Friday, May 25, 2012

When the stars fall from the sky

Miles and miles sped beneath the wheels of the Intourist bus that endlessly ferried us through cities, countryside and towns of the Soviet Union's former republics. U2's The Joshua Tree was on repeat on my Discman, me being all of 16 years old and out of the country for the first time in my life. Cities and towns, cities and towns, aging mosques, strident Soviet monuments, Stalin's grave, Lenin's tomb...they all clicked like snapshots as the miles mounted. In one country, so many faces, diverse and unique and representing the beautiful ethnic communities that co-existed, barely, in this complex space. People were eager to speak with us, to learn about our country, to know what life was like outside of what they knew. I remember the students from Moscow University that accompanied us for part of the trip and a boy named Denis that my friend Annie drew out in the most amazing way, in the shortest period of time.

This was the trip where I understood my smallness in the bigness of the world. Looking out of the bus window into cities crowded with people, I was overwhelmed by the idea that behind each set of eyes sat a story, a history, family, loves, desires and dreams. That within each person lay a map of experiences and feelings to be plumbed, explored and investigated. These moments gave me a tightness in my chest that I to this day cannot explain, that somewhere in the smooth flow of the music running through my body I felt alive and connected to the multitudes of people carrying on their own individual lives in that moment.

This feeling has stayed with me for as many years, the feeling of being small in a big world, the feeling of being connected to people through the recognition of their own uniqueness. I think the tightness in my chest was as much about knowing the vastness of the world as the opportunity to connect with people on so many levels, all the while knowing you'll never connect with all the people your being desires to meet.

I sat in a bar with a friend of a friend last night, immediately taken with her bright eyes and engaging personality. Earlier this week I had lunch with a (soon-to-be former) co-worker/friend who I've known just a year but feel incredibly connected to. I've been drawn in by people I work with, people I live with, people I don't know and will never see again just talking between tables at a coffee shop or sitting on a plane. I've had my life change course in moments in bars in Guatemala and mountain tops in Colorado and leadership training weekends in Australia. There are things that pass between people when the heart space is open, beautiful and intense things that may last but for moment but stay in your memory for years the vibe is so present. It's the openness to this experience that brings beauty to this world, even if it is sharing something as simple a smile through the window of a bus passing through Red Square.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Photo credit: picture of The Rooster by my girl Jess of Oh, The Joys

In my mind, there is a thin grey hand-drawn line, bumped with squiggled dots for milestones that represent my life. There's being on the all-boys baseball team, there's summertime with Grandma and Aunt Pat driving through New Mexico, there are wide swaths of sadness and loneliness, there's Hockaday and all of the myriad of things that lie below the line that tell the story of how that time went. There's Dad, there's Hunter and then there is where my current life begins to take shape. So much, it feels, in so few years. So many years to mark, graph, picture, describe, giggle at, crow about, mourn, ponder.

I'm at a complicated time in my life, post-cancer and pretty much at midlife. I feel as though I am emerging again, a mermaid being borne of the sand to move into the cool fresh of the sea, another chance to swim quickly through life with the energy and vitality of a woman half my age. Oh, to be half my age but know what I have learned so far, propelled forward by the strength of my own body, will and mind. I can feel it there, that strength of my body and urge to swim, just below the surface after a year of being trapped in the sand, weighed down, finally twisting free.

And in this emergence, I'm thinking about time a little bit again. Having it, not having it....what that means and where I put it. David and I have been reading Books VI and VII of Harry Potter and this idea of Horcruxes has caught my eye, not for the soul-ripping aspects of evil, but more for the concept of keeping parts of your soul in entrusted places so that, no matter what, you live on.

I've been thinking about the containers that house this white magic of my own: Ava and David who came from my own body and who are the best things I have given to this world; my deep friendships with a handful of people who see what is written on my heart more clearly than I ever could; this blog where I have poured out more information that any sane person would; the kids' school, which has been my passion for four years.

And if I think of things that fill up those parts of my soul that I have dispersed, the film reel flickering behind my eyes shows a dazzling blue sky over Puget Sound, the breathtaking beauty of a New Mexico sunset, a deep conversation with a close friend, a walk with my mom, and an afternoon speeding down a hot Texas highway in a gold Cadillac convertible.

There is a method to this madness. The more I push my soul out into these entrusted spaces, the more I am filled with what I have known, what I am knowing now, what I will learn. I have space to reflect. I have space to welcome love and friendship without fear. I feel myself breaking away and rising to the best self I have been in years. To some degree this being buried in the sand has healed me, to some degree it has given me time to think, to some degree it has made me love the bracing cold water and strong current that I must fight even more.

In these bodies we will live
In these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, 
you invest your life.  -Mumford & Sons

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Our Table

Sunlight danced like diamonds on the swimming pool. Mia was doing this crazy nose-and-mouth above water thing as she traversed the pool, Jakey was all love and jumping in and splashing around. Deb's kids and my kids and Marie's kids were in the malay too, shouting and cheering each other on as they made up games on the fly. We women (and one man) sat around the edges of the pool sipping the most divine gin and tonics with extra lime made by the fabulous Lisa while Lynn's spicy concoction of meat sizzled on the grill. It could have been a scene from my own childhood...the savoring of occupied and happy children, the mellow buzz of a perfectly made cocktail, great friends and a beautiful summer day. I think back on this day, and so many days like it, with total relish.

I think of another day, a day that I remember so well because the beauty of it hit me in the moment. Lynn and Lisa and Jake and Mia were over for dinner. Crowded around the table theirs and ours were quite a whirl of animation, amazing food, great wine and fun. Our children were deeply entwined with Lisa and Lynn's children telling stories, arguing, laughing. Nick and Lynn were talking gardens, Lisa and I talking shop. I remember catching the moment, it freezing for a second and thinking "My kids know this as totally normal. My kids see Lisa and Lynn and their partnership as no different than their dad and myself." Huge tears sprung to my eyes as I looked at Lisa, my friend from so many journeys who grew up in a conservative oilfield environment like I did in Oklahoma, and thought "In a generation we've changed things, just a bit, just in our corner of what we can change. But it's something. It is."

I'm pausing here because I just don't know what to write next. I want to talk about how wrong it is that we systematically discriminate against gay and lesbian families in this country. I want to rail against the hetero community for believing they own "marriage" when we do such a tremendous job fucking it up. I want to ask why people feel compelled to mandate how other people live their lives. I want to ask all of those folks that point to passages in the bible for their bigotry to bring me proof that they follow all of the bibles other statements or "laws" and then we can talk.

My children are surrounded by loving families in this community. Their best friends are bi-racial, many of our closest friends and family members are lesbians. As much as my children know that there are many places to feel at home in this world, they know that a loving community is built by enabling people to love who they were meant to love, to partner with the individual that they choose without fear or condemnation. I hold in my heart that this "normal" for them will give them the power of their convictions. That they will have high expectations of the world. That their current shock and disbelief at laws they see as "stupid, mama, just stupid...that makes no sense at all" will propel them to tidy up what will, ojala, be a relic of a past we are eager to leave behind.

North Carolina's new constitutional ban is every indication that this is not going away any time soon. But old ways of thinking die, literally, with the passing of generations. I'm investing my time, love, energy and money in what is to come.

Lisa and Lynn and Jake and Mia, our table is set for you always. It's one of joy and love.

Friday, May 4, 2012


Giselle always got this crazy cat third eye that would appear every time we gave her Lorazepam. She'd yowl and protest you shoving the shaven-down half of a itty bitty pill down her throat, but within 30 minutes would be zonked and ready to travel.

That memory made me smile a bit as I dug through the bathroom closet looking for the prescription that I had so many months ago. I used to take Atavan (Lorazepam) after I got the port inserted and would lie awake feeling the creepy sensation of the port going into my vein and grappling with my constant worry that it was somehow going to cause a clot. One Atavan and thirty minutes and I would forget about the port and wander off into sleep.

Tonight I found that trusty pill bottle with half of the scrip left, so thankful that my own distaste for being on prescription drugs keeps me from enjoying them enough to run out of them. I'm trying to corral my mind back in tonight, keeping it from repeating the anxious worry that's been swirling in my brain since I came home from New Orleans. "Is it going to stick this time?" my brain wonders and as I prod my breast for any sign of hardening. In the pit of my stomach, I think I know that the answer is "no", because I think that I know these things about myself and the way my body works.

So with that whisper to my nervous self, my brain goes into a visual overdrive of what life will be like. "If I lose my breasts," I think, "I'll leave my job and just work out all the time. I'll be in the best shape ever. I just won't have any breasts. It will be fine." And then, my hopeful self says, "Well, maybe in a few years they will come up with a surgery that works for me." and my nervous self laughs softly, pats my hand and reminds my hopeful self that we've been here before, that it's not the procedure, per se, but what my body does to it. And then my brain lurches into another scenario where I feel every bit of what this 14 months of procedures has done to my body, feeling I've been completely trapped in intervention after intervention until I just want to scream.

A picture of Truman-Show-esque carousel ride just popped into my mind. Round and round, garish lights and horrible music and the sickening up and down of hard uncomfortable horses set against a white sound stage. And then it's as though someone rips the needle from the record and everything stops, the only sound is the clicking of my heels as I walk for the door and open it to the bright sunlight. That is what I want to have happen right now. Really, honestly, truly. I want to somehow walk out of this sideshow of a life I have been given.  I want everything to just go back to the way it was a year ago January, before any of this insanity started. I want my body back, I want my time back, I want my life in all of its complexities that I still need to figure out back. I don't want to need help. I don't want to be frustrated. I don't want to be sad. I don't want to be angry. I don't want to be what I see in the mirror these days.

So it won't be that. I will get through the next couple of weeks. The post-surgical depression/anxiety that I am feeling will subside as things straighten out, as I can move around better as the incisions heal, as I know if these breasts are going to stay or go. Life will even out. I know this. I hold on to this as fiercely as a child clutches a new treasured stone at the beach.

Thirty minutes has come and gone and I'm not sure if it's the drugs or the writing, but I think I should be able to sleep now. I'm not writing this to worry anybody. We've been here before, you know, and I appreciate that you are still here with me. It's just been a really, really long road.

P.S. I just looked back in this blog to find an old link and was completely surprised that this recent reconstructive redo was one day shy of the ONE YEAR anniversary of my mastectomy/reconstruction that started me on this path. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. A year and we are still walking.