Sunday, January 9, 2011
Life As I Know It
I'm going to leave this blog up because it means too much to me not to. Feel free to still leave comments, as they will be forwarded to me.
I hope to see you at my new digs!
Friday, January 7, 2011
It seems to me that anything in life - including faith - is more valuable, more deeply meaningful, if it stands up to the rigors of being doubted and questioned.
A friend of mine has started a new blog, The Tentative Christian. She's a wonderful, warm, funny, intelligent woman and writer, so this promises to be anything but dry reading. I invite - challenge, even - you to follow it from its inception and see where it goes. Believers and non-believers alike.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Being in a reflective frame of mind lately, I revisited a series of interviews I did on the blog Abberation Nation about a year an a half ago. Ever wonder what/where I come from, and what makes me tick? Well, here it is - or at least partly. It's interesting how life's experiences can shape us so profoundly, and how yet, at the same time, we can feel so removed from our histories. I know these things happened, and I remember it all vividly. I carry the battle scars, and yet . . . I feel like I've come so far; it's almost like watching a movie about someone else.
Interview - Part I
Interview - Part II
Interview - Part III
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
My wife usually does these types of posts, these "Michael" updates, but I'm going to do one instead. I don't like to disclose, or whine, or complain, but I need to let my friends know where I'm at. A few weeks ago I posted the following on Facebook:
"From my aunt's kitchen: "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." It starts now. I am told I don't have cancer. My body's damaged; I've changed, but I will not let the fear of what may lurk grip me and my family for one more day. Fuck that. You get no more of my time. I've given you your due. If you show up again, that's fine, we'll deal. But until that day--which may never come--I'm letting go. I'm free."
I still don't have cancer, which is great, and after I posted that I felt so empowered. And now, in a rare moment of disclosure hopefully worthy of one of my wife's posts, and hopefully somewhat cathartic, I have to say that being on the other side of cancer treatment is somewhat more difficult than the treatment itself. I need to disclose this because everybody thinks you just beat cancer and move on. It's fucking hard. The whole world has moved on and I haven't yet. And my wife is doing her best to move on, but can really only move as fast as I can, and that's pretty slow.
So many things change for you during treatment and recovery. One that's had a huge impact for me is this: I learned that for some people, even though my family and I were going through what I hope will turn out to have been the roughest time in our lives, some people are unable to subordinate their own needs, and whatever drives them, for yours, even when they are clothed in the disguise of support. Not that they don't start out with the intent to be helpful. It just turns into something else, about them. Because of this, my relationships with the only two people I've known my entire life are nearly non-existent, and superficial with one of them at best, and I don't know that they'll ever be the same. And I don't even know that I want those relationships to revert to what they were--that's what ultimately led to their downfall anyway. I can't operate like that anymore.
So, here I am struggling to move on and while my wife has been wonderful, dealing with my own issues and her own issues, and sacrificing herself to a large degree, I otherwise do not have the support of who were the two most important people to help me through, and to help us through, and to ease and share the burden. And because they have not been part of the support system, and have distanced themselves (although it has become mutual) they are unaware of the after-cancer struggle, and the demise of these relationships, and the fact they're not around, have added to the fall out.
Then, I landed in the hospital a few weeks ago for something probably related to the surgery I had for cancer. That was a reminder, and it took two trips to the emergency room and an appointment with a specialist, all in one day, before somebody fucking realized I needed to be in a hospital. Thankfully, I am now OK, but it just sent me into a tailspin and I just realized this morning that it was a setback that was affecting me.
While this experience and even the past few months and weeks have brought my wife and I very close together, I have also been inexplicably more emotional, somewhat afraid of losing everything I have, and working very hard to keep it together. And trying to raise 6 children and hold down a very demanding job that requires a lot of concentration.
Yeah, we still laugh a lot, and love, and have wonderful times, but I'm here to tell you that the letting go part, and the being free part, has been work for me and my family. I haven't let go yet. I'm not free yet. And because of that neither is my family. But I hope to mostly be one day soon.
Monday, January 3, 2011
The truth is, though, that there is no going back. Life does not return to "normal" after cancer. Yes, life goes on, and we engage in most of the same activities that we used to, and our day-to-day routine is the same as before. But we are changed. Forever.
Some of the changes are good, and some unsettling. I remember when Michael was going through treatment, one day I ran into a mom at the kids' school whom I was acquainted with. We exchanged pleasantries and I asked about her husband, who I knew was in the military. She told me that he had been deployed to Iraq. And I remember thinking, "Yes, that's what it feels like. It feels like my husband is off to war." And like the men and women who come back from war with physical and emotional scars, so, too, do people who fight cancer.
Cancer, it never goes away. Even when the scan is clear and the blood work looks great, it's there, with its hooks in you, holding on, trying to take your peace of mind and your sense of safety and your ability to believe that there is still a whole life ahead.
I won't attempt to speak for Michael, as the experience of being the one who actually has cancer and goes through treatment is a unique experience in itself, and one I am not arrogant enough to think I understand. But speaking for myself, as the spouse of someone who fought cancer, I know the experience has wrought changes in me and my whole family.
I am filled with gratitude for all that I have . . . and an ever-present fear of losing it all. In some ways, everything about life feels more vivid . . . the highs are higher, and the lows are lower. I now live with the conviction that I will one day have cancer, that there is no escaping it - cancer is everywhere, lurking, silent, waiting to take everything away. Often I feel sapped from being swallowed by other people's needs, without having a proper, conventional safety net of support for myself.
I am angry - very angry - that the people who should have been saying, "What can we do to help you guys through this?" - if only by virtue of the obligation that is born out of the love, commitment, and loyalty they profess - have all along been unable and/or unwilling to put their own feelings and needs aside, leaving us adrift without proper support. That those people think they can speak for me and my kids in telling the world that we are all so very happy that Michael's recent scan was clear, when in truth, they have no fucking idea what we are feeling or what we have gone through, or what we continue to go through, because they can't seem to see beyond themselves. I am angry and bitter that I have stood by my husband through thick and thin, through the joys of good times and the ugliness and horrors of bad times - purely out of my love for and commitment to him and our kids - and yet I am still barely acknowledged as anything more than an incidental nuisance by the people who profess love and loyalty to him. I am angry that we are still trying to heal, after all this time, and those people don't have a clue.
I am scared that we are never going to heal completely. I am scared that cancer, in the end, has won, and has stolen something from us permanently.
Life goes on, and for the most part I purposefully go with that and am grateful for it. But every once in a while, the fallout is brought sharply into focus.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Last night, for the first time in all the years Michael and I have been together, we actually had big plans for New Year's Eve. It was quite exciting! We and two other couples who are very good friends of ours got all dolled up, piled into a limo ( a limo!) and went to dinner at one of Michael's and my favorite restaurants, Orange Hill Restaurant.
The restaurant sits high on a hill, and the view is amazing. We started out having cocktails on the patio, sitting around one of the fire pits. It was chilly!
Sitting down to dinner -
A lemon drop for me, of course.
Dessert. Isn't that clever?
Back on the patio, where we toasted, kissed, etc., etc. at the stroke of midnight.
On the way home, back in the limo (those are Michael's and my tootsies).
It was a super fun night!
I have to say, I have not been as eager to see the end of 2010 like I was 2009. This past year was a wonderful year for our family, and I am filled with gratitude for our health and happiness, among other things.
But there's no stopping the march of time. Here we are, and already the first day of 2011 is fading into night. I'm not super big on making New Years' resolutions . . . but I do have hopes for the coming year, and things I'd like to strive for:
. . . to be healthy by whatever means necessary
. . . to reflect and be grateful regularly
. . . patience
. . . to nurture the relationships in my life, including those with my husband, my kids, and my friends
. . . to live more frugally (now that we sent 2010 out with a big, expensive bang!)
Happy New Year!