I have an app on my phone that gives me a yoga quote every day. The idea is to take a quiet moment and read the daily quote, reflect upon its wisdom, then go about my day in a serene and float-y way.
Instead, I usually read the daily quote as I’m loading the dishwasher and scooting our little piggie Piper out of the way and hollering at my kids to turn down the TV and wondering where my grocery list is and trying to remember if I paid the lawn guys and hoping I remember to water the new shrubs before they shrivel and die a brown, crinkly death in these dog days of Texas summer.
What part of that is serene and float-y?
None. Nada. Zilch.
I’m coming to grips with the fact that I just don’t lead a serene and float-y life. Going to yoga helps, although I don’t think I’ll ever master the art of calming my mind, even in the midst of a perfect yoga class, in a darkened room with my favorite instructor with her calming voice and lovely music.
Adding the daily yoga quote to my hectic, too-busy day and to my static-y, not-calm mind was a somewhat-desperate attempt to impart even more calm to my spastic self. Some days a quote resonates with me, and some days I think, “Yeah, right.”
Today’s quote grabbed me, and not necessarily in a yoga way but in a more all-encompassing way.
“These days, my practice is teaching me to embrace imperfection: to have compassion for all the ways things haven’t turned out as I planned, in my body and in my life — for the ways things keep falling apart, and failing, and breaking down. It’s less about fixing things, and more about learning to be present for exactly what is”. — Anne Cushman
That one got my attention and forced me to slow down (and to ignore the dishwasher, et al). My guess is that this quote applies to everyone, regardless of whether you’ve ever set foot in a yoga class or attempted a reclining pigeon pose. Of course this quote applies doubly to any of us who have faced a serious health crisis, such as a cancer diagnosis.
My first thought when I read this quote was about how much I’d love to be in the presence of Anne Cushman, whoever she is, and hope for osmosis. I’d love for her acceptance to permeate my body and mind. I’d really love to emulate her practice of “being present for exactly what is” especially as it relates to my post-cancer body.
If only there were a “being present” fairy. A lovely, serene, calming cousin to the Tooth Fairy, who would visit those of us who struggle after diagnosis. She could float into our windows while we sleep and sprinkle yoga-fairy dust around our pillows. She could whisper words of wisdom into our ears and smile knowingly as we nodded sleepily, eyes closed and minds calm. We would fall under her spell without even knowing it, and would awake from our typically-disjointed sleep, no longer plagued by hot flashes or night sweats or nightmares about recurrence. We would emerge from non-tangled, not-sweaty sheets, refreshed and renewed and filled with compassion for the many ways in which things didn’t turn out how we expected. We would smile as we alighted from bed, bathed in calm and knowing that we now have the power to embrace our imperfections. We would no longer instinctively avoid our reflections in the mirror; that part of our minds that tells us “Don’t look! It’s not pretty! It’s not the same!” would be erased, no longer needed. We would cease the relentless and futile pursuit of “fixing things” about our bodies and souls post-cancer. Instead, we would smile sweetly at the broken parts and love them because of, not despite, their imperfections.
My favorite girl and I had a busy weekend. While my #1 son was busy with baseball, she and I went to a baby shower for my cousin, then hit the Galleria to find a very special birthday gift, and took a trip to our favorite gourmet grocery store. While normally I’d rather open a vein than go to the Galleria on a Saturday afternoon, my girl’s unbridled enthusiasm made up for the fact that I felt like I was back in NYC with the crush of humanity all around us. No matter; my girl soaked it all in and enjoyed every minute of it. Once we left the mall and pressed on to the smaller yet still significant crowd at Central Market, my little foodie was in her element and wanted to sample every piece of produce and taste the fresh-ground cashew butter and indulge in the specialty Easter candies in the bulk bins. She wasn’t nearly as interested as I was in examining the sparkling wine section, so she forged on ahead to the condiment aisle to peruse the soy sauce (her latest food obsession).
On my own, I would have raced through the store, grumbling at those inconsiderate enough to leave their carts unattended in the middle of the aisle. I would have thrown items into my cart and crossed off my list with much haste. (I still would have lingered in the sparkling wine section, but quickly.) With my girl, however, I was reminded to slow down and savor the experience. After all, it wasn’t about filling my cart with groceries as much as it was about experiencing the store’s bounty with my fledgling foodie.
After we saw and sampled everything there was to see, we pushed our canvas-bag-laden cart to the car. Instead of collapsing in a heap in the passenger seat, my girl hauled her share of the bags from the cart into the trunk, chatting away. Once she returned the cart and buckled up, she looked at me and smiled the sweetest smile and said, “I really like spending quality time with you.” She went on to say that she doesn’t really understand when she hears girls say that their moms drive them crazy or embarrass them (although that’s probably coming). She said that just doesn’t make sense to her, because she enjoys hanging out with me.
What a compliment. And an honor. Huge. On both fronts.
A few days later, we ran errands after school, including a trip to the garden center to pick out some spring color for the front flowerbeds (those of you still bogged down in winter, feel free to curse; I would. We’ll revisit this topic in August or September or October when it’s still hot enough to break a sweat walking through the house despite the $600/month AC bill). Of course my girl wanted to help plant the flowers, too, and had ideas on how to best mix and match the different colors for maximum effect.
Again, I would have quickly divided up the flowers, dug too-small holes, and jammed the plants in, just to be done with it. Not my girl, though; she carefully raked the mulch away with one tool, dug the hole with another, and gently broke up the roots before gingerly placing the plant in its new home. As if that weren’t enough, she lovingly watered each plant with the gentlest of streams from her tiny watering can.
As I stopped myself from telling her to skip the watering because the sprinkler system would douse the new plants in the morning, I could feel the universe trying to tell me something. When the universe tries to tell me something, I stop my busy-body ways long enough to listen. “This,” the universe said. “This is what it’s all about.”
I know in my rational brain that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. But I don’t work that way, and am continually smacking my head up against this conundrum. However, as my girl and I finished planting just as the sun slipped down even with the horizon, leaving trails of pink and orange to match the flowers we’d just planted, I heeded the universe’s message and stopped long enough to notice the stunning colors of the sunset. To inhale the sweet scent of the purple stock. To watch the drops of water pool and drip, one by one, from the newly-planted flowers. To appreciate that my girl wants to hang with me. To give thanks for the fact that we both find satisfaction in a job well done.
This. This is what it’s all about.
And I appreciate it. Especially in light of the fact that a couple of years ago, I struggled to imagine doing something so simple yet so satisfying with my girl. A comedy of errors post-surgery ensured that anything that could go wrong would go wrong, and a relatively simple, early-stage cancer diagnosis turned ugly with a hard-to-diagnose post-surgery infection. She was just 8 years old when I was diagnosed, and even then possessed a wisdom that belied her youth. While my #1 son fretted internally and worried about my survival rate, my girl knew that we would get through that perilous journey. With a wisdom that still belies her youth, nearly 3 years post-cancer, she reminds me that This. This is what it’s all about. Running errands together. Sampling yummy food and picking out new things to cook. Planting flowers with the utmost care. This.
As we headed back into the house last night after our gardening was done, she did it again: she told me that she’s really glad we spent that quality time together. I’m humbled and honored again. Would she say this had I not been picked in the cancer lottery? Would she appreciate the time we have together had it never been threatened? Knowing her, probably so.
We washed the dirt and grime off our hands, vying for the lion’s share of the faucet stream, laughing and chatting about which flower is the prettiest, which will grow the biggest. And this morning, as we backed down the driveway en route to school, my girl told me to stop. I figured she had forgotten something, and as I put the car in park I waited for her to leap out and run back into the house. Instead, she didn’t move.
“What did you forget?” I asked. “Nothing,” she said. “I just want to look at the flowers for a second.”
Our glorious vacation is over. Sigh. Many thanks to our wonderful hosts for such a wonderful time. It was a fabulous 17 days. Best weather ever, which meant tons of good times on the beach, laughing, reading, sunning, and sipping–the things from which memories are made. This year’s trip was made even more memorable by the addition of one important item from home: my dear friend and medical sherpa Amy! She and her boys spent some time with us on our beloved Salisbury Beach and she now knows exactly why we love it so much.
A quick blast of photos as I tackle my gigantic to-do list, with promises to come back with a real photoglut soon. The clock is ticking and my list is long–gotta get ‘er done before my knee surgery on Wednesday. Among the gigantic pile of mail awaiting my return was the letter from my health insurance describing the procedure as “Lateral retinacular release open and arthroscopy, knee surgical, with meniscectomy (medial and lateral, including meniscal shaving) including debridement/shaving of articular cartilage (chondroplasty), same or separate compartment.” Blech. Ouch. Yuk. What part of that sounds fun? None of it. But alas, I will get through the lateral release, scoping, shaving, and debriding in hopes of rocking that bionic knee for years to come.
Meanwhile, I’ll think about this:
Until next year, Salisbury!
I’ve been quite busy the last few days living my life.
I’m going to say that again — living my life. Those are 3 beautiful little words to someone dealing with cancer. Past or present, once you’ve tangled with the beast, the idea of living, i.e., surviving, is sweet. The idea of living your life, even sweeter because it means that in some way, you are getting back a semblance of the pre-cancer life.
It’s almost October, which brings a multitude of conflicting emotions and thoughts. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is confusing for me, and for many other cancerchicks. On one hand, I’m grateful to Komen for destigmatizing what once was a shameful disease. I’m thankful for the research and the advances that have been made, which allow women like me to deal with BC much more easily than my pink ribbon sisters before me. On the other hand, I’m uncomfortable with all the pinkwashing that occurs. At what point can we declare enough with the awareness? Is there really anyone who’s not aware that BC exists and rips people’s lives apart to the tune of 1.3 million worldwide every year? More on that later.
While I’m torn about the Komen issue, I decided last-minute to do the Race for the Cure, which is tomorrow. The Houston version of the race usually attracts nearly 40,000 people so it’s a big deal, literally. I’ll be among the sea of pink tomorrow morning, wishing that the organization putting on the race would focus more on research and metastatic disease and less on putting a pink ribbon on products from fried chicken to dog treats to toilet paper. I’ll proudly wear my hot pink SURVIVOR shirt, basking in the glow of having made it through the plethora of crap cancer threw at me, but I’ll also mourn those who didn’t make it through.
But that’s tomorrow. Today I’m going to be kicking some butt on the tennis court. It’s the annual member-guest tournament at our club, and Christy and I plan to dominate. She’s a fierce competitor who wants to bring home the hardware. Me too, but I’m also happy to be living my life.
Trevor is trying to get life insurance on me. I’m sure that should make me nervous on some level; however, I think he knows that even on my worst day, his life is a bit easier with me in it. Right?? Right??
Here’s what’s funny: I had to fill out a bunch of online forms, knowing I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being accepted. It’s ok, I have really thick skin. I don’t worry too much about rejection.
The online application has a big section on heath issues, conveniently divided up into categories: physical exam; common conditions; skin, hair & nails; musculoskeletal; women’s health; and “other.”
I’m sure I would pass the physical exam, as long as they give partial credit for having partially finalized body parts. The common conditions section included questions on whether one has had problems with things like colds, flu, allergies, as well as kidney stones and appendicitis. Since when did the latter two become common? I hope I never have either.
The skin, hair & nails section sadly had nothing to do with how fastidiously or fashionably maintained one is. I would pass with flying colors on exfoliated, moisturized, and sunblocked skin, as well as highlighted hair and a nice mani-pedi. But no, they want to know about boring stuff like shingles and psoriasis.
Musculoskeltal was a little more interesting with queries about back pain, bone spurs, fractures, and plantar fasciitis. No, yes, yes, and yes. That was easy.
Women’s health dealt with exactly what I’d expect: birth control, menopause, hormone replacement therapy. In other words, some of the most depressing topics on the website. No need for birth control when you’ve been thrown into early menopause. The baby-making department has not only been downsized but is out of business and closed for good. Menopause? Yep, in spades. Every symptom under the ‘pause banner got a big, thick checkmark from me. Hormone replacement therapy? No chance. The damn hormones fed my cancer machine, so there’s no way I’m going to replace them. Not even if they begged me to come back.
The “other” section inquired about a smorgasboard of topics: concussions, cycts, hernias, and plastic surgery. Hmmm, seems strange to throw the plastic surgery one in there. I can’t wait to tell Dr S that his exalted specialty is lumped in with such ordinary things.
After checking the boxes and reading the laundry list of symptoms and conditions, I had to give specific detail about any “health concerns.” This is where I’m expecting the giant red “rejection” stamp to hit. The questions:
“#1. During the past three years, have you for any reason consulted a physician(s) or other health care provider(s), or been hospitalized? #2. Have you ever had, or been treated for, any of the following: heart, lung, kidney, liver, nervous system, or mental disorder; high blood pressure; stroke; diabetes; cancer or tumor; drug or alcohol abuse including addiction?”
No amount of creative writing or playing fast & loose with the facts is going to help me here. During the past three years, I have indeed consulted a physician(s) or other health care provider(s) and been hospitalized. Further, I have indeed been treated for cancer or tumor; the jury is still out on the mental disorder and the drug/alcohol abuse issues. I’m thinking those could go either way.