Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Thousand Beautiful Things

Have you ever stopped and taken the time to think about how truly magnificent life is? The perfection of it all? I've been doing that a lot lately and it has changed the way I perceive everything. I've come to realize a person's opinion of  the world is based on the prism through which they see it. If you're an angry person, believing that the world is full of assholes, then guess what?? Your world is going to be filled with assholes. If you look for opportunities to spew your venom, I promise you, you'll find them. But if you try to find the gift or the lesson in whatever occurs that day, I promise you, you can find that too.

Last weekend I was shopping in the produce section at Whole Foods when I accidentally touched a woman's head while reaching for a plastic bag. I say touched because in no way was this person injured; I doubt even a hair was knocked out of place. But her reaction was so violent and hateful all I could do was stand there, mouth agape. She began screaming at me, shouting obscenities and drawing attention to us both. I just looked at her and said with the utmost sincerity that I was sorry. I wasn't sorry about brushing up against her though. I was sorry she was so clearly a damaged soul, looking to take it out on the first person she encountered. I walked away feeling so sad. I played the scene over and over in my head throughout the day. I wondered how many times have I exploded on unsuspecting people. If this had occurred two years ago the outcome would have been much different. I would have taken off my earrings for sure and had it out with her. But what would that have solved? I would have just been filled with more rage, possibly taking it out on another person and perpetuating this cycle of anger. But, luckily for her, it happened post diagnosis...I see things differently now. I've gained not only empathy but a visceral need for a drama free life.

I spend most of my days meditating, practicing yoga and taking walks by the beach or along the Long Island Sound with a cup of hot chai tea and my dog. Some days I meet friends for breakfast or lunch and I'm home when Sean gets off the school bus. I'm aware of  how fortunate I am to be able to do this; not many people can unplug from the world in this way. I'm grateful for every minute and I don't take it for granted. I know how precious life is because I almost lost mine. Every three months I wait to hear if I'm going to get another three months. This engenders a certain heightened awareness of time and I'm not going to waste a moment being angry or in self induced chaos.

So realize we are all connected and our actions cause reactions in others. Appreciate the beautiful, amazing life you have been given. Do something beautiful and amazing with it. Don't give your time over to anger and hate. As the great Mary J Blige says...No More Drama. Save it for your mama or Michelle Obama or Wilmer Valderrama or...well, you get the idea. Namaste.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

On The Road To Normal

How long will it be before I stop thinking of myself as a cancer patient? I thought once chemo ended I would be able to breathe again, return to being myself and all would be ok. I had no idea how wrong I was. The nurses and doctors prepare you for treatment. They tell you every side effect; what to look for, what to do. But there is no guideline for how to resume your life after treatment ends. I was never told I would find comfort in chemo; how it would make me feel like I was actively fighting this disease. Now that it's over, I feel untethered and vulnerable. Everyone in my life is back to their normal routine but I have no routine to return to. Relationships have changed; some have disappeared completely. My old life is gone. Who am I now?

I suppose some would be excited by the idea of beginning anew...a clean slate on which to create a new life. But those lucky individuals do not have the fear of reoccurrence looming over them like a cloud that blocks the sun's rays. I cannot feel the warmth of life when the chill of cancer lives in my head. I know that is where it resides and I fight everyday to keep it at bay. Sometimes I'm successful, other times not so much. On Saturday I was driving with Sean and the sight of him, the young man he has become, brought me to tears. I couldn't hold back the fears, the frustration, the anger. Seeing me fall apart must not have been easy for him but he put his hand on my shoulder and said, " Mom, I have known you for 17 years and there has never been a problem you couldn't solve." I don't think I have ever loved him more than I did at that moment. His love for me along with his need for me to be ok were enough to pull me out of the abyss. It is up to me to figure out how to stay clear of it.

Life is messy, cancer or no cancer. Everyone goes through their shit. Some stay in it and some come out the other side stronger and better for having had the experience. I'm hoping to be in the latter. I know I need to give myself time to heal, both physically and emotionally. I know as the years pass and the scans are more infrequent I will move on from this. One day I will stop thinking that I lost 2 years of my life and see it as my rebirth. I'm just not there yet. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Brooklyn Queen

Man, do I have a lot of stuff. I didn't realize just how much until I started getting ready for a dinner date with a friend. I wanted to look "extra good" so I dug deep into the archives. With my outfit chosen, I went for accessories. I opened a cabinet that contained jewelry I haven't worn in years and when I say years I mean 10+. There were at least a dozen bracelets, maybe more; necklaces hung next to several ring boxes. Who needs all of these things? How did I manage to acquire all of this stuff? This isn't who I am. "Who are you then?", you ask. I asked myself the same question.

Let me start by saying, I'm a girl from Brooklyn. Not this new "gentrified" Brooklyn either. Real Brooklyn. Where you hung out on your stoop and turned the fire pumps on in the summer because there was no such thing as central air in your house. The Brooklyn where you could walk down the street and see your friend's tags on the sides of buildings and on delivery trucks. You went into "the city" to get your clothes from Unique's or Urban Outfitters before it became shitty and went into every mall in the country. You knew that 52 Park wasn't a location and were well aware of the right and wrong side of Nostrand Avenue.  I miss that Brooklyn. I miss that girl. 

I live "on the Island" now. I drive the same car as everyone else in my neighborhood, send my son to the same tutors, wear the same jewelry. Having had a period in my life when I was really broke, I thought money would make life better. In many ways it does, I guess. Not better, but easier. Not worrying about getting evicted is nice. Having food in the refrigerator is definitely a bonus. But I wasn't happier. If anything, a few years before my diagnosis were probably the most miserable in my life. When you try to fill a void with stuff, you'll find that the void is a bottomless pit that will never be satisfied. I had to find out what my life was missing. I prayed for an answer. I received one a little over a year ago.

Being diagnosed with cancer saved me; it pulled me out of my self inflicted misery. Strange, huh? But true. It stopped me in my tracks and made me look at my life. Suddenly that BMW was just a vehicle to get me to chemo. The jewelry, just another thing to take off for my CT scans. They meant nothing to me. Family, friends, time...that's what it is all about. I feel a deep satisfaction with my life now; a peace I never had before. And while I still get excited by a gorgeous pair of shoes, these things no longer define me. I am a girl from Brooklyn and always will be.