I’ve started this post umpteen times in the past few months…only to stare at the blinking cursor. It’s not writer’s block. Nor is it that I have nothing to say. On the contrary, I have so much to say, too much to say, really.
Some of the headings on my page of false starts have no apparent connection. When I typed them out, you might wonder whether I’ve either suffered a brain injury or am epically failing at a word association game: cat afraid of piano, book, hummingbirds, genetics and a smoking gun, MBA, bacon, roof, pink, menopause, altars and grief.
Read into that what you will.
If I told you that I was too busy or too tired to write those posts, I would be piling on to the most boring discourse of our time (who isn’t busy and tired?). Instead, as my friend Laurie describes it, I haven’t created the opportunity to “drop down in a more contemplative space.” It’s true.
And then there’s this: every moment of every day, we are all receiving new waves of information. Someone once told me to not to let myself be moved by every wave that comes in, to find a firm place to stand and try not to react to each piece of information as it arrives. Makes good enough sense. However, I wonder if I’ve gone so far in that direction, that I’m not truly contemplating, even “feeling” any more (or maybe it’s the baby dose of Lexapro I’m on for the hot flashes keeping me numb? Maybe it’s the chemo and menopause giving me brain fog?).
I meet so many newly diagnosed women in my role in BAYS. To my complete surprise, my cancer experience seems so distant when I’m tending to their needs. I have compassion for them and am able to sit with their fears, but worry that I’ve become hardened. Or, that I’ve forgotten what those viscerally dark days felt like. And really, though, I am hardened and forgetful. Is my brain’s protective instinct, to block those memories out in order to cope and get out of bed in the morning, that overriding?
And, when is the last time that I’ve cried? Like truly shook with sobs and dripped snot? I cannot remember.
My biggest fear in all this is that I’m not being moved enough. That I had a crystal clear sense of who I was and where I was going in those viscerally dark days, and poof, it’s now gone or buried too deeply to retrieve.’
All cancer stories have heavy endings, regardless of the stage of disease. I now know that both facing an early stage cancer diagnosis, like I did, and then fighting off a reoccurrence or metastatic diagnosis for the rest of my life, like I am, is heavy. I also know that I’m riding this pendulum of love and grief, health and sickness; we all are. There is no perpetual balance to be attained. It’s only to be perpetually sought.
So being inspired by my friend Suleika, I’m going to embark on a 100 day project and it’s going to involve writing something each day, maybe something small in my journal or some bigger reflection or musing here on the blog, to continue teasing apart these feelings. It will start in January, when many good intentions start…but it won’t die like so many other resolutions about 30 days in. It will be a goalpost, and a gift to myself that I’m committing to drop down into that contemplative space. And by putting it out here in the world, that means I actually have to follow through.
A few other things to mention in a round up.
The Shivering in a Paper Gown book launch was fantastic, with over 100 people in attendance. Erin’s husband, Micah, read her piece, and Sarah’s mom, Shirley, read her piece. So powerful, so raw. And we got to repeat it at the LitCrawl festival too. And in part of the book publicity, Laurie and I got to be on public radio KPFA discussing the realities of life as young women with breast cancer. You can listen to the podcast here. I was also interviewed as a member of BAYS by a local news station, KRON 4, in response to the American Cancer Society’s new screening guidelines. And BAYS members were featured in a local news story about writing through trauma, as it’s so important this topic is getting noticed. These were the positives during October. I didn’t rant about Pinktober on the blog this year, yet noticed an uptick in news stories around the failure of the pink ribbon to do much of anything, except make breast cancer seem like a minor annoyance and as treatable as the common cold. So a friendly reminder to Think Before You Pink. And if you have the opportunity, advocate for any funds raised to go towards research for a cure and prevention, including toxic and chemical safety.
The LoveTwelve Calendar that I’m in is getting released later this month. That still feels like a dream.
My pictures from India will get sorted over Christmas, promise. I’m happy to share them because so many of you helped me get there. In fact, I get to host Thanksgiving with 2 of my dear friends and roommates from the trip.
If silly insurance contract negotiations get finalized, I will have another surgery as part of reconstruction in January.
And then on Friday, I’m heading to Myanmar for a vacation with 5 close girlfriends. The country’s first democratic elections are happening now, so will be a fascinating time to travel there. We planned this trip over a year ago, with one of many goals to make sure I’m feeling alive. Funny how things work out sometimes.