Patrick and I had a zoom beer tasting with some friends this afternoon. Not only was it a perfect event for a day we were snowed in, but it was great to “get together” with friends again. The guys had purchased beer a couple of weeks ago and swapped so that we all had the same ones to try. I haven’t been drinking alcohol since starting chemo, but I had a sip of each of them. I forgot how much fun we would have doing beer tastings together. It was wonderful catching up.
One thing our get-together highlighted, besides how much we all miss our beer tastings, was how important it is to have things to look forward to. I know it’s been a struggle for me. Of course, I look forward to the end of my treatments, but that’s not really enough. Normally, we’d have birthday celebrations or family visits or short trips out of town scheduled. Now we just have doctors appointments. Our friends talked about scheduling a real getaway for the end of the year or when things are back to something normal. We all agreed it sounded great.
In the spirit of having something to look forward to, I decided to apply to have a booth in a major craft faire in September. I’ve talked about wanting to do more with my crafts for a while now, so I figured it was time. If I’m accepted, it not only will give me something to look forward to, but it will also give me months of something to work towards. If I’m not accepted for the faire, then I’ll get an Etsy shop going.
I’m thankful today for the time well spent with friends. I’m also thankful for the reminder to plan for things that keep us engaged and hopeful for the future.
Well, watching the news tonight was depressing as usual. Between the madness at the Capitol and the surge in COVID and possible new strains, it seems as if everything has just gone wrong. Again. It’s hard to find hope in this constant chaos. When do we get a break?
It’s even more important now to find the small moments that can help feed our souls. Today, an old friend stopped by with some homemade food and flowers. He lives in a different town over 1/2 hr away but drove here out of kindness.
A couple of my colleagues and I met virtually after work to chat and catch up personally. It helps to connect with others even virtually lately. Being housebound may be necessary but reaching out to others is still possible. I’ll be starting a book club soon with a friend out of state as well.
I also was reminded that hope is sustainable by these guys today.
When they want something, they can wait forever. Chance never loses hope for another treat and Barley never loses hope for another belly rub. They will stare, nudge, and wait. And wait. And wait.
It seems like they have the right idea. Things will change. The hard times will eventually move aside and make room for good once again. I’ll keep looking for the small moments in my day, thankful for friends, and hopeful for the future.
Wow, last year was a long one, wasn’t it? I think most of us will agree that it’s going down in history as one to forget. All that quarantining. All the social distancing. Like most folks, we started our hunker-down by taking up new hobbies (puzzles or bread making, anyone?) and thought all the home time would be fun and cozy. We finally remodeled our main bathroom, doing almost all of the work ourselves, putting in a walk-in shower to make it easier to bathe the dogs. Priorities. Patrick expanded his garden. I taught a couple of online classes. We were both able to work from home and continue to do so.
Of course, like everyone else experienced, the novelty of being homebound quickly faded and the reality of what was happening in our world was sobering. We were constantly grateful to avoid getting sick and avoid losing people we love like those highlighted in the news. We missed our interactions with family and friends and still do. Although we are typically homebodies, being forced apart has taken its toll. There have been some long and lonely days. I miss my kids. I was able to see them only briefly for a few days during the early summer. I likely won’t get to see them in person for many more months. I miss our families, whom we’ve really mostly seen online all year. I miss a lot of things.
I turned 50 in November. Patrick, who hates large gatherings, was actually hoping to throw a surprise party, but that didn’t happen. We celebrated the milestone like most of our days, home with the dogs, eating some good home-cooked food. Patrick has become quite the gourmet chef. I got a couple new power tools and some fantastic gifts from my friends and family. Fancy wine glasses and flowers and candy. And then the day after my birthday, I found out I have breast cancer.
Needless to say, it’s been an extra difficult ending to an already difficult year. The last six weeks has been a tornado of doctor’s appointments and an overload of information I never wanted to know. Unfortunately, my cancer is the uncommon type that is difficult to spot. That meant that the initial finding of about 1/2 inch spot showed up just larger than 2 inches on an MRI. That also changed treatment options and the timing of them. This past Monday I had surgery to remove lymph nodes and put in a chemo port. It was harder than I anticipated. The reality of this has set in and I’m now afraid in a way I wasn’t before. I worry about what’s coming and I worry I’m not strong enough.
This is why I begin this blog again. I need to refocus. I need the hope and optimism that I know is out there. 2021 isn’t going to be a lot better for us. The chemo I’ll begin next week will compromise my immune system and make it even more necessary to quarantine. Even quick shopping trips will disappear. It’s going to be tough. So what am I thankful for today? That I’m alive. That breast cancer is treatable. That so far, it looks like it hasn’t spread any further and I won’t have surgery again for months. That I have someone by my side who makes me stronger. That I have family and friends who have been amazingly supportive since they heard the news. It’s a new year and if 2020 taught us anything, there is still so much good can still be present amidst the rotten. I’ll be looking for it.
I posted this early on in the year. I’m posting it again because this time, I’m thankful for hope, even when it doesn’t seem warranted. And even if it turns out adverse. Sometimes it matters to go through the journey, regardless of the outcome.
I walked a labyrinth and found him standing in the sunlight a Greek statue marking the center of the garden
the day was quiet but my mind was circling confused so when he smiled
I lost a piece of myself without him knowing without me knowing why
except perhaps I was blinded by the sun and hopeful for something I can’t really believe in but like Pandora’s box
it’s the only thing I have left
I need to travel back through the maze retrace my steps to find the broken pieces now scattered over the years
I’ve learned to live with less of myself but I’m feeling too small suddenly
incapable of my own distress I need to throw off this cruel longing and instead find the doctor who will help me put myself back together
I’ve already sacrificed my youth to others my wisdom he has not earned doesn’t yet know how to share so although I’ve paid my due
I will leave my tears here at the river and find my way to higher ground
It was a good day. In many ways. I sit here at my computer thinking about what made it worthwhile, even though it wasn’t overly exciting or special. But it had all the necessary stuff of life for me: beautiful weather, a little work, good conversations and quality time with people I care about. I’m lucky.
Today I’m usually reminded of someone I loved long ago. He killed himself on June 2. We were both 25 at the time. I still remember the phone call and how the sun shone through the window on the counter top where I was standing in my kitchen. I remember how I turned absently to look into the refrigerator and how, in my memory, there was nothing there. I remember how hard it was to breathe while trying to understand the message I was told. He overdosed on some pills he had found in his mom’s medicine cabinet. He didn’t want to keep living. And in the moment I hung up the phone, I knew everything was changed for me. In that split second, I was a different person. It’s strange how some moments are trans formative. How we can look back at a single point in time and say, yes, that’s when my life took a turn. His death stripped me of my naivety. I had never lost anyone so suddenly before. Especially someone who chose to leave and never return. That moment was my epiphany.
It was only after his funeral that I was able to see a different side to the man I knew. His mother told me of his battles with depression and alcohol, facets of himself he had kept hidden from me. Apparently, he had tried to commit suicide at least once before, when in his teens. He had grown up with abuse. Everything she told me was opposite of the person I knew. A guy who was brilliantly intelligent, funny, laughed easily, well-liked. He was set to graduate from college with high honors. He had plans to live in Alaska. He loved animals. And he loved me. His mother told me that in the time frame he and I were closest was the happiest she had seen him. The most well-adjusted. She had hoped he had turned himself around. But he obviously hadn’t. And her comments only added to the guilt I already felt. I wondered how I didn’t know or hadn’t seen any signs. I agonized over what I missed because I hadn’t been paying enough attention. I recounted every time I could think of where he asked something of me and I didn’t respond right. Of when he may have needed me and I wasn’t there. I wondered how I could have saved him. I hated myself because I didn’t.
It took me many, many years to finally stop carrying his death around with me. I let it define me for too long. The grief, the guilt, the anger. I carried it with me like a treasure I was afraid to let go of. It wasn’t until I had a long period of hard times myself that I finally understood the low point someone can get to where death seems a viable option. One particularly dark day of a very long year, I finally understood how hard it can be to stay hopeful when life seems so set against you. But thankfully, I never gave in to that despair. I knew I had things to live for. I forgave him that day. And it became easier to move on. I finally realized that setting aside the weight of his death didn’t mean I would be forgetting or not caring anymore. I needed to let him go for me. His death was tragic, of course, but it wasn’t my fault. It was his choice, and I’ll always think it was a terrible choice. He’s missed out on so much. And he had so much he could have contributed. The world really is a beautiful place. Especially on days like today when there’s sunshine and ice cream and laughter and love. I’m thankful.
Happy Easter. If you’re a Christian, today is one of the major celebrations in the faith. The belief that Christ rose from the dead is the foundation of the entire faith. Without this as a central belief, nothing else really matters. If Christ wasn’t resurrected, then He was simply a pretty good guy. I happen to follow this faith; it gives me a sense of peace that I don’t find in other things. I think as humans, we all search for a connection or deeper meaning in our lives that is beyond work or achievements or money or power.
However, even if you aren’t a Christian, I think this holiday can still have importance outside of the Easter bunny and baskets and candy (all of which I also enjoy!). The idea of resurrection is the coming back to life after death. Instead of a literal death, how many of us have experienced death in other ways? Emotional deaths? Relationship deaths? I think it’s significant that Easter coincides with Spring and the renewal of life outside. I like to think of Easter in terms of my own self being renewed somehow. Instead of doing this kind of internal overhaul at New Years, I do some reflecting at Easter time. What kind of things can I let go of (bury) and resurrect into something more meaningful or positive? For me right now, it’s relationships. It would appear that breaking Valentine’s gifts, even accidentally, is a bad sign when you’re dating. And while I’m sad to have ended things with a guy I really like, in the long run, I believe it’s better for both of us. Our paths weren’t headed in the same direction so our expectations weren’t in synch. I think in adult relationships, honesty is key. And mostly honesty with yourself. It’s not always easy and a lot of times it’s painful, but it’s better to be honest about what you want and need than to spend too much time yearning for what is missing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the heart wants what it wants, but what it wants is not always the best thing for us.
So today I’m thankful I went to church, which I don’t always do. The message today was about hope. Fitting for the holiday and Springtime, but also fitting for me today. I’m holding on to hope.
I’m thankful for my journaling because it reminds me of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. I wrote this poem back in late October on a particularly rough day. Thankfully, I’m no longer stuck there.
there’s a hole in my future
where all the meaning should be
piece by piece robbed by those
I trusted most
my little light smoked
I’m carried away by the darkness
I was given this picture today as a suggestion for a post. It made me laugh. Obviously the person who gave it to me knows about my addiction to The Walking Dead. But I also like that people are reading what I write and thinking about it. I started this blog for myself and my own need to look for the good around me, but if it helps others do the same, even in silly ways, I’m cool with that. More than cool. I love it.
This photo does remind me that there is almost always a different take on every problem. It also reminds me that humor is essential to getting through difficulties. At least it is for me. I’ve written about the zombie apocolypse before in reference to the tv show. The ways the characters learn to adapt and survive are so interesting to me. But I’m fascinated with people that way in general. When I come across someone whose first instinct is to give up, it makes me wonder what he or she went through to get to the point where it’s easier to be stuck than to fight. Of course, fighting takes energy and the belief that there’s something valuable at the end of the struggle. And maybe not everyone has that innate instinct to survive like I do. But I think it can be cultivated. One way is intentionally looking for the positive side of things. Or if there really isn’t a postive, then learning to let it go. And I don’t say this lightly, from a life of hearts and roses. If you’ve read a few of my previous posts, you’ll know that I’ve been through some tough times. I’ve had moments where I have doubted my endurance and had to spend time wailing out my misery. And letting things go…oh boy. It’s been a very conscious effort on my part to learn that skill. I’m anxious by nature. And much too introspective to want to just let things go. My favorite questions always begin with why? But I’m getting better about not needing to know all the answers. Sometimes the answer is simply because not everyone thinks like you do. Most of the time, I’d say be thankful you don’t think like me. It’s exhausting. But when it comes to being optimistic, I wish more people would share my thoughts on that. Not losing hope. Not giving up. Believing something better could be just around the corner is what keeps me going a little longer when the fight is hardest. What would you do? Would you run screaming for your life or grab a mallet and help me whack?
Sometimes you need to be intentional about making changes, moving on and letting go of things in the past. I’m all about looking forward today. Forward to brighter days both figuratively and literally…
candles that burn away memories
cannot be blown out with a birthday kiss
they must be folded neatly and put away
with the good linens
three wishes may never be enough
the clocks all move in centuries
according to your age
only children have no use for time
erase everything black from the pages
buy only yellow flowers for decades
without a sun
there’s music to live for
and spring rain to dance in