Tuesday, January 31, 2017

OUR COUNTRY IS A DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY

I've been trying to figure out why I feel mental illness lurking on the edge of consciousness lately--a kind of foggy craziness which comes and goes, and which I have been medicating with Amazon.com expenditures and lots of white wine. Sigh.

Then I got it. My husband grew up in a seriously dysfunctional family, and spoke of the parental arguments which came and went like storms: the chair thrown at him by his mom; dragging his dad out of bars when Dad was on a seasonal bender; and the hypocrisy of maintaining the image of a ideal family to the world, when within the family was seething. So--I finally figured out that we live in a large dysfunctional family. Us. Americans. Now. Under Trump. And, oh, Bannon.

Think about it. Trump lies constantly. I am getting whip-lash going back and forth from manic pronouncement to other insane statements.  "Muslims are forbidden." "No, I didn't mean ALL Muslims, only certain ones." "It's not a Muslim ban." And certainly not from countries he does business with, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.  And, oh, in case you have forgotten: the dudes who engineered September 11th all came from the not-forbidden countries.

He's trying to create a reality show with us as actors, putting forth the message that: All is well (for some of us); you will have health care (except maybe you...); "I am an environmentalist," as he took down the Climate Change website and attacked the National Park fellows.

So, aside from lying and switching stories--not to say inventing an entire new narrative for our country--how else are we dysfunctional? I would name fear as the next crazy-making part of this administration. Their actions strike fear in the hearts of many of us: Will they press the nuclear button? Will I have health care as I age? Will their actions inflame ISIS so we have more attacks? And now they are peddling "soft-core Holocaust Denial." Scary, scary, scary.

I don't like feeling this anxious and sometimes helpless. Time to get my ass in gear, which is the only thing to do when we are trying to find our way through a fog of lies, deception, and fear. Get those diapers to the Survival Center. Donate money to CRS who help Syrian refugees. Give money to the ACLU as they defend our freedoms and work against the Muslim ban. I wish I could make shoes, the way I read about one woman doing, using recycled inner tubes for the shoes' soles, and the tops made from strong cloth. Then she sends them to Syrian refugee camps for the children.

I wish I could do more, but it's something. If you can't go to protest marches in D.C., find something near at hand to repair, make better, soothe, cheer,
or help. Create beauty. Sing on the subway. Go to church. Write a poem of protest. Drive an elderly person to Mass who couldn't get there on their own.  Write your Reps., call, or show up at a town meeting where a Rep. is present. Be mad. Wear pink hats. Celebrate. Don't let the bastards get you down.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

IS GOD ON CRACK?


What happens when you don't know how much time you have left in your life, but you are still filled with as many desires as an energetic 320 year-old? To learn a new language, climb the steps of the Parthenon again, have a third baby (impossible now!), go to Divinity School, see New Zealand, and do more and be more than you could even imagine?

We all struggle with this as we age--the BE SERIOUS NOW time when you hunker down, lean in, and figure out, "What's next?"

But the stakes are higher when you've had cancer, and though things may look good, there are no guarantees for time left. My inner compass says, "74, baby," but what does IT know?

Recently, a dear friend whom we hoped had "beaten cancer" has found there is a small shadow on the CAT scan.  What to do? What treatments are left? Can we be hopeful but not optimistic?

God only knows.  Sometimes I think God is on crack--impulsive, hard to please, and able to confound us at every turn.  We get good results, go out to Alina's to celebrate, order a new dress from Amazon, and plan on renting a villa in the Tuscan hills (surprisingly cheap!). Then a bad scan comes in, our hearts plummet, and we start thinking about buying a cemetery plot and whether we prefer cremation or a good old-fashioned Catholic burial with Holy Water and ceremony. God's whiplash.

How to keep a sense of balance and yet be realistic?

I am not really sure. I have a butch-up faith, great attitude, lots of supportive friends, two (2!) faith communities, a beautiful house and view which sustain me, an adorable bouncy dog, and a husband to die for. (Sorry, couldn't resist that.) But how can I craft a life for myself when I simply don't know how much time I have left?  Here are some of my thoughts:

--Do not go back to college.
--Forget about being a ballet dancer.
--Put aside that old Latin book. It ain't gonna happen.
--Do not plan an Alpine climbing vacation; you don't have the spoons.

Yet it isn't all sadness and regret, at least I hope it isn't. Here are some things I am putting in place for myself:

--Get wiser.
--Read the Bible more thoroughly and compare translations. (This will make me look cool when I stand up in the UCC for Sermon Response.)
--Strengthen the relationships I have, deepening the love I have for people.
--Volunteer at the Soup Kitchen and continue bringing food to the Survival Center.
--Throw away useless junk, recycle, and re-gift. (I have way too much stuff in my boat of mortality)
--Practice humility.(This happens naturally when wearing a Johnny in the hospital and portions of your fundament are seen by strangers.) I will listen first, talk second; don't assume my opinion is always right; and think less of myself and more of others.
--Get more laugh lines around my eyes and mouth. (This isn't hard when being married to a stand-up comic.)
--Continue to "mother" my adult kids IF and WHEN they need me to do so. Maybe I'll just morph into a big, sympathetic ear.

Then it won't feel as if God is on crack, because our feet will be planted on solid ground, holy ground. Because God is there--in the whiplash, in the good results and the bad, in the horrible waiting. 


Let's have good desires rule our lives and the days left to us. Let's make good choices, help the unfortunate, and call our Congress people to stop The Donald from destroying our country. 

And love. Just love, holding to Julian of Norwich's words:  All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
Because--no matter how long we have left, if we love widely, expansively, and without thought to the cost, all will be well.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

SURVIVORSHIP OR REMISSION?

Hi, there. This is your fellow friendly cancer survivor sitting in her chair, trying not to gain weight, planning a reheating of leftovers, and wondering when she can pour herself a crisp glass of Chardonnay.  No, wait. I am trying for one glass and not TWO today, because there seems to be some evidence (can't pin it down yet) that alcohol consumption can contribute to Secondary Cancers. REALLY? Bad enough we had 3 Primary Cancers (Uterine, Stage 1, carcinoid tumor 2.1 cm., Ovarian Stage 1), but now I have to fret myself silly about Secondary Cancers? What the hell?

I gather that could be anything from: colon, bladder, lung, etc. as well as--Becoming a Republican, Having Voted for Trump, Cheering on J. Comey, Planning on Gutting the Dept. of Energy, and, oh, yeah, Repealing the AcA, just in case I needed health care for a pre-existing condition. Like cancer. Again I cry, What the Hell?

I meant this to be a lighthearted, jokey blog about being in "Remission" or "Survivorship", as I had a funny conversation with an older friend about which term we preferred. As a long-term survivor, she likes "Remission." I stand by "Survivorship," as it sounds somehow--more manly. Tougher. As if I had just jumped 60 feet into a stormy sea and have managed to grab some floating wreckage until I am rescued. "Remission" sounds like banking, like "Receivership," i.e. health bankruptcy.  Guess we'll be seeing a hell of a lot of THAT in the coming years, if the GOP has their deadly way.

Back to the jokey part of this post on a dismal day. Just for chuckles, I did a Google Search for the Best Cancer Blogs of 2016 and found a few useful things, but nothing up my alley--which is faith and cancer. Frankly, I don't know how ANYONE gets through life with mind and heart intact without faith, but that is my prejudice. ("But I know I am right. This will be the best faith you have ever seen or heard of! It will be the biggest faith too!")

I hope none of you out there in FB land will have to confront cancer, but if you do, keep this handy-dandy tool kit by you just in case:

                                        SURVIVORSHIP TOOL KIT (free!)

--a loving spouse or partner
--fabulous, funny friends
--Blue Apron or HelloFresh which comes to your DOOR
--a lively pet with fur, not an iguana, a snake, a snail, or a cricket
--a house or apartment with big windows to let in God's light and nature
--loving brothers and sisters (thanks, Nick and Peter and dear spouses!)
--a faith community, or, if you will, a dharma community
--great adult "kids" who know just when to show up when you are having a slobbery meltdown
--the sun coming up each day
--chestnut-sided nuthatches, hummingbirds, Pileated woodpeckers, Barred Owls and more
--moonrise
--G.K. Chesterton
--Fr. Bobby Barron & his inspiring YouTube reflections
--a Writers' Group
--Amazon.com for when you don't have the spoons, which is almost always, to go shopping on your own or do errands
--the Bible
--a really good manicurist who is a liberal and likes to talk politics
--Great makeup to hide pallor (thanks Dr. Hauschka bronze tint)
--great pastors and a one-of-a-kind priest, you know who you are

Did I miss anything?  Ah, music and reruns of "Downton Abby" and "Call the Midwife." "Sherlock" is off my Christmas list as my chemo brain simply understand it.

So, yeah, I am going with Survivorship, despite the dizzy spells, wobbly legs, and ratty chemo brain. I'm holding onto the wreckage for dear life, and I know, I truly and deeply know--as much as I know that God is closer to me than my own breath and my own heartbeat--that I am going to either be rescued by some fit, tan, gorgeous guy on a cruise ship, or I shall wash ashore on a Caribbean beach with a chair, a rum drink, an umbrella, and all of my peeps around me.









Wednesday, January 4, 2017

TOO OLD FOR SHERLOCK!

It is a sad fact but true that neither my husband or I can watch the Sherlock Holmes mystery series anymore. I just can't do it, much as I love Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  My mind no longer has the processing speed necessary to absorb scene changes, dialogue, and the texts which flash across the screen when Sherlock is fixated on his iPhone.

Sigh. Just to make sure you understand, here is a true scenario of Rick and I sitting side by side watching the new Series 4:

"Maybe we should turn on the subtitles, honey?" He peers at the screen. But despite much fiddling and swearing, no subtitles appear.

"What did he say? Whoah, what is she doing?" I say in a piercing whisper.

"Didn't catch it. That damn English accent."

"Why are there words flashing across the screen? Can you read them?"

"You know I can't multi-task--no." He sounds resigned.

After another ten minutes where I admire Sherlock's ass, his coat with the nifty high collar, and his ability to speak at warp speed, I turn to Rick;

"I think I am too old for this. I just don't understand enough to piece together a narrative."

"Yeah, I'm with you."

And off it goes, with a sigh of relief and one of regret. Five years ago I could just about "get it" or "do it." I understood most of the plot, loved the acting, thrilled to the danger, and absorbed most of the language. But five years later?

Who knows what is happening? Hearing loss? Maybe my brain is unfolding? Of course, having chemo brain doesn't help the snappy neurons any. They are mostly limp and snoozing as far as I can tell.

But here's the thing:  Maybe it's not important. Maybe this is one of those milestones of aging, like the turning points we observed in our babies growing up:

BABY MILESTONES                                                 AGING MILESTONES
--first smile                                                                  --can't eat pizza after 8:00 pm
--baby turns over on couch                                          --4 o'clock tea keeps me awake 'til 4 am
--baby pulls self up on crib                                          --my knees lock up as I go downstairs
--toddler takes first steps                                              --I abandon tennis, back is wrecked
--kid runs across room                                                 --I get stuck in hot tub, husband hauls me out

See? They're both milestones, just at different points in one's life. I have to get used to them and maybe celebrate them in some odd way. Anyone else out there who can't process Sherlock anymore? I'm with ya! Let's pour a glass of Chardonnay or Shiraz and go read Holmes on our Kindles. I can cope with that. I think.