Writing


18
Mar 15

Daunting

It’s daunting, starting over here again. It’s been so long. There are so many parts of my life that have had to fall by the wayside. I’m on my feet for most of the day. I’m doing stuff, I’m going places. I’m making beds and folding laundry and cooking food, and wiping toilets. And then I crash into bed, watch something mindless, try and drift off into sleep before I do it all over again.

The good: I’m taking better care of my body. I’ve been consistently getting up early to exercise. I eat salads (I also eat cookies and drink wine; balance, right?). The other good: I feel like I’m doing the best I can in many ways. I’m putting on my big girl pants and being the grownup and doing the hard stuff. I’m being calm even when I feel like screaming back (at kids or at my husband, not random people on the street). I’m taking care of all the stuff that it’s my job to take care of. I’m taking finances seriously (especially after Porkchop’s accident that left us with many, many unexpected and very expensive veterinary bills). I’m stretching our dollars and being creative. I’m trying my best to connect with other people: family, friends, husband. Sometimes I’m not great at this–it’s busy here and some days just pass me by in a blur–but I’m doing my best to make plans and make it happen.

The not so good: some of the other ways of nurturing myself are definitely lacking. Leisure activities are a rarity. Lily’s “nap times” (ok, rest times, she doesn’t nap anymore SIGH) are spent prepping dinner or filing bills. I haven’t knit in ages. I all too often, when time does present itself, find myself playing a mindless game of solitaire instead of reading a novel or writing down my thoughts. I worry that I am sadly lacking in thoughts these days. Or that all my thoughts are in list format: make beds (check), take shower (check), fold laundry (check).

I’m still in here. That creative part of me.

How/when will it be let out again? How can there be the time for just me? I don’t feel like I have the time to be selfish. Being selfish means my family loses out. There are not enough hours in the day. I feel like a winner and I feel like a loser. I’m Superwoman and I’m also a dumb and boring housewife. I’m busting my butt and I’m too lazy to get out of my yoga pants.

I miss me.

I don’t know how to do this balance thing. I long for something cool, something like a woman retreat. Something like a day all to myself. Nah, I’d miss everyone too much. I like this little family of mine. But I also long for the some day, that tantalizing dose of dreaming about the future me, the one that has time for personal pursuits that aren’t centered around making everyone else’s life easier and/or livable and/or cleaner.

I miss me.

Is there a way to come back to me while still maintaining all this other stuff? To get the meals ready and set the table and fold the laundry AND take care of all of me? I don’t know that it is possible. I don’t know that it is possible to live WELL at this stage of my life AND not have it include a fair amount of self-sacrifice.

I’m afraid that if I sway in the other direction, my children and my husband will be missing out. That it would be detrimental to them. And, then, to me, too.

I miss me, though. I still miss me.


30
Sep 14

Love

I am my own worst critic. I have a hard time loving myself unconditionally. I am constantly judging, worrying, questioning whether I am ok, doing the right things, being the right person.

Do we all struggle with this, or is it just me?

Today I was sitting outside after lunch, watching Lily play with some little toys, and I felt an overwhelming sense of contentment. A feeling so strong of being happy and like the world was just right. All from watching my little flaxen-haired girl flit around like a like a fairy. I thought about the moment she was born, the moment that Anna was born. The strongest feelings of “everything is right” that I have ever experienced. My heart filled my chest, my whole body. It got so big and so full of love that tears escaped. I thought about this and then I thought about loving myself in that way. I thought about my girls, and I hoped with all my heart that they could feel this love, from me, but also from themselves. I want that, for them. I want them to know just how amazing they are. Will they know this?

Loving ourselves is a gift to ourselves but it is also a gift to the ones that love us. Treating our own selves with respect and love sends the message to those that love us–our spouses, friends, and our parents–that we accept their gift of loving us and that we value ourselves the way that they value us.

What do I want my two girls to know? I want them to know love–from their father and I–and I want them to love themselves. I want them to have the self-respect to seek out relationships that give them the love that they deserve.

There have been so many of these life lessons that I haven’t fully grasped until I became a parent. And, as I move through each stage, there is more and more and more to learn. It’s that proverbial onion peel, being shelled open to find layer after layer after layer. It’s that lengthy mystery book, turning page after page as more and more is revealed. “Oh!” we say, “Now I get it!” But there is always more. Revelation upon revelation.

What will I feel as my girls get older? Their pain will be my pain, that much I know. My own mother told me this herself, in just about these words. But I didn’t get it then.

What will I feel if/when my girls get rejected….are disappointed….struggle with negative thoughts about their bodies….get their hearts broken….struggle with mental illness…have to have surgery…become depressed or lonely or fail to see the beauty inside of them…???

Their pain will be my pain.

The best I can do is show them the love and trust for time to reveal for them as it has for me: that they are worthy, that they are unique, that they are beautiful, that they are loved and that they can love. And to trust that when (because it surely will happen) they forget these things, when they are desperate and hungry for something beyond themselves, that they can come back to this, their soul center: just be. Be yourself.


8
Sep 14

body

I feel more confident now, in myself, than I ever have. Is this because I am nearing 40? Is this just what happens with age?

I remember being a tween (probably around 12 years old), feeling like the walk from the bathroom to the swimming pool was some sort of walk of shame. I remember trying to hide the birthmark on my upper right thigh with the palm of my hand, wishing my legs were smaller and less noticeable. Wishing that my…my…everythingwere….different. Because surely no girl should have to live in the body that I inhabited. A body that was, at 12 years old, a woman’s body. I remember getting catcalls from older boys and just wanting to absolutely die, to shrink, to disappear. It was unwanted attention. I thought it was bad, thought I was bad. I wanted to be like those tiny little skinny girls, the ones who were still girls.

Now, more than 25 years later, with 100% more thigh jiggle and overall skin droop, I walk without even a thought. I walk because that is how you get from point A to point B, bathing suit be damned. I’m not getting catcalls anymore (well, from my husband, because–bless him–he happens to still find my aging body attractive). I’m just a woman, a grown woman. A woman comfortable in her own skin.

Do I have my moments? My moments of doubt? Where I become that 12 year old girl again, full of self-doubt and remorse and dread? Sure. Of course.

Do I think my body is “perfect?” (What the hell does that mean, anyway???). Nope, of course not. I try to avoid fashion magazines. I remind myself that those models are mostly 20 years my junior and that they live on lettuce and air and cigarettes. Or that they come from a different genetic stock. I remember what it was like when I weighed just over 100 pounds, after my pancreatic surgery 4 years ago, how my hipbones hurt at night from the pressure of the mattress. How my concaveness scared rather than delighted me. I’d rather be a slightly rounder version of me. The version that is healthy and whole and eats cookies (sometimes too many) and drinks wine and doesn’t obsess over looking exactly SO. I remember what it was like to be 25 and to count calories and to sometimes eat too many and then to throw it up or exercise for hours and hours, a punishment. A punishment for not being perfect. A struggle not worth those tears.

My body is me, but I am not my body. I am more than my body.

My body can do things. My body made babies and fed them. My body got sick and then got better and continues to serve me pretty darn well. My body gets me from here to there and it bends over to pick things up and it lifts things and it twists and accommodates and holds it all up. My body can breathe the air and it can take in deep gulps of water, of life.

I am strong and I am capable and I have my head in the right place, finally.

I still wear a bikini because, well, I find it more comfortable and because I don’t generally like the constriction of swimsuit fabric on my stomach and because I don’t think I have anything to hide. I have been on this earth for 38 years and I hope to be here a while longer and I might as well enjoy it with the warm sun and the sweet breeze tickling my skin.

Do I need to apologize for the space that my body occupies? To I need to apologize for my body’s bumps and lumps and scars and hair and general imperfection?

I am so much more. We are all so much more.


11
Jul 11

Almost Famous

Depending who you ask, I guess. I am up on the New York Times website, in a cool interactive feature that they are calling “Picture Your Life After Cancer.”

In case you can’t get it to come up (the gallery doesn’t work on my iPhone), this is the picture and these are the words that accompany it:

Today, after cancer, I am vulnerable and I am soft and I am emotional. I am gritty and I am tough and I am brave and I am bold. I am afraid, and I am ready to kick some ass. Cancer has made me examine my deepest emotions and traveled me through my darkest times. Cancer has strengthened my relationships and cancer has finally made me ready to go out there and live my life. I am not glad I had it, but without it I wouldn’t be the me that I am today.

I submitted it one night, a couple of weeks ago, when I couldn’t sleep. It was 2 am, and I came across it (I love the Health section of the NYT online), and I just wrote something up and submitted it, just like that. I heard back from them a couple of days later: they also chose my picture (well, the amazing Adrea Scheidler’s picture, to whom all credit for awesomeness of the picture is due!) and words to be in a book that is being put out by the American Cancer Society, featuring approximately 200 of these pictures from the website. It is scheduled to come out in the Fall of 2012.

So….almost famous. Yep.

In all seriousness, I am happy for Adrea (who does amazing work and with whom I have great synergy) to get exposure for her photography. I am happy to get my words out there, because this is the message of my life: be honest and true and live like you mean it. I don’t hope that other people get cancer, but I hope that they feel this: that their lives are still important, meaningful, and beautiful. That they, too, can live through this.


1
Jul 11

Birthday

We are heading in a downward spiral upward trajectory towards my birthday (July 6) and I have decided that this year, rather than rue the closeness of my birthday to the birthday of or our country, I am going to embrace it. I am going Red, White, and Blue. I am going Stars and Stripes. I am going Fireworks and Star Spangled Banner and Uncle Sam this year. I am making all of our friends sing Happy Birthday to me on July 4th because we were all planning on getting together anyway and everyone has the day off of work and it will be one ginormous party. I’ve always shunned this (a bit like those whose birthdays are close to Christmas, I imagine) but this year I am all about the celebration. Anna’s been telling everyone that her Mama gets fireworks for her birthday and even if she isn’t entirely accurate, you have to admit that it is pretty damned cool.

I am turning 35 and I think that my 30’s have been the best decade of my life so far. Sitting around a table with friends on Wednesday night, celebrating another birthday, I had the sudden thought that I finally have the group of friends that I’ve always wanted. I didn’t have this in high school–too wrapped up in my boyfriend at the time, too shy at school, too….everything, who knows–I almost had this in college, and indeed, I did have a great group of girlfriends, but then again, a boy–happily, it was Adam–came along and, what can I say? I got all wrapped up in that and then got married and the rest is history. We moved, I was in grad school and busy and though we tried for those kinds of couple friends, our marriage wasn’t in the right place for it at the time and now it finally is. I feel not just like we have “arrived” but that we are journeying along an awesome road, like we are taking an awesome vacation for which every new adventure, even if not fun or amusing at the time (umm, cancer?), is still part of the journey, and, at the very least, generates the story of our lives. So as we laugh over a ridiculous gag gift for someone who wasn’t quite sure he really wanted to turn 40 (but had no choice), I can look around and see that these are the friends with whom we are writing our lives. These are not all of the friends that are dear in my heart, but these are the ones that have that day-to-day influence that adds up in infinitesimally small ways to make us who and what we are. And what I am in this moment right now, is happy. Content.

Thirty-five and alive? I didn’t always think I could be.

Thirty-five and happy? Who could want anything more?

I am anticipating amazing things for this next year of my life. I am looking into a writing group/support system/critical eyes for my writing (speaking of which, anyone have any connections they want to send my way?). My “memoirs” (oh, how grand)–that sounds embarrassing–that I am writing, they are the stories of my life and I am finding that I don’t care about fame and fortune, I don’t care about the New York Times Bestseller List, I don’t care about cash advances or anything at all but simply telling my story in a way that is clear and good, that is vulnerable and true. It is healing and it is self-saving and I am constantly growing and learning and that is always a good thing.

So, Happy Birthday to me, and to anyone out there afraid of aging, this is my advice, in my wise old age (Adam calls me his old woman, so I’m taking this as a sign that I can play the Sage here): Don’t make the mistake of wishing you weren’t moving in the direction that we are all inevitably moving towards. Don’t delay the now. Revel in the small, simple, profound moments of your life. Do the thing that sets your soul on fire.

Oh, and Happy 4th of July. Let freedom ring!


21
Jun 11

Flow

This morning I am bleary-eyed and headachy. I want nothing more than to crawl back between my covers for some more sleep. But lack of sleep was so worth it last night, as I sat at my computer and typed out 5,000+ words. It was midnight, 1 am, 2 am, 3 am and the time passed like minutes instead of the hours it really was.

Flow.

Those are the times of being truly alive. I feel passion in what I write. I am pumping out a shitty first draft (thank you, Anne Lamott, for putting words to what I know I need to do or else I am paralyzed by the impossible quest for perfection in writing it all down). It is self-indulgent and I wrote it when weepy and alone in a silent house in the middle of the night, but it was also cathartic and powerful. I realized last night, that as much as I blogged about so much over these last few years, I was holding something back, and now I could truly let it be. It won’t be the thing to be read by anything more than a handful of people, but in simply acknowledging it, I felt a release.

So today when I feel like hiding out or doing some lazy parenting or feeling angry about being so tired, I’ll remember this: that sometimes staying up all night is the cure that is needed for the disease that you didn’t even know you had.

It can burn me from the inside out, slowly but surely, just like something eating me alive and making it difficult to breathe. It is me, coming out from me, from silence to voice, from a whisper to a yell, from a cry to a song. Vulnerable to strong. Embracing it all.