Archives for posts with tag: living

 

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I first came across the word “kintsukuroi” a few months ago in a blog that Tommy Rosen wrote. The pictures of these pieces of pottery were so beautiful, so much more interesting in every way. Not long after I read this article I had the first of several experiences that made me relate to this concept in my own way.

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Within a week, after reading this article, I was gifted a beautiful hand thrown mug by a client of mine who is a ceramicist. It is a vibrant burnt orange color, with glistening golden veins of lacquer running through it. It became my favorite coffee cup.

A few weeks later I was having an energy session with a friend and healer and we were discussing aging as women. She told me how beautiful and glowing I looked. (her words, not mine) She said, ” Although you look much younger than you are, I can see your strength and the wisdom of your years. I see your wrinkles, but your face glows as if the lines were filled with gold…”

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At Christmas, I received a most precious porcelain tea candle holder. A delicate lotus flower. Upon releasing it from it’s tissue wrapping, I discovered that a couple of petals had broken off. The woman who gave it to me was horrified, but I found it in keeping with a theme…

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Finally, a month ago, I knocked my new favorite cup over on my marble counter tops and the handle broke into three pieces. I could repair it, but not sure that I trust the handle would hold… best to just hold it firmly in my own two hands perhaps?

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If you break and repair a plate, or cup or bowl that has been broken, the surface area actually is larger wouldn’t you say? The glue adding more substance to fill the cracks.  A heart broken and reconstructed could conceivably hold more, albeit differently. 

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All of us are scarred and broken in some way. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Broken to different degrees, in varying numbers of pieces. I believe the defining factor in whether we will be stronger or be able to hold more in our beings is what we reach for to glue us back together.  My glues of choice are yoga and love. Not that too much wine or chocolate, or macaroni and cheese or sofa sessions of “Dexter” or “Breaking Bad” might not make it into the mix from time to time… But by and large my choices are healthy ones. That will make me resilient, not disconnected and closed. Wiser, but not suspicious and wary. May I always strive to repair myself with the honey of love, the liquid gold of my yoga practice.

 

Find your own golden lacquer and do your repair work mindfully, with attention to detail. And may we all find ourselves more beautiful for having been broken, with more to give. 

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“and we are so fragile

and our cracking bones make noise

and we are just

breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys.”

-Ingrid Michaelson-

 

on thursday november 14th , I went to the hospital and had my port removed. A port, is a device that is inserted under the skin, that the needle can be inserted directly into, rather than mess with your veins. Chemo can actually burn the veins (yikes!) and cause them to collapse… so the safer alternative is to install a port directly above your heart (?!?) where the toxic chemicals can be immediately and efficiently pumped through your whole body.   Mine was installed when I had my mastectomy, so when I woke up from surgery, there it was. My matrix borg port…being infused with the chemo kool aid…super sci-fi.   Apparently, they are not noticeable on most people, but I am leaner than most, so I looked like I was trying to smuggle a wire tap under my collarbone. Needles are never fun, but having one plunged into your chest every 3 weeks always mildly creeped me out to say the least. Then it becomes just a ritual that you are a part of, and now the day had come that I was to have the last invasive intruder removed from my body.  

I walked to the hospital as it was a beautiful day, and as we walked, I was overcome with the ride the last two years had been, and wept the whole way there. Thinking of all of the people who had surrounded me with love and then come and gone and moved on, and new troops to take their places. How all of the circumstances of my life had changed so dramatically, I hardly recognized it some days. Although I was not alone, it was my solo journey. My experience exclusively.

As I checked into the hospital, I realized this was my 3rd time there. I was even put in the same curtained cubicle to wait to be wheeled to surgery, with someone new beside me, but this time I was to be wide awake. It was a 15 minute procedure, so local anesthetic only and then I would go home….so wild. My crew came to get me and I was wheeled thru the labryinth of the hospital urging them to run faster so that we could get some speed in those long hallways. We entered the operating room, which has the climate of a walk in freezer, brightly lit, no mirrors on the ceilings and a super festive atmosphere. I was wrapped in the obiquitous warm blankets ( my favorite thing about all of my hospital time) and asked what kind of music I wanted to listen to on the pandora station. Someone had just sent me this amazing youtube clip of this woman dancing in the OR before she had a double mastectomy.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/06/breast-cancer-flash-mob-deborah-cohan_n_4227915.html

I mentioned it to the doctors, and they said if they had known before I had been prepped, they would have let me dance first!….as a concellation I listened to Beyonce’s “get me bodied” as they did the minor surgery. Hard for me to keep still. So cool to be awake in the OR, but my face was draped during the procedure, so I still don’t really know what goes on in there, they said they would have to kill me if I saw anything..so it ended up being a positive, upbeat and party like atmosphere. I requested one other song (Aural Float)  and then I took my port in a ziplock… ( I asked to keep it) and was taken to lunch at Bittercreek and then home. Done. Only the tiniest scar. Barely noticeable.  Then I crashed hard. Slept. Was taken care of and let it sink in that this part was over. Actually, all of it was over. It was a new time. A new place. A new life. Not like it was before. At all. No more doctors appointments, treatments, ct scans, mri’s, exrays, ultrasounds, emotional collapses from the fall out of chemo ( a separate blog…) just living and moving forward. May I not have to do this again, but if I do, I will, and I will know the drill. Now to be in this new place because of where cancer took me and yet not identifying myself as “a cancer girl” either. Living with an awareness, but not a fear. Being healthy and conscious with my eating, but not paranoid. Today is New Years eve, and a new untouched canvas lays before me. The brushes are already swirling in the paint…  

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two years ago last Sunday I was told that I had breast cancer. one year ago today, I had a mastectomy. and now on this same day, my dear sweet friend Carolyn, who spend a week with me after my surgery, feeding and taking care of me,  is having a service for her father who passed a week ago from cancer. and the wheel turns…

incredible how all of my stuff seems like life times ago. multiple life times ago, not just a calendar year.

have been reflecting on all of the change that has come for myself and those around me. it all feels fast forwarded and like it is picking up speed…keep wanting to say, “stop! can I just catch my breath for a minute? just WAIT please before anything else happens in my life…”

when I gave birth to my daughter it felt like that. the relentless, endless contractions. I was sure that if they would just stop and I could sleep for a couple of hours and then we could get back to it, and then I was sure that I would be able to give birth, no problem.  but to quote a friend of mine, “be ready. like life. once it starts it doesn’t stop….” 

a surgery. the ravages of chemo. healing. moving. reunited with a brother I had not seen in 15 years and feeling out that relationship as advanced adults. babies born to friends and new ones on the way. relationships I thought would always be there, shifting and drifting. some that had been periferal, being pulled to the forefront. climbing out of serious financial stress. losing clients I had depended on for a long time, other opportunities slowly manifesting. leaving a yoga studio I have been with since it’s doors opened and building my student base at 2 others. both of my parents with serious health issues I learned of within the same week. watching my parents get frail. watching my daughter move into her senior year in high school. college apps, financial aid paperwork, class schedules for the year. teaching thai massage trainings. exploring acro yoga with a dear friend who has been in town all summer. his third summer he has been here for. celebrating his birthday on the river. my daughter getting strep and having all 4 wisdom teeth out in less than 10 days. having most unexpected healing love appear in my life. 

the full spectrum of living, ever in play. there is nothing unique about my experience. this is being played out everywhere on the globe by everyone. birth and death, grief and love, change and possibility. relationships ending and beginning.  old ways of living and being, blown apart at the seams. hands forced to incite healthy change. second chances at a new life and sometimes just the inevitability that that life is ending and all you can do is make peace, give thanks and exit with as much grace as possible. nothing unique. it is a shared universal human experience. but by sharing, we all take a breath and say, “yes, I know that. I am not alone and we are all Alive.” 

I love you my friend Carolyn and you are not alone and I am so very sorry for your loss. I am so sorry that I cannot be there with you right now. He was such a beautiful dear man. It was a treat to spend time with him. You two were so blessed to have each other. You will always feel him with you.

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“just like a white winged dove sings a song it sounds like she’s singing…whoo, whoo, whoo….”  I do my very best stevie nicks impersonation and baby dove seems very impressed. maybe not, but then she’s not speaking since she’s just a baby, so who knows what she really thinks….she is at my mercy.

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I just love an audience, and babies are a captive one, so it works well for everyone. as you may remember I have mondays with dove, and this last time my daughter lily was with me as well. lily and I love to sing together, and we do every chance we get, so we were excited to share our sweet singing skills with dove. we sang many different songs, but our rendition of “bohemian rhapsody” complete with me doing guitar solo sound effects, might be my favorite number. good times.

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I had missed a couple of weeks of dove time, due to travel, packing, etc, and so I was amazed to see how much she had grown and changed. babies are like stop motion photography in how quickly they shift. I remember putting lily down for a nap and going in an hour later and her not looking at all like the baby I laid down before. as if a changeling had been left in her place. total morphing. she slept in a laundry basket next to our bed for the first couple of weeks ( I did not have a basket made of reeds and rushes, so the next best thing…) one night she was screaming bloody murder and when I reached down to pick her up, I discovered that she was wedged in head to toe and couldn’t move in the basket. she had outgrown it that fast. yesterday it was fine. today not.

I have been observing as of late that our human lives  are bookended in these polar opposite accelerations. babies growing up by leaps and bounds, in a visible way, on a daily basis. then we hit a place where it seems like we just stay the same and are impervious to any outside change and the future seems far away and aging seems like an impossibility. and then all of the sudden, the stop motion picks up again. every time I look in the mirror, I see another line, a new potential jowl, a spider vein, an age spot. my supple skin has a grainy texture that no amount of water consumed can plump up.

I feel strong and supple and fit and sexy, (actually more so than ever before) but when I catch a glimpse in the mirror it doesn’t line up. there is a middle aged woman looking back at me. well past middle aged. I am 51 and seriously doubt I will live to be 100.

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I know we are supposed to believe that we are all the same and that any idea that you are different or special signals the early warning signs of being a sociopath, but we are not all the same. every one is different and special and uniquely themselves, but even within that context some people gravitate to be part of a collective herd. I just never have. it has never been the case and keeps becoming more defined as I get older. getting older by the minute. the aarp crowd, no offense, but you are not my people…

sometimes I wonder how much has been fast forwarded by the cancer dance of the last two years. chemo ravages you, literally from the inside out and then just the experience of making your way through a cancer diagnosis forever changes you. but I feel an interesting mixture of deep strength and peace as well as a poignant poise in my life. it is happening now, and now, and now, and right now….and can I bring all of me to each moment.

I always knew I only would have one child. only wanted one child. very clear on that. after lily was born in was even more pronounced. the very idea of having another child felt like I was being unfaithful to her. how could I possibly take away any time from her for another? so because of that, there was this incredible heightened poignancy to everything in her life. “ this is the first and last time I will ever experience this moment as a mother.” over and over again. the thrill and the sad ache of knowing it would never be again.

our lives are like that too, we just don’t really understand that, until something catastrophic comes into play. then you really get that this is not a dress rehearsal. so instead of striving for perfection and planning your ideal future, go for sheer whole heartedness. not wreckless abandon, but fully engaged involvement with what feels impeccably true and right. right now and right now and right now. and know that those things will change, because they always do. the only thing you can ever count on is change and that is a hard one to swallow at times. you want so desperately to be able to depend on something, on someone.  the basket fit yesterday, today it does not… we want so much more guarantee than that, and there is none.

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the clock is ticking…live. live beautifully. drink in the day.

”tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – mary oliver-

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If the young, hot, ethereal lana del ray asks this question, imagine how much more so I might. o.k., so beautiful might be a bit much in my case: interesting, distinguished, cute, sometimes adorable, attractive maybe. beautiful is debatable, young is pretty straight forward and impossible to get around. you either are or you aren’t.

 

this all started with a horrible betrayal from my mother. well, actually, my grandmother started it, well, maybe my great grandmother, probably farther back than that…..she got old, you see. and in her doing so, it just goes to show that I will too. and that sucks. I am sort of half kidding about this, and kind of not

I am observing myself and finding a lot of surprising fear and judgment around the topic of aging. also discovering this utterly childish fantasy that I have always carried with me. on some level I have always imagined that one day, my mother and father and my grandparents and I would all be 35 together. all of us as peers. the same age and able to all be in the same place at the same time and discuss the choices we made, and our dreams and hopes and fears and we would all be equal. a level playing field. and then no one would get old or die and we would all just be in this place together. ridiculous, I know…

so instead, when I see these people aging, or dying, it seems like they are not playing by the rules. I feel betrayed, they are giving up. they are not trying hard enough to be, well….young. vital. and that somehow by default it means that I cannot control the aging/dying process either. this disturbs me greatly some days. makes me feel that my powers as a time lord are weak and ineffectual. and then, I imagine my daughter looking at me with the same disappointment, and perhaps , anger, realizing that she too will get old one day, because I could not stop the hands of time for her… or make her a vampire… same thing.

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we live in a society where all that is desired, coveted and appreciated is young, surgically enhanced and airbrushed. or, old, surgically enhanced and airbrushed.

so, actually as I breathe into this space with the question, “will you still love me when I am no longer young and beautiful?” perhaps this question is not directed at some outside person at all, but at myself. will I still love me when I am no longer young and beautiful? which is NOW. can I forgive myself for aging? can I embrace my wisdom, grace, fire, fierce passion, loving heart and my lined face? and can I simultaneously stand strong in knowing that aging does not mean deteriorating, failing, frailty, loss of vitality, being stuck in the past, no longer curious, sharp, physical or sexual. in fact, it is an amazing opportunity to write your own future. to be your own time lord. because time is made up of “wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.” (thank you dr.) stuff for us to create something new with. 

I have two slips of paper with sentences written on them on my altar in my bedroom and they say:

“love is not as difficult as you think” and “you will be different”.

i have taken them both seriously to heart as of late. i realize that i will not live forever, i will age and eventually die, but in the meantime i will fill my life with love and i will be different. and that difference, (and yoga) will keep me young and beautiful on the inside for the rest of my life. and that brings me happiness. and, for right now, i look really great in a pair of booty shorts…

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the morning of the race was sunny and beautiful and i felt better about doing it. sort of like i was an investigative reporter behind the lines…i rode my bike through town and along the greenbelt to the event area. amazing. 12,000 people were there. a sea of pink and white. how, i have to say that i am not a “group” kind of person. i don’t like clubs or team sports or sororities or anything that involves matching t-shirts and ball caps. i got there 3 minutes before the race was starting. got to registration, declined the t-shirt, but actually did need a hat…damn, had to break my “no group hats” rule…sigh… i declined a number as well, i just wanted to be a rogue free agent walker, do the 5k course and be part of the experience. i went by myself. walking by myself seemed fitting somehow.

although, not for long. i immediately ran into a friend i had not seen in a couple of years and we walked the course and caught up. as we walked i was struck by the festive nature of the event. music blaring, people in costume, musicians singing, a team of hot guys in running tights, no shirts and pink tutus, babies in strollers, people in wheel chairs. everyone smiling, laughing, dancing, talking, celebrating. living. virtually everyone sported a sign, t-shirt or poster bearing the names of those in their lives who had been touched or taken by cancer. it was staggering. one degree of separation these days. stories that made me feel so incredibly lucky. 

after about 4k, i bid my friend farewell, crossed the median and made my way back alone in the crowd. got on my bike and pedaled down to the farmer’s market. breathing deeply of the cool air along the shady river path, a sweet contrast to the 90 degree day it was shaping up to be. in the end i was very glad that i went. i will continue to seek my wellness, my health, my balance and choose this life. it is a really good one. 

 

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first of all, let me explain that the full text on this billboard is “I race for life”, but I love how all I caught of it as I drove by, was, “or life”. of course. what’s the alternative….?

yes, that is me. big, bald and badass. I was sent an email asking if I would want to participate in this photo shoot for “the race for the cure”, the susan g. komen event to raise money for breast cancer awareness and research. I said that I would, and it proved to be a very interesting experience for many reasons.

I met a great woman at the shoot, who she and I have become friends. honestly, meeting mary lu now seems like the primary reason I did the shoot and just did not know it at the time.

it is an interesting phenomenon though that being involved in any sort of “cancer” awareness, survivorship, support situation, is the time I most feel like I might actually be a human land mine that could detonate at any time. the time I feel that maybe things are not quite as great as I think they are. in my day to day existence, I never think of myself as having been sick, or a survivor. I had cancer and now I do not. moving on. profoundly changed and ever vigilant, (that subtle fear always just below the surface)  but moving forward. new life. new time. live now. yet in the medical world there is a sense of always needing to remind you that even though we have the highest hopes, we are sure you are just fine, but…never forget you are sick. 

when I was In the hospital after my first chemo, ramped up and raging on steroids with a fever of 103, one of the myriad nurses came into my room and asked me what kind of cancer I had and then asked, “how long have you been sick?”  I remember being stunned into silence for a moment (rare for me, I know) thinking, I’m not sick. I have a fever and am in the hospital because of the drugs and treatment I am on, but I am not sick, I just am dealing with cancer for the time being, thank you very much. 

I have a lovely woman who is a yoga student of mine and friend who is an osteopath, and her entire focus is, where is the wellness in the body? let’s attend to the wellness and get the body in balance. this is a radical difference from “how long have you been sick?”

so because of this difference of focus, I was not entirely sure I wanted to be involved in actually doing the “race for the cure.” “racing for your life” “killing cancer” “beating the odds”. did I really want to be surrounded with thousands of people who saw themselves as sick and were afraid? I felt obligated, as I was their primary poster girl, but was having big reservations…

 

  to be continued…

 

 

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(the sun rising out of my morning cup of matcha)

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was building an outdoor fire in the morning and watching the sun come up. I did it 3 times and then the rains came, and then the morning brought other priorities and now, today on this full moon morning, I built a fire again. it feels magical to build a fire outside in the morning. as if the flames you start light the fire of the sun as it rises. like you helped start the day, somehow.

I am an aries, a fire sign, anyone who knows me would roll their eyes and say “of course she is a fire sign. duh.” although my mother is a water sign, she has always in my world been the fire keeper. we have never lived in a house that did not have a fireplace. ever. my constant morning memory is coming into the living room and seeing my mother perched in front of the fire with a coffee cup in one hand and toast in the other.

I find it difficult if not down right impossible to live in a house that does not have a fireplace. it feels wrong.

fire is alive. it needs oxygen. it is beautiful, mesmerizing, comforting, passionate, exciting, warming and cleansing. I have burned and released many things into the fire over the years. the other night I released the heaviness of the initial cancer diagnosis and the hospital system , by burning all of my medical bills…

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I know right?! I grew up when you were told to keep 5 years of all of your bank statements and bills, receipts in a shoe box, carefully labeled and to not, repeat NOT, dispose of them for any reason until this magical 5 year milestone had been met. I remember panicking over whether or not to keep them, had I kept them long enough? would the same guy who shows up to take you to jail if  you remove your mattress tags come to arrest me if I did? now i figure that we are all modern and computerized and stuff, if they really need to find these records, they certainly can and probably find them more efficiently than I could in trying to dig them up in  my house.

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these are all of the bills from the first go round 18 months ago. the lumpectomy, the untold amounts of medical bills and paperwork and financial assistance applications and …..all of these accounts are settled. they are finished and they were taking up an extraordinary amount of room, physically and emotionally. this was not something I wished to carry forward into my life. I have been cleaning closets, going thru files, creating a massive yard sale/donation pile. stream lining my life. taking up less space with my stuff that I might fill more space with me. so 4 days ago I burned all the paperwork.

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I sat in front of my glorious wood stove and fed the papers in small amounts to the flames, allowing the burn cycle to complete before adding the next. the heat that was generated was impressive. each layer stacking on the next until it now looked like this book of ash. some plump ledger from hell. as it burned I relived and released this time frame in my life. not to erase it, but to give it space to turn into something else. to take all of the gifts that have come from this experience and to move forward with my life. cancer is a part of my story, but it is not all of my story.

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my story is just getting started… this girl is on fire…

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moon energy too big, even though she is waning. I wake up at 4. don’t get up, just lay in the warmth, windows open, flanked by large cats. my boys.  listen to my breathing and theirs. wonder what they are chasing in their dreams? giant meatloaves no doubt…

eventually, I roll over as quietly as I can, but it is too late. they are on me, in my face, demanding breakfast. there is no pretending that I am still asleep, they know better. this is our morning dance. utterly predictable and  yet always a new twist in their approach.

I go downstairs, feed the boys, light candles and start a small fire in the woodstove. put the kettle on and go outside to build another fire in the outside fire bowl in the middle of the lawn. the half moon hangs low in the sky, visible between the naked tree branches. the birds are starting to add to the soundscape, as the dimmer switch on the day begins to be turned up.

it occurs to me that sunrise and sunset are the time when one is most acutely aware that nothing stays the same. everything is constantly changing, never the same twice. even in consistency, in stability, routine, yes, the sun always rises, it always sets …the sun is in constant motion across the sky, clouds forever shifting, gathering, dispersing. there is always a new color, a new shade, a new change in the light, a different perspective, if only we pay attention.

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to pay attention to how it is never the same. ever. each time is the first and the last.  we must be vigilant in appreciating the possibility that is offered up each day. the opportunity to show up fully in our lives. fully and honestly with ourselves, our loved ones, our community. attuned to what is happening right now.

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how can I show up in the most loving, clear way possible and how might that impact my day? not how much I get done, but how much I show up. which, when you really show up, you can better see what really needs to be done.

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 some days, most days, we have an enormous amount to accomplish/do/handle/. but maybe starting out the day being still in the morning, watching the sun come up instead of flying out the door is just the thing to allow you to tackle what you need to do later on.

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and today, I think I will work in the yard and do my taxes on Sunday…