After my father died when I was 15 my mother went into menopause. Well, actually it didn’t quite happen just like that. In fact there may have been a good year or so between events. I don’t actually know because I lost most of my memory for awhile after my dad’s death so everything is sort of this big age 15 – 18 stew. Some things are in proper order … most aren’t. Sometimes I’ll try to place an event I think happened while I was heading off for college and it turns out to be a mere week or so after my dad died. And once I told my mom I didn’t think she should have dated The Cheese (that was my name for him, not hers) so soon after my dad’s death and she told me it was a year later. A year? Jeepers. So time, for me, at different points in my life, just doesn’t seem to work. And since this post is about me apologizing for something that happened more than 20 years ago, I’m hoping this is one of those times.
Mom, I’m REALLY sorry I didn’t take those hot flashes of yours more seriously.
For the past few weeks I’ve had a serious affair going with the thermometer. One of the most important things to make sure of while your being treated for cancer is that you aren’t getting an infection. So they have you worried all the time that you may run a fever. Watch for all the signs! they say and Take your temp often! they say. I did this. Sort of. Until a few weeks ago when I was sure a fever was spiking because in one moment I would go from perfectly content temperature wise to stripping off my clothing and using ice cream as a hat. The heat would last for a little bit and then came the chills. Classic fever symptoms. This went on for days. I took my temp hundreds of times. I, however, never had a fever.
At my next appointment, I mentioned it. My doctor was rather nonchalant when he told me I’d been thrown into chemical pre-mature menopause and these periods of near spontaneous combustion were actually hot flashes. He, in fact, seemed to want to move quickly past the subject and get out of the room. This could be because I was beginning to further undress and fan myself with the paper sheet at the same time.
Never has something been so misnamed. Hot is okay, I guess, although somewhat understated for my taste. And flash is just not even in the ballpark of close. Flash makes it seem like it comes and goes quickly. Or like it is just a little blimp of heat. Not true. It should be called a HOT FRIGGIN FLASH or a DEAR GOD MY EYEBALLS ARE BOILING MOMENT or something that conveys the intense heat. Oh my lord the heat! I’m not the first woman to write about hot flashes nor do I suspect I will be the last so I won’t go into too much detail but let’s just say I was experiencing one today during a discovery channel show about volcanoes and while watching hot lava ooze down the side of the mountain I found myself saying “gee, that looks refreshing!”
And then, just like that, it will pass. It may last for a two minutes, or ten, or longer but eventually, it goes and I’m left with an ice pack in each hand and a frozen dinner down my pants.
So I know there were many things, Mom, I didn’t understand growing up. I know there were times I caused you pain and worry. I know there were moments of less than adequate compassion on my part. I know I underestimated what you went through. However, in this one area, dear woman, I understand.
And as I sit here in this moment channeling a fireball and sweating so much I’m making my own gravy I want you to know I am so very sorry for that time I said “MA! It can’t be THAT bad!” Forgive me.
Virginie needs your vote. I don't know if you ever went to the pantene website and voted for V. back when I first mentioned it. Maybe you did, if so, thank you. V is in competition with 2 others. The contest is a big deal and the winner gets 7000 euros. Euros because it is in Belgium. Which, if you haven't studied french will make the voting a sort of international adventure for you! Ann has instructions here. Really, it is pretty easy to do. Why are we voting for V and why do we care about the silly Belgiumese and their luscious hair? Well, V has agreed to give half the winnings to this really cool humanitarian project that my friend Ann is tied to. That's reason enough isn't it? How often can you make a difference with a little <click>? I mean other than <click>ing to buy that perfect pair of pants from the banana republic website.
A while ago there was some misunderstanding about the prize money. Ann initially assumed V was planning on giving all of the money away. Then, after further investigation realized she is planning on giving half the money. Which, frankly is just about half more than I would give to anything if I won a contest right now. That goes double if I won a shiny beautiful hair contest because WHAT A COUP THAT WOULD BE! Anyway, I think it is remarkable that she is giving away ANY of her prize money at all and if you decide not to vote for her because she's only giving half well then I'll just have to say it, you're a turd.
Now, here comes the plea. Will you please go and vote for V? If you've already done it, do it again. Just find her and click on her picture. You'll be taken to her page where a button with the word "voter" comes up. Even I could figure out that's the button you click to vote. Do that. Feel good about yourself. Sleep soundly tonight. You can vote once a day for a few more days. It won't take much to push her ahead and keep her there. Since I check my stats and know that more than 10,000 of you are here each day, I know we can do it! Now, you might think that since the other 9,999 people besides you that read daily will be voting you don't have to BUT that's really not true. For a couple of reasons ..
1) Every vote counts
2) I lied about the stats. So Mom, please go vote. Okay?
I’m posting today because I know I won’t feel like it after treatment tomorrow. I’m exhausted from teaching today – although I had a great time – and am on my way to bed. Before I hit the hay, I wanted to hit the keys. This won’t be long.
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past couple of days.
1) if you teach a class about how to run an effective meeting and you run you effective meeting meeting over time, the class will NOT let you forget it!
2) Dollar store tissues are as useful and comfortable as using a chainsaw to wipe your nose. Although cheap and therefore tempting to buy, dollar store tissues should be used under no circumstances. Maybe if you spill something and want to push it around on the table they would be okay or if you are fortunate enough to have your worst enemy over and he has a cold .. then you could offer them but other than that, they really have no use and should be banned.
3) Somewhat related to #2 (that's #2 the point, not #2 the bodily function) It is NOT cool when you are teaching and (because you’ve lost all the hairs in your nostrils) snot flings out your nose onto the flipchart paper. It is also very difficult to pretend like it was intended for emphasis.
4) If you use round circles in your ppt diagrams and you are teaching a room full of men, you might want to steer clear of calling the circles “balls” and referring to the balls and what should be done with “your big balls”.
Other than that, it went really well! Thanks Iowa!
Do you think maybe the reason the TSA agents at the airport are so grumpy isn’t because they are so concerned about terrorists but because their pants are too tight?
What’s going on with those pants? Do they have two waistbands? The one directly below their ribs and the one cutting off circulation immediately above their pubic bone? Are they made that way? Who could do their job in pants like those? I haven’t been so upset by pants since I was 13 and my father unrolled the cuffs of his overalls in a Hardee’s and sheep manure fell out.
I think next time I fly I’m going to wrap up some elastic in tin foil and when it shows up on the x-ray I’m going to slyly smile and say, “how ‘bout you keep that.” And give a little wink. I may not be able to change the world, but maybe I can help relieve some tension….one waistband at a time.
In the few days after chemo we like to go to the park and feed the ducks. It is a calm, quiet time as I sit on a bench and coax the ducks closer and closer. I talk to them. They talk to me. They are quite wary and it takes a lot to even get them out of the water and waddling up around where I sit. Sometimes they won't come out at all and I end up coming to them. We work at it. It's a dance. Pure poetry and poop. I add the former, they contribute the latter.
Usually it is just me and ducks. After the last chemo, however, a goose joined the group and we worked together at trusting each other. At first Goose stayed on the fringes. Eventually, Goose moved closer. Goose was so pretty and calm and I so wanted to bond. It took time and sacrifice on both our parts, but we got there. When I got home, I sent this picture to my sister.
This was her reply:
I LOVED the picture of you and the goose! I am so proud of the goose for taking bread right out of your hand and of YOU for having the guts to have a picture taken with your butt in the foreground.
See? She knows.
I need to start keeping a note pad beside the bed. I woke up in the wee hours this morning with a great concept for a post. Then, as I usually do, I laid there for a while and composed a good portion of it in my head. I even came up with one or two killer analogies and word pictures. I quickly considered getting out of bed and typing it up but those dreaded words “I’ll never forget this!” floating in a big, bouncy, confident thought bubble over my head. So I drifted off to sleep and next thing you know I’m sitting here with not a clue as to what I was going to create in words. I hate that.
Once, a handful of years ago, I woke in a very similar state. I was living alone after my divorce in an apartment in Midtown. But instead of convincing myself that I wouldn't forget the revelation, I actually got out of bed and padded through my apartment eager to capture the thought in my head. It was the lightless, middle of the night but I was fearless of tripping over anything since, at that time, all I had was a bed, a dresser retrieved from the dumpster and a pair of wooden skis. The skis are another story altogether. I shuffled into my tiled kitchen. The only light was the tiny flicker that came in the window from the lighters of fellas in the alley cooking their heroine. I snagged the pencil from on top of the fridge, zeroed in on the pad I kept on the door to make a grocery list when I ran out of ramen or generic potatoes and scribbled away. Once satisfied that the significant thinking was pinned down, I scurried back to bed and was asleep in five nanoseconds.
It took me a good 30 minutes in the morning to even remember the event. I was in the shower when I finally recalled it and it was a bit like remembering a dream at first. Like driving through fog – familiar but somehow foreign at the same time. When the memory of it finally cleared I was ecstatic. 1) because I was so proud of myself for capturing something that would have, obviously, been lost otherwise and 2) because as the memory formed, the feeling of knowing I had landed on something significant returned. Although I had absolutely NO recollection of WHAT I wrote on that paper, I could remember KNOWING it was something meaningful. It was something grand. I could TOTALLY FEEL the feeling of revelation. Of discovery. I could not wait to get out of that shower. I could not wait to see what was on that paper. Wrapped in a worn towel and without slippers or socks I braved the cold floor and nearly ran to the kitchen and grabbed the paper from the fridge. In tilted, uneven writing it read:
during my divine childhood where were you? brown rice
I guess what I’m saying is, maybe I’m not missing much.
The funny thing was, it was a nearly full flight. Unless you are me.
Today I travel to see a client. It is the first flight since my diagnosis. Isn’t that weird? Maybe not for you, but I fly a lot (boy are my carry-ons tired!) and it seems like so long ago since I was diagnosed … it just seems odd that this is the first flight.
I probably wouldn't have noticed but a couple things made me realize it's been a while since I tried to fold my very long legs in such a way to make them squooush into the non-existent space created by the nice gentleman in 3A who always decides to take a nap. In my lap. 1) the realization that my photo ID current looks just exactly nothing like me – unless you make a little frame by circling up your index finger and your thumb and placing it directly over my face blocking out everything but my nose, then it looks exactly somewhat like me. Sort of. And 2) I have to wear a mask on the flight. The surgical kind, not the hold up a bank kind. I have to put it on when I get on the plane and can’t remove it until after I get outside the terminal. Couple that with the fact that I’m more than a bit pale these days and you've got the makings of a side-show freak. Or a 90s movie.
Can you imagine getting on a plane and seeing me sitting there bald and masked? This would only be better if they still allowed knitting needles on the plane. Not because I would be knitting but because I would occasionally click them together and hold them on top of my head only to appear frustrated when I couldn't get a signal. I think this would complete the picture nicely. As it is, however, I'll be lucky to get my deodorant on board. Um, make that my client will be lucky for me to get my deodorant on board. So I doubt my steel knitting needles are going to make it. Once seated, bald, masked and pale, I'm sure it will go one of two ways, either I’ll have the entire Southwest row to myself - on BOTH sides of the aisle - or a seemingly nice lady with big hair and red lipstick will sit next to me so she can tell me about everyone she knows that’s died from cancer.
Need a preview? This was taken over labor day during wall demo. Perhaps I should bring the gloves too.
And if you think I’m not going to use my current predicament as a reason to pre-board then you don’t know me very well.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Here’s the thing about the valley, your perspective changes. On the mountain top, where I’ve been so often, so many many, many more times than I deserve, I can see so far! I can see so much! I can see beauty and snow-caps and trees and little charming towns and sunsets and mist and mornings and green and growth and every bit of wonder imaginable. That’s what the mountain top gives us – a view. A view of so, so much. I love the mountain top – who wouldn’t? The valley, however, well, there is not much to see in the valley. Walls on either side. Steep inclines. Darkness. That’s what a valley is really, a darkness, a hole, a grave with both ends knocked out. It’s not easy to walk the valley. It’s hard to take the next step and the next and the one after. It is so deep and dark.
Today I realized what a blessing that darkness is. It is God’s great generosity and wisdom that darkens the valley, that limits our perception, that restricts our view. For in that shallow sight, there are few distractions. There is nothing to see, nothing to draw attention, nothing to disrupt from the truth – the simple, pure, awesome truth that
Breathe in. Breathe out. I am still here.