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

 

Just Live

0

I just found myself chastising my every move– or should I say, lack of moves– wondering why I couldn’t stop staring at the falling snow outside my window.

I’m sitting here in my study where we have this nice lovely big window overlooking our backyard.  Snow is falling quietly.  In fact, the whole world seems so quiet right now, except for an occasional plow that goes by.  It is so calm and peaceful. Cancer has a way of diminishing the quiet, or at least it tries to.  I long to hold onto the feeling of serenity. I am by no means a “winter person” (hence my four years down at U of Miami) but I am trying to see the beauty in this stillness.  I know that later it may rain and freeze and then be big piles of brown inconvenience that everybody will slip and slide on, but for now, it is simply beautiful.  I can’t help but hum to myself “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”  Even though I don’t celebrate the holiday I can still appreciate the joy and the festivities, I suppose.

But I can’t seem to move.  I’m sitting here at my desk feeling sleepy, with a cup of hot cocoa in my hands (when I’m not typing) and I’m just kind of staring out into nothingness and not doing… Well, anything.  I say to myself, “Get your act together, Sam.  You have the whole day.  You’re in your workout clothes, just go do it.  Or hey the laundry needs to be done, the kitchen should be cleaned up, go upstairs and make the bed.  Why would you just be sitting here doing nothing?  If you’re going to do that, at least go to the couch and turn on the TV.”

What?!

How did I get here?  Who is this voice that is telling me it is far from OK to just sit in my chair sipping hot chocolate and doing absolutely nothing?  Is it just me, or are we in this kind of ongoing race that tells us our lives are only important and meaningful if we are busy every second of every day?

I for one am beginning to hate having the TV on.  Sometimes I just want the hushed sound of my heat cranking and the cats pitter-patter of their little paws on the hardwood floors.

I should read my book.  I should journal.  I should work out.  I should clean.  I should, I should, I should.

Today I resist the urge to listen to that little (mean) voice that tells me that simply doing nothing is a waste of time.

Today I go get a second slice of banana bread and go back to my chair and sit, silently but lovingly enjoying the stillness that only a winter snowstorm can bring.  It is as if g-d or the universe is saying “Slow down.  Enjoy nature.  Don’t do anything but be right now.”

The snowfall slows, and my heart feels let down.  It was the snow that opened my eyes to the joys of just being in the first place, and I don’t want it to go away so quickly.

I think: Perhaps we are afraid that if we slow down we will finally have a chance to hear our real voice, and in that, our real fears.  What would your mind and your heart and your gut actually say to you if you sat down to have a conversation with it, without your phone nearby?  Or the TV on?

Mine is saying:  Crap on a cracker.  You have a lot to be scared of.

I listen.  I don’t like it, but I listen.

Then I listen again.

“Live.”

That’s it.  We don’t know anything but today.  Live to your hearts content, but slow down and savor the most important connection of all; the one with yourself.  Living can mean being quiet.  Being still.  Doing nothing.

Go get that second piece of banana bread and just live.

XO.

The Funny Moon

0

In the stillness of not just rest and meditation but nature as well, I have been practicing how to expand my patience.  I want all things to be known, now; I cannot stand the thought of more waiting, less certainty, further scrutiny.

Patience.

My walks this autumn brought relief from wanting so much and knowing so little. A stretch in my body and soul, fresh air that felt freeing and a reprieve from the endless grief, fear, and numbness.  Often times I would cry as I would walk, releasing anything and everything that had ever built up inside of me, dating back as far as you can go.  It feels strange to say (words don’t come readily on how to describe it), but I felt like on these walks I was learning something about myself that I had never really known before.  I tested my body, walked up hills, took different streets for a change of scenery, waved to new neighbors, and sometimes just stuck my hands in my pockets, turned off my music, and did a 20 minute stroll around the block with just my thoughts.  Other days I could go for an hour, depending upon how my body felt that day, and I loved the afternoons returning home sweaty and exhausted, the cool fall air still stuck to the back of my neck.

Now that it has turned bitter cold here I haven’t had the guts to just bundle up and walk, and it feels harder to even do 10 minutes of yoga when you’re freezing and tired and just want to stay in bed all day– and the sun sets so early now.  I know that movement is always better, even if it’s not a “serious” workout; I proved that to myself the other day when I felt out of sorts and did a 20 minute yoga video at home.  A past wrist injury proved difficult to get me into downward dog but I still tried and when all else failed, went into child’s pose.  I always feel somewhat silly when I do yoga because I still judge myself, but in the end, I know that just moving my body was a cathartic thing to do.  Sometimes when you feel stagnant just getting the energy (chi) moving is a good thing.

It still amazes me, though I grew up in New England and knows the seasons, colors, and times like the back of my hand, how early the sky gets pink now.  In fact, as I write this at 4:15pm a purple haze has already taken over the cold blue winter palatte, and I know that soon it will feel like 10pm, not 5pm.  I dread it and do feel that I may have some kind of SAD (seasonal affective disorder), though in reality I think that most of us do.

A herd of deer dance across my backyard, and I pop up out of my writing chair so fast that my cat goes scurrying!  I watch them quietly (baby in tow) prance across our lawn and cross the street.  I am mesmerized just by deer.

It reminds me of a couple of weeks ago when I was driving into Boston with my Mom and a friend and all of a sudden at a red light we saw a goose looking to cross the street.  It looked confused but like it was going for it, and I panicked.  I am a huge lover of animals and always have been, ever since I was a little girl.  Before thinking and with my Mom calling out after me I jumped out of the car and stopped traffic so that the goose could cross the road.  It followed my directions like a “Make Way for Duckling” (and I was Michael the policeman) and I saw people in their cars chuckle as it watched the goose waddle its way across the busy street.  It made me smile to see people being patient, respecting nature, and not honking their horns or generally looking annoyed (as most Bostonian’s generally do while driving).

I know it’s quite dangerous to just stop traffic like that, but I just couldn’t stand the thought of the poor little goose trying to cross the street on its own, for what could happen?  As I herded it onto the sidewalk I could hear its family squawking (or whatever sound it is that a goose makes?) and I hoped that it would follow the path down to the water to meet them in time for dinner.  However the goose looked like it wanted to cross the street back again, despite my protests, so we called the police to ask them to check on the goose and make sure that it found its family safely.  In the meantime as the light turned green and we had to drive away I saw it shuffling down the sidewalk like a little old man out for its mid-day walk.

But I digress– these deer!  Six of them in total, all traipsing through our yard and then into the neighbors yard, probably in search of yummy plants to eat before bedtime (it’s only 4:15pm but I assume that the doe should be getting ready for bed soon, no?  Maybe it will read Make Way For Ducklings before settling in for a good nights sleep).  Nature at its finest.  Oh how I love the stillness of animals when they stop in their tracks, ears perked up, noses sniffing the air.  I love the things that I observe when I’m really present and Kris reminds me in her nightly meditations to be thankful for even the trees, the birds, and the animals.  And so I am.

I go into my sun room next, though the sun is setting, and light a candle at my meditation nook.  I think about abundance, and love, about certainly and uncertainty.  I think about finding a way to continue to live with the unknown of it all, separating my patience into a box marked “Things I Am Trying.”  I am trying to stay positive, trying to live in the now, trying to think of all that I do have, instead of focusing on what may be lacking.  “I have all that I need” (“and more”) is a loving and soothing mantra to lull yourself to sleep with.

The moon is out now, and it looks just like an advertisement for that musical “A Little Night Music,” where the moon is hanging low against a backdrop of bare branches and just utter– beautiful– winter stillness.

I see the man on the moon and it looks like he is winking at me; perhaps reminding me that I am too much in my own head, too concerned with what will be or could be, with what others think, and the funny moon reminds me of my favorite line from my favorite movie, It’s A Wonderful Life, when George Bailey looks up at the moon and then into Mary’s eyes and says, “What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That’s a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the moon, Mary.

Mary: I’ll take it. Then what?

George Bailey: Well, then you can swallow it, and it’ll all dissolve, see… and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair…”

I think about how gorgeous it would look to have moonbeams streaming from our limbs and light and energy and hope and abundance and all things loving and beautiful.

I think about abundance because I don’t want to think about fear anymore.

I think about what spring will bring, then breathe in and remember that today– today and the funny moon– are all that we have.

george-lassos-the-moon

#tbt Are We There Yet?

0

A little “Throwback Thursday” to my life after I moved back to Boston.  This is just before I met SHL and started two new jobs, and after kidney stones, being bed-ridden for two months over the summer with a bad back, cortisone shots, and problems with my eye.  Written on January 18th, 2008, from my previous blog, Breathing Under Water– Letting Go To Find Myself.  

Greetings from the land of one dazed and confused girl.  Apparently I’m a chicken and apparently I’ve been running and apparently I have no head to speak of.  Talk about all over the place– The last couple of weeks haven’t been that busy, but they’ve been busy enough that I missed a scheduled appointment this morning with my back doctor.  Just didn’t show up.  I opened up my calendar this morning at 10:17am and there it was, in bright purple:  10am with Dr. Limke.  SHIT!  I can’t remember the last time that I did something so flaky (Yes I have my flaws but forgetting important doctor’s appointments isn’t one of them!).  I suppose considering the fact I’ve been busier than I have in months I am definitely feeling the ramifications of what it’s like to be a real human being again.

I shouldn’t complain, I know:  After all, I have been begging the g-d’s above to turn me into a normal human being day after day.  And yet here I am, maneuvering the dating world, socializing with friends, traveling, and working my ass off in 2 jobs, and instead of being grateful for the hectic life I am leading, I am, simply put, exhausted.

They say that the busier you are, the more productive you become, but I’m still in the phase of needing 10 hours of sleep just because I have a job!  I’m not proud of it, but the truth is, I’ve become one hell of a lazy human being (the more pain you’re in and the more physically inactive you become, the lazier you feel) and now that I’m challenged again it takes an immense amount of effort just to get out of bed in the morning and tackle my to do list.

None of this diminishes the fact that I have a life once again and that I am beyond hopeful that this life will turn into something utterly fabulous (if it isn’t already).  Sure, it’s about the journey and not just the destination, but sometimes (come on) don’t we want to get there already?

I myself am often like a little kid on a long car trip, fumbling with my play toys in the back and itching to unwind myself from my seat belt and stretch my damn legs already.  “Are we there yet?” my brother and I used to whine to my parents on long car trips, and now I find that my manners are even worse as an adult.  Thankfully as a kid my parents were expert at keeping my brother and I entertained… And they always played games with us, even in the car.  But now that I am 30 there is nobody to entertain me, or occupy my mind, no big brother sitting next to me to bug, no games to play, no clock to tell us when we will arrive.

So I wander.  I wander and I try and I learn and I screw up and I do it all over again the next day.  I wonder if someday I will get to where I want to go, and then I wonder if I even know exactly where it is that I want to go.

But it has begun, my life here in Boston.  I am finally working, and not just working, but working my ass off.  I am challenged and stimulated and I can’t just nod my head and zone out:  I have to really pay attention!  I have people depending upon me, counting on me, believing in me that I am not the fraud I think I am but that I have some real kind of skill.  If they only knew, and I wonder what will happen when I am finally found out.  I imagine my world crumbling all around me, left with nothing but an empty bank account and people standing all around me laughing, like in a bad dream or something.

It is around this time of year that I also begin to feel tired and strange and messy and sad, and I know that it will happen like clockwork because my 6th month checkup with my surgeon is in just 10 days.

I am more predictable than I like to think, at least in terms of how I will feel each and every January and July.  I do better in between those months, even seeing my oncologist, though the MRI’s don’t really ever get easier.  And then, in other ways, I am not who I ever thought I would be; I seem to be having more fun and dating more and being way more open than I ever thought I would be (for example, dating a 24 year old).  Life doesn’t always have to be so serious, and it doesn’t always have to be measured with dollar amounts, or who we associate with, or what we decide to do with ourselves in our free time.

And “are we there yet?” can sometimes be the most fascinating question of all: The one that precipitates an opening up of our eyes, the one that tells us to look out the window at the scenery and to take a deep breath… the one that reminds us we are heading somewhere.

Goodbye drinks with friends in NYC in March of 2007, right before I moved to Boston… Now I know there is no “there,” it’s everywhere.  It’s you, it’s me, it’s now.  XOXO. 

goodbye-drinks-in-nyc

From Beginning To End

2

I had lunch with a friend the other day; she just had a lumpectomy for breast cancer and is awaiting her results.  She looked great and she maintains a positive and hopeful attitude and because she’s a bit older (71) says that she doesn’t feel she can complain.  She is confident that things will be OK but she says, she has lived a good life.  She says it is different for somebody younger like me, and she hopes that I have tons of years ahead of me, and of course, I do too.  But I gently remind her that just because of her age, she can still feel angry or sad or scared or maybe some other word that I can’t even think of.  She seems to generally be in a good place mentally and emotionally, but her ability to “take the hits” no matter what also reminded me that no matter our life circumstances, we’re all allowed to feel whatever comes up.  The key is to face it, feel it, and then get busy living.  (This doesn’t mean that those hard days won’t pop up.  We’re all living proof of that.  They don’t go away entirely, but I’ve learned the hard way that if you suppress them, they fester and grow and bleed, and can turn diabolical).  So… Get mad.  Have a good cry (hey I did it in the grocery store the other day).  Punch something (thanks CG for the mini punching bag that I now keep on my desk).  And then…. Breathe.

This lovely new friend gave me a copy of a book that her friend’s daughter-in-law wrote, a mystery.  She relayed an interesting conversation that had taken place between herself and the author not long ago, posing the question of how this woman even comes up with these ideas for her books (this is her 4th!).  Her answer is fascinating.  She says,  “I come up with the ending first, and then work my way backwards from there.”

I thought about that all the way home from lunch, wondering how I would draw my own life if I already knew the ending.  I think there is a reason why none of us have a crystal ball– with it could come good yes and excitement at what’s to come, but also maybe dread and ways that we would try to alter our every day life decisions and in the end maybe we wouldn’t work as hard for our lives, be as grateful, or wouldn’t be out best selves.

And isn’t half the fun of life the twists and turns of getting there?  (As I write this I gulp hard thinking at the stuff that life throws at you and how the turns are sometimes more fun than the twists).

But still, the thought of it kind of rocked my world.  Off the top of my head I thought of my life like a Norman Rockwell painting straight out of the Saturday Evening Post in the 1920’s.  I have no idea why, but I painted the end of my life in an outdoor scene where I’m about 100 years old sitting on a porch with my (97 year-old) husband who is smoking a pipe and the mailman has just walked up with a bundle tied with red ribbon in his hands and our dog nipping at his heels.   A porch, a mailman, a dog?  So what that SHL wouldn’t smoke a pipe or that we have a mailbox?

Perhaps this is just my brain fantasizing about having a “normal” life.

But what if we started from the end, and worked our way backwards?

I imagine the strokes I would paint; the light I would shine, unafraid of anything.

What would you want to feel, at the end?

For me, I’d want no regrets.  Adventure. I’d want love.  Tons and tons of endless sappy rose gold colored love.  The kind that makes your heart weep with happiness. Less work, unless it wasn’t stressful, and more fun.  Social connections– dinners, parties, conversations about the world, good food, good music, travel.  A sense of purpose, like I had helped people and made a difference in the world.  That I given SHL anything and everything that he ever could have wanted in a partner to share his life with.

What if we could infuse our lives with that passion and spirit for life RIGHT NOW that we would have if we knew the ending was going to be written tomorrow?

Regrets?  I have some, but most are from b.c. (before cancer) and I’ve grown from them and know that if I had the chance, I would do things differently (most of the things that I regret entailing me saying no to cool opportunities because I didn’t think that I was smart enough/thin enough/coordinated enough/talented enough to do whatever I was being asked to do).

When it comes to marriage or relationships in general, I think that most of us can work just a little bit harder to make sure that our partner feels fulfilled (after they fulfill themselves, of course). We can pick and choose our battles with them, we can raise them up instead of putting them down, we can show them love in their own “love language” (SHL makes me energy bites when I’m too tired and even toasts the coconut, and I fold his laundry).

And lastly: Have I made a difference, have I helped?  Did I carry out my purpose to make the world a better place, to love with abandon, to be myself?

Was I free?  Impulsive?  Did I throw my head back with laughter whenever I could?

Did I say YES?

I take the colors of the ending but leave the details for later, as it should be.  But as I go along I write my own story, my own chapters, my own meaning.  I will let nobody else write this for me.

I stand in the bright light of now, and all that life has to offer.

From beginning to end.