“Do not be too timid and sqeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
“There are no mistakes, only lessons.”
Yes, I agree with that but I am starting to feel that there are times when it is necessary to admit that you made a mistake, and that you would have like to have behaved differently. To stand up to your own behaviour and look at it right in the eyes in all it’s ugliness. To say, “I did that”.
“But you did what you knew how to do at the time.”
Yes, that’s true. And I am learning from it, but I can honestly say that I did that and I wish I been able to do it differently.
“So, if you had to do it again would you do it differently?”
Yes. But I want to understand why I chose to do it in that way in the first place and the only way to do that is to look at it. To sit with “what is”.
“What are you afraid of?”
Not being the person I think I am.
Great, perfect, nice, lovable, sweet, honest, courageous, daring, strong.
“Are you these things?”
Yes. Sometimes. Not perfect actually, no. I try. I make mistakes.
“So what if you are not these things?”
Then I am a fraud. A shyster. An imposter. Fake.
“Aren’t we all those things at some point? Don’t we all project an image of ourselves based on what we want to be?”
I guess so.
“So why do you not allow yourself any imperfections?”
I don’t know exactly. I think I just want people to like me all of the time. I think I don’t like to see those imperfections in myself.
“But isn’t that what it means to be human? To have imperfections? Doesn’t everyone have them?”
Yes. Well, except for the Buddha, the Dali Lama, Mother Teresa, Jesus, Martin Luther King, Thich Nhat Hahn, Pierre Tredeau, Christoper Reeve, and my mother.
“You don’t believe that do you?”
No. I was just trying to add some lightness to the conversation.
“So why is it important that people like you all of the time?”
So they will think I’m great and tell me so, and hire me, and buy my books, and I will be able to pay my bills, and have lot’s of friends and be happy and never have to worry about anything ever again.
“Is that really what you want?”
Not really. I’ve had that, it didn’t make me feel any better about myself.
“What do you want?”
I want to be able to be myself, whatever that is, and love that person with all of those flaws and imperfections. I want to not need things to come from external sources. I want to feel safe again.
“You used the word ‘again’, when did you last feel safe?”
When I was really little, when I didn’t have to try so hard, before I needed to do things to make other people happy.
“What if you decided to do things based on what makes YOU happy?”
Then I would be selfish, not caring enough for others. People would be angry with me. Disappointed.
“What if I told you that their disappointment was based on their own expectations of themselves, on their own fears?
Wow, that’s a big one. I want to believe you, but it might take a while to sink in.
“You have time.”
At the age of eight years old while driving in the car my dad would often say to my sister and I in a stern voice, “Don’t laugh”, which had the immediate and desired result of sending us into that face scruntching, “trying-to-hold-it-in-but-being-unsuccessful” look, followed by peals of giggling. “I mean it, don’t laugh.” We would work intensely at it for several seconds at least. (The
don’t laugh trick was seconded only by my father’s other favourite “don’t think of a pink elephant.”) This photo reminded me of that about to burst feeling, something I hadn’t though about in years.
As I enter into my 35th year on this planet I stop to think about the things I am grateful for, the things that are making me grow, the things that are a life…
a new circle of women friends all open to experiencing and sharing the hard bits, a husband whose face lights up when I walk in the room (i will never tire of that), leather bound journals from italy that I like to smell when I write in them, dragon flies, humming birds, a new found ability to cry with friends, the good books of the year, Jim Harrison, A movable feast, William Carlos Williams, learning to speak my truth with people, finding my voice more, whole milk vanilla ice cream, toast with honey, soft boiled eggs, tea, tea, tea, black licorice, music by Gillian Welch, the B-Good Tanya’s, Christian Keifer, Jeff Pitcher, Spinoza, my new agent Faith, Natalie Goldberg, Maira Kahlman, a quiet wedding in the fog, doing my best and understanding it is enough, guerilla art, animal houses, holes in trees, late night phone calls, losing my confidence, finding it again, change, missing my mom and allowing myself to grieve, chewy sweet tarts, two grey fuzzy cats one fat one thin, friday night pizzas, zip.ca, wine that makes you close your eyes and smile, new york wanderings, california adventures, courage, finding my center in the midst of chaos, trust, finding grace (even when I think it isn’t there), watching children, sharing stories, experiencing vulnerability, sitting with discomfort, riding my bike, cloth grocery bags, black ink pens, morning collages, picking my first lemon, knowing less than I did a few years ago, but feeling more.
I didn’t find any new answers, just a few more questions that I hadn’t thought of.
I sometimes hesitate to write about more of the health issues here, partly because I am tired of writing about it, and partly because I feel it is not very poetic. But maybe this IS the poetry, the everydayness, the real details of a life. That feeling of your world stopping for a moment when something really important comes up and serves to reshift things in a way you didn’t expect. I always have the same feeling when a big life change happens (illness, death, loss), it is difficult to put it into words. It is as if time has stopped for you and no one else. I am always very aware of the rest of the world going on around me but I am not in it. I am watching the world and become tuned into the smallest details, I look at people as if they are ants going about their daily tasks, and the tasks seem strange to me. The cutting of lawns, going to the dentist, office work. absurd.
I write about the health issues here because I think in our culture we do not talk about these things enough, the things that we ALL go through at some point. And we are all learning as we go. We heal with each other’s stories. I write about it in case some of you are going through a similar situation.
So the update…the meeting with the surgeon went well (though extremely brief. Contrast that with the three hours spent with the accupunturist who asked hundreds of questions about my life, my personality, what gives me joy, what makes me sad, etc.) The surgeon confirmed that the fibroid is not cancerous, so I am very relieved by that fact. (Just to clear up some confusion, I have two different types of cysts in one breast, a mass of normal cysts which had grown in the last few months, and a larger fibroid cyst which I have had for many years, which the surgeon said IS a tumour. So the fibroid is something that has to be watched because they can change.) I have dealt with this for many years now, but this was the first time my doctor suggested a surgeon and that was scary. What I have learned is that this seems to be a normal thing with a lot of women. The question seems to be ‘when is a breast lump not just a breast lump?’
So I will keep on with my own healing regiment. I will eat good food, and I will live as fully as I can. And I will go back to my own routines as we all do. The paying of bills, the phone calls to people, buying food, the moving of the body. And someone else who may be going through their own change will see me through the window of a car for a split second, going about my busyness, and think it strange. It is.
I would like to do something every day that is contrary to the ‘routine’.
Today that means a picnic in the woods.
A rainy saturday morning I sit on the porch in my pyjamas. I have the thought that I should get dressed and then decide against it giving myself the treat of idleness. Idle attire. That is what saturday mornings are for, particularly rainy ones. Ella Fitzgerald’s voice wafts through the open door of the house and I am thinking that this is the best way to listen to jazz music. Sitting outside smelling the rain smells, and hearing it move through the house, around tables and chairs, through doorways and out into the rain. It feels secondhand, antique, the way an old stereo system sounds as it plays a record. Like an echo. Old houses were meant to hold jazz music, they were meant to have it move through them, shifting the thick wooden beams that hold it together. It is what keeps them alive, stops them from falling to the ground. This old house lives for it. It always feels happier with music from the 20′s and 30′s.
I watch as a hummingbird with an irridescent green head and bright flourescent orange cheeks drinks from the red blooms of a flowering shrub. It is a mere three and a half feet from me. I sit stiffly staring at it for several minutes, so rare to see them this close up. They are like large bees, wings making noticable buzzing sounds. How lucky i feel.
“You are Buddha right now.” -Katigiri Roshi
“Learn to write about the ordinary. Give homage to old coffee cups, sparrows, city buses, thin ham sandwiches. Make a list of everything ordinary you can think of. Keep adding to it. Promise yourself, before you leave the earth, to mention everything on your list at least once in a poem, short story, newspaper article.” ~Nathalie Goldberg
1. Accupuncturist/Homeopathy -ongoing treatment (phosphorus & chinese herbs), building depleted Qi.
2. Appt. with surgeon next week to see what they recommend. There is NO indication that it is cancerous from the numerous ultrasounds. My feelings…Biopsy if needed, no surgery unless absolutely necessary. As I mentioned, this is a common ailment among women.
3. Research foods to help build up Qi energy, and help shrink cysts. (Evening Primrose oil?) Source: Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford (an excellent resource on modern nutrition and ancient healing practices).
4. Drink more water! I forget this all too often, immersed in my work, later to find myself dehydrated.
5. Research psychological & spiritual factors. It has been said that breast issues arise from unresolved issues with your mother, but I have also heard issues with nuturing/men. (I have read Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom cover to cover, a must read for every woman. I will look into her new title, Mother Daughter Wisdom. I’ve also been a big fan of Caroline Myss).
6. Let go. Focus energy inward, not on things out of my control. For several months now I have been feeling anxious about many external things that are not in my control. This has served to create a large amount of anxiety which I know contributes to the state of dis-ease in the body. Letting go is much easier to talk about than do, but I am convinced that it is in large part a bad habit, something we do automatically without thinking. A fear comes up and we launch into that panic state. I have decided that when a fear comes up instead of the automatic panic reaction, I will do some “self soothing”. I will tell myself that it is o.k. to let go of those things that are out of my control, it is o.k. to breathe through it and choose something different. Which brings me to the next step…
7. Regular mindful breathing. Meditation. Quiet time to send love to my body, time to let awareness come up so I can understand what it is trying to teach me.
8. Bodywork. To release held emotions. (still undecided. massage, reiki, etc.)
still adding to list as necessary. thank you for all your kind words and moving emails. I continue to feel grateful at every turn for all of it, (and I will respond to all when I get time.)
I am here. Where is here. Here is the cool weather of california, the emotional release after a session of accupuncture, time visiting with family. Here is me needing some alone time. So I retreat to the journal for a few minutes. I read the first chapter of “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” and it makes me teary. (the main character is caregiving for a mother who is dying of cancer. I was warned ahead of time that it would be a hard read for me, hitting close to home. But sometimes it is helpful to see our own lives reflected back to us, to see our own grief, there are things that I forgot about the process of watching someone die.)
I went to see an accupuncturist in Berkeley for the first time last week in an attempt to heal a mass of cysts in my right breast. My doctor recommended surgery to have them removed but I want to try other options first (assuming they are not cancerous), and at some level to try to understand why they are there. I want to believe in the body’s ability to heal itself. Anyone who has had a scare of this sort (I have talked to so many women now with the same situation) will understand the fears that come up and the conflicting opinions of doctors/friends. There appear to be two camps, 1) the “get it OUT NOW” group, and the 2) ‘this is very common’ do not worry camp. I am doing my best to sit quietly with it, hear what my intuition has to say. The beautiful thing to come out of it thus far, (as is common with these things), is the reminder to ‘come back to the body’, to give it some needed love and attention. Something that we all forget while in a state of perfect health.
The accupuncturist said some things that surprised me. He placed his fingers on my wrist in several formations, sat attentively for a few minutes and told me some things that were difficult to hear.
“Are you a person who takes shortcuts often?” he posed. “Yes”, I responded reluntantly, eyes turned to the floor. I brought them up again to a shelf that held several small ceramic Buddha’s, all laughing, tiny robes hanging non chalantly over their round little bellies. For a moment I felt like they were laughing at me. “It is costing you”, he said in a serious tone, eyes looking directly into mine. I swallowed and took a deep breath. I think I knew that but didn’t want to admit it to myself. My need to push through things so that they are quickly finished overtakes me, the end result of completion often more important than the finished product. Such is the way of the human ego.
Patience. I will work on that one. So many things to work on.
But there is an ocean of gratitude that creeps in. I feel healthier physically than I have in many years, I have use of my legs, my brain, my heart, my fingers. I will spend some quiet time everyday to send love to my body, and to my breast. In time I will heal.
Tomorrow we board a plane.