Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Guest Blogger: Marcy Westerling

I came across an article by Marcy Westerling and looked her up. Her blog is at livinglydying.com. Here is the description on her blog:

“Welcome to a space dedicated to the process of livingly dying – staring at imminent mortality and yet residing in the world of the living. More and more of us are finding the words terminally ill and chronic illness co-mingle. We are living longer and better despite a dire diagnosis/prognosis. But the path is not easy.” You should check her out!

She has graciously given permission to repost her latest blog so I hope you find it helpful. It is entitled “I hear you are doing Great!” and was posted on September 13, 2014. It reminds me of a passage I wrote in my new book about figuring how to answer people when they ask, “How are you?” Thank you Marcy!

“Recently a friend noted how difficult it was “to know how you are doing.” It’s true, I suppose. I have used the Livingly Dying blog this summer to report on the macro challenges of trying to access the care that I think is best suited for my current situation rather than bore folks with the blow by blow of this summer’s treatment.

In the jumble of the last 4-½ years of living on treatment it is unproductive to rank the various moments. But this summer’s treatment ranks up there as hard – between the frequency, toxicity, length and travel I have been living a half life as one full week (plus) goes into treatment and recovery. My exhaustion confuses me. Am I tired, how tired or have I slipped into depression? All of the above may be most likely.

This week I have accomplished tasks as cooler temperatures invited activity. It thrilled me. By Wednesday night I was violently ill – did I do too much, random luck or am I cursed?

I just don’t know how I am.

The other week I ran into an acquaintance as I arrived at the memorial of a friend. She bellowed from across the street, warm smile on her face, “I hear you are doing great!” And I wondered in what possible context she was using such an adjective to describe my reduced life of constant nausea and limitations. Was I supposed to nod in agreement? (I am doing great compared to a chemo patient in Gaza or Syria.) Instead, I declined her bear hug, saying my blood counts required vigorous avoidance of germs that day, my nadir. She asserted that she felt great. “Yeah”, I said, “but it’s not about you.” I felt like the grumpy curmudgeon I am.

This summer I have had minimal social contact – these slight encounters leave me bruised and even more confused on how I am. Alone, I am content.

It has been a summer of loss. I lost the cancer vacation I’d so hoped for after completing the phase one clinical trial cross county. Instead my cancer went nuts. My June to do list, gleefully assembled in May when I was “healthy” for 45 days, was pretty damn vibrant. I was excited! This summer I have lost so many trusted comrades as they close out their cancer journeys. Some have been in active choice; other’s reluctant, as they died one by one. I have done more soul searching on when and how I will cease treatment. Not yet but the time inches uncomfortably close. I no longer know my next steps. I now understand that a body can only tolerate so many years living on chemo without breaks. It’s not just about containing my cancer; it’s about keeping the rest of my body functional.

So, how am I as I close out the summer of 2014? Depleted, ever hopeful and ever realistic. Please accept that reality and don’t call me a cancer “thriver” or “survivor” or tell me I am doing “great”! This summer I identify only as a cancer veteran crawling around far too much. And yet very, very glad to be alive.”


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Sisterhood

One of the perks of writing a book, is getting to meet some amazing people. I guess I need a stronger word than “perk.” It’s one of the things that actually makes it worth it. I think at some point I have blogged about my new friend, Trish. She read my book and then sought me out. She is my age, was widowed not long after I was, and has six kids. She also is a multi-business owner.

She always calls me her hero and I just laugh. Other than writing a book, I don’t see much to call me a hero for. At least not for HER to call me a hero. I call her MY hero. In fact, I call her that in the next book that I wrote. I have four kids. But I met three of them when they were 13, 16, and 19. I didn’t raise them from birth. Now I have one adult living here, and one 12-year-old. She has SIX. Like I said, she is MY hero.

Because her husband was self-employed, I get about three times as much social security benefits for my one minor I am raising, than she gets for all six of her kids combined. And I worry about money?

We had lunch this week. We’ve been talking and texting about things that we feel like no one else understands sometimes. She recently had a person close to her lose a loved one. She was worried that she didn’t feel the compassion and sympathy she normally would. Boy, did I get that. I think we are just already tired out from death and dying, even though some time has passed. Living with the fallout from death and dying continues to be exhausting, probably even more than caretaking was.

She met a great guy. She was ready to give up on the dating scene, just like most people who are in the dating scene are. Then she met him on Match and he seems great. I listen to her talk and I’m amazed. He actually seems to really love her and WANTS to help out with the kids. He is ready to take on what it might mean to be involved with all six of them. He hangs out when her family comes to town, even though he doesn’t “have” to. I’m envious, but I am happy for her. She deserves it. She absolutely deserves it.

Even with that support in her life, she still struggles. It’s a reminder to me that meeting someone like that won’t take all the pain and stress away. It helps immensely, but life is still hard. And I’m sure they have lots of adjustments and changes down the road to get through.

When we hugged goodbye after lunch, she said something about how much she enjoys getting to spend time with me. I laughed. I sincerely laughed. I asked her if she was kidding because we had spent the majority of lunch with me down in the dumps, teary eyed (like I am several times a day) feeling hopeless and stuck. I can hardly stand my own company and she actually expects me to believe she ENJOYS me? I wasn’t trying to be dramatic. It was just a genuine reality check moment for me, like “Hey, I know you love me, but let’s be honest. I’m not exactly fun to hang out with.” I didn’t say that, but I think she knew what I meant.

About 15 minutes later, I got a text that said, “I just want you to know I do love being with you! I wish I could make it all better for you. You will be ok. I know it!” I texted back, “Back at ya, sista!”

She really is my hero.


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It’s Official: Customer Service is Dead

We all need vacations or getaways to stay refreshed and keep perspective. I remember after Tim died, two of my friends took me away for a night. We went to Skaneateles and did a spa day. It was just what the doctor ordered.

If I ever needed a break, it has been in the last couple of months. My vacation to Virginia Beach fell through which was like the straw that broke the camel’s back. Except, just when you think you can’t take anymore, something else happens…

My consolation prize was a night away in Lewiston, NY at the Barton Hill Hotel. It’s not the beach, but I figured it would at least give me a breath of much-needed fresh air. The package came with a massage. I ordered the groupon deal after calling the hotel to be sure it had the services we wanted. Then came the first blow. After purchasing it, I called to make the massage appointment. Oops. No appointments available until after we check out of the hotel. Yes, you read it right. I checked with them before I purchased the thing. But you know how it is. The hotel desk is a few feet away from the spa desk. They can’t possibly actually know what they are talking about, even being in the computer age.

I’m a reasonable woman though, right? So they said they would give us late checkout so there would be no issue with getting the massage, being able to shower and then leave the hotel. It wasn’t the best, but it was a pretty close second. I got through the beginning of an exceptionally tough week (more serious issues than the norm like suicide and rape) by counting down the days til my getaway.

Here’s the short version of what happened.

Check in at hotel. Drag all your stuff up to the room, only to find the keys don’t work.
Drag all your stuff back down to the lobby and wait for new keys to be programmed.
Get to the room, discover the clock/radio doesn’t work. No music. It gets replaced.
It takes FOUR trips to the lobby to actually get the towels that were requested.

MOST DISTRESSING ISSUE OF ALL: the door to the room doesn’t even actually lock. It can be pushed open. All our stuff is in there and we are leaving for the day. Back to the lobby AGAIN. We are told that it is a humidity problem (which we suspect isn’t true) but are told they will check on it immediately. When returning to the room after dark, of course our door still was open. Luckily, nothing was stolen.

Now I have to admit to myself that I guess I’m not a reasonable woman after all. I mean, who expects their hotel room to actually be secure? Most places you go to, even the shadiest of motels, don’t have a locked door. That is just too crazy of a thing to hope for when you travel. Right?

After traveling to a different floor for ice buckets and ice (because they are not easily accessible), I wake up in the morning to discover the bucket had leaked all over. My cell phone was laying in a pool of water. Nice.

But hey, look at the bright side. We go for our complimentary breakfast on the terrace at this “beautiful” inn (that is if you don’t mind all the water damaged ceilings and other run-down aspects) and are pleased to find that it consisted basically of cereal and toast. I’ve stayed at cheap motels with better breakfasts than that.

The kicker? We go for a walk in the morning and decide to just double-check on the arrangements for our late check out time. Even though this was literally the FOURTH conversation I have had with the staff about this, suddenly there is a huge problem. They are booked for the weekend so they can’t possibly accommodate us. In fact, it appeared from the looks on their faces, that we were crazy for even thinking that was a possibility. Check out time is literally in the middle of the massage time and that is too bad for us.

A manager? I want to speak to a manager? Silly me. There is none on the premises. Of course not. Literally every employee we talked to looked like they were in high school or barely graduated. No idea how to handle a business, much less one fraught with problems.

In disgust, the massages were canceled and we checked out EARLY.

Now, everyone is allowed to make mistakes. I make enough of my own so I try to be gracious to others. But what I can’t stand, is when a person(s) doesn’t take responsibility for it.

After countless phone calls, emails, and other such follow-up, here is what happened:

Nothing.

The hotel offered a free night. Are you kidding me? I’m no dummy. That doesn’t cost them a cent. I kindly explained that we have no desire whatsoever to ever set foot in the place again. I want my money back. I work freaking hard to be able to afford a getaway. I needed to be refreshed and instead I paid for a stress-filled 24 hours. So the hotel says, sorry. We would love to give you your money back, but the deal was through groupon so their hands are tied (which is also a lie, but I’m willing to work with it).

Groupon? I could have fell over when they told me that… guess what? The hotel refused to allow them to give me a refund. So they gave me money off my NEXT groupon purchase. Not much better than the hotel offering a free night. I WANT MY MONEY BACK, or at least a portion of it. Disgusting. Like I want to purchase another groupon offer in the near future.

I shouldn’t be surprised. The old me would have shrugged my shoulders and made the most of it. The new me isn’t wired that way anymore. I’m pissed off and can’t seem to help it. I needed to do something for ME after exhausting so much energy day after day helping other people. I just want what I paid for. Is that so crazy?

So it is official. The age of the consumer is no more. I’ve already wasted enough energy on this. The Better Business Bureau lists complains similar to mine. In the end, the hotel just refuses to do what’s right, so what’s the point?

Anyhow, I’m trying to find something clever and funny to end with. My creativity seems to be lacking. Must be because of the lack of soul refreshing that was sought after and not found…lol.

Moral of the story? GO TO VIRGINIA BEACH!!


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H.O.P.E.

As usual, on blog days I often feel like my mind is blank. It’s not that I don’t have things to say, but rather that I get tired of my own story and assume everyone else must be tired of it as well. Last night, my friend said, “Write about hope.”

Not an easy assignment when that is often the last thing I feel. So maybe I can be a smart ass about it and come up with some sort of clever acronym for something else?

H. The first thing that comes to mind? Hell. Oh, that’s not good. After wracking my brain, I think a hopeful person would have come up with happiness. I guess I can say with integrity that I hope to be happy someday. Rather than rare, fleeting moments of laughter, I do hope that someday, “happy” will be something I can feel a majority of the time. Dare I say that right now, though, hell is more descriptive?

O. Optimism is the word that jumps to mind. I used to be called the Eternal Optimist. No matter what happened, I would get back on the horse again. I would never quit trying. Now, it’s more like I just have the urge to kick the horse and curse at it. Not so nice or admirable.

P. Pissed off. Now that one I can identify with. I still hold tight to the concept that I might be going through menopause. I have no hot flashes and no blood tests to support my theory whatsoever. But when I sit around with a bunch of women, they all say things like, “Yep, that sounds like menopause.” How else do you explain why “The One Who Never Gives Up” has become “Stop Pissing Me Off Before I Go Postal?”

E. Excited. Energy. Elated. Encouraged. Again, all words that I can no longer relate to. If there is a word that is the antithesis of every one of those words, that would be me. EXHAUSTION… yes, that is the E word for me.

If my friend reads this, he will probably want to clock me for taking his idea and dripping it in sarcasm.

But then, what is hope?

I guess when I think about it, I have to distinguish between hope and faith. They are closely linked, I know. And I am quite sure they affect each other. And I am quite sure it would be a good idea to possess a healthy amount of both.

Faith I see as more of the belief that these things will actually come to me. I just need to be patient and endure, and know that it is only a matter of time. That is where I am lacking. I am not confident in any way that I will regain happiness, optimism, and the energy I used to exude. I just don’t see it happening.

But hope? I have to admit, in spite of my own pessimism, I hope to God for all of those things. I hope every day that something will change. That I will regain my confidence and strength. Even though it is hard to get up every day, I still do it. Sometimes I spend a lot of time in my bed, but eventually I am up and functioning. I must have hope, right? In spite of depression, in spite of anxiety, in spite of exhaustion, I get up every day and keep trying. God help me if I ever truly give up hope.

And by the way, thanks for continuing to read… even when I’m dripping in menopausal, faithless moods. YOU are faithful!


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Anger, Chapter Two

I had a few days like my old self. I recognized it when I was running errands and being pleasant to people in line, to people behind the counter, etc.. It really isn’t hard to be nice and people really appreciate it. Seeing their smiles is worth the small effort you put in.

But then, the new, angry me came back with a vengeance.

My friend was driving in the Home Depot parking lot and accidentally pulled out in front of someone. We made all the usual “I’m sorry” gestures to apologize because my friend realized it was her fault and felt very badly about it. I had to get out of the car at that point and walk by this guy’s car. He had the window open. So I went the extra mile and apologized again to him for almost causing a fender bender. He said it was okay, smiled at me, and I knew it was worth the effort.

Wrong.

He started yelling at me. He went on about how we lacked basic driving skills like “pay attention to the road” and “look where you are going.” He was nasty. Old me would have shook my head and thought about how sad it is that people let things like that ruin their day. Everyone makes mistakes and most people don’t make them on purpose. But the new me snapped and screamed back at him. “We just F*****G apologized to you. What the hell is wrong with you?” He basically told me to shut-up and drove away. I was furious. There was another lady that witnessed all of it and she had a few choice names for the guy, too. But I was so mad I was shaking. And I didn’t stop shaking for about an hour. What is the world coming to when you can’t even offer a sincere apology and have it mean anything?

This week, I had some new grief anger, too. Out of the blue, I had started to cry. I looked at this beautiful 8 x 10 glass frame I have had for years. It holds the picture of our last Father’s Day together in 2010. It is the photo that ended up on the back of the cover of Bitter and Sweet. It is Tim and I and the four kids. I wanted to pick it up over my head and smash it into a million pieces on the floor. I was shocked by this. I have never felt that or ever had urges to be destructive.

And I didn’t even know why.

I didn’t do it, but it got me thinking. I’m mad that Tim left us, that he left me a widow. I look at the four kids and think about how well they have all done. They grieve and are sad sometimes, but they have all done an excellent job in their own ways with their own personalities, in moving on. They seem well-adjusted. I am so grateful for that. Thank God.

But what about me?

I remember when Frankie was a newborn, the first couple of weeks I was in a daze of exhaustion and complete chaos internally. I remember distinctly staring at my computer screen and saying, “What is wrong with you? You have a Master’s Degree. You own a business. You can figure this out.” And I did. And it didn’t take me long to get my bearings.

It’s the same feeling I have now. I know I’m smart. I know I’m strong. So why can’t I figure this out? I don’t feel like I’ve adjusted. And it’s going on four years now.

I’ve been talking to my F-bomb friend a lot lately. I told him he’s the local anger expert so I keep asking him to help me understand what’s going on inside me, and what I’m supposed to do with it. He asked me if I’m angry that I’m a widow? Or just angry that I’m alone? I thought it was an excellent question. I decided it’s both.

If I were divorced, there would be another parent out there that would still be responsible. If I were divorced, I could sit around and blame myself (or him) for failing at the marriage. But this? No one to blame but cancer. I was a good wife, a good mom, and a good step-parent when the kids made life hell for me. So why?

I’m just mad. Mad, mad, mad. I told my girlfriend I might go postal someday. She said, “Please just don’t shoot me, ok?” I told her she better not piss me off then. We both laughed.

BUT…

Just so you don’t completely give up on me or think I’ve lost my marbles entirely, I will give you a classic Darcy story.

The boys got me flip-flops for Mother’s Day. I wear them constantly. I went to get some groceries this week, and as I was walking out of the store, my ankle twisted and I was forced to step out of my flip-flop. What the heck? Somehow- and I have no idea how this is even possible- my flip-flop got wrapped around the wheel of the shopping cart. I mean totally wrapped. It took me several minutes to figure out how to remove the thing. Once I finally figured it out, it was so warped I had to throw it out when I got home. But just picture me squatting in the grocery store, wrestling with my shoe in a wheel, and you should end this blog with a chuckle. 🙂


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Acceptance

I saw Ellen, my spiritual director, yesterday. Sometimes we have conceptual type conversations. They are intriguing and thought-provoking, but I’m also a nuts and bolts girl so I want to know in the end what it all means in practical terms.

We were talking about pursuing. Pursuing _____ (fill in the blank). Pursing whatever it is you want, desire, are trying to accomplish, etc.. Pursuit requires drive and energy. In and of itself, pursuit is not a negative thing. BUT… what happens when pursuing becomes the end vs. the means to an end? Ellen said sometimes we get stuck in the pursuit. If we pursue something for long enough, we don’t even remember how to actually get there.

The end of pursuit is acceptance. In this context, acceptance is more like receiving. How do I receive what I am looking for? If all of my energy is in the pursuit, where is the energy I need to accept what I’m looking for?

This ties in to being aware of accepting what you already have. Being aware and receiving what is in your grasp, even if it’s not the thing you are or have been pursuing.

I think (and have been affirmed by many over the years), that for the most part, I do a pretty good job with awareness. I don’t usually forget how lucky I am with so much of what I already have at my fingertips. But it can’t hurt to make a more conscious effort, right? Another well-known phrase for this is, having an “attitude of gratitude.”

So I’m taking today’s blog to think about accepting some of the gifts I already have. I’m setting pursuit aside and going into “reception mode.”

I am very grateful for my kids. Frankie gives me gray hair on a daily basis as I worry endlessly about not balancing all the things I need to help him be well-rounded. I want him to be carefree but yet responsible. I just got another email from a teacher again today. He talked about how Frankie is truly one of a kind. He stands out. And he does. And I beam with pride every time I hear it.

My other kids are great too. They are all adults now and starting to raise their own kids. They have all changed and grown so much over the years. I can’t imagine my life without them and my beautiful grandkids.

I am blessed with health. Other than struggling with weight (for my entire life), my aches and pains are pretty minor now that I’ve seen what can really happen to a person’s body. I might complain about my aching muscles, but how lucky am I to have the energy to exhaust myself every day?

Having witnessed for many years how other families interact and operate, I am most grateful for mine. With all our idiosyncracies aside, we love each other and try to do the right thing for each other. When one of us is down and out (and it seems like it’s usually me), we are there for each other.

I am told on a frequent basis that I have an exceptional amount of exceptional friends. I know it is absolutely true. Some of my friends have been around for ages. Some are newer. Some have recently been re-kindled again. I just had visitors today from Chicago that I hadn’t seen in a decade. All of them warm my heart, and on a very, very deep level.

My publishing company rocks. We work our butts off. We haven’t figured out how to make a lick of money, but the three of us all bring unique talents to the table. Our company just wouldn’t work if one of us wasn’t there. We need each other, and we are skilled and gifted. Not everyone gets to say that about their work.

My clients bless me. Honestly, most of the time I feel like I benefit more from knowing them than they do from knowing me. I love when people are trying to make their lives better, their relationships closer, etc.. And I get to be a part of it. Amazing.

So… I publicly declare to put more and more effort into acceptance. Pursuit is not evil, but I promise to put less and less effort into my driven nature and relax more into receiving. Try it, you might like it too. 🙂


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A Day in My Life…

On Monday, I noticed an odd spot on my breast. Looked like a bruise, but then not quite. I went to my friend’s house who is a breast cancer survivor and asked if I could show her. (I can’t imagine men being comfortable showing each other a concern- ha ha!) She thought it was strange but was more concerned whether there was a lump. We were both unhappy to discover there was a very distinct lump. She told me a few reasons why it probably wasn’t anything serious, but I definitely should call the doctor in the morning. The rest of the day it was in the back of my mind (of course), but I managed to keep it at bay knowing it was probably not serious.

Tuesday morning, I called the doctor first thing. They fit me in early afternoon. I had my usual full day ahead of me so the first couple of hours I just pushed along. Then I went in the hot tub to try to relax a bit before my clients started coming. I started to get that panicky feeling and my breathing was getting choppy. I talked to dear Summer, knowing she would give me a rational smack in the head and I would be fine. Instead, the flood gates opened. I was scared. Really, really scared. She offered to go to the appointment with me. In between sobs, I told her that wasn’t necessary and I knew she was as busy as I was. But of course she came and of course I needed her.

I had to pull it together to keep working until my appointment, but between clients I was bombarded with thoughts and fears. To be fair, they really weren’t irrational. I know better than most that a simple, small thing can alter your life forever. My first thought was Frankie. This just couldn’t possibly be anything because that 11-year-old kid couldn’t possibly be asked to have no parents at all. Even if I could be treated and beat it, that poor boy does not need to endure watching the process all over again. Treatments, vomiting, schedules being thrown out the window. Watching someone visibly change who is supposed to be your tower of strength. He just can’t be asked to do that again, right?

Then I started thinking about my life in the last couple of weeks. I have been re-evaluating my life very intently because I have been working too hard. I have been burning the candle at both ends. I have been exhausted at the end of every night and know I can’t keep it up. I have been trying to make changes, but have struggled with what changes to even make. And then I really panicked. Holy shit! What if the universe/God has been on my case about it because I need to make room for treatment? Is that what this has really been about? Summer and I were just talking this weekend about how with all the interactions we have with people, if we ever got cancer, we wouldn’t go to Roswell (our local cancer hospital). That would mean regular trips to PA or Ohio. Overwhelming thought. Breathing is getting tough again.

I take a shower before I go to the doctor. While I am in there, another related thought crosses my mind. I absolutely know what it takes to fight cancer. I know the stamina you need. I know that a positive attitude is mandatory for success. I know that I have to muster up the strength that I know I possess and I will have to figure out how to access it. And then I found myself sitting in the shower seat sobbing, just like the day I found Tim in there when his daughter came to surprise him for Father’s Day. Because I knew that I just couldn’t do it. I’m too depleted. I will end up dying because I’m not the woman I was before taking care of my terminal husband. Even though it has been three years, I’ve not recovered.

I know my friends will shore me up. I know it. But Christ, Frankie won’t even have a step-father who loves him after I’m gone. Tim’s kids had me and I don’t love them any less since he has been gone. I know that Tim had peace about that. I failed Frankie in that respect. Utterly failed.

Brigette was home with a sick child, but she kept in touch with texts. She told me she didn’t remember the last time she prayed as hard as she was praying for me.

We arrived at the doc’s. I love Dr. Grace. Tell her everything, trust her implicitly. She looks at my mark and looks puzzled. She hasn’t ever really seen anything like it before. (Why does that always happen to me? I’m always like a freak show for doctors!) BUT… she knows it definitely does NOT look like cancer. I love her because I never have to explain anything to her because she remembers every detail of my life. She thanks me for not waiting and says she is grateful she can trust that I won’t mess around with anything medically. And without being told, she knows it is because I can’t possibly take risks because Frankie needs me. She is glad I get that all on my own and she doesn’t have to pound it into my head. Even though I feel better after seeing her, she promises me by the end of business day I will have answers. She works her magic and I am able to leave her office and go directly to the radiology center.

Off we go. First the mammogram. You know the drill, ladies. First set of pictures and then you sit in the waiting room. As suspected, I get called back for more. Now they see something in the other breast they are also concerned about. Great. She has to smoosh them further for the second set. Then they ask you to hold your breath while they take the image. I try until I finally gasp because the pain is too much. She tells me ever so nicely that she hopes she doesn’t have to retake them because I yelled out.

I go back in the waiting room and tell Summer I can’t believe with all our modern medicine we haven’t figured out anything better than putting our delicate breasts into a vice grip. She laughs and tells me if men had boobs, there would have been an answer years ago. I laugh at that. (Yes, Gary, I admit that is a sexist comment, but cut me some slack!)

Next the sonogram. She tells me she thinks it is a cyst. Doesn’t know why or how it would get there, but possibly it was pinched somehow. Phew.

I tell my step-son Colin about my day. He just looks at me. I told him that I didn’t think our family could go through it again. I told him I didn’t think we would be able to pull off the great job we did with his dad this time. He just nodded his head.

Later, my doc’s office calls and say they agree it’s a cyst. They want me to put the hottest compresses I can stand on it, as many times a day as I can manage it. (Apparently they don’t know I am already burning the candle at both ends and don’t even make time to eat half the time!) If it doesn’t go away in a month, then I have to see a surgeon. Bottom line is, it may not be cancer, but it is still not right and not supposed to be there.

So I spent the night rejoicing. I spent the rest of the night being super grateful that I don’t have cancer.

Wrong.

I spent the night continuing to have a hard time breathing. Being the lucky woman I am, (no, that is NOT sarcasm) male and female friends called to check on me or just to say hello (because they didn’t know what was going on). And every time I said hello, I would burst into tears again. I wanted to be happy, but I felt like a wrung out dish rag.

Everyone got it. No one judged me. They all told me that my fear was perfectly logical, understand, reasonable, not irrational. My daughter Emily called me about 10 PM and we talked til after midnight. She told me that if I ever got diagnosed, she would move up here and help take care of me. She said she didn’t do that for her dad but she would do it this time. I read between the lines and thought she must have regrets about that with her dad. I made a mental note to talk to her in the near future because I don’t want her to be plagued with that.

I watched a movie recently. The girl looked at the guy and said something like, “You weren’t there when I needed you. In the end, that’s all relationships are. It’s being there for the big stuff.” I thought it was an excellent summation. I’m lucky enough to have people who ARE there. Summer left work to go with me because she got it. Anyone who happened to know I was worried about a lump would have done what they could to support me because they get it. If you lived through Tim’s cancer with us, or if you read the book afterward, you get it. If you love me, if you know how to feel compassion, you are there by my side.

Today is a new day. Now I am starting to feel that relief I thought I would feel last night. Today I am breathing easier and emotionally feel the gratefulness I understood intellectually yesterday. Again, thanks to my amazing support system. You know who you are. And for those of you who are reading and wondering why I didn’t tell you, don’t. It all happened fast so don’t be mad at me :).

I wonder what today will bring?


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Greeting Cards

Another absolute hit-the-nail-on-the-head greeting card. This one came from Brigette and it was written by Linda Barnes.

“They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Well, what if you didn’t sign up for extra-strength training?
What if you’d rather catch a few breaks once in a while?
Is that so much to ask?
At some point, you’d think you’d be entitled to a free pass or two:
Skip this challenge.
Avoid that crisis.
Delete those problems.
It’s not that you’re not strong or that you don’t have what it takes to get through this.
You are, you do, and you will.
But you’ve built enough character already, and it’s time for things to lighten up a little!
I know it’s not really my call, but if I were in charge of life’s wheel of fortune, you’d get a free spin.
And I’d be right there, cheering you on!”

Love, love, love it. I don’t think I’m entitled to less pain than anyone else. I read this once in a book and I try to remember it: Instead of asking why me, how about why not me?

I met with my clients this week that lost their dad last month. I blogged about them earlier. I listened as this young man struggled through the “What did I do to deserve this?” phase. At 25, his mom abandoned him at 5, his dad dies at 25. In between he has lost both of his grandparents and two uncles. I didn’t have a lot to say other than I promised him I wouldn’t say a bunch of crap that wasn’t true to try and make him feel better. I promised to walk the journey with him and probably shed a few of my own tears because I miss his dad too.

Yesterday I spent all day at my uncle’s funeral. It was an hour and 20 minute drive for me. It was a mixture of watching familiar family dynamics, reminiscing about my really young childhood days, and just being angry that I am averaging one funeral a month.

During my evening sessions, I found that “Blue for Ben” passed away last night. For those of you who don’t live in western NY, he is a beautiful little boy who just had his 5th birthday last week. The entire community has rallied behind the family in their battle. The city will be in mourning.

This morning, I texted a friend at 7:30 AM and said, “Well, no funerals today. It’s gotta be a better one, right?” By 9:00 AM I texted them back and said “Scratch yet. I just found out my client’s step-son committed suicide.” I talked with her and tried to support her. I felt terribly guilty having to say I couldn’t attend the wake or funeral. I just can’t manage another one in my schedule. Mostly though, I just can’t handle it emotionally. So much death and loss and dying and sadness. I hate it when I let people down because everyone was there for me when Tim died. Everyone. I hate when I can’t pay it forward.

If you believe in the Law of Attraction, I wonder why I keep attracting death.

But you know I’m a big believer in balancing the bitter with the sweet. So honestly, it rings a little hollow at this exact moment, but the truth is I’m still blessed beyond belief. I have lots of loving friends and family. I’m not sick. My kids are great. My daughter released her book and it’s wonderful. The pool is getting opened today and the hot tub is ready. Those are luxuries most people don’t have.

So I promise I will keep trying every day, as many times a day as necessary, to be truthfully present and face whatever heartaches there are as bravely as I can face them. And I promise to remember all the good and beautiful there is in life and with all sincerity know how lucky I am.


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Just Another Bad Week?

Blah, blah, blah.

I feel like a broken, whiny record.

I had a really tough seven hour day at an author event this weekend that sent me spiraling down into the abyss I go to sometimes. Is it time to give up on the book? Is it time to stop trying to sell myself because the rejection is too painful?

Then another broken relationship, same week. We were supposed to have one of those month anniversary things in a couple of days. Instead I am experiencing the all too familiar abyss I go to sometimes. Is it time to give up on relationships? I never get used to it. Each time there is a little less of me left. Why do I taste connection and love with someone, and then have it disappear again? Is it time to stop trying to sell myself because the rejection is too painful?

May 7. Of course. Perfect timing with the bad career day and the break-up. The marker day I never expected to be a marker day. I remember the first May 7 I went through after Tim died. I tanked badly and couldn’t even figure out why. My mind didn’t clue in but my body was right on target. May 7 was the day Tim went in for a routine surgery and came out with Stage IV cancer. The day we were blind sided and irrevocably changed.

Mother’s Day too. Banner week. I have had a hard time with it since my mom died. I miss her terribly. Now Mother’s Day is even more difficult because my spouse isn’t here to help my kids remember me. Kind of like a double whammy. Will it ever stop feeling like we are a broken family?

That’s enough in one week to make any sane person crazy. Just add in all the demolition going on in my house, caring for clients, trying to be a mom, and managing all the “normal” things life brings every day. Oh yea, and meeting with my financial advisor and finding out I’m totally screwed in a few years. We used to talk about “when I turn 60” and I would brush it off. In my heart, I always knew that I wanted to partner with someone again so that just didn’t worry me. This year, for the first time, I sincerely had to face the fact that I may never partner with anyone again. That may truly be the reality. Not pessimism, truly reality.

So I’ve been saying to various people, that maybe I should give up. Maybe it’s time. In whatever area I was talking about, I found myself saying those words. Maybe I should give up.

I still feel like throwing up a lot. I still start crying without notice on a regular basis. I know there are people who have it much, much worse. I absolutely know it. Then I feel guilt for being so damn sad. I know better, but my emotions just won’t give in to what my brain tells them.

BUT BUT BUT…

Last night Summer showed up unexpectedly at my house. She said she had a Mother’s Day gift for me. I laughed because, well, I’m not her mother. But in it were seven plastic wine glasses. It reminded me that summer is coming (supposedly, anyway) and that lots and lots of people come to my house of all ages and enjoy the pool and hot tub. And we share lots of wine and blender drinks and campfires. And there are usually lots of happy times.

Then there was one other small package. It was a magnet for my fridge. I have a couple of others in the same series that other close friends have given me. I read it and couldn’t believe it.

She Who Never Gives Up by Suzy Toronto

“Lemons to lemonade,
she always hangs in there.
When opportunity knocks,
it sometimes knocks her down,
but she never lets it
get her down for long.

She is a triumphant, shining example
of a woman who truly knows how to
survive life’s ups and downs.
She understands the value of
family, friendship, and,
most importantly,
the gift of time.
Putting aside all judgment,
she generously shares her
unconditional love.”

I cry just reading it. I don’t feel like that woman, but my close peeps see me this way. They tell me all the time. I would do anything to be like the woman described in that poem. That is the woman I want to be. Some would say it describes me to a tee. My goal is to see myself that way, if that is indeed true.

SO NO GIVING UP. I MAY FEEL LIKE SHIT, BUT NO GIVING UP. NOT TODAY ANYWAYS!


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Complications

I’ve heard a couple of comments lately about how sometimes I make choices that make my life more complicated and stressful. Perhaps my life is “as chaotic as I let it be.”

It’s true. To some extent, I have to admit it’s true.

On the other hand, I defend my choices. I invest in people. It’s the career I chose. I invest in my friends and family. Do I worry too much about other people’s feelings? Sometimes to my own detriment? It’s true. I’m sure I do. But if I’m going to make an error, I would rather it would be to care too much about others rather than not caring enough. Is that my choice? Yes, I guess it is.

The trick then, is to admit my stress and frustration without being a martyr. Women are generally prone to be martyrs. Sorry ladies, that’s just my opinion. So I think it’s ok to admit I’m hurt, or anger, or whatever, but also not be a victim. I make the choices I make and therefore have to live with the good and bad sides of those choices.

There has been lots of normal life stresses around here, just more than usual. The winter kicked my house’s butt. There has been a very long list of projects to do and things to fix. I have lots of people in my life who try to help me out in practical ways. Lots. I’m very lucky. Honestly though, if I had a lot more financial wiggle room, I truly think I would just hire people to do everything. I really would. Then I don’t have to bother anyone else. Life would be simpler. Easier. Less chaotic.

But I haven’t won the lottery yet so here I am. (Yes, I know I have to start playing the lottery in order to win it but I just haven’t got there.) Lots of people to help. Everyone has wicked schedules and their own jobs to do. When can they come? And everyone has a different idea of the best way to solve the problem. Those different solutions all have their own merits and drawbacks.

So my schedule is completely out of whack. People are here on and off all the time. I hurt people’s feelings without meaning to. They hurt mine. I assume they don’t mean to either. Personality differences. Skill differences. Time differences. All adds up to stress.

I guess I will keep making my choices, and I will keep living with the results that are both good and bad. And all those people in my life will have to make their choices too. Can they live with the way I do things? Or is it too crazy? And the people who I’m really close to, know me. They will listen to me, offer me a hug, and put up with my occasional whining. Because anyone that knows me, knows I would never ever hurt or frustrate anyone on purpose. They know I am DEEPLY grateful for all the things people help me with, even if I get frustrated sometimes. And they know that I will never stop investing in people. Nothing else is more important to me. And from my perspective, nothing else should be. Windows and paint and doors will come and go. People are what is eternal. I get it.

Happy Easter everyone!