Sunday, March 18, 2018

Stupid Things

When I get stressed and depressed, I do stupid things.

This past week, I was fighting a bad case of the early spring grays, and pushing forward anyways as I tend to do. I don't like being depressed, and a large part of me thinks the best way to deal with it is to ignore it and hope it goes away on its own.

Tuesday morning, I was driving into work, and decided to take a new route. Along the route is an almost blind intersection where it merges with a busier road - an intersection I know is deceptive because of the number of cars I've almost hit as they blasted through it.

Tuesday morning, it was me doing the blasting. I don't know what I was thinking, mostly I wasn't. I approached the intersection, checked my mirror, the cars LOOKED far enough back, so I floored it. I ended up OK. The car behind me beeped their displeasure at my reckless move; I'm pretty sure the only reason they didn't cream me was they were fond of their car's front end in its current condition.

Immediately, remorse set in. My face reddened, and I started berating myself. It was a stupid maneuver, and I was lucky to drive away with my car intact. All true.

But then, I started to look underneath, to try to figure out what drove me to such a stupid stunt - I DO know better... I didn't get real far before I got into the office, and work stuff silenced my inner voice. I went down to work out at my usual time. Tuesday was a kata day.

Back when I was learning karate, my instructor told me katas were a kind of moving meditation. I smiled and nodded to his face, but scoffed inside. No way - katas were tiring and hard to remember - not meditation stuff at all. Time has taught me he was right. Repetition has smoothed the path so the sequence of motion is part of muscle memory. Accessing muscle memory demands your brain be there in the moment. At the same time, as I move, part of my mind goes where ever my mind goes when it solves problems.

Tuesday, it went to the source of my depression. I can't tell you what it found, because I don't remember, but as I finished the final cool-down sequence, I felt a tight band around my heart loosen and fall away.

Let it go, let it be. This, too, shall pass. Breathe. Know you are loved.

With the band went my self-recrimination and blame. It WAS a stupid stunt, but I forgave me - on the condition that it never happen again.

This time, I got lucky, my stupid maneuver cost me nothing. (I haven't been so lucky in the past.) Next time, I'll try to listen sooner - and avoid doing the stupid thing in the first place. (You think?)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Early Spring

This time of year always tries my patience. I think winter should be over. No more gray and cold days where the sky vies with the trees to see who can be the most monochrome. It should just be spring already. I want the cool-warmth of sunshine when I walk outside. I want it to be too warm to wear my jacket - every day. I want to get out and start playing in the dirt.

Patience is not now and never has been my long strong suit - my children can attest. This time of year is a good teacher for me; a good reminder to look for the signs of the quickly-approaching renewal of spring.

The signs are there. My grass, which was still a uniform brown two weeks ago, is now turning green. The sprouts from the seeds in my butterfly garden are starting to poke their noses through their insulating blanket of soil.

The light is almost back. I no longer need to give my headlights a workout both on my way into work and on my way home. It is still light as I begin to cook my dinner.

And the trees - this is one of my favorite times of year to watch the trees (especially on those days when the sun deigns to make an appearance). At first glance, yes, they are wearing their winter gray. But look closer and you'll see the tips of the branches swelling, ready to burst with spring's new crop of leaves. As I look down the street, I marvel at the faint green aura they wear. Barely perceptible, but there. The days warm up, and the leaves unfurl. The days cool (like today), and they retreat as far as they can back into their cores, hiding from the cold.

Patience, the season tells me. Spring will be here before you know it.
Stop for a moment. Breathe the scent of new growth. Relax your shoulders - the light is returning.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Right Time to Die

Just a month or so after we buried my Aunt Florence, my dad's oldest brother, my Uncle Ed, died. I never really connected with him, though he was a good man, and so didn't get out to his funeral in Colorado Springs. With these deaths, and the anniversary of Maria's funeral fast approaching, dying has been on my mind.

If given my first preference, I'd die of a heart attack in my sleep at 84 years of age, but I'm rarely given my first preference. However, what I'd really like to do is die at the right time of the year.

The right time of year to die is in the dark of winter. It's cold, it's quiet and it's dark, and I can picture myself closing my eyes for the last time, spiraling down in the darkness to join the trees and flowers in peaceful sleep. All is well, says the quiet of winter. Sleep, my child, rest peacefully. You have done your work well, and your work is done.

The right time of year to die is in the midst of spring's transformation. The world is shedding its mantle of gray and brown, and taking on a new cloak of green and delicate blues and purples. The birds return with their morning songs, welcoming the new day and the returning warmth. It's the perfect time of year to transform oneself, and I can picture myself shedding my mantle of worn and tired flesh, and taking on a new cloak of whatever it is that will be. Rise up, my child. Rise and join in singing a new verse of the song of Life.

The right time of year to die is in the heat of summertime. It's hot and the sun shines fiercely in the vivid blue sky. I can picture myself, worn and tired, leaving behind death's chill to bask in the warmth of Love. Come, my child, rest in the arms of the Universe who has loved you all along.

The right time of year to die is in the blazing glory of the colors of fall. The days are cool and the trees herald winter's sleep by letting go of their green garments and revealing the bright reds and oranges and yellows beneath. I can picture myself, letting go of all I've known to see what was there all along, but hidden from my eyes. Awake, my child, and see what comes after all you've known so far.

Yes, if it's at all possible it could be arranged, when it comes my time to die, I'd like to die at the right time of year.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Cancaversary 6-3-1

Six years ago, I was enjoying the trip of a lifetime. Six years ago, I had a double mastectomy, followed by eighteen months of mental fog brought on by that damn shot (the hormone treatment I was given in lieu of traditional chemo).

Three years ago, Kate was poised to graduate. She had a job lined up in California, she was ready to write her thesis. Three years ago, she had a double mastectomy, followed by chemo and a bunch of months of chemo brain which left her unable to think well enough to write her thesis.

One year ago, Libby was living her normal life. Kids, husband, house, job. One year ago, Libby had chemo, followed by a double mastectomy, followed by chemo.

Cancer has a way of disrupting plans.

But we are still here.

Libby's cancer came roaring back during the recent holidays, but the brain tumor was operable, and they pulled it out and gave her more good days. She is on chemo (again!) to quash the spot they found in her lungs. No guarantees, of course, but when I last saw her, she had managed to conquer her fear, and is making the best use she can of the days she has. (My fingers are crossed. I am willing her chemo to work again, to chase the demon away - far, far away! Go, Libby!)

Kate's cancer has stayed away, and her brain was finally able to dispel the fog after about eighteen months. She left Minnesota, took the California job which was still waiting for her, got back to work and finished her thesis last month. She defended it last week, almost exactly three years after she first planned the defense. Congratulations, Dr. Kate!!!!!

And my cancer is still bay, near as I can tell. Dreams of resuming my trip are starting to resurface; I've been spending time mulling what they look like now. Another camper van? A different (less expensive) type of camper? Travel overseas? Some combination of the above?

Cancer has a way of sharpening focus.

Detours notwithstanding, we have all found the same silver lining in this disease.

We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, we are loved.

Good Is.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

February. Sunshine.

I long ago made my peace with February's bleak, cold and gray days. I learned to appreciate the beauty of the sleeping trees, revel in the sharp blue of the momentarily clear skies.

But this year, I decided to try a new tack.

My daughter moved to the Los Angeles area last spring. I was looking for work then, and couldn't get out there. Then the wedding and the new job happened, and I couldn't go then, either. Over the holidays, she was working to finish her thesis, and didn't need me there distracting her.

The holidays are past, the thesis is finished (?!!!), and so I made reservations to head on out to California for the first two weeks of February. When I got on the plane in Kansas City, it was in the lower thirties. When I got off that evening in Los Angeles, it was fifty-something.

Google maps did a pretty darn good job of guiding me up to her place. My theory of, when driving in six solid lanes of traffic, stay to the middle right, also served me well. (at six o'clock on a Saturday evening, the freeway was solid cars. That's a LOT of people with somewhere to go...)

And the next morning, I got up to a forecast of 75 and sunny. It gets down into the upper forties at night here, it IS February after all, but the days have been delightful.

Some days it's been downright warm.
Some days, it's been cool, but on those days, the sun has still beamed down, which makes for a delightful crisp, cool, warm feeling I love.

I still need to work during the day, I don't have any vacation time built up just yet, but I get to do it at the kitchen table, able to look out when my computer pauses to see the hills and the sunshine.

The trip has been good for my soul. It's been wonderful to finally get to see where my baby bird landed; to meet some of her friends, to get a sense of her days. It's been wonderful to walk in the sunshine at lunchtime; to feel the warmth on my face, to know the promise of the coming spring.

Stop.  Breathe.  Relax.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Just Say No to Fear

We got the news last week that Libby was back in the hospital with a clot in her lung, a pulmonary embolism.

Straight to Google I went - one of the top three causes for pulmonary embolisms is having surgery for brain cancer. **sigh**

Scary, yes.
But, but. But she got the care she needed in time, and after a few days in the hospital, they sent her home. At first, she was highly uncomfortable, but per her last message, the last day there she was just kind of bored.

I like bored. Bored is good. Bored means that no one is worried about how things are going to turn out. Bored means that you're not in a lot of pain, and your brain is awake enough to be seeking something to do. Bored means you can think. Bored is good.

While the return of her cancer first threw her, along with the rest of us, into a panic, she re-found her center after the surgery. Her mantras are mine: Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. All roads lead to the same place. All things living die in their turn.

At first, I was so angry at her cancer. But then, I stopped. Cancer is not the enemy; it is just a messenger. Fear. Fear is the enemy.

Cancer can't stop joy, but Fear can.
Cancer can't stop me from living the days I have as well as I can live them, but Fear can.
Cancer can't stop me from seeing the beauty I've always been able to find when I look, but Fear can.

And while I can't do anything about Cancer, I can do something about Fear. (The one thing I can control in this world is my reaction to what happens in the world around me.)

When I can deny Fear its power, it's ever so much easier to see the Good around me.

I don't like the road Fear takes. It is dark and scary and large spooky things jump out at me unexpectedly from behind rocks and trees, making my heart pound and my breath quicken. The road is shadowy, indistinct, out of focus. Sight lines are limited, it is hard to see where I am going.

When I manage to tell Fear to take a hike, the going is ever so much easier. It's actually the same road, but when you're not traveling with Fear, the light is better. The shadows are just shadows. Because I am better able to focus, I'm less startled when the large spooky things lunge at me. I'm able to look at them and react (more) calmly and rationally. I can breathe. I can see the beauty in the rocks and the trees. I can see more clearly the road ahead.

I'm all about clear roads.
Good Is.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Goodbye, Aunt Florence

I waited too long, I missed my chance. I knew her health wasn't the best, so the next time I saw her, I was going to ask my Aunt Florence if she'd tell me some stories about what it was like growing up, the only girl in a family of nine children. That's right, eight brothers.

She died just a few days after this picture was taken, just before New Year's. Among her many ailments (not that she was one to complain), her heart wasn't well, and near as they can tell, it gave out shortly after she got out of bed one morning. Her end was quick; she would have wanted it that way.

Tiny-framed and feisty, she was never one to take any guff. She left behind six of her eight children, a score of grandchildren and about that many great-grandchildren.

She had a faith I envy. Sure of her Lord, and her place in His house - I hope and pray she is safely there. She was one of those daily mass attending people. A daily dose of God, a matching dollop of time with her good friends, church was a home and a refuge for her.

I wish I would have known her better.

One of the problems with large families is that when you do get together, there tends to be fifty people around. Surrounded by people I grew up with, people I love, I get just a few minutes with each. How are the kids, what's up with work, how's the rest of the family? I love these potlucks, though I have to say our generation is not up to the standards set by our aunts when we were young, anything new in your life?

And about that time, my attention shifts to someone else I haven't seen for a while, and I move on. So many people, so little time. Usually I settle down with someone for a deeper conversation, for 20-30 minutes, but given that I see them just once every year or two, we barely scratch the surface before the food gets packed up and everyone heads on out.

Still, a little time is better than none, and I remember my last conversation with Aunt Florence with fondness. It will have to be enough.

Rest in Peace, my dear.
Until we meet again...