Breast cancer, grief

A LONG STRANGE TRIP

Surrender- Giving up what we think should be happening for what is actually happening.

-McCall Erickson

When my insides used to feel discombobulated on occasion, I would run through the usual suspects and review from the day before. How much wine did I have? What sugar did I consume? Is it a full moon? Is mercury retrograde? Am I getting my period? Though the latter no longer applies (at least there is one good gift of breast cancer and preventative surgery, there has to be something good from all of this hell). Once I would run through this dictionary of possibilities, there it would be. I could check off at least one if not two or three of the list that summarized alayne’s brain and feel at peace immediately knowing that the frizzle in my brain would calm down when the items listed passed. Sugar and alcohol would leave my body, the full moon would move on and mercury’s retrograde I would just have to suffer with.

Knowing my body and my mind and what makes it all tick has been a major science experiment for most of my adult life, but even more in the last ten years. I enjoy exploring all of the different forks in the road that cause my mind to wander and dart at a perpetual one hundred yard dash. This is all part of the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of who I am and after fifty-four years, I finally understand and embrace its strong force of power. More apparent in my on again off again drinking or not drinking daily date with a big glass of red something or other, is the off again. When I am off, all of the shit that delightful glass of Barolo edged out comes raring out as if a damn just broke loose.

“Maybe you’re finally grieving,” my beloved Dr. W. said as I was pouring my heart out to her last week at my check up. I had just told her that I was exercising regularly, meditating every day without fail, writing like Charlotte Perkins Gilman as if I was locked in a room with Yellow Wallpaper. I am living closer to my insides and my truth as I have in my entire life. So why do I feel fragmented and lacking elation as I normally do? And as I was pouring said heart, I was feeling almost a tad embarrassed about what seemed to be my personal pity party. After all, I am alive. There are so many worse cases. I felt almost guilty loading on her. I may have even apologized. Yep.fullsizeoutput_e7

Ahhh blasted Grief. Grief is that vaporous trouble that permeates your heart without ringing the doorbell.  As I considered her comment for a moment, I realized that this question was likely the answer. My personal experience with breast cancer as I told her is that I was lucky in the overall collective of possibility. I compared the emotional part of my experience to a classroom. Let’s say there are twenty kids, two or three who are completely self-sufficient, smart, get their work done on time and the remainder of the kids need lots of extra attention. There is one teacher so she usually, human nature here, lets the ones that are ok do their thing and focuses on the outcomes of the class as a whole. Naturally, she will lean toward helping the underlings.

In my case, I was the self-sufficient one. My experience was physically OK. So I marched forth as I do, as most of us do. Checking tasks off of my list, crossing the t’s dotting the i’s and relying on my resilience to get through the emotional scars that were planted. Despite the fact that the physical part of this experience healed and I didn’t need as much support from the powers that be, the emotional and mental scars stayed behind simmering in wait unbeknownst to me. Until I was ready to let them open up and begin the healing process, trauma and grief don’t know the difference between a lot of pain and a little pain. They still cause the same stressors on our emotional selves. When the locomotive train of moving forth slows down, and it definitely needs to at some point, this is when the opportunities for healing arrives. And as the wisdom of hind site as taught me over and over again that there are opportunities in the awareness, I still forget that I must go through, not step around, not ignore, but return to the rink and wait for my opponent to arrive.

WAKE UP! The conductor bellows out as the train arrives at the station reminding the sleepy traveler it is time to depart from the long trip. And what a long strange trip it has been. There is the DURING part. The part when you are trying to get to appointments, learn as much as you can about this new life challenge you are about to embark on. There are the conversations, the hospital, the after of everything. While the physical is out in the open getting better every day, the emotions are left unchecked because frankly the Doctors who were in your ring during the fight are thinking you won so they are on to the next fighter getting them ready for their battle. Besides, your outward appearance is strength, toughness, marching forth. You are the kid in the classroom who doesn’t want to bother the teacher with double checking your spelling because spelling comes naturally for you or you can just look the word up in the dictionary.

Mental health, as we are learning more and more, can be a silent destroyer if left unchecked and uncared for. Thankfully, I have resources I can reach for, and I unabashedly do. Writing about this helps me and I hope it allows people who land on these pages to realize they are not alone. They are not selfish or being a baby by recognizing that they have pain. Inside. On their hearts. We all do. Just when I think I have “it” figured out, it’s like the universe says, “Oh yeah, Alayne, you think? Let’s see what you have figured out.” And some small drip barely noticeable turns into an emotional puddle suddenly expanding and needs a basin to catch the fall. Sometimes I can hear my grandmother saying, “Enough with the crying already,” like I am purposely opening up a wound rather than giving it the time it needs to heal, once again judging my feelings as good or bad, positive or negative, right or wrong.

Perhaps for my own experience are the triggers that this time of year presents as my birthday fast approaches. My birthday twice has given me negative news. I like symbolism of numbers and the way they tell a story. First diagnosis- 2015 (odd year) when I turned 50 (even year). Second diagnosis- 2017 (odd year) when I turned 52 (even year). So here we go. 2019, I will be 54. Just went for my check up- all good. Why worry? I am not really worried, I think I am just more triggered and perhaps this is the year that I really deal with the mending of the physical trauma I continue to heal from.

I am such a crazy checklist person that I likely (foolishly in retrospect) thought I would be done with by now. Diagnosis. Check. Genetic testing. Check. Surgery. Check, Surgical menopause. Check. Recovery. Check. Up and about. Check. Scars healed. Check. New Boobs. Interested in sex again. Check. Feeling like myself again. This is where it gets murky because that ‘self’ is no longer. Perhaps she is who I grieve. Our lives are long strange trips when we have the blessed fortune to have long ones. Maybe the rough current I have been feeling in my insides is the reminder that the shake up I have gone through for the past four years is my new self. I know I can’t fight the waves for sure, when there is a riptide, panic and struggle are not helpful, instead leaning back and allowing the wave to just take you where you are supposed to go is often the saving grace. This is hard for me, the release of working on the project rather than the surrender to it. But as I write this last word, Surrender, I know that this is my work. I surrender. This feels like the best way to take a trip so I lie on my back and let floatation carry me where it is supposed to. Let’s see what that feels like for a while.

Health

IS CELERY JUICE THE NEW KALE?

“Have you tried celery juice?” my beloved Dr. W. asked me at my regular breast check in this past Monday. “No.” I replied with a straight face. “But funny you should ask, because my new favorite nutritionist Amanda Rigby just recommended this to me. Something about cleaning out the liver…” I suppose I should feel grateful that I have a doctor in my direct inner circle who would even know about this. A doctor who would be willing to speak the blasphemy of ….. shhhh, quiet here……functional medicine…. in her office while BIG PHARMA BROTHER looks on waiting like a predator to pounce on every unsuspecting person in America to get them on their plethora of pharmacopia.

I love Dr.W. like a sister and I am so grateful for her brilliance, but also for the kinship we share in trying to navigate through the bullshit of what we really have control over when it comes to recurrences. She has seen it all in the world of female cancer and I trust her completely. That being said, I have to make my own way through the maze and hard work of deciphering what I am willing to commit to when it comes to preventative vs reality. I have done my own research for the past almost thirty years.

I read a book by AnneMarie Colbin called Food and Healing written in 1986 when she was talking about fat and nightshades and the challenges that food brings to our health in both negative and positive ways. This book set me on a path of studying on my own any food modality as it relates to healing the body and for the most part I feel I have been way ahead of most of the doctors and nutritionists I have met since. This may read arrogant after all I have no credibility as far as initials after my name, but what these books have taught me is that we are all are own science experiment. I know my own body like a slick leather glove that fits perfectly.

But celery juice? I get it. I get the need for a healthy gut, for a better liver to increase functionality in our bodies filled with toxins and goodness knows what else. I get the need for the consideration of prevention. Prevention is that pesky word we consider often after the fact. Usually the P word comes in the thousands of articles everyone who thinks they are being helpful sends along with the “FYI” caption. But how much is just out of our control?

I am not the type to put my head in the sand ignoring all of this influx of information coming at me every time I open my computer screen. Sometimes I get sucked into the rabbit hole of over thinking everything that goes into this body of mine. This unnecessary stress is not helpful for sure. It causes lots of guilty feelings everytime I decide that Macaroni and cheese instead of a kale salad is the dinner of choice. And I think often, does it really fucking matter?

Twenty years ago I had the pleasure of meeting a woman, Dr. Pamela Peeke . I had invited her as a guest speaker to an event I planned. At the time, she was doing extensive research on the how the effects of stress in our lives was showing up as the inordinate amounts of illness now part of the human race caused by its regular presence. She planted the seed in my mind about the importance of movement and other stress reducers even more so than food. She has gone on to write books and speak at Ted talks around the globe. In my experience it is stress more than most other factors that create illness. Of course, stress from bad eating is definitely one of the many elements of stress as a whole, but there are so many causes of daily stress I am sure play an even larger part of the puzzle.

Family relationships, financial worries, evolving friendships and catostrophic events all plant their little seedlings along the way sometimes growing ever so slowly or sometimes like dandelion weeds after a four day rainfall. I do believe that learning to settle down, slow down and make peace with your past are all helpful ways in our control to change the growth pattern that has been planted. Meditating, writing, art, creativity, reading, walking, exercising, cooking and not drinking alcohol are definitely the top ways I work on my own stress and past traumatic events. Focusing on these things that bring such joy to my life helps me heal and march forth in ways hard for me to describe. But I do. I march forth.

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As I made my way to the second Dr’s appointment of the week to have my plastic surgeon inspect his hard work on my upper half, he reminded me that I am still swollen. It has been almost two years since the first half of my surgery and almost a year and a half since my last one.

“Swollen? Still? Really?” I asked, perplexed. “How could I still be swollen?”

“Totally normal, he replied matter of factly. And you will feel joint pain and tightness too, so don’t be alarmed.”  It was here at this very moment that I freed myself from thinking that the mac and cheese from Sunday’s football extravaganza was the root of all evil. I am swollen because I had two of my breasts taken off, fat sucked out of my stomach that I didn’t ask to be sucked out for said breasts, muscle from my back brought to my front to support the fat and allow the new breasts to have a permanant home. Why the hell would I not be so swollen? I was thinking that it was my workouts, my body, my food intake, causing my fingers to be slightly swollen so that some of my favorite rings no longer slide on.

This is the bad part of being a resillient half full kind of chick. I had forgotten about the stress that my body has gone through in the last four years. Four surgeries in four years. And I was one of the lucky ones, I didn’t even have to have chemo. I would say that counts for stress, wouldn’t you? I don’t think buying endless stalks of celery and putting them in my three hundred dollar juicer every morning before I start my day is going to be a game changer for this body. I also don’t know if daily celery juicing is going work the same type of magic as a good deep breath at the mat with myself breathing in light and out darkness. I am willing to try it maybe. No scratch that. I am not juicing celery stalks, fuck that.

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now they tell me….

 

 

life lessons

One Word Prompts

The exercise from WordPress asked me to choose a word. There were only six words, but my word stood out like a beam of light.

Choice.

That is my word.

Choice takes me back to the preverbial forks from my past.

When I could have gone left, or right or forged my own path, maybe backwards or straight or simply staying right in the center and looking ahead.

Choice.

I remember the only job I left almost before it started as a banquet waitress. It was like the employees gave me a test and said, here, clean this candelabra. It was covered with drips of countless candles from hundreds of events past. One of the senior banquet waitresses, you know the type, been doing it for her whole life, stout, bossy, matter of fact and in love with her role as senior banquet waitress had given the order.

I was about twenty one and had never had to clean a candleabra in my short life so I began chipping away not knowing that if I had simply put it in the freezer, the whole project would have taken less than thirty minutes. But there I stood in my little white button down with the black pants and black shoes chipping endlessly waht seemed like hours and impatiently away.

The whole reason I was even working at this job was because I had been fired from my previous one, the only time I had ever been fired in my life. Because I did something unworthy and embarrassing, because I made a stupid choice to add a ten dollar tip to a bill when a customer failed to acknowledge my brilliance as his waitress. This choice, of course and completely appropriately, prompted an abrubt firing and subsequently found me jobless. This banquet waitressing job was the only employment I could muster up after the foolish choice I had made. To even write this aloud for the world to read makes me cringe at my stupidity, but truth be told, it was a most painful lesson and to write it at least lets the ghost out that has been hiding in my closet for the last thirty years.

I stood there while the seasoned and older workers were likely snickering at my slowness and lack of knowledge about the freezer alternative. All of a sudden as if by magic, this thought occurred to me- I don’t have to do this. I had a choice. At twenty-one, I realized somehow that I had a choice in my happiness. I don’t know where this source of power came from, but  gratefully it did. For the rest of my life, though I wasn’t evolved enough to realize this at the time, I would never work at a job unless I totally loved it. This was a deep thought for a young woman who didn’t seem to have many choices in front of her as far as job prospects went. But I did. I looked around at my future colleagues and took my sassy over confident self, walked up to the head banquet waitress and said, “I can’t do this. I am leaving.” With that I flipped my hair and marched out, my choice carried with me for the rest of my employed life.

Now some of you may be thinking, this is so irresponsible. You should finish what you started at least finish the shift. Fuck that. I was beyond miserable, there was no team work, that group was hoping I would fail. I could feel it and what was the point? For some reason, maybe it was my higher power, I was transported to the realization that LIFE WAS SHORT and there was no time for misery. As a result I ended up with a super fun job as a cocktail waitress grateful someone would choose to give me a second chance.

Choice is around us. Maybe this notion of choice is simply whether you think you have one or not. Maybe it is based on where you come from and how you think about the life in front of you. What I do know about this example though is that choosing happiness as my guide whenever possible has never let me down. Even in the bad choices, good has come out of it becasue of the lessons learned. Lessons learned were also choices. Choices because I chose to learn from them rather than repeating the same mistake again.

I know as I write this today that I am speaking from my perch of living in a free country where choice seems like a right. I know that I am not choosing life over death situations simply because I am fortunate in my geography. But for those of us who do have the privilege to live in a free society, looking at your life on a daily basis as one that you get to choose where it heads, can make the difference in the life you lead.

How we choose to look at our lives is surely choice and this quote that I refer to often in my writing sums it up in a neat little package. How do you choose to live? Does it feed you and make you happy? If not, then when?

As you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

– wayne dyer.

grief

OUT OF THE OCEAN

You visited me, finally, and I am grateful. I have missed you and there you were, out of the blue, the literal blue of the ocean. Have you been waiting for me to appear in the calm openness necessary, like you ever needed permission. But maybe it was me that needed the permission, the sense of peace I have worked on to get to the place where I could be open to your visit.

It was like you had never left, but at the same time like you had been gone forever. Forever. Soon you will be gone for more than half of my life. Those are the frames of reference I use to recognize your long absence from my heart.

The first time I knew you were ok was the first dream, the one where we were at the beach walking parallel to the shore and I was behind you, you kept falling because your leg was bothering you and I kept throwing sand on you which was causing you pain. Then in that fast forward way a dream propels to the next scene, I was sitting cross legged facing the waves. You were the wave lying in a resting pose on your right ear eyes closed, serene even, mouth slightly curved up but not quite a smile letting me know you were at peace, you were good. That dream has carried me for twenty four years.

Twenty four years later, I find myself in the midst of a deep dive down within myself eager and excited to find ways to simmer down and re-connect with my soul. I began a short meditation practice. Every morning while the coffee perks, 8 minutes or more depending on the size of the pot, I sit cross legged in silence facing the East like a religious Jew at the Western Wall, (my cousin beth corrected my compass as I thought it was west) and since I wake up at the crack of dawn facing east is probably more realistic , though I do enjoy the sunset and west feels right for some higher power reason I am unsure of and I sit and breathe in total silence. No music, no sound machines, nothing except me and my breath and the beat of my heart. My mind races and speeds and slows and floats then I remember where I am and like the magic that meditation is slowly one day at a time teaching me, I breathe. For the last thirty or forty days, just showing up to the mat wherever I am and I breathe. Calmly and collectively. Each day I go beyond the beep of the coffee pot’s sound and I find myself staying put- different.

When I first started I kept saying, is that coffee pot ever going to fucking beep? Now I am disappointed that it beeps so quickly and I am surprised that in such a short time span I went from waiting and tapping my foot like my skin was crawling to this miraculous pleasure. And I sit and breathe massaging my insides with the deepest and and calmest of breaths. Steady, In and out. Slow, easy. Connected. This is the miracle of the quiet. And wisdom moves inside of me and I come to my knees without ever moving.

Then just like the miracle of not trying, not forcing, there you were, there we were. At the beach, I was next to you as part of the same wave gently lapping at the shore, in and out like my own breath. I opened my eyes and felt you. Even though the visit was brief, I relished it because it had been so long. I accepted its shortness and went about my day. To the mat again the next day and in only two or three breaths you were back, but this time you stood up facing me looking like your pre-cancer, pre-death self, strong, muscular, tall, dark wavy hair and I was sitting facing the water watching you arrive, like a male character from a Greek myth, someone likely related to Zeus, I stood up knowing that you wouldn’t be staying, but just bathing in the moment. We danced and frolicked like brothers and sisters do and danced again. Then you turned around and walked back in the water, with your back to me and dove in, swimming away, never turning around and it was enough.

I opened my eyes knowing you were letting me know something but instead of trying to figure it out, just allowing the pleasure. I went to a yoga class that night with one of my favorite teachers, Mary and she did mini meditations throughout the gentle class. At the last part of the meditation, after the final Shavasana, Mary had us sit in that familiar cross legged position that is getting much easier to do. Within a flash of time you were back, but this time with Dad. You looked at me, Dad didn’t, though this didn’t bother me and the two of you uncharacteristically wrestled briefly. Shortly after you both dove back in the water swimming underneath and away. My eyes filled up with tears, happy to see you to be with you in this odd awakened state, you left me with the words Call Mom.

Typical. I felt a sense of urgency to call her. But I didn’t right away. That was Monday. I called her yesterday but had to cut it short because my friend arrived earlier then planned as we were headed to dinner with 2 other friends. One of them pushed the very familiar Ann buttons, but I didn’t react, like it was a test drive of a car before you decide to make the purchase. So I called my mother back today and allowed her to do her thing, keeping a safe distance from her fishing pole to my heart. And it was good.

People die. They die young. They die old but they die. Mary Oliver died today, someone who was a link for me to Provincetown and another old friend who is no longer.. Strange how people can physically leave, but you can still have visits from them even 24 years later just like it was yesterday. Relationships die too and people can depart emotionally and you feel nothing, like it was time for the departure and they did you a favor without you even knowing you needed one. Then there is Ann who comes and goes and comes again, like the nine lives of a cat. And I allow it because after all she is my mother and who knows how many more lives she has. This time, though I watch her line and hook fly past me. I watch a fish grab a hold and swim with the current full steam ahead not realizing who’s on the other side of the worm.

I haven’t had the dream again since Monday and I welcome the visit juxtaposed with my son, being away in Israel and on his way home too. Like you are part of this protection in his travels. Your presence makes his trip help me feel safe for some reason as I try not to feel like you and Dad are sending me some message or you are coming for me or something like some fucked up death premonition. There has been and is so much cancer and death in my young life. It is a struggle to not immediately go there because it has been so long since I have felt you, my dear brother. You are a warrior, Poseidon, all these years later and I hope (and pray too) it was just a lovely visit because you miss me too.

life lessons

Making a List

 

Yesterday’s assignment generated from Day 2 of WordPress University that I have embarked on since deciding this past weekend that Yes, I can build my own website. Here is the writing prompt below.

“Today, let’s write a list. Compiling a list is a way to let loose, unlock ideas, and free your mind. Today, write your own list on one of these topics:

  • Things I Like
  • Things I’ve Learned
  • Things I Wish
  • Things You’re Good At

There are no rules, though you can create some boundaries for yourself by deciding in advance how many items you’d like to include, or by settting a timer — try a list of 15 items, set a timer for 45 minutes.”

The goal seems to be getting thoughts to run freely and wildly, but to contain them somehow in the confines of list making. List making is something I do not struggle with. I am a list maker. I am also a vision board addict. I have them in my office which is out in the open off of my living room forcing me to never forget the major projects I am working on. I just found out about a program called Creately that I almost bought until I realized that I already have organizational charts done that I created myself in excel that work perfectly fine.

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My brain never stops. You could say I have the entrepeneurial spirit, like my father, like my grandfather and if I didn’t make lists and storyboards and visionboards, I am certain my head would fly off the top of my shoulders like a spinning top. This intensity of mine, of the creative ideas that move through me as if a spicket was turned on full throttle and being stuck in the on position is part of my writing energy, though. List making, outlines and order to the electricity that is my head helps move it up and out. I am grateful for the ability to know myself well enough to know that all of these ideas must take up a residence outside of this very full brain. Usually the lists are To Do lists, sometimes the lists are dreams and desires, but the theme is always a call to action. 

Organize the basement, put the dishes away, clean the closet in the bedroom, call my grandfather, move the doctor’s appointment from this week to next week, sign up for the art class, even when I am hoping to add areas of spirtuality into a list, as I consider this list making, even that is active. Deepen meditation practice, take more yoga classes, go to Synagogue once a month.

So as this call to action from WordPress University asks me to consider a different way to look at list making and I write today with this in mind. I never use a timer for my morning writing, I let my writing class leaders do that. When I wake up and write, it is my morning peace. This is why I wake up at five am and jump out of bed, so I have the time to write. The prompts are a different way to think. This is what writing prompts do, they open possibilities and creativity in a way that five minutes before would have not thought of. So here I go. This is just a quick list otherwise this writing would be over one hundred pages

Things I Like

  • early rising
  • conversations with interesting people
  • learning
  • writing writing writing
  • going to the library, taking out a book, finishing the book and returning it before the due date
  • collecting typewriters
  • being introduced to new ideas and considering them
  • nature and gardening
  • seeing a cardinal when I am deep in thought about something I am planning
  • watching my son grow up and develop his own identity
  • wearing my grandmother’s lighthouse jacket
  • cooking, walking, going to the beach
  • going to the movies and to museums
  • travel
  • expressive arts
  • being home
  • organizing 
  • leading my team and developing leaders
  • hanging out with my partner
  • being with my close tribe of women
  • organizing fun

     

  • working out
  • a good stretch
  • remembering my dreams
  • silence

Things I’ve Learned

  • To let shit go
  • To let shit go
  • to not take things personal at every waking moment
  • that when someone leaves your life say thank you with grace not malice
  • living in the present moment is all that is important
  • I am good enough
  • boobs aren’t as important as I thought they were
  • food is thy medicine or poison
  • drinking alcohol is not good for spiritual clarity (but it tastes so good)

Things I Wish

  • I had been better with money management earlier in my life
  • I could see my brother one more time6d33b-1ndLRbRVhNrgu9pHv_-lsMQ@2x
  • my mother and I had a really good relationship
  • I had a condo on Siesta Key for two months a year
  • I had the time and money to finish my degree and get a masters in writing
  • To really make time to research my historical fiction book idea 
  • i was better at growing vegetables

Things You’re Good At

  • Life
  • being a mother
  • friendship and being a strong partner in my Living Apart Together relationship
  • being an exwife
  • developing relationships
  • connecting people
  • owning a business
  • writing
  • creative thoughts
  • kindness and charitability
  • hosting parties
  • dreaming new ideas
  • cooking and baking
  • growing herbs
  • Love 

I am not sure if I have ever done this before, but I must say it was a nice way to start my day. Thank you WordPress. Again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WRITING

Why I Write.

I was recently asked, “Why do I write?” I just started my adventure with WordPress, the way out of my comfort zone attempt at designing my own missalayneous.com website. Deciding to jump into WordPress University, I immediately found a writing class that I clicked YES on promptly. The first prompt came to my inbox like magic. Why do you write?

This is a question I can easily answer.

I write because I have to. Because if I don’t, I am in spiritual agony. Because not writing is simply not an option for my health, my soul, my mind. When I write, I feel good. When I don’t, I get jammed, and clogged like a kitchen sink drain that has backed up because a chicken bone from dinner the night before found its way in. Writing helps me move ideas, feelings, thoughts and musings up and out. Writing creates open space in my heart so my creative brain can have the room it needs to get shit done. Writing is a force to be reckoned with and it shows up every day like a loyal friend.

Since my first journal in third grade pen to page, fingers to keyboard have never let me down. I feel calm and on purpose when I write. Just like a good workout, there is a steadiness and a purpose to my mornings giving me a fresh perspective on the day before.

I used to only write in a unlined notebook, with a sharpie, then a smooth uniball pen, then that changed to a lined notebook with a pencil. I soon realized that in order for all of this writing to become something, it needed to be saved on a computer so I started to type on my laptop and organize my writings more formally. Then I started typing occasionally on a typewriter. This led to becoming an avid and manic collector of portable typewriters. Each mode of writing makes me write with a different personality. I love the various themes I come up with depending on what I am writing on.

Writing feels like what I imagine photographers feel when they see an image. Instead though, while they have the need to capture the actual image with a camera, my image is a story that unfolds with a sense of urgency that I must sit down to write about it. Words to paper, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, run on sentences, verbs, pronouns and prepositions all come spinning at me as I sit there with my influencers of yesteryear.

Miss Foley, my mean first grade teacher who created writers block until I set her free and now she has become my friend who sits nearby when I am about to make a grammatical error. Mr. Chase, my seventh grade teacher who was of great encouragement to this hormonal twelve year old girl he recognized as a talent for writing. I before e except after c and Neck-eccary to remember that the word only had one C in the beginning. Mrs.Nixon, my freshman teacher who taught us Tess of the D’Urbervilles and turned us on to the human injustices in books like The Invisible Man, The Jungle, and female power imbalances that permeated our lives in 1980 we had never considered until she brought it up.

When I write, I am joined by my past teachers and am also joined by great women who have shown up in my adult writing life screaming from the sidelines WRITE WRITE AND WRITE! Hannah Goodman at her first writing class as a young teacher who brought meditation to my writing party and planted the seed about actually thinking I could not only write, but maybe even write a book.

Why do I write? This is why. Because I can, i must, I need to, I want to, I have to. Lucky to be alive and I don’t take this privilege and gift lightly.

life lessons

THE WAKEUP CALL

Don’t look at the clock, I thought to myself. How long had I been sleeping? It seemed like if I did look at the clock it would be early. Not early like four am, but early like bad early. But I was awake. So I did what I normally do when this happens, I review my previous day. Food intake, movement, etc and could only come up with that I gave myself a full day off and sat on the couch by the warmth of the fire doing what I love. Writing, reading and more writing. I didn’t even really get up to move and my food intake was perfectly fine, no sugar or drink so I couldn’t really blame this. But then I realized that the early morning wakeup was my call to action and it had nothing to do with yesterday.

I finally looked at the clock. Worse than I thought. 2:14. Holy early. This is even early for me, but there is a surge happening in my body that is commanding creativity in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time. The feeling that is leading me down the path of flow and connection with what I am supposed to be doing. When this happens, the three am wakeup call becomes my friend. I need to get up and get writing and realize that this is the power time for my creatvity, when thoughts and ideas come at the speed of light. If I don’t get up and get writing, I will lie there thinking about the ideas, thinking that I will remember them. This has happened to me in the past and when I do finally fall asleep, I wake up with barely a thread of memory from those luscious thoughts just a few hours earlier.

Creative purpose. When I am on point, there is no stopping the flow. All of the support comes at me like a meteor. I meet the right people at the right time, I find classes or hear podcasts that support whatever ideas I am working on. The list goes on and when I am in tune, all of the people places and things show up like I asked for it. Universal flow.  Say for example you decide you want to learn to play an instrument, like the piano, maybe this is something you have always wanted to do, but never had the time. So you think the thought, then like magic, you are at a party and start talking to someone. You ask him, “What do you do?” He responds, “I teach piano.”  Or you are perusing the newspaper and happen to land on an ad that says “PIANO LESSONS AVAILABLE, TAKING NEW AND BEGINNER STUDENTS.” You may ignore this thinking this is just a freak coincidence, so you take that seemingly small voice nagging at you and store it away in that old dusty suitcase in the attic where it sits- for awhile anyway. But then you hear a beautiful concerto on a Sunday morning or you see a sign at a coffee shop that says, “FREE PIANO, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS PICK IT UP, GREAT CONDITION,” Reminding you to go pull that suitcase down from the attic and make the time to full- fill you. The laundry will wait, the bills can be paid tomorrow. When was the last time you allowed a creative force into your heart, that could take you away from the blither of your mindchatter and allow getting lost in something else for awhile?

This is what I am talking about. As always when I listen to my soul’s desires, the right books, articles and podcasts land in my radar. So last week on another three am wakeup call that I didn’t heed, I instead scrolled through some podcast episodes and landed on one that changed my mindset. It was about reisistance and how resistance is the unique messaging power that communicates the force to be reckoned with in something creative you are supposed to be doing. I am attaching it to this writing today because it really helped remind me to listen to that voice that seems to whisper but really is shouting your direction if you would only open yourself up to the YES instead of the BUT.

Podcasts by far are one of the easiest ways to educate your mind on almost any possible thought out there and this is just one of many that have inspired me. Whether right before I go to bed, or a drive in the car, when I am working out or just a random listen, there is so much out there to source if you want to change your thinking and attract more goodness into your life.

Listen to Steven Pressfield: Unlock Your Creative Genius from Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations in Podcasts. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/oprahs-supersoul-conversations/id1264843400?mt=2&i=1000427290930

Wherever I am at in my life, what I know is that each step, the ones in the deepest darkest parts of the forest and the ones where the sun is so bright it hurts my eyes, I am always divinely taken care of and that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I also know that I can’t rush things, but I can give them a little nudge. And if I am still not paying attention, the three am wakeup calls surely get my attention.

 

motherhood

LETTING HIM GO

In therapy there is a term used to describe the healthy separation between people, especially a parent and a child. Differentiation is the word that says you did a good job, you have a healthy separation from each other and basically the nest can be disassembled and rebuilt differently. Like that hilarious commercial when the son goes off to college and the parents tearfully bid goodbye then run into the house to turn the kid’s bedroom into a Jacuzzi bathroom. Differentiation allows the natural separation to be normal, tearful yes, but a healthy one.

There are lots of little steps leading up to the true and finite land of differentiation and all of them lay the groundwork, (hands in prayer position here) for the final move out to their own apartment or house at some later time. But differentiation is more than a physical change of scenery, it is psychological and human too. It is the proverbial disconnect of needing to parent, to mother and allow your child to parent himself. Leaving him for the first time at day care, putting him on the school bus to kindergarten, teaching him to swim and letting him go into the ocean for his first time while you watch from the shoreline, the first day of middle school and high school, hugging them after their first broken heart, being there at their first strike out at a playoff game. The list goes on and on and they all build off of each other each time gaining momentum and strength for later. Later. When the emotional bond between you shifts and though you love each other immensely, you don’t need each other for survival, physical or emotional. You can still have the most open and connected heart, but you are ok with yourself enough to separate and fly, free and healthy. Free from issues of abandonment or over parenting that may find you in therapy later on struggling with your own relationships. Differentiation says I love you, you love me but we are not so intertwined in each other’s lives that we either can’t separate or we can’t wait to separate. It is the more neutral in the middle of it, the sweet spot of the hard worked results of parenting well, or as well as you thought at the time.

I understood this concept only recently as both a daughter and a partner. It has taken me all of these years to truly comprehend the true definition of its power and once I recognized the true sense of differentiation, I welcomed it into the life of my son and me wholeheartedly. He has actually taught me differentiation by his own sense of self. Another unexpected gift of being a mother and a parent for the last twenty one years. Differentiation is also the ability to be able to disagree without that volcanic surge causing a behavior that in retrospect certainly serves no one. I would also call this choosing not to take the bait. The bait being when a family member says something to get a response out of you, usually one that causes that previous mentioned surge. My son and I haven’t had that experience and I don’t anticipate it; I would say we have a pretty healthy mother son relationship, but I won’t really know this until he navigates his own relationship in the future. Relationships are the unique viewfinders we get to look through to see what our parent child relationships were really made of.

In anticipation of my son’s trip to Israel last week, he had to get to NYC the day before as he was going to meet a friend. He is a mature twenty-one and this was as simple as getting on a train and heading south where his friend agreed to meet him and escort him back to his house in Queens. As I write this from the position of After, it is a no brainer. For some reason though, I was filled with anxiety, stress, worry and no matter how much meditation and self talk I did, my heart would not stop racing and the anxious thoughts would not settle. Where was this coming from? I finally realized that I had two very definitive travel experiences involving NYC and when I traced back to the exact moments of those, I was able to at least give some credence to my angst. This had nothing to do with his own experience, it was my stuff from my past that was informing this present moment. Wild.

When I was twenty three I went to Paris by myself for a month, flying over with someone I worked with where we would stay together for three days and then part ways. I had a blast and learned so much about myself in this experience. This was before credit cards for twenty year olds, before cell phones, before Google maps. Just me and Rick Steves’ book on Paris for 10.00 a day or something like that. When I came home I had a hundred dollars in my pocket and the flight was late. I took a bus from JFK to Penn station and realized there were no trains that late and I had no way to get back to Rhode Island. Penn Station in 1989 was frightening and there was no way I should have been near the place at 11:30 pm looking like a vulnerable young woman. Some man came up to me and offered to help me with my bags and in my stupor, I agreed as I made my way to the taxi stand to fortunately go to a friend’s house who when I called on the payphone answered and told me to come there immediately. When the taxi driver saw this man with my bag, he began yelling at him that he was ruining tourism and that he was trying to take advantage of me which promptly forced me back into a quick wake up. What an idiot I was. But at the same time, I felt like there was some higher force looking out for me. I safely got to my friend’s apartment and all was well.

The second experience was much later. I was headed to NYC on the train from Providence to attend a training seminar and I was to arrive for a 10:00 am class on a Tuesday on Park Avenue. Excited to be in New York I vowed to myself that I would visit more often as it was such a short train ride. I remember the day and date well. It was September 4, 2001 exactly one week before September 11th at exactly the same time I arrived at Penn Station. I was struck by the random dates and times we land someplace or don’t. I hadn’t been to New York for at least five years and there I was exactly one week by pure chance earlier then the worst terrorist event of my lifetime. All of this showed up to the table unannounced, long tucked away with cobwebs in the attic as I helped my son get ready for his trip. This is amazing to me as it proves to me that traumatic events never leave us and make their reappearances like a well planned surprise party.

My son and I made it to the train station with him not rolling his eyes even. I kept telling him that my nervousness had nothing to do with my trust in his ability to navigate and he reminded me that he has lots of outside US travel experience. The irony was that I was not even the least anxious about him going to Israel. An area the size of New Jersey surrounded by countries that hate them, it was that New York thing. This is why I knew my worry was not about Michael. It was my stuff and I had to go deep in the vault to be able to say a normal goodbye to him as I brought him to the train station last Sunday. I hugged him and kissed him more than he would have liked but he allowed it. No I didn’t go into the train station with him and wait, this was as much about him leaving as it was about me letting him leave, more differentiation steps for the likely final one of him really leaving at some point in time. All normal. All healthy. All the way it is supposed to be between a parent and a child when you get it right. I got in my car after saying my final goodbye and sobbed my eyes out like I had just put him on the kindergarten bus for the first time. I know now that the tears were the final release of the grief I must have felt in those unique experiences. He made it safely to his friend’s and is in Israel now having what I suspect is the time of his life. Just how it should be. AMEN.

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Breast cancer, Health, Women

MY ANXIOUS HEART

Simmering and hiding in the closet are where all anxieties sit and wait. And Wait. Wait while I drink my cocktails, eat my cheesecake, fry up endless grilled cheese sandwiches on a range of delicious breads and binge watch Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Last week, last month, the last three months, frankly, the free for all that I greatly enjoyed in going south with my health has come out of the closet and begun its bubbling over. This is the direct result of my cease and desist this past week of all fun food and drink. Yes please roll your eyes, (again), total permission. Truth be told, I had to do this. My joints were aching beyond belief, the tightness I felt in my mastectomied reconstructed upper body was causing me great discomfort and the only solution based on numerous prior experiences was to stop the inflammatory insults I was directing at my body.

There is so much confusion over health, what to eat, what not to eat. A glass of wine every day is good for the heart, wine is bad for cancer, sugar causes cancer cells to multiply, meat is bad, meat is good, dairy is necessary for calcium so our bones don’t break off like a delicate shell on a sandy beach, dairy is filled with estrogen so therefore shouldn’t be eaten if you have had estrogen positive breast cancer. Vegetarian, paleo, low fat, full fat, grains and bread, no grains and bread, intermittent fasting or eating every three hours. You go to the doctor for any ailment and are never asked what your diet is like. You speak to a nutritionist or a dietician and your answer will depend on the directive from who their boss might be.

Then there is the internet. And health podcasts and magazines. Everyone has their own take. But where is the science? Like the law, there seems to be broad interpretations of science as it relates to nutrition. After studying on my own for over twenty years, what I do know is that we are all unique and no one food is good for all. What I also know is that when I am not eating certain foods, I have no joint pain, I have reduced tightness in my chest and back and a mental clarity that is unstoppable. Here is what I also know, that the deep dive down the rabbit hole is an excuse to numb out from stress and anxiety-life coming at us in whatever form has vestiges of stress. Just trying to read one article on the internet and getting slammed with five ads in between every paragraph is a form of stress, minor yes, but distracting. This seems like a silly example but pile them up and they are significant. A glass of wine at the end of a day really softens the blows of life, but with my personality, as I have written about on numerous occasions, I am just not a one glass of wine kind of gal. For me it is all or nothing. So when I stop, the simmering pot gets turned up on high heat and boils fast. My heart starts to race, crazy thoughts begin darting and my energy feels unleashed. All part of the detox process that I am completely comfortable with because I have been down this path many times.

The stuff I have been trying to escape or numb out from jumps out of the closet, but the upside is that the joint pain goes away.This in itself is worth the flying monkeys in my head because I know that those flying monkeys only have their power for the first week of my detox, then they head back out to torment someone else. Having a mastectomy and reconstruction, almost two years later, has a set of issues that I hadn’t considered. I have spent the first full year healing and getting used to this new addendum, but now the reality of it is a daily reminder in my back, in my arm and my breasts. I don’t want to feel joint pain or numbness. I don’t want to feel my lower back tweaked every time I do a vigorous workout. I know that certain foods cause inflammation in my body and I know this because I am in tune with my body. Inflammation in my body shows up as heartburn, swelling, bloating, and joint pain. I know that sugar, dairy, wine and pretty much anything delicious causes inflammation in my body. I know this because when I stop eating these items, all of the problems go away in my body. I don’t think this is a coincidence because I am my own science experiment. I am also not willing to give my life over to Big Pharma. I refuse. Many people I know who struggle with inflammatory issues are not willing to give up the foods they love and I totally understand this. It is hard to say pass to the delight that dairy, sugar, bread and wine gives to us. But I also know I feel so fabulous when I am free from the role they play in my life.

January 1 every year is that glorious date that cleans the year before. I mean every day is a new year when I think about it, but there is something about NEW YEARS DAY. That chance to get it right again. It is neat and tidy and filled with hopes and dreams. When I did my reflection on what was missing this past year, I decided it was spirituality. I have definitely been slacking in that department. I am speaking of daily consciousness to a power greater than myself. The While the Coffee Perks meditation has been a glorious awakening for my spiritual self and once that pandora’s box opened, I am jumping in full steam ahead to see what other cobwebs I can clean out of this old soul. It’s only Jan 4, but I am confident that this New Year will be a pleasant one and one I very much deserve.