Old Thoughts Week

I came upon some old journal entries of mine from the spring before I moved to Tucson. I thought I’d share a few of them over the next days for some insight into what went through my mind. Going through them was surprising even for me, now.

 

It recently occurred to me that everyone else is the constant in my life. You would think that I would be the constant, because no matter who I’m with… I’m the only person that continues to be the same. But I am not the same. I am a new person with everyone. This is why I lack perception of myself. I don’t know which self to perceive myself as regularly.
I’m comfortable with that right now, but I shouldn’t be.

 

 

 

This time of year sparks my memory of summers at my Grandma’s house. They were always fun because the pool would be filled and my cousins would come over. I’d wake up early and change into my bright green swimsuit, I’d stick out my baby fat belly between the pieces and I’d forget to comb my hair. I was 6. I’d stand in front of Marllette’s bed and my short stubby legs would propel me through the air on top of my sister and she’d scream.

“Hey, wanna go swimming before everyone else comes?”

“No. I want to sleep.”

“Can I sleep with you?”

“No! Your bed is 3 feet away!”

 

I’d lay down and pretend to snore. My swim suit smelled like old pool water and Marllette would be irritated until she’d finally get up and change. She’d stomp outside and drop 2 towels on the floor and lay down on the pool deck. I’d lay down next to her with my legs crossed and sunglasses on, and by noon the cousins would come and Marllette would find her energy. We’d tire ourselves out and wave good bye until the next day. I’d wipe my nose with my hand and touch Marllette. Why was that gross? Watermelon stained suit and all, she’d shove me in the shower and remind me to put shampoo in my hair. We’d eat popscicles, watch I love Lucy and go to bed. At 2 AM I’d move to her bed. I don’t know why it was safe, or why she was any more able to protect us at 10 than I was at 6, but her bed seemed softer and warmer and farther from the shadows of trees on the wall.

 

 

I’ll see you and you’ll smile, confused as to what I’m thinking. But I will know what’s on your mind. I’ll prepare for the silence once again, and when you do speak, I won’t reply, because you won’t want my answer.

Lesson 30: Let out your tears.

“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.” – Rumi

Needing “a good cry” today. Oh this journey, this journey through the chasms of my miiiiiind.

Life doesn’t get any easier. She’s gone. Five months later and it’s even less okay than it was at first. She’s gone and I can’t find the magical door I’ve dreamt up that I can walk through to hug her again. I look in the mirror and I see her sometimes: the green eyes, the same nose… but it’s fleeting, because then I stand there… this person with her eternally but without her forevermore.

I remember sitting in the conference room at Mercy Gilbert, staring at a doctor who I will forever remember as “cankles” because I was too angry at her to look at her face. I remember telling her mid staccato-like gapes of breath between cries that I understood that she lacked the ability to offer me hope, but… it. sucked. It. Still. Sucks.

This past month has been emotional, or at least, it should have been. I managed to stuff that emotion somewhere deep inside until I felt I could take a minute to think it through. I’ve neglected to write for the same reason. But “it” never goes away. It grows like a vine around you until it’s got you in a sleeper hold.

It’s okay to cry. My mom would always tell me not to bottle it up. She’d tell me to wait, if possible, and not let the advantageous see me, but in a quiet moment I should take a shower and let it all out in there. I should cry until the tears are gone.

The truth is, I want to scream at the world, right now. I don’t care if anyone hears or sees. My heart is on my sleeve, and the pain is very, very deep. I’m not hope-less and I will be okay, but there is a slice of my heart that is gone, and words can’t heal me, and I think that’s important to me because I don’t want to be healed. I don’t want to ever be “okay” with my mom being gone. I want to let the tears out and know that tomorrow will be a new day–perhaps with a freshly sodium cleansed face–and that I can resume walking with my head held high and a smile on my face.

Lesson 29: It’s Okay to Bloom, Little Ones.

I had wanted a short winter. I spent many nights with my eyes clenched shut before falling asleep–as a child does when they’re trying to tell themselves there is no monster under the bed. Throughout August and early September I’d do this, intending to ask the powers that be for something profound, but feeling at a loss for what to ask with respect to my mother’s illness. It seemed that outright asking for her cure was too ambitious in those moments and I’d seem whiny and desperate—I wanted to plan that request out. The most logical thing to ask for was a shortened winter. I had honed in on words my mom had spoken in April: “The sun is finally out and it’s perfect to go outside to my garden and stretch out on the hammock. The winter made me sad, it was so dark.” Her treatments started late April, as well, so the turnaround in her attitude and overall condition seemed to improve with the temperature increase.

The October weather was perfect. Warm afternoons would cool into breezy nights filled with an aroma that could only be described as Arizona autumn. It gave a sense of tranquility that contrasted my emotion; in fact, the entire hospice was a mental battle between feeling comforted and panicked. I preferred to demonize the nurses in an attempt to ease my confusion. In truth, they were not gentle and a little too happy to numb and quiet, which made it easy. There is also the distinct possibility that the hospice itself was no more welcoming than any other home colored in crèmes and coffee browns, but that my family’s unique ability to make ourselves at home regardless of where we are, influenced the atmosphere. During the couple of weekends we spent there, when the whole family came into town, we’d sit, gathering food around on the coffee table, in front of the fireplace and laugh about silly things. Chris would entertain us with stories of his adventure of the moment, while keeping a caring eye on me. He’d stay far enough to give me space, but close enough to hug me if he saw the cloud of fear that would often pass through my eyes.

Taking turns spending time with my mom gave us the ability to give her the best that we had, each of us. We could rotate giving smiles, hand squeezes and reassuring kisses. She slept mostly, waking up few times to look around for familiarity. My preferred spot was in a chair to her left, laying my side on her bed so that she’d open her eyes to see my lying next to her.  Then, I could remind her that I was there and she was okay, and her face would change from confused to content and she’d smile at me, “Okay baby, I love you.” The words were almost indiscernible, but I knew exactly what she was saying.

Yes, it was I who asked for this short, warm winter. I saw my mom like the flowers she nurtured so well: blooming in the spring only to wither with the cold. Maybe I was mistaken, though. The flower isn’t burdened with the coming winter… it doesn’t want to push through the freeze. Rather, it will give itself to the earth to nurture and raise a whole new set of seeds that will grow strong in the spring, holding in fragments of the generations before.

bloom

Semantics

There’s this word…

It conjures fear in my depths that no other word can do. It rattles my soul, and yet, for fear of saying it… I am still unable to avoid it. I still don’t say it. I think I did, once… with a stutter. It felt cold. My mouth didn’t quite know how to speak it, and after I meekly spit it out, I looked around nervously as though it would have awakened a monster. Did it? Could it? Should I be afraid?

Death.
Death.
Death.
It starts as a cough and ends in a whisper.
As if it is one’s last exhale.

Why are you so peculiar, death? When I come to understand you, I’ll be in the company of all who already know you.

Still, here I find myself pondering the intricacies that my mom has become well acquainted with over the last 4 months. I’ve tried not to say the word itself or its conjugations. Dead. Die. Death. De-breath? I know they are only words, but they feel so harsh. Distant. The euphemisms don’t seem to console me, though. She’s passed away. Passed away to where? This is something I am unsure of. I believe she still exists in some form… I feel a sureness of that. It is physics. She was energy and energy cannot just disappear, it transforms. It must still be somewhere.  But where? I don’t know. That is a certainty I didn’t have that I thought I had. I hope that energy is tangible here; that her last breath, her de-breath, nourished one of her nearby plants as she would have wanted.

And so herein the beauty is found—the silver lining. I am no closer to understanding death, though I no longer want to struggle over its name. I can’t tell you that I believe my mom is in a pearly white kingdom above, because I promised myself that through this blog I would share honesty. With that said, I know there is more to it all than my mom’s ashes. Every time I fall into Savasana I do my best to shut off all thought and release all tension that I’ve held throughout the day. It’s then that I feel her most. I don’t allow myself to think. I only feel what I can only recognize as her. I don’t think that is irony or coincidence. We can’t know all of life’s mysteries. Why would we want to? But we can connect to them and accept that life, love, death, hope, fear, fate… these are all just words we have created to express what, in our humble humanness, we know but cannot explain.

Death.
Death.
Death.
It starts with a cry and ends with a breath.

My Reflections.

I do my best to keep my personal opinions of such matters on the “D/L”–if you will–because I value that many people disagree and I honor their right to believe what they have a right to believe. This, however, is something I feel is greatly worth my words. I spent all yesterday going over the actual legislation, trying to understand the side of the argument where this is a reasonable bill that needed to be passed. I DO want everyone to be able to exercise their freedom of religion. I want everyone to be able to believe what they hold true and I want them to allow me the same courtesy. This, I believe, crosses a line that I can’t fathom and I am at a loss for words wondering why this is a state priority when there are so many other things I wish our representatives would worry about.  At the end of the day, call me what you will, I am a romantic and will do whatever I can for my right to love and be loved… and to give that same right to my friends. We are all HUMAN and we all should be respected. So I signed this petition, and I hope that you will reflect and sign as well. If not, well that is your freedom of choice and I wholeheartedly honor that.

Now I would like to know what business’ wish to exercise this new legislation. I truly have no desire to give them my business whether their religious rights would be “burdened” by it or not.

Petition to veto SB 1062

Lesson 28: Love, love, love.

Dear Cancer, I hate you.

If you could only see the beast you’ve made of me
I held it in but now it seems you’ve set it running free

The above song, Howl, played in my ear this morning as I set off on a rather unexpected jog. The quoted lyrics resonated within me as I thought about my hatred of cancer.

I have lived many years thinking of “hate” as just a word I would use to be dramatic.
“Mommy, I HATE waking up before noon.”
“Mommy, I HATE dusting the house.”
“Mommy, I HATE gym class.”
My mom knew very well that I had a penchant for the melodramatic. She would say nothing, but simply give me a look that said just-shut-up-and-keep-doing-it-or-else. That was enough for me. It wasn’t truly until we found out her diagnosis that I understood what it really felt like to hate something and feel powerless to it.

Up until that point, I think gym class really was the closest thing to hate that I knew. My mom always had a philosophy of dancing through life, which was her preferred mode of exercise. I, too, perhaps in a less graceful manner, also would rather dance and clean around the house than run or play some sort of sport. The only sport I enjoyed in my early years was softball–and that was strictly because I could choose to stay in the outfield and day dream (Cue Daria theme song).

I always wanted to be athletic. The idea of a sport, in theory, is something that I feel I should enjoy. However, as soon as any ache arose or a bead of sweat accumulated onto my forehead I would pull myself out of the game. This has quite honestly been a life-long struggle for me: choosing to push myself beyond a threshold I am unfamiliar with.

My lack of interest in athleticism, in my own mind, really had not been an issue that required my immediate attention. Chris, on the other hand, being quite the athlete, found my lack of interest in athleticism to be an issue that required his attention–and no, dancing around the house did not count.

This was concluded after a wonderful day of snowboarding, that ended in my near-tear cries as I felt my legs about to give out from under me. I, too, started to feel the desire to get better and stronger.

That brings me back to my run this morning and the above quoted song. I set off on a standard loop that would bring me back home at exactly a mile. I would usually plug in my Nike app, and track exactly how far I went in what time, but on a whim, decided that today I didn’t care. I just started running. I came up out of my street to a fork that I turn left at and I went right instead. I just kept running. When I got out of my neighborhood, I turned left and kept heading toward the intersection, fueled with thoughts and emotions that were brewing within me. My mom’s passing was so recent and I am so cognizant of my own limitation in grasping the full reality of it all, yet it also feels so distant and surreal. I started to really feel that hate that I have boiling out of me as I wondered why my mom had to fall victim, why my aunt Sommai had to succumb, or why a beautiful little six year old boy has to fight this ugly disease? Why? How can it be something so small it can evade CAT scans, yet too big for us to stop? How can I ever be healthy enough to avoid it if I don’t even really know what has caused it? My feet started to ache and sweat poured out of me as I stopped thinking to concentrate on my breaths. Then, surprisingly, when my mind stopped moving, I guttural cry bellowed out of me as I began uncontrollably sobbing. I must have frightened onlookers but I just kept moving, tears and all, until my body wanted to stop… and then I turned around and had to make it home.

The purging of emotion that I experienced had caught me completely off guard. I hadn’t realized just how much I was holding in until it all came out. My cheeks felt inflamed and my legs were sore as I carried on my pace back home. Each upward climb felt grueling, but I continued. On my last climb, I smiled as I rounded the top and saw my house at the bottom of the decline. I could have easily thrown my hands into the air, in a marathon runner style, and hi-five’d myself upon getting in the door of my house. My cry-run soon became a cry-laugh as I sat myself down to stretch out. During those euphoric moments of adrenaline, as the my sweat dripped the hatred out of my body, I had an epiphany. More importantly than hating or fearing of cancer, I love my mom. That is motivation enough to push myself to be better and shut-up-and-keep-doing-it-or-else.

I miss her, terribly. I hold back thoughts about her being unable to speak, barely able to move, but holding out her arms to me and kissing me on the cheek to remind me that she was still my mom and loved me. I realize now she was saying her goodbyes, as she pushed herself well passed her limits to give me a little more time with her, knowing that she didn’t have long. I’m realizing that physically and mentally we’re all so strong but still so vulnerable. The best that any of us can do is keep moving.

I’m realizing that those moments of mental and physical strength are the beautiful ones: when we’ve surpassed our own expectations for ourselves–for our loved ones– and nothing else but our beating heart seems to matter.