I just took a deep breath.  I didn’t ask my fears to go away, I didn’t try to sweep them under the rug, and I didn’t interrupt my fear like I often do.  What was it saying?  What was it trying to tell me?

Next, I decided to figure out if my fear was constructive or destructive.  OK fear are you real?  Of course.  Are you silly?  No, you’re totally reasonable.  Can I just not react to this fear?  Heck no.

I felt slightly embarrassed by my behavior.  Not cool.  Get it together before you walk in that door at work.  What triggered this anyway?  I have my reasons.  But instead of feeling shame– like all of my spiritual talk was just a talk and not a walk– I let myself just feel plain old f*cking scared.  All of a sudden I didn’t want to be alone, and I thought about who I could call.  But then I decided that fear and I actually needed to just have a little 1:1 without an interruption; this way, I reasoned, maybe fear would see that I could face it head on and be more apt to go away quicker.

Remember that gremlin, the one who you let out of the closet and tried to show whose boss?  Here it is again.

Only I wish that my monsters were all the makings of a child movie like Monsters Inc., where really the monsters are just doing their job and inside they’re all funny and squishy and happy.  And really, they would never hurt you.

I grounded myself.  Today is Monday, December 19th, I thought to myself, and I’m going to work.  “I have all that I need and more.”  It’s such an overwhelmingly complex balance between keeping yourself grounded, spiritual, and grateful, and just wanting to turn around, drive home, and get under the covers and truthfully enough, never get out of bed again.  Cancer does this; it brings our fears right out into the spotlight where it’s hard to ignore them.  It makes us feel small, ashamed, and yet sustained in the miracle of life all at once.  It is so complicated!

Normally I could try to “take action” as Kris suggests; I find that writing or exercising at a time of deep anxiety can help, but I was in the car.  So I thought of abundance instead.  I thought, “I have all the makings of a good day.”  Kind of like having the ingredients to make a stellar meal for yourself.  Now you just have to actually create it.

I also thought, “You’re totally allowed to feel shitty.”  Ahhh… Permission granted.

To end, Kris reminds us that “love is greater than fear.”  For a long time I didn’t really understand this and maybe I still don’t, completely.  I thought it meant that I had so many people in my life who love me (and I them) that it would outweigh fear like on a see-saw or a scale.  But then I realized what she meant was that I actually love myself.  Yes sometimes my spiritual side gets dizzy and falls over and can’t stand upright, like a naughty colleague at a Christmas party.  But through my meditation practice, I have been learning how to do that just that:  Love myself.  Accept myself.  Tumors, muffin top, red itchy eye, and all.  These are not necessarily “flaws.”  This is just me.  And as Kris reminds me every night in my meditation practice, “I will not abandon myself, NO MATTER WHAT.”

Being spiritual does not mean that I can ever master having cancer.

Nobody really ever could.

And perhaps without this fear, I would not have come to realize that being spiritual and practicing being in the here-and-now cannot ever really– totally– erase our rational fears as human beings, nor is it supposed to.  But we can practice!  And so I do.  I open my heart to self-care, forgiveness, and trying not to judge others.  But– this does not mean that we will always get it “right!”  It doesn’t mean that we won’t ever get angry or say things that we’ll regret (as I did the other night to SHL.  I didn’t know where to put all my fear so I took some and threw it at him).  It doesn’t mean that we’re able to go back to our practices every single time we’re upset or angry or sad and feel fine in a matter of minutes.

What does it mean?  I’m still working on it.  But here is what I have so far:

It means that you love yourself and others.  Yes I’m stubborn and quirky and talk too much and eat brownies when I’m stressed out or nervous, but I can still love myself!  I’m working on this self part but this I know for sure:  I love others.  I love you.  I love our planet, animals, stars, moon, sun, and sky.

It means that I bow to the light that I see in you, and I am grateful that you bow to the light that you see in me as well.

And then this.  This, amazing, awe-inspiring, totally awakening lesson:

I think about the book that I read a few years ago, “No Mud No Lotus” by Thich Nan Hahn who teaches us that we unless we actually face that fear of suffering head-on, we can never really be alive and present in our own lives.

You see, we try to cover our suffering up with all kinds of things:  Technology, food, materialistic things, and this is exactly what I have been trying to do.  Avoid suffering at all costs.

I don’t know how to handle the suffering.

I’m afraid to suffer.

What if I never stop suffering?

But he says:

“There can be no lotus flower without the mud.”

The lotus symbolizes a re-birth if you will.  A beautiful image that needs to grow out of the dark, murky waters.

This, I believe, is everything.  A game-changer.  A way to finally set my mind free. A way to understand that the pain actually feeds the flower; the way that after a flower wilts, it becomes the compost, which then becomes the flower again.

XO.

no-mud-no-lotus