Step by Step

In less than a week, I will undergo a bilateral mastectomy and begin the reconstruction process.

It’s been a rough journey, this countdown to surgery.  I worked at regaining my strength between August and December.  And, I was humbled at the start of the January semester, when I took a moment to reflect on how far I had come.

However, January also brought the reality that I would be having surgery this year.  And, while I have enjoyed these last two months, I have felt unsettled, both ready and reluctant to move forward.

The morale and the direction of the country have also brought me to my knees in prayer.

While I was less successful with my nutrition, I am proud that I kept up with my yoga.  The studio I attend is a sanctuary for my mind, body, and spirit.

Now, I am in the final week.  I have managed to pull out my hip and low back, causing me not only serious physical pain but also the loss of my serenity.  I had to let yoga go to give my muscles a chance to relax.  Thankfully, the medicinal jets of my hot tub and the chiropractor are putting me on the mend.

I know I haven’t written much of an update lately, so let me do a quick one.

The greatest change over the past month has been Scarlett, our Portuguese Water Dog.  She is an incredibly wonderful addition to our family.  She has bonded with me, and Kai is learning to create that deep bond of trust with her.  It is something we can work on together.  My heart was filled with such gratitude tonight as I stepped out front to see Kai skipping down the sidewalk with Scarlett, her happy “flag” flying, at his side.  (Part of the PWD show cut includes the tail being shaved except for the last 6ish inches so that the hair flies like a “flag” at the tip.)  Karl also adores her.  She is a silky snuggler and likes to join him on the office couch!

It is amazing to see how we each have a very unique relationship with her and how she gets something different from each of us. She is a healing, love-filled, joyful energy that brings us all together, a true family dog that is easy to take anywhere.

Well, except for one horrible habit.  We were in shock that the breeder allowed her to do this, but she has been allowed to stand up, paws on counters, to take food off the counters!  We are working on it.  But she is so cute it is easy to want to spoil her!

Thankfully Muphy the Cat is adjusting to Scarlett and the two of them are doing better—he just joined me and Scarlett on the couch, allbeit the other end.  J

I took in either a midterm exam or a final essay from each of my students over the last two days, so I have a bit of grading to do before surgery.  I am going to push through grading tomorrow so that I can spend the weekend enjoying my mobility.

I had the pre-op last Thursday where they had to go through every possible nightmare scenario so that I know the risks.  After 45 minutes of that as well as post-operative care instruction, I wanted nothing but unconsciousness.  Graciously, my friend who has already walked this path, invited me to do some art journaling as a quiet, intuitive healing.

People keep asking me if I am ready. I say, “I think so.”  I think, “I will undergo a bilateral mastectomy and begin the reconstruction process in less than a week, whether I am “ready” or not.”

The reality is I am just putting one foot in front of the other.

At one point, I would have felt bad about that answer, but now, I think it is just fine.  It represents one of the things I realized (and keep getting to practice!) during round one.  I don’t have to like it.  I don’t have to enjoy it.  But, I do have to keep moving.  And, I don’t have to get it “right” or judge myself.  I know that if I want the best outcome, I need to align my thoughts and intentions. And I am doing my best.

Sometimes, I charge forward confidently.  Sometimes, I resist, stumble and fall.  I am trying to move more slowly and consistently as well as to pause when necessary.  To remember to be grateful.  To trust that the universe has this.  To believe that I am strong enough, for this and whatever may come next.

I know many of you would like to know what to expect and a bit of a time line.  Here is what I understand so far.  The surgery should take between 6 and 7 hours. The first surgeon will do the removal and then the second team will come in to do the first stage of reconstruction.  I should be in the hospital a couple of days and then home to recover.

My first follow up with the doctor, and thus my first trip out of the house, is a week post-op.

My recovery time should be somewhere between four and eight weeks.   That is a big window, but there are so many variables.  After a three-month process of “expanding” the implant pocket, so hopefully In June, I will have the second surgery where the expanders will be removed and replaced with silicone implants.

So that is the plan.

Am I ready?    Yep, I am walking the path, day by day, sometimes step by step, just like you! ❤

 

 

One Year (with the Gift of Death by My Side)

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December 2015

Tonight marks the end of my year with peritoneal cancer, one year since I took myself to the hospital, knowing that something wasn’t right.

I started the morning in the car, only a couple of blocks from the house when I told my husband to turn around so I could take myself to the E.R.  I sent him and my nine year old son on to Disney, went home and took a few hours to relax.  I watched a good movie—the kind that makes you laugh and cry.  Then, I took a long nap in the quiet of an empty house.  A rarity.  When I woke up, I took a shower and drove myself to the hospital.

So, I cannot say I was surprised when they told me they suspected cancer.  It was more of a confirmation of a lingering feeling.

I spent a week in the hospital as they hunted down the cells that would confirm what all the pieces pointed to.  During that time, I had a good deal of time to think, to make decisions, to “come to terms” with everything, most of all myself.

I fundamentally believe in the connection of mind, body, and spirit.  I knew that I had just been barely surviving the prior few years.  The four-year decline of my mother through Acquired Hemophilia and then into Dementia.  Having to get the state to declare her incompetent in order to care of her.  Her eventual death and the grief and guilt of all of it.  The subsequent effects on and changes in my family.  My husband quit his job of 11 years to start a business.  We moved into my childhood home to deal with the life of a paper hoarder in order to untangle the mess of her estate and to renovate the property.  We sold the home we thought we would raise our child in.   Stress and strife became the norm as we tried to make sense of the tectonic shifts that had occurred in our lives.  And, the changes and challenges of an increasingly demoralizing education system within the polarizing political environment made my career, something that had always been a source of pride and inspiration, significantly less-fulfilling.

I was tapped out and unhappy on so many levels.

I had been sandwiched between a young child and an aging parent.  I was doing my best for my family and for my students, but I was drowning and depressed.  I felt like I was failing at all of it because of the perfectionist who lives in my head.  And, ultimately, I felt like I had lost huge pieces of me along the way while at the same time questioning whether I had ever really uncovered the real me from years of trying to measure up to some abstract “ideal” of what I was supposed to want or how I was supposed to act.

And then… Cancer.  Mortality.  Mid-life.

So, as I sat waiting for the diagnosis of cancer, I had the gift of time.  Time to reflect on my life.  Time to think about what parts of my thinking, my lifestyle, my choices had contributed to lowering my immune system such that cancer was welcome to take hold in my body.

And, I had the gift of death on my shoulder.  It was no longer an abstract concept that I could put off to think about another day.  And, the truth is that it was a topic I had spent too much time thinking about as I ushered my mother into her final transition.  Regardless, with the announcement of cancer, Death suddenly and very concretely became present.  A constant companion.

So with the gifts of time and perspective, I focused my mind, body, and spirit on healing.  Knowing what I needed to do to take care of myself never had been the problem; it was doing it.  I realized I could no longer wait to get around to it.  I had to make me the project.  The focus.  I had to change me so that the environment in my body, mind, and spirit would no longer allow cancer.

I’m not a doctor, nor scientist.  And, I am not saying I caused my cancer.  I carry the BRCA2 gene, so my chances of developing many different types of cancer are much higher than in the general population.  But, not everyone who carries the mutation develops cancer.

As someone who had always appreciated Eastern, holistic approaches, I had to get right with myself about using chemo, all sorts of drugs, and surgery as tools of success.  I knew that just as I would be frustrated by someone who dismissed the value of Eastern medicine, I needed to embrace the benefits of Western medicine.  In the end, I came to see it quite simply.

The doctors had to work on the “bad.”  They had to use the tools of Western medicine to eradicate the cancer cells.  And, I had to do my best to magnify the “good.”  I had to use more holistic approaches of the East to give my immune system the best chance it had to kick ass.   (Yes, my inner cancer warrior is most definitely a badass!)

Prior to my diagnosis, I had read Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild:  From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.  I had even considered using the book and film in one of my courses. Perhaps that is why the idea of a mountain trek came to my mind when I faced cancer and the journey to come.

I realized it would be harder than anything I had ever done before.  I doubted my ability to endure the pain and physical torment, but I knew that doubt would be my greatest enemy.  So, I needed a clear end goal.

The simple question I had to ask myself was “Why do you want to live? “

That might sound callous or harsh, but I wasn’t delicate with myself.  Death was sitting next to me, and I needed to get real.

I had allowed myself too often to wallow in self-pity or doubt.  Or any one of a myriad of negative emotions.  I had squandered time.  The last few years had pushed me to my limits.  I had doubted my ability, and in the darkest moments, my desire, to continue.

And, then, cancer.

Death was no longer the fantasy of a welcome out but rather the nightmare of a determined assassin.

So, “Do you want to live?”

My answer was “YES!”

But, when I was honest with myself, I had not been living that way, at least not for very long.  I had resolved that 2016 would be the year I focused on HEALTH and had actually begun yoga 3-5 times a week in December of 2015, not waiting for the New Year.  I was pleased that I had stuck with it, worked through my fear and inadequacy, and was seeing progress.

When I was diagnosed, the resolution to focus on HEALTH in 2016 instantly became a mandate.

Focus on my HEALTH.  Live or die.

If I was going to live, I had to give myself the best chance.  I had to focus on my greatest motivation. My son.

In my mind’s eye, I imagined him being kidnapped, taken deep into the Himalayan Mountains.  I saw myself being told that the only way to get him was to walk in and get him myself.  No other options.  Me.  I had to do it.  No excuses.  No negotiations.

I saw cancer as this trek, up and down mountains.   I knew I needed to give myself the best chance of success through my daily choices, but more than anything, if I was going to put my foot on the path, I had to believe I COULD do it.

I decided the cancer would be gone by the time I went to surgery, and I declared that the PET scan to be done prior to surgery would show no cancer. And, I made significant changes, on the physical, mental, and spiritual levels to get there.

I continued with yoga.  Thankfully, I had a month of consistent practice as a foundation when I was diagnosed and I continued that practice until my immunity dropped and I could no longer continue.  The support I got on all levels from my practice and community gave me a belief in my ability to make it through.  To endure.  To get through the hard stuff.  To trust myself.

I reached out to my community of family and friends.  I set up a Facebook group and shared my story.  It gave my husband a place to post updates and to ask for help as he became fully responsible for managing our family and me.   I asked a couple of friends to vet the online research because I realized I could handle bite-size chunks of information that would not cause me to panic. I also had Celebration of Life parties after each round of chemo, before the effects hit.  We dyed our hair teal, the color of ovarian cancer, had a henna party when I went bald, and made beaded jewelry that we could wear and share.

I began eating as much organic as possible and eliminated sugar and other processed foods from my diet.  And, a friend gave me a juicer to get in the most nutrition when I could.  Note:  there is a danger of raw foods and bacteria when cancer has caused reduced immunity; I did this against my doctor’s  and general medical advice.

I listened to music, meditated and did tai chi regularly.  I worked on what “record” I allowed to play in my mind, and journaled to process my thoughts and feelings.  I did my best to remain positive and grateful despite my daily circumstances.

My PET scan on April 1st showed no cancer, and when I had surgery on April 18th, the surgeon and biopsies confirmed that it was gone.  I had had stage 4 peritoneal cancer with ascites meaning my abdomen had been filled with cancerous cells.

I believe that the combination of Western and Eastern approaches, attacking the bad and nurturing the good, is what brought me such an amazing result.

By far, the greatest lesson for me was about myself and my ability to endure.  I came to see my cancer journey as a microcosm of life.  In daily life, the cycles of good and bad, of ease and hardship, are extended over time.  With cancer, the ups and downs, the battles and triumphs, come in rapid succession.  I didn’t have time to forget or doubt my ability to endure.  I had to keep walking.  And having the Grim Reaper as a walking partner turned out to be the motivation of a lifetime.

Amazing video about the healing power of nature at  How Forests Heal People

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December 2016

Sex is fun and good for you!

Sex is natural – sex is good
Not everybody does it
But everybody should
Sex is natural – sex is fun
Sex is best when it’s… One on one

~George Michael, “I Want Your Sex”

So last night, as we snuggled in bed,  my nine-year old son brought up the subject of sex.

He said he needed to tell me something and that he needed me not to get mad. I immediately gave him my word.

I saw the stress in his little body.  He was taking a leap of faith, and I needed to catch him.

He then confessed that he had “played doctor” (not his words, but the easiest short cut) with another friend a couple of years ago.

Shew…I breathed a sigh of relief.  This one I could handle. I immediately told him it was no big deal, and that it was completely normal. I told him that mommy and daddy had done the same thing; I gave him specifics because I remember being with my cousin when a family member caught us. We could hear the laughter and snickers from the other room. While they didn’t tell us we were bad or wrong, they didn’t let us know we were okay either.

I made sure to let him know that it is natural for young children (generally docs agree on ages 3-7) to be curious and that he had nothing to worry or feel bad about. I didn’t want to ask lots of details but wanted him to feel comfortable, to unburden himself. I made sure to let him know that he was older now and that that time for that kind of exploration had passed, that he needed to keep private parts private.

I watched his little chest take a deeper breath once he had revealed his up-to-then troubling secret, and he snuggled back in tight with his head on my belly.

I had a moment to reflect.  I was pleasantly shocked that he had picked me and not his dad to talk to about this, but I guess it makes sense. They have a very open relationship and talk about anything, but it was me that had brought the puberty books home from the library, twice, each time returning them after we read a chapter and he said he wasn’t ready yet. I just kept telling him that I would get them again or be ready to support him when he was ready.  All he had to do was tell me.

I was feeling quite pleased with myself. I felt pretty confident of the way I had handled that one. Thank you Child Development class!

That’s when he hit me with part two.

He told me that he had learned from school friends that there are some men who just want to have sex with 30 or 40 women.

Alrighty then. Dance, mama. Dance! You have once chance to get this right. This moment matters. He is testing the waters. He wants to see if he can trust his source. He wants to know this is a safe place to talk.

One thing I knew for sure was that I needed to maintain credibility, to be a reliable source of information. Everywhere he looks, sex is glorified. It is a primal driving force. If I showed I was uncomfortable, he would be uncomfortable talking to me. I had to push past my reluctance and be honest.

I said, “Yeah, buddy, it’s true. And, there are lots of things we can talk about when you are ready, but the bottom line is that sex is fun. And, sex is good for you.”

This made him bolt upright, cock his head, and say, “Are you kidding me? Sex is good for you???” I had his attention.

I said, “Absolutely! It is good physical exercise. It releases all kinds of good chemicals in your body. And, I believe that when you are emotionally connected with someone, all of that just increases exponentially (yeah, that is how we talk around here, and yeah, he knows what it means). . .

And, it comes with responsibilities. If you have sex and you help create a baby, you are always going to be that kid’s dad. You might not stay with that woman, but you must always stand by that child.”

He said, “So, it’s kinda like there is good and bad?”

I replied, “Yep, life is kinda like that. With most things, there is good and bad. You have to make good choices.”

He said, “Yeah, I get that.”

I ended with, “You can always talk about this stuff with me and daddy.  We will help you figure it out.  You are not alone.”

That seemed to satisfy him, and we returned to quiet snuggles as I helped him settle himself to sleep.

Among other things, that’s my job. To help him settle.  To learn to be comfortable with himself so he can do it alone when the time comes.

We will get to the details later. And, today, I am more confident than ever that we will get to the details because I met him where he is, not where I wish he were.  My little boy is growing up.

“Sex is fun, and it’s good for you.”   Yep, I’m that mom.

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The names of some great books for pre-teen boys (and one for younger kids of either gender) are below, linked to Amazon.  You can click on the link, and once on Amazon, most of the images have a “take a look inside” option.   And, don’t forget to check them out at your library.  See what works for you and your kids:

Through the Looking Glass of Cancer

Here’s an example of what I mean by looking at life through the looking glass of cancer, or I would imagine, through the lens of any illness that makes hearts skip a few beats because mortality is instantly and permanently a heavy shadow in the room for everyone.

Anyone who knows me knows I like to be in control (or at least have the illusion of it) and to direct the course of my life. More realistically, I am captaining a ship on a sea that is moving under much larger influences. As the captain, I must tune into the sea. Connect. Surrender. I can work with it or against it. Only one way has any hope of success.

I ask myself, why is it that “knowing” and “doing” are so far apart. Truthfully I rarely slow down enough to ask myself what I need, much less to give myself what I need. I think of many of us are so busy “managing” day to day that we don’t take the time for ourselves. (Anyone else notice how I just switched from “I” to “We” because I am uncomfortable standing alone with this one! Let me try that again…) I am so busy managing my day to day that I don’t take time to ask myself if I am working toward what I really want or need. Auto-pilot and getting through the necessities of life dominate.

Whether the seas are rough or calm, as the captain, I certainly have influence. I am acutely aware that I don’t get to choose the climate. My control lies in my response. Cancer, midlife, and a up-close view of mortality motivate me to figure out some core stuff, to “manage” and “fight” less and to “flow” and “surrender” more.

Sshheeesh, why does it take a lifetime to figure this stuff out? (Oh yeah, Patience is another big part of this for me that apparently I can’t wait to talk about. Ha! Sarcasm. Doozies.)

Anyway, today’s revelation was that I must give myself permission to ask for what I need directly. I must absolutely ask for that which gives me energy and must graciously refuse that which drains. I must decide consciously what goes into and out of my tank, conserve my reserves for that which serves my highest good and pass on that which depletes. Cancer clarity.

Today, was my first day of chemo, and I spent nine hours in an easy chair as the chemo was administered. Far too much of that time was spent on my phone. Cancer is consuming, in more ways than one!

I am blessed beyond belief to have so many people willing to offer their love and support. Since my diagnosis, I have gotten love messages—by text, email, and phone—every day. They have lifted my spirits and made me know the depths of the support I have. And, of my value to so many.  I think one of the smartest things I have done so far is to create a private Facebook group for those who are willing to trek this terrain with me. That way, I can share info and ask for help quickly and efficiently.

Today was a long day, and I was mentally, physically and emotionally wiped out. I really needed to rest. And, I also realized that I needed to make an honest request of my support team to help me consolidate communications because today, my first day of chemo, I was overwhelmed.   I need one place where I can check in when I can manage it and check out when I can’t.

When I get a text message, I feel obligated to give a much quicker response, so I need my support team to ask general questions—like how I am doing or about how I am doing on the group where I can I answer it once for everyone. Or, personal messages that are not time-sensitive can go through Facebook messenger. That way, I will know my texts are what require a more urgent response.

I know for sure that I need to put down my phone and step away far more often. I need to close my eyes, to breathe, and to relax into my body. I need to slow down to a pace I can manage and be fully present in the moment.

A dear friend came to sit and be with me for a while today. She always makes me laugh, and I treasure her friendship and company. She generously brought lunch for me and Karl, who was also faithfully by my side.

When she arrived, with a delicious warm meal, the nurse had also just hung the first chemo medication.   Everything up until then had been medications to best prepare my body to handle the hard stuff. I had a deep knowing that I needed to be present in my body. Then. That was the time.

So, although it was hard to ask because I feared offending, I asked that she and my husband go find a place to eat together while I took time to meditate. I was proud of myself for asking. I took time to do a lovingkindness meditation. I relaxed and was grateful for the chemo, welcoming it into my body. I blessed it and directed it toward the cancer cells, asking it to go after that which is not serving me. I filled my body with golden light and envisioned the malignancies melting, evaporating away and my healthy cells and organs coated in protection.

The timing sucked for social graces. When they came back, they watched me eat rather than breaking bread together. I knew my friend would not judge me for this request, but the voice in my head is less kind. That self-doubting, self-loathing beast brought up all sorts of guilt, but I am glad I sent her packing. The stronger voice said, “They are your SUPPORT TEAM. They love you and want you to survive. If you believe you need this time, you have to take it. This is your life. You need to honor yourself. Sacrificing isn’t the only way to be polite. You can also politely honor your supportive, loving friends and family by getting clear on what you need and explaining it with kindness and compassion. They want you to survive and thrive. Speak your truth. Tell them what you need.”

Man, those conversations upstairs can be exhausting!

I get that my diagnosis is overwhelming, for me and for all of my loved ones. I completely get it. And, I am so very grateful for all of the compassion, caring and encouragement that has been directed my way. When I think about the outpouring of love my family and I have received over the last two weeks, that is what has brought me to tears. I have been humbled and awe-struck to receive the visible, repeated evidence of how many people think of me so many times every single day. How those messages have lifted and supported me!  How that love has bolstered my spirit!

But I also need to draw a boundary. Cancer cannot be all consuming. It is not my whole story, although I am pretty sure it is going to be a life-changing part.

I began Dr. Bernie Siegel’s Love, Medicine & Miracles: Lessons Learned about Self-Healing From a Surgeon’s Experience with Exceptional Patients. Siegel was mocked by the medical community in the 80s for advocating for the mind-body connections. Research eventually vindicated him. I found a reference to his book on a blog and it “zinged” with me. That’s what I have come to call that intuitive hit that I feel in my knowing when I am supposed to pay attention to something, kind of like that morning that every cell in my being was telling me to get to the ER. Sometimes it is how I pick books. Sometimes it is how I pick people. Anyway, here is a quote from the introduction that struck me…”When we awaken to our mortality we refuse to live the life that is killing us and start living and being our true selves. On a practical level it may mean changing occupations, moving, healing, or ending relationships and bringing meaning and a new attitude into life and working for the right Lord.” Like I said, Clarity.

My journey began on the day I walked into the ER. That is probably inaccurate; the shifts began when my mom began to decline and exploded when she passed.  But this piece is acutely significant now, and the shifts that I have already had to make—mentally, emotionally, and physically–in order to give myself the best chance of survival, are immense. I must cultivate inner peace, joy and well being. I must turn these nebulous ideals into daily practice. While I have always worked on self-development, there are huge pieces (no pun intended) that I have neglected. I can no longer “get to it someday.” And, I have got to stop beating myself up for not getting it sooner. This is my time to learn to trust, to surrender, to float. The day has come. This is the ordained time.

Accept. Trust. Know.

Cancer is a Command…Live!

At 9:00 a.m. this morning, my cancer recovery begins. I started to write my cancer “journey” begins, but that is not true. It began on the 10th when I took myself to the ER and the grim reaper faces of the ER doc and nurse told me that the abdominal CAT scan showed concerning abnormalities that often meant a cancer diagnosis.

The next few days, I cocooned myself in my hospital room, rested, and wrapped my head around the diagnosis. While the doctors searched for the cells that would confirm their theories, my bloodwork and symptoms were enough to deduce the inevitable. I could either grab my son and do a whirlwind world tour or stay and fight. The “choice” seemed obvious.

My husband and son, my life, are worth fighting for.

I must confess that I don’t like this word “fight.” It doesn’t seem right somehow. It feels like more of a need to surrender, to the process, to the journey, to whatever this part of my life is that requires this experience.   To fight feels more like to deny or resist the diagnosis and my body, this journey, to resist this life, not just the cancer.

I had determined back in December that I was going to focus on my health and well-being in 2016. Believe me, I am focused. RAZOR. SHARP. FOCUS.

Thankfully, I have been doing yoga many times each week, and it includes meditation and breath work.   Repeatedly, my teachers have said, class after class, “Don’t fight the pain. Give in to it. Don’t resist. Breathe. You can endure this. It is temporary. You are choosing to stay in your body and experience this. It will pass. Sorrow, Joy. They pass. Hold on. Breathe. You can do this. It will be over before you know it.”

I hear the words in my head many times each day. I am learning to endure. To go through the hard. To harden. To strengthen. To know my strength.

It has been clear from the many messages of support , encouragement, and love that my friends and family view me as strong and my attitude as impressive. On some levels, I get that, yet on others, this doesn’t seem so strong or courageous to me. It seems obvious and simple: live or die. Endure or give up. There is no middle ground. Walk. Move forward. One step at at a time.

I can spin and dash and weave all I want, turn it over and over again in my mind, but there is no escape. No avoiding. I have no option but to put my foot on the path and keep going. Despite the doubts. Or fear. Or resistance. Or reluctance. Or self-pity. Or anger.

I must walk this path, whatever it holds. And, if I do it with a positive attitude, my likelihood of recovery and survival increase exponentially. Medicine has recognized this body mind connection. There certainly will be moments of anger and despair. And, I must be willing to go there when I must. But, I cannot allow myself to stay there.

A cancer diagnosis is incredibly clarifying. So often in my life I over analyze, unable to get comfortable with a decision, afraid of getting it wrong. I have not trusted myself. Now, I must. I must put myself on the path and believe I can endure. I can do this. There is no choice.

A cancer diagnosis is a command. Live!

Last night, as I lay in bed waiting for sleep, I was overcome with a wave of fear. I saw myself at the base of a mountain range, looking at the clearly defined trail marker up ahead. I felt panicked. It is one thing to contemplate the climb and another entirely to begin it.

I was terrified. What if I can’t do it? What if I am not strong enough? What if I can’t handle it? What if it is so bad I want to give up?

I tried to direct my thoughts elsewhere, but my mind was locked into the fear. So, instead of fighting, I decided to breathe. Not to resist but to float, to know that I could feel the fear and acknowledge it without letting it consume me.

I realize that I am not the first to walk this path, nor the last. And, I realize how fortunate I am that I don’t have to climb alone. Yes, it is my climb, and I must do the hard work and endure the physical challenges. I must keep putting one foot in front of the other even when it feels like it is too much.

However, most who trek a mountain range do it alone, with only occasional stops in distant, sporadic outposts along the way. They go through internal landscapes along the path, places that they would have never explored had they not put themselves to such an ultimate challenge. They must keep moving or perish.

Although I would never have actively chosen this path through cancer, I can’t help but think that I, too, will be forever changed because of this journey.

I just have to keep climbing. To endure.

And I choose to believe that while there will be bleak and desolate places along the path, there will also be vistas and beauty that can’t even be imagined from down here at the trail head.

So, as I sit preparing to begin this journey, I ask that you remind me when I forget.

It is very simple. Keep moving or give up. There is no time to linger in self-pity or doubt on the trail. Endure. This too shall pass. Look up. There is beauty here and now, and there is even more just beyond the next turn.

Boys Have Always Played with Dolls

“Boys have always played with dolls.   We just called them ‘action figures.’”

Not sure what brought that up, but that is what my husband told our son today as we were working together cleaning the house. I’ve come to love cleaning together with our son because it gives us a lot of time together to talk.

And, we turn up the music and take regular dance breaks!

Anyway, back to dolls and action figures. I had never thought about it that way. He’s right.

My husband’s comment made me remember a time when Kai was still quite little, and I went out for a Mom’s Night Out.

The conversation turned to a mom whose son wanted a kitchen and a doll, but whose husband, she explained, would not have any part of it as he was afraid it would turn his son gay.

She turned to me and asked, “What about you, Patti? Would your husband be okay with it?”

I explained that first, like me, my husband was quite sure that playing with a doll or kitchen wouldn’t turn any boy gay.  Playing with toys is about learning, and we want our son to learn to be a good father who holds and feeds his babies and is comfortable changing diapers so he needs to practice and try out those roles just like he needs to try out cooking.

I said, “And, if it turns out that our son is gay, it won’t be because of what he played with. So, yeah, my husband is totally okay with it.”

“And, he would be totally okay with it if our son turns out to be gay.”

A second or two passed as I thought it over, and I quickly added, “ Now, if he chose to be a Republlican, that might kill him!”  😉

So, yes, boys have always played with dolls, but we just called them “action figures.”

It’s refreshing to see stores doing away with toy aisles specifically for girls or boys.  Instead,  there are toys and there are kids.  If we leave them alone, they will find what suits them.

Maybe it is time for girls to play with more action figures, so they can learn to be the heroes of their own lives and for boys to play with dolls so that they can learn to nurture and care for themselves and their families.

I want to send my son off to college knowing he has a full range of skills so he can cook  delicious, nutritious meal for himself or his friends, can do his own laundry, and can clean up after himself.  I don’t want him to be dependent.

I want to teach my child to be whole. Whole-hearted and wholly himself.

_______________________________________________________________

What about you, Mommy?

“What about you, Mommy? Do you feel like that? “

“That” and this question were inspired by watching, “The Shift,” Wayne Dyer’s film about waking up to life. The film has been released by the family to honor Dr. Dyer’s life.

It chronicles the lives of several people in the midst of transitions, amongst whom is a mom of small children. She has happily given all of herself to her family; as a result, her individual sense of self has been consumed by the roles of “wife” and “mother.”  Viewers watch her rekindle her love of drawing, something she cherished as a younger woman.

I had seen the film before, and although Kai is only eight and a half, he has always been very intuitive and had an emotional depth beyond his years. So, I figured my little yoda could handle it; he teaches me things every day.

After watching that segment, he turned to me and said, “What about you, Mommy? Do you feel like that? “

Wow. I was so struck by his empathy, compassion, and understanding! I felt my child look at me.

Me.

Not “Mom.” Or, “Wife.” Or “Professor.” Or any of the other labels that could apply.

I thanked him for asking and told him I would have to say I am ambivalent, that while Daddy is great about encouraging me to take time for myself, I also still struggle to make and take that time for me and that after years of making sure everyone else’s needs have been met, I am sometimes at a loss for what would inspire my soul.

But, I am working on figuring it out again. ❤

(If you want to watch The Shift for free click here:   The Shift