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MOVING AND SHAKING


MOVING AND SHAKING

“Does anybody really know what time it is?” The tune of that fabulous and very danceable Chicago song started randomly playing in my head today as my morning began. Why do our brains do this? Why do they just start coming up with songs out of nowhere? I didn’t hear a Chicago song, but now I want to get up and change my Pandora from Chet Baker to Chicago and start tapping my feet and swaying my hips. Maybe it is the line itself and not the actual song. In our lives, what is time anyway? We have a short time span relatively speaking to the life on earth never mind the universe. Whether we get to live a long life or a short one, ultimately, it is up to each of us to make it a full one. Time is irrelevant actually. What I know about time in my personal observations of human behavior is we like to use it a lot as excuses for not doing versus doing. “I am so busy.” “I don’t have time.” “I don’t have my schedule with me.” I hear these lines all day every day, but what does it actually mean when we wake up each and every morning breathing- all we really have is time.

This is the conundrum I see especially with the vast amounts of women I have the privilege of meeting in my life. Running around from place to place, driving children, running errands and checking out our phones endlessly to see what the latest Facebook post is. I get it because I have subscribed to this meme allowing it in my past to be my guide rather than realizing ultimately each and every decision we make is a choice. Once I realized this and the late and great Wayne Dyer got me thinking about choice as a unique and personal decision, I understood that where we are and what we do with where we are is a choice. Like it or not. We who live in this free place have endless choices about how and what we do with our time. Our good fortune is often taken for granted. Surely.

So when there is music playing just about anywhere, I dance. On my front porch, in my backyard, walking by Gillarys on a Sunday afternoon after a few IPA’s at Judge Roy Bean and at our beloved July 4th concert series basically a hop skip and a jump from my front door. It is helpful that I share my life with someone who likes to dance as much as I do and has no inhibitions about being the only one dancing in a sea of sitters, and dance we do. Often. We move and shake, we sweat and glide and the world disappears each and every time a song comes on that speaks to our souls. And there are a lot of them. Last night it was Hey Nineteen, a band that sounded so much like Steeley Dan, I had to remind myself it wasn’t. The concert had a bummer turnout because it had been raining buckets and thundering all day, I am sure people just wanted to stay home in their dry houses, but they missed out. I have the luxury of a walk rather than a drive to the concerts so we reaped the benefits of this concert last night. Like a hula hoop or a roller coaster ride or a bike ride down a hill, dancing, impromptu, frees my soul from the ties I have allowed it to be bound by. Dancing reminds me that I am alive and happy and lucky. Dancing is a wake up to the world and BE HERE NOW. I am never quite sure how people can’t get up and move and shake when a rhythm or a beat starts pounding, sometimes I feel it is more Ego screaming, You can’t do that, no one else is dancing. You’ll look foolish, it is daylight. What will people think? And the hundreds of others beliefs that are imbedded in our brains by that dangerous EGO of ours.

The crazy and complicated miracle of caught it early breast cancer is the excuse to move and shake, to rip that protective cape off and literally bare my chest because it was necessary for life. Isn’t that so ironic and weird? That breast cancer coupled with turning fifty got me out of my never ending mind blither and got me into my LET’S ENJOY WHAT I GOT thinking. I’d like to think I had that before breast cancer, but in retrospect, I didn’t give myself permission to live in the freedom I now find myself in. Breast cancer forced a shift I didn’t know I needed. It was not a gift, fuck that. I refuse to say it was a gift or a journey, that language is irritating. More like an old fashioned alarm clock that rings loud because you wound it up the night before and forgot to push the metal lever in from the day before. It is surprising and alarming to your system of your deep slumber and though you want to shut it off sometimes you can’t find the clock fast enough.

One of my favorite and feistier superchicks I know and love, Nancy J. came up to me last night because she saw me dancing and wanted to give me a happy hug. She gets me and I have always felt a connection with her. Maybe it is our similar self proclaimed #lovelybadass selves. I could feel her love and her joy for me and my aliveness. This is the thing about cancer in all forms, whatever stage you have been at, there is a one size fits all visual people expect you to look like when they hear you have or had it. I never had “the look” because I never had chemo so the added bonus is that people see me and my sassy self and it is magnified because of the expectation that I looked a certain way before. This always makes me gratefully and humbly laugh.

Because I go out with a 71 year old man I am blessed to call my partner, I will always be young in his eyes because of our eighteen year age difference. Surviving cancer is kind of the same thing, it was caught so early that I was never sick, so here I am. Though now that I think about it, maybe it is the new boobs too that bring on the complimentary commentary, maybe it is the electric pink lipstick I now adorn myself with because why the hell not? Being the only one on the dance floor, wearing shocking pink lipstick or hula hooping in the garden are all little tiny ways that symbolically celebrate life, my life. When the final days come because let’s face it, no one gets out alive, I hope I am remembered as the one that danced in the daytime. Moving and shaking, smiling, laughing with bright pink lipstick, red head wrap around my silver hair, dressed head to toe in red white and blue on July 4th because I could.





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COULD NOT RESIST

COULD NOT RESIST

As soon as my eyes landed on the worn glass counter top at one of my favorite shopping joints, Second Time Around, a feeling from the bottom of my gut came over me that I couldn’t explain. Warmth, familiarity, depth. I instinctively brought my left index finger up to the round black key and tapped firmly. Click. A virtual symphony of the past reminding me of something I couldn’t, no pun intended, put my finger on.

“Grandma had the same exact one,” my Aunt Kiley said, and like the perfect fit of Cinderella’s glass slipper, I was transported to my grandmother’s desk in her bedroom realizing of course, this was the typewriter she used to type her letters, her recipes and her school work for the classes she taught special ed reading to for her entire career.

No spell check, no backspace erase, no wires, no wifi, no printer hookups, this black beautiful beast weighing enough to cause me to have to get a cart to wheel it out to my car because I just had to have it. I know. I have made many proclamations of reducing my crap, not shopping and creating an almost zen minimalist fantasy in my homelife, but I just could not resist this blast from the past. The sound of the keys, the winding of the paper and the clicking of the clips to hold it in its place. The zing of the carriage going from right to left and left to right and back again, the glory of watching the key embed a letter onto the white paper like an episode of Murder She Wrote or Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam in the Dick Van Dyke Show creating episodes and comedy skits.

As I directed my son to put the typewriter on the kitchen table he sat down and took a good look at it, pushing the levers, moving the cartridge, analyzing its mechanisms, he said, “This is so mechanical.” A machine with no electric. A work of ingenuity yet simple in its form when we really looked at each part making up its entirety. I couldn’t figure out how to open to the front to change the ribbon. I didn’t want to force anything, breaking it right out of the gate, so I just left it on the table like a museum artifact and ordered ribbon from Amazon.

I had heard an interview on Jim Braude and Marjorie Egan about some people writing instant poetry for people walking by. Then as “coincidence” would have it, I ran into this very concept in Providence one day as I came across a young hipster type guy sitting at a real typewriter like the one I bought. For a small donation you gave him a word or phrase and he wrote a quick poem to give to you. I gave him the word “beach” and he crafted a beautiful poem in less than five minutes a virtual lifetime these days for the short attention span Google generation, I am sure I have it somewhere in my piles because it was eloquent and captured my sentiment without us ever crossing paths prior. I really enjoyed the creativity and spontaneity of the experience.

As I affectionately stared at the typewriter in my kitchen I had the idea that rather than poetry, I could sit outside on my sidewalk and do the same with a super short story. How fun it would be to raise money for a literacy program or something and a grown up alternative to a lemonade stand. If I practice enough so that the entire piece does not need whiteout, (do they still even make that?) I know this could be a blast. It would certainly be a great exercise in fast thinking, faster typing and better writing. If a typewriter, old school, brings that out, then the forty four dollars I spent yesterday was worth every penny.


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IS THE TARADIDDLE NEVER ENDING?

IS THE TARADIDDLE NEVER ENDING?

I am sitting on the couch this early snow filled New England morning, two Saturdays before Christmas and I am wide awake. It is 4:30 am and I have been up since about 3am, you know- that famous witching hour we humans arise at when something is stirring in our souls that demands attention. I always have something stirring in my soul and I often say to Michael C. “You will never be bored hanging out with me.” I also understand that my very active morning energy can also be a bit much so as I tossed and turned listening to my old faithful podcast that usually puts me back to sleep, I realized it would not be doing that job this morning. I instead got up and allowed him some sleeping peace and headed downstairs.

I started a fire to take the chill out of the cold morning in the living room and opened up my laptop. My morning routine is a constant. I am deep into the habit of bringing my trusty and sleek Apple with me wherever I go in case the writing bug insists on a piece which by now seems to be almost daily. I am really not sure if I would be as calm as I am if it hadn’t been for my regular writing this past year. I started this past February thanks to my beautiful partner giving me an extra nudge when he showed me that Medium was a site to give my writings a home, actually more like a billboard.

Ideas about pieces to write pop into my head on all occasions. In the past there were times when I would see something spectacular and wished I had my camera with me (before the days when we all carried a camera 24/7) and missed the photo for lack of camera. Writing fixes this because now instead of a photo, I have a phrase I hear or something I see or an experience I am part of and this is my catalyst for the next essay I write. As I was driving over here last night listening to John Tesh on Lite Rock 105 (This may be surprising to some, but I start listening to Christmas music the first week of November; I know- it’s an odd quirk, but total truth). I can’t remember the last time I actually listened to a commercial radio station, though. It was snowing and I was driving, usually not something that I relish. The radio was easier than fidgeting with my phone,Pandora and the distraction of that whole gig in my car while I am driving especially in the snow, (worse than texting and driving if you ask me).

“Did you know that a recent study showed that cancer can be prevented if you belt out some tunes?” or something to that effect, John Tesh exclaimed. “More on how singing your heart out in a choir may be an actual cancer prevention after the break,” he swooned with his confident and calming know all about life voice. I didn’t know this. “You mean, John Tesh, if I had only joined a choir and sung my heart out a few years back, I would still have my old saggy fifty year old breasts, my ovaries and my fallopian tubes, my premenopausal brain and regular periods?” I am so disappointed I did not know this.

Why is it that these “studies” are always done in Switzerland or some neutral cold place where everyone is always claimed as the happiest people on earth. Actually that was Denmark, but the Swiss always seem to have it together when it comes to life and living, aren’t they the ones who get like two years of paid child leave? Anyway as I waited anxiously for John to return to the show to let me know about how singing could have actually prevented this cancer, I began to consider all of the bullshit that comes at me on a daily basis.

You know when you hear a new word for the first time like the word, ‘taradiddle, for example. Once it is implanted in your vision, you will see it over and over again after never seeing it or ever hearing of the word before. Taradiddle, according to Merriam Webster, means pretentious nonsense. This is a perfect word for all forms of nonsense that come at you when you are diagnosed with breast cancer. “I have decided not to subscribe to any additional taradiddles.” Now since I have mentioned this word, you will see it again soon. This is the same way that all cures for cancer show up once I was diagnosed. It was like every movie I watched, every interview I heard, every newspaper article I came across all had breast cancer prevention advice. This just confuses the hell out of me. What to eat, vegetarian or paleo. Lowfat high fat, dairy, no dairy, supplements, no supplements, soy, no soy, chocolate, no chocolate, never mind the alcohol and sugar discussion. One constant is the importance of exercise, but everything else is up for grabs. When I ever heard this last commentary I thought, these attention grabbing one liners are so fricking irresponsible. They grab you by your collar and shake you up because every time you hear one, you can’t help but feel a little personally responsible for getting cancer.

Do you mean, John that if I had joined the church choir at St. Michael’s parish a few years back, I would still have my breasts? Is this what you mean? Now what do I do? Should I still join, I mean I already have had cancer twice, so is it worth it to continue to explore my singing options going forward or did I miss my chance because I failed to sign up? I can only imagine the nice grandmothers out there hearing John say this and immediately calling up their newly diagnosed granddaughter to let them know the news. “Join the choir at church, dear! There is a new study linking cancer prevention to singing in the choir! See there are other reasons to go to church after all.” Oh but wait John, I’m Jewish. We don’t have church choir. Well this is all water under the bridge anyway since I missed the memo and this all happened before the conclusions to the study were out on the John Tesh show.

I am sick of being told about all of the things I should be doing now that I am a cancer “survivor.” Isn’t being a survivor part of the equation? Like I survived and I used to exercise barely, eat lots of sugar, drink too much and freak out at bad customer service so maybe this is why I got breast cancer the first time. So I make the necessary changes and then I got it again. So fuck it. What is living anyway? Isn’t it living and enjoying? There’s that fine tightrope balance between wanting to ensure your health so you can enjoy your life later and ensuring your joy so you can fully live your life now. Mmm what is it, plan for retirement saving all of your money for later or enjoying your life now and using your money as it comes at you?

What I hope I have learned is that I didn’t cause my own cancer. Whether I eat the damn cheesecake or white chocolate challah bread pudding that is part of my Hanukkah party this evening or not, I really don’t believe that this decision is laying the groundwork for another round. Life comes at us for sure and this holiday season, I am a healthy and happy human living not in Switzerland or Denmark, but right here in Rhode Island surrounded by friends and family who I know love me and I love them back. This is all that is necessary and there is not one ounce of taradiddle in any of it.

me sitting on my couch writing. I did this on facebook somehow, isn’t this so fun?
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YOGA AND (RECONSTRUCTED) BOOBS

YOGA AND (RECONSTRUCTED) BOOBS

I forgot how much I love yoga. Not the hardcore kind where the heat is up to 105 or some crazy ass temperature causing hot flashes that I already have naturally thank you very much. But old school yoga of gentle conscious stretching where you feel the move and feel the after the move. I learned this at Kripalu Center in the Berkshires, hence the name Kripalu where I went on a Yoga retreat when I was about twenty seven. Yoga changed me. Yoga created a self awareness that I was unaware of at the tender age of 27. Typical of major life changing events where I think I am on some high level path to a huge shift in consciousness, I stop. Yep. Stop. Because why continue something that makes me feel so unbelievably grounded and peaceful? Kind of like when you go on a diet and lose weight feeling better than ever and then eat your way back to your previous weight. I don’t know what it is that makes me do this, but this has been a self sabotage pattern for a good portion of my life. Maybe it has something to do with feeling deserving or worthy, I don’t know. But the past two weeks I have reentered the paradise that yoga is and have felt that self connection I remember.

So when Yoga teacher Tracy and spiritual friend had my super flexible and somewhat newly balanced body from a few strengthening warrior poses move back down to the mat and flat on our fronts, that self awareness came barreling back like a rocket launching to Mars. Me and my upper rack do not do full frontal. It is impossible. It would be like putting two baseballs on the front of your upper body and lying face down. Now normally this would send me into a roar of laughter at the silliness of the experiences I continue to find myself in, but this time I was feeling so zen groovy, I started crying. Yoga does this. Yoga taps into that depth you didn’t know was there and in that resting pose after some vigorous warriors and tree poses, yoga brought out the tears I forgot about. Usually I embrace the tears, allowing them to flow knowing that my body knows what it needs. But this time, the tears came from a place of annoyance and frustration. Will I ever be able to lie on my damn stomach again? I am tired of tissue expanders and I am tired of thinking about my body in this way. I just want to go back to BC to BM. (aka before cancer, before mastectomy).

Then I have these thoughts and actually feel guilty that I have them. Alayne’s brain 101. Mad at myself for thinking that I shouldn’t feel a certain way because I otherwise feel so great and I know that I am fortunate in so many other ways. Like who the hell do I think I am whining about not being able to lie on my front in a fucking yoga class? This compartmentalization of feelings really irritated me. Then there is that. Getting irritated about a feeling, judging a feeling. How fucking absurd. I have had enough good solid therapy, read a bzillion self help books to know better than to judge a feeling, but I also was raised by some bad ass grandparents who screamed resilience and pull up your bootstraps and stop complaining. “Enough with the crying already.” I can hear my grandmother say after only four months of losing my young brother. Wahh wahh wahh. “Keep a stiff upper lip. You are an emotional girl,” I can hear my grandfather’s voice as tears stream down my face because poor me can’t lay on her front in a resting yoga position at my fifteen dollar yoga class in my $150 of lululemons. I am embarrassed at even writing that. I have a lot of goodness and the fact that I am crying because of this really pissed me off.

Add to this now that I have just completed my second night of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s eye opening VIETNAM, I feel even sillier for crying over the trials and tribulations of alayne’s breasts. But as we all know, tears wherever they come from for whatever reason, are valid and at some point they must have their own moment of reckoning. Loss is loss, and I presume our bodies and spirits don’t know how to differentiate. So even though I felt silly crying in full frontal because I couldn’t lie there, I know damn well I must allow these tears to flow because the alternative is to bury and most of us know by now what happens when we bury the shit. It has to come out sometime, somewhere, somehow.

As I approach my hopefully upcoming last and final surgery that by the way is purely cosmetic and as the great Dr. Hottie reminded me at my first consultation, “Alayne, this is elective.” Elective because I want boobs. I want the hour glass shape I have been accustomed to for most of my life. The shape I have ironically and finally after all of these years accepted after so many years of body loathing. So these very elective balls of fire on the front of my body are part of my own party. I chose this. I chose to participate in this. As much joking as I do, as much of an open book I am about this experience, having a cancer diagnosis twice even though it was caught so early has been a game changer, a life changer as a matter of fact. I also realize that I have had the luxury of many choices because of my privileged life, privileged because I have worked my ass off for my life by the way but surely was given a launching pad that many don’t have the good fortune to start off with. I recognize this.

I was thinking as I wrote this piece how many women were going through this surgery and may have been living in Houston or Puerto Rico or parts of Florida. Yes I am lucky, resillient and bad ass for sure, but I also get to say this from the my joyful perch. This experience has been mostly for the positive and the reconstruction piece of it oddly has been kind of fun in a twisted way. Like playing dress up or Barbie for the summer. I have been able to change the size of my boobs and decide on the shape, size look. This is crazy, but I have tried to spin this in the best way possible and I can wholeheartedly say with a most grateful heart it has been a wild ride. Let’s hope that the replacement models will be the softer and easier to lie on version as promised. Fingers crossed.