I have the best job. This morning, I was sitting across from a 6-year-old for 1 1/2 hours. I was doing some testing of his learning. He was adorable and the information I am gathering will be very helpful in keeping him happy and adorable. Right in the middle of testing, my landlord knocked on my office door. I didn’t answer it because the kid was RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of doing a timed test. Rob came in, anyway, and apologized. He let me know that there was water in the lobby and that he was taking care of it. I masked my annoyance and he left. I continued with testing.

I knew about the water. I had seen it when I entered the building on the ground floor. There were also fire trucks in front of the building. I saw fire fighters talking to a contractor in the lobby. I gathered that the contractor, who is doing renovations on one of the condos in the building. had messed something up that needed fixing by the fire department. I asked one of the officers if it was okay to enter the building and he said it was so I tromped up a flight of stairs to the office. My landlord, Rob, came by shortly after I arrived and told me that the contractor had accidentally put a hole in the sprinkler pipe. Rob looked around our suite of offices and everything looked fine.

After testing was finished, I walked out into my waiting room. The large throw rug was gone as was one of the couches. There was an industrial grade humidifier running along with a bunch of fans. One of the ceiling tiles was wet and bulging. “Ah, I guess when Rob told me that there was water in the lobby, he meant the lobby of our suite,” I realized. Reid, the contractor, came in shortly after that, introduced himself, and let me know that he was responsible for the damage, including, buying a new couch if the one we had could not be dried out. The couch and area rug had been moved into a vacant office suite to be dried out.

Imagine that? There was a flood around the corner and people were taking care of it while I was able to complete my work for the morning. Then I just worked while the fans and humidifier were on. I got so much done that I’ll be able to take half of tomorrow off. I know that there will likely be things I have to do to resolve this issue. I have to say, though, that it is so nice to have this problem, if only just for today, taken care of. I don’t have to solve every problem. What a concept!

My landlord, Rob, came back to my office after I was done testing. He apologized again for interrupting my session. I said, “Well, now I know why you had to do it! I thought you were talking about the downstairs lobby.” He and I have a nice working relationship. Rob was so relieved that I was not furious about the damage. He noted, “You’re always so happy.” (I’m not, obviously, but I got his point.) “Rob, thank you for helping with this. The contractor looks like he is taking care of things. This is just inconvenience and my suffering about it doesn’t help anything and would just make people feel bad.”

When I feel like I am working on a team to solve a problem, it is so much easier for me. It’s so much better than going it alone or worse, getting stuck solving the problems that other people could solve themselves.

I spent yesterday finding a wheelchair for my dad. It was Saturday and the only medical supply place that was open is located about a 30 minute drive north of where I live. The owner asked my husband and I what width we wanted. I asked, “What are the pros and cons of each width?” She basically said that the wider one would allow him to set things next to him on the seat. He is traveling with a bit of medical equipment these days so I thought a wider seat might be better.  We drove back home. John needed to be dropped off to get some errands done. Then I drove the 30 minutes south to my parents house.

The wheelchair was slightly too wide to fit through the doorway from the kitchen to the rest of the house. It was 2:30 pm. The medical supply place closed at 4pm. I could get there in time if the traffic gods were with me. I loaded up the car and arrived at the store an hour later. The owner already had the smaller chair ready, because I had called her before I left. We made the exchange. Before I left the store, I called my husband to ask for his help. I knew that my dad would need help getting out of his lounge chair to sit in the wheelchair. Due to my SCAD induced heart attacks, I am not supposed to do heavy lifting. John agreed to come with me to help. So I drove home and picked him up. Then he drove us the rest of the way to Mom and Dad’s.

Dad was thrilled with the new wheelchair. One, he can now move himself around the house. Independence! He proclaimed it to be “the perfect wheelchair”. Although tired of driving, I was so happy to have made a meaningful positive change in his life just by driving around all day and getting stuff.

Right before Thanksgiving, Dad experienced an acute urological issue that landed him in the hospital. He was quickly stabilized but Physical Therapy services was concerned about his balance and general difficulties with mobility. Short-term rehab services were recommended and Dad finished a three-week-long stay last Thursday.

3-4 years ago, my dad was still camping and hiking with my mom. They are both nature lovers and active people. The first thing we noticed was that he started stooping over to walk. Then we noticed the shuffling. Over the years, he got weaker and weaker. His balance got terrible. Afraid that he had Parkinson’s Disease, he refused to follow-up on his primary care physician’s referral to a neurologist. We all talked to him. He refused. What started out as fear turned into habitual avoidance. Once he was admitted to the hospital, he became a very cooperative patient. For one, by stabilizing the acute issue, he was freed from excruciating pain. After that, what’s not to like about healthcare professionals? It didn’t hurt that they were very kind both at the hospital and at the rehab facility. The M.D. at the rehab facility diagnosed him with Parkinson’s Disease and put him on medication. He is showing slight but noticeable improvement on it. The diagnosis was really something the family has had to make big adjustments to because we knew something has been very wrong and we are happy for him to have treatment.

My parents are doing an amazing job adjusting to accepting help and relying more on other people. They are open to finding the right balance between independence and support. I am relieved. I was afraid that my dad was going to fall down the stairs before he got medical attention and that further, he would have been placed in assisted living, away from my mom, his beloved wife of 63 years. They are getting home-based services and my brothers and I have worked to make the main floor of the house accessible.

We are also trying to get our daughter into a smaller wheelchair or perhaps take up crutches. We are trying to help her be more independent, little by little, as she works her way from her teens to her 20’s. She just started living away at college. We are paying for nearly all of her expenses. She told me recently that she wanted to get a job. I told her that was fine but that also meant that this would mean a decrease in her financial support from us because it would mean that she is getting more independent. Let’s just say that’s not the way she sees it. There’s a big life lesson occurring. She is not suffering in silence. I am persona non grata. I may stay that way until the holiday break is over and she returns to Bellingham. Or perhaps not. In the meantime, she has been staying with friends. I’d be lying if I said this doesn’t hurt. It is difficult to work so hard on parenting and so often find myself wondering if I am going to be the next subject of a tell-all “my mother was the worst” autobiography. I also know that this is part of growing up, which has not been an easy process for my daughter.

As for me, I am also looking for the perfect wheelchair. It is the structure that allows me mobility and strength to fit through the outlines of my responsibilities. None of us are in this life alone, ever. We give and receive through our human connection.

My great-grandfathers on my mom’s side both immigrated from northern Italy to Washington state around the turn of the 20th century. Like many immigrants before and after them, they worked dirty, dangerous, and low-paying jobs. In their cases, they worked in coal mines in Renton and Black Diamond. Although they may have had dreams of riches and the easy life before they immigrated, they soon toiled as an investment for the future of their families.

I was reminded of my Italian ancestors while having a lovely weekend away with my husband. John had arranged for this as a birthday present to me. We stayed at my brother and sister-in-law’s condo near Rosalyn, WA, in the Central Cascades. Rosalyn was a coal-mining town back when my great-grandparents were mining.

It was foggy for most of the weekend, creating an other-worldly black-and-white environment. Fog can be foreboding. I found myself, instead, to be nestled in obscurity. The world can be far too bright and more subtle beauty can be missed. John and I took a walk down an old mining road, now used as a hiking trail. It was breath-taking and my photo only hints at this.

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This patch of serenity in 2017 is also the site of the worst coalmine disaster in Washington state history. It was 1892 and an explosion and fire killed 45 men. Can you imagine what that was like for a turn-of-the century mining town in rural Washington with a population of just over 1000 people? Devastating.

I think of my ancestors, like these men and their families, who were primarily new immigrants from European countries, who the hardships of the immigrant life, the Great Depression, and two world wars.

In the years of my mindfulness practice, I have gained a perspective of deepened connection between humanity. There is a thread that runs through us across distance and time.  I have been struggling with discouragement in the past few weeks. Some of it, I suspect is anniversary grief from the last presidential election compounded by the new assault of scary news each day. I am also adjusting to finishing my cardiac rehab, which was a wonderful structure of support both physical and emotional. Then there is getting to a new normal with my dad’s health and support needs.

This is not working the mines or dealing with wars or the Great Depression. But it does feel that we are adjusting to some kind of New World. And for many in our country and world, it really is working the mines, living through the Depression, and experiencing war, all at once.

My ancestors were strong, resilient people on both sides of my family. (Perhaps, one day, I will tell my father’s story.) Today, I draw on their strength and I see light.

 

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Two years ago today, I visited Joshua Tree National Park in California, for the very first time. On that day, I took the photo, which is now the banner photo for this blog. Growth comes from the dry dessert. A portion of the San Andreas Fault runs along the border like a scar and a warning of ominous future possibilities. Joshua Tree is life in stark relief.  Joshua Tree shows that although the life cycle endures, individual lives  end. This is both reassuring and unsettling.

I was born 52 years-ago. I can’t imagine any human birth being undramatic, but mine was dramatic in the will-she-or-won’t-she-live kind of way. I don’t know how close to not making it that I actually was. I was premature and had a respiratory immaturity that was not treatable at that time because the cause was not understood. A few decades later, medical science would progress to the point, where the condition was treatable and not such a big deal.

Perhaps, in part, due to this, I have been more in tune with the beautiful strength and fragility of life as well as how the changes in scientific knowledge change our understanding and influence over the natural world. Life, what an experience! What a marvel to behold!

I greeted today with a care conference at a short-term rehabilitative center for my 85 year-old dad. People on Dad’s side of the family, especially the men, don’t tend to be long-lived. Dad never expected to reach 85.

For the past 3-4 years, he’s struggled with health problems that have impacted his mobility and much more recently, his ability to care for himself completely on his own. To make a long story short, a hospital visit last week to stabilize an emergent problem, turned into a recommendation for rehabilitative treatment, focused on physical therapy and occupational therapy. I have been worried about my dad’s safety at home, especially using the stairs. So although I appreciate all of the changes that my parents are going through, living apart, accepting help from family, and facing uncertainty, I am relieved that my dad is getting long needed support and that my mom is getting some outside help with his care.

I think that my mom feels slightly bad that I started my birthday with a meeting at a rehab facility. Really, there was no place I would have rather have been on my 52nd birthday, which incidentally, the day before my parents’ 63rd wedding anniversary.

We are helping my dad in the last part of his life. How long that part is, we don’t know. Yes, it is sad to face the prospect of losing loved ones, but in the stark relief of my families’ life there is great beauty. There  is the beauty of my brothers, our spouses, friends, and my mom pulling together as a team. There is the beauty of the love of my parents for each other, as well as for their children.

My parents legacy of love, hard work, and compassion will live on past their days, just as my own legacy will.

Each day is a gift to be accepted and to be shared.

 

 

 

Scorchy was her pen name. I was one of the many that knew her real name, which I will not share here because I don’t know why she adopted a pen name in the first place. What I do know is that Scorchy was brilliant. Scorchy had a HEART OF GOLD. Scorchy was hilarious. Scorchy was well-connected. Scorchy knew important peeps. She helped those prominent folks when they decided to donate to Columbia University’s library system, whesend re she formerly worked, under a different name, as an archivist. Scorchy not only had the wit to compare an MRI machine assessment as being whisked inside of a whirring, buzzing toilet paper tube, but Scorchy actually helped archive the work of the inventor of the MRI machine.

Who else would I send the following gifts: 1) a French butter crock that I’d made to add to her pottery collection and 2) a cover for her cell phone with a line drawing of a cat, flipping her off. Only Scorchy could combine a sometimes shocking irreverence with that HEART OF GOLD.

She was a one and only. Scorchy’s feminist writings can be found in FEMINIST HANDBOOKS!

Scorchy had not one but two brilliant blogs. In addition to the Sarcastic Boob, she had earlier gained feminist fame in her critique of John Gray’s pop “psychology” book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Visit the blog here. Laugh aloud at the brilliant title and equally brilliant feminist commentary.

Scorchy, I loved you and I’ll keep on loving your smart ass, people lovin’ spirit that will live forever.  How will we detect all of the bullshit without you, friend?

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. I don’t think I’ve blogged about it in years. I typically try, unsuccessfully, to ignore it. The superficiality of some of the campaigns bothers me. But if I am honest, I also don’t share the intensity of the anger some people still feel about it. This is my 6th October since my breast cancer diagnosis in 2012. There has been a dramatic decrease in pink ribbons and associated nonsense since that time. There have been high profile works of film, journalism, and even coverage on late night comedy shows that have revealed the money farm that developed to exploit and sexual breast cancer for profit. Yes, it is still a problem but progress is progress. Progress is to be celebrated. So I celebrate the pink reduction.

Between the “think positive” crowd to the “everything about cancer sucks” crowd, I feel increasingly on my own. Although I tend to have more in common with the “everything about cancer sucks” crowd, I do worry about my not-very-tightly-held secret. I’m going out on a limb here and admitting what my blogging buddies know already: Not EVERYTHING about having breast cancer sucked. There were aspects of my experience that exposed me to what is best about humanity. I was lucky enough to be very well cared for by my healthcare team, by my family, and by my friends. I learned some things about myself in the process of illness that have become what I hope to be, lifelong lessons and happier ways of being.

I was at cardiac rehab yesterday and one of the exercise physiologists commented, “You have such a positive attitude. Have you always been this way or is this new?” I told her that I was lucky in that I am a naturally upbeat and resilient person but also that I have done much to nurture these qualities since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. I also recently read my cardiologist report from the Mayo Clinic. In it, I am described as “a very pleasant psychologist.”

I don’t have to have a positive attitude and I don’t have to be “very pleasant”. But these qualities are helpful to me as I live my life, day by day. They also help me face some hard possibilities, most notably, the fact that I may not live as long as I thought I would. I had breast cancer at 46 and two heart attacks at age 51. I had few or no risk factors for either condition. Breast cancer can recur and I’m really not sure what the risk of recurrence or of developing metastatic cancer is. (I know there is the 20-30% estimate but I find no description of how it was arrived at in the original source materials, which concerns me.) There is a chance that I will have another SCAD event, too. However, there’s very little research on SCAD-related heart attacks, which makes it hard to know. The best estimate at this point is 20% recurrence over 10 years, but that is on a sample of only about 150 women. Further, since the cause/s of SCAD are not understood, there are no markers that can be measured to estimate my risk.

However, unlike breast cancer, stress is modifiable risk factor for cardiac diseases, including SCAD. Consequently, I continue to work on that through meditation, exercise, and through working a reduced work load. Cardiac rehab is going well. I just did my 60 day review. I am stronger and reassured that I am pushing my progress at the right rate. I have also made friends and being cared for by a group of excellent nurses and exercise physiologist. Even if these actions don’t extend my life, they make my day to day life much more peaceful, joyful, and balanced.

Awareness is synonymous with mindfulness. It is the state of being aware of reality, as it is. The use of the term “awareness” for October is ironic in the context of breast cancer because it is used for some dishonest purposes. Not every thing about my breast cancer is bad. Not every thing about my heart disease is bad. They are parts of my life, which include joy, pain, peace, anxiety, and all of the other experiences and feelings of my reality.

Here is a phrase I learned from Sharda Rogell, my dharma teacher at Spirit Rock Retreat Center. It is a phrase about equanimity:

“May my heart be big enough to hold the joys and sorrows without being overwhelmed.”

I’m out on a limb. I think in this moment, it will hold me.

Peace, friends.

 

After my heart attacks last spring, I signed up for a 5-day-long residential mindfulness retreat at Spirit Rock Retreat Center in Northern California. I’d never attended a residential retreat and I thought it might be a good way to increase and deepen my mindfulness practice. Further, since the retreat is mostly silent, I thought it would give me a chance to be alone with myself to see how I am doing with the whole heart attack thing. Other than one day of feeling sad and weepy, I really haven’t had a strong grief reaction. The two years I was going through breast cancer treatment were different. I had more days of “what the Hell is going on?” Another issue I thought would be good to process is my daughter’s moving out of the house for college.  Other than the first two days she was gone, I haven’t felt sad about her absence. I do worry some about how she is managing this big transition but I am mostly happy and excited for her.

After months of waiting, the retreat took place last week. I had already been on my own for a few days, having flown down early to visit family in the Bay Area. I explored San Francisco and had a lovely afternoon with my niece, Tricia, who has recently moved to Silicon Valley to start a tech company. She has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from NYU and has developed a technology with educational and mental health applications. To make a long story short, if she is successful, her work will be revolutionary. I also visited with my husband’s family in Lafayette, CA. We took a walk on the water and had a nice dinner together. My nieces and nephew have grown up quite a lot since I last saw them and I met one of them for the first time. They were bright children and teens. The conversation was lively.

The retreat started last Tuesday afternoon. I arrived with minor trepidation. Could I be silent for five days? Could I stay awake for the day’s scheduled activities, from 6:30 am to 9:30 pm? (Heart attacks have a way of pooping one out.) Would I have time to do my cardiac rehab exercises? Mostly, though, I was excited. I felt ready to challenge myself with a retreat.

The name of the retreat was “Empty Mind, Full Heart” and it was taught by Sharda Rogell, who has been teaching insight meditation since 1985. She is a wonderful teacher and kind person. The first full day of the retreat started at 6 am with the chiming of a bell through the hall outside of my room. I dressed quickly and walked out into the dark morning, pausing to look at the bright array of stars above. Once in the meditation room, I knelt on my cushion and closed my eyes. 45 minutes later, Sharda struck a singing bowl three times, and it was time to walk to the dining hall for breakfast. The rest of the schedule was pretty much as follows: sitting meditation, walking meditation, morning lesson and instruction with meditation, walking meditation, lunch, doing dishes in the kitchen as my work meditation, sitting meditation, walking meditation, dharma talk, dinner, sitting meditation, walking meditation, guided meditation, sitting meditation, and bedtime at 9:30 pm.

I may have added a few extra meditations but I will let you know that by 6:30 pm, my body ached and I was exhausted. I sat in meditation basically finding fancy reasons to get out of the rest of the meditations for the day so I could go to bed early. I thought, “I’m not going to make it until 9:30 pm!” I reminded myself that it wasn’t 9:30 pm, redirected myself to the meditation and took things one meditation at a time. The soreness was another issue. Then I realized that there were chairs available and that I wouldn’t be a huge failure if I meditated in a chair rather than on a nifty cushion that was taking away my will to live. I sat in the chair and was able to make it through the rest of the night, one meditation session at a time.

By the next day, Sharda helped us prioritize the sittings, telling us which of them were optional and which of them were not. (I was not the only one who had switched to a chair.) I took three naps that day, did all of the mandatory activities, and took two hikes up into the hills surrounding the retreat center. I felt so much better. By the next day, I could do more meditations and I kept taking walks. I did have more struggles during the retreat with meditation. Other people were, as well. For some, meditating brought up emotional struggles. For others, like me, we tended to make time pass by fantasizing or drifting off. Also, sitting still is really hard!

Meanwhile, Northern California was and continues to be, on fire. As the winds shifted, our air quality changed. One day, I could see the ash in the air. Other days were clear with blue skies. It was a reminder of how life can change in an instant.

I left the retreat feeling full of experience, of connection with the other people at the retreat center, and with a heart holding joy and heart break. I also left with my feet firmly on the ground. My heart can do a lot.

As always,

Peace

San Francisco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spirit Rock Retreat Center, Woodacre, CA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the former patients at cardiac rehab is a woman somewhat older than me. She is slim, looking right at home in her fashionable work out clothes. She is also quite fit. I marveled at her strength and endurance on the exercise machines. Her last day of rehab was a week or two ago. We end rehab sessions as a group with hand held weights and stretching. She asked the rehab staff is she could talk to the rest of the group.

She talked about how much the rehab group meant to her. She also said that at the beginning, she needed her husband to help her walk from the couch to the bathroom. It turned out that she was new to exercise and she said that she was in the best shape of her life. Then she can each of us pick an angel card out of a bowl. Each one had a word on it and we were not able to see them until after we’d chosen them.

I looked at my card and it said, “surrender”. That is something that is very hard for me to do. To me, it is giving up. I looked at the word and I have been keeping it in the back of my mind. I know there are lessons for me in it.  Surrender means to submission to an authority or opponent.

In objective terms, my recovery is going well. However, it is still a struggle. My exercise physiologist, Lisa, told us that there are usually far more men than women in cardiac rehab. She also noted that women often drop out of rehab before they finish treatment. She further noted that in her experience, they often cited family responsibilities as a reason that they could no longer participate. Heart attack is THE number 1 killer of women. Yes, it is even higher than breast cancer. Even if Lisa is wrong about this being the main reason that there are fewer women than men in rehab, it is concerning, nonetheless, that women are putting their self-care needs aside in the face of life threatening illness.

It’s concerning, but I get it. Right now I am doing a lot of fighting to protect my time and energy resources. As I’ve mentioned previously, I feel much like my normal self most of the time. The rest of the time, I am pretty tired. Although it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve had a whole day during which I felt exhausted, I still have to go to bed at 8 pm and if I’ve exerted myself a lot, I might get into bed at 6pm.

Participating in cardiac rehab takes 8-9 hours out of my week, including commuting time. I have reduced my work schedule to 50 to 70% time. My household responsibilities have increased rather than decreased. My daughter is moving to northern Washington for university in two weeks. She is going to be living in an apartment. I have taken charge of making sure she has everything she needs for her place. Starting a household from scratch is a lot of work and not something that most teens know how to do. She has her own move preparations, anyway. So I have been shopping garage sales and thrift shops and being Amazon’s best customer. We loaded up a moving truck and our van over the weekend and moved her things into her new apartment. I did a great job. The only things I didn’t think to bring were batteries, light bulbs, and a fire extinguisher.

I am good with details and taking care of things and people. I enjoyed this to a point. The preparations were a good way for me to process my daughter’s upcoming move out of the house. But I had already thrown a going away party the weekend prior. My brain is tired. I am not getting as much help around the house as I would like or that seems fair. My husband is having a hard time of his own. His work has been terrible, there are some very stressful issues in his extended family, his daughter is moving out, and his wife had two heart attacks last spring. I also suspect that he feels rather ashamed that he has not helped out more. Shame almost never motivates people to do anything healthy. It is one emotion we would perhaps be better without.

It occurred to me that I have been trying to surrender to an authority and the authority is reality. It would be healthy for me to work less. I have been trying to get my husband to do more and standing my ground. This process is not going well, at least now. He is overwhelmed and angry with me. So this surrender has increased conflict. Is THAT what is supposed to happen? Sometimes it is. I am not sure yet.

In any event, I could also surrender to the reality that my daughter will be at school in two weeks and we will not have so much work to do. I will also be going to a mindfulness retreat in October, which will give me nothing but time. But I also know that after the dust settles, my husband and I have some work to do on our relationship, as is expected after all we have been through together in the past several months.

Yes, there is work to do in the future. Right now, I surrender to the reality of now. Now it is a gorgeous day and I am about to start my day at the job I love.

 

Staircase is a campground in Olympic National Park in Washington state. It is named, “Staircase” because there used to be actual stairs put into the hillside in order to access it. Staircase is one of the the first places my husband and I went camping, some time in the late 80’s, before we got married. For some reason, we decided to camp there for Valentines’ Day in February! Staircase is on the Olympic Peninsula. It is not only rainy but really really really really really rainy. To make a long story short, my sleeping bag got sopping wet that first night and I ended up crammed into John’s sleeping bag. It was not a large sleeping bag. This is not as romantic as it sounds.

We returned to Staircase last weekend. It was the first time we had been back, since that time. We didn’t stay at the campground but rather, we made a hike to one of the backpacking campgrounds. My brother, James and his wife, Meagan were with us. In fact the trip was James’ idea. He wanted me to be able to go on my very first backpacking trip and since I had heart attacks last spring, my family carried all of the heavy stuff. I was required to carry anything but felt strong enough to carry my own things, in a small backpack. We had a wonderful time. I was so glad that we took on the challenge. I was pretty tired when we got back, though and it took a day and a half to re-adjust.

My return from backpacking coincided with the beginning of cardiac rehab. Cardiac rehab is three times per week. Counting my commute time, it is 8-9 hours per week. Most of it involves doing cardiac exercise. We also use hand weights, as a group. We are hooked up to heart monitors and get our blood pressure checked before and during exercise. We are supervised by nurses and exercise physiologists. They are skilled and caring.

I originally put off cardiac rehab because I thought it would be too easy. However, it is individualized to each patient. I sincerely enjoyed my workouts during the first week. By the weekend, however, my ass was kicked!

I am still figuring out how to pace myself. This is an ongoing process. I am so grateful to have the support in my recovery. However, I find myself during the last two days thinking, “Really? I have to start over AGAIN!?”

Although my cardiac recovery has been somewhat different than my recovery from cancer treatment, there are some similarities. For one, there is intermittent heavy fatigue. There is also forgetfulness and spaciness. Stress and fatigue can do a number on the brain. It is real and it can be difficult.

There’s always a staircase. I’ll keep stepping as long as I can.

 

 

Five years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and after two lumpectomies, had a right side mastectomy. The right side of my body was plotting against me.

A few months ago, I had two heart attacks, spaced eight days apart. The left side of my body was plotting against me.

We my sides battling? What side was I on?

Both sides of my body are me. Diseases have threatened the integrity, the wholeness of my body. Body systems need to work together reasonably well in order to sustain life.

Integrity is not a battle. Battles don’t produce wholeness, healing does.

I can’t fight against myself, well I could, but I don’t want to. I want to live with the reality of myself. I will not take sides.

Yesterday in Charlottesville, VA, there was a terrorist attack on peaceful protestors, carried out by a young man who had joined the march for white supremacy. There were others who terrorized with hate speech.

This event was not born without historical or cultural context. There are excellent writings about this and one point that is made over and over is that given our history and our current culture, we must be vigilant. There are also many condemning the white supremacists and making statements that put them on another side,  noting that they came from out of town, they are not representative of Americans as a whole, and “this is not us.”

Humans, like other animals, have dominance hierarchies. Aggression is part of our make-up. It is a spark in each of us. For some of us, it is a small fire, and for others still, an inferno.

In my mindfulness practice, which waxes and wanes, by the way, I have found that through self-observation, I have found more acceptance. And in accepting more, I find it easier to change, to get past the guilt, shame, confusion, and denial that make me battle with myself.

We are connected by our humanity. I cannot deny that I do not share something important with people who identify as white supremacists. I believe that all are worthy of respect, respect for the intrinsic value of each person. What people do, that’s different. Respecting or condoning actions is different. It boils down to what I tell kids, “There are no bad kids. I have never met one. But what you do, can be okay or not okay.”

The acceptance of oneself, each of us with all of our flaws, allows us to remain part of humanity rather than running off in shame. It allows us to look closely at ourselves and make steps toward healing.

Our country has never worked perfectly but right now, all of the diseased parts are inflamed. It is time for self-examination and action.

We have a painful road ahead; let’s take the most healing path that we can. There are many things that I am against. I am against hateful ideology. I am against aggression. But I am also on the side of humanity.

Peace friends,

Elizabeth

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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Life in a Wheelchair

You never think it could happen to you!

4 Times and Counting

Confessions Of A 4 Time Breast Cancer Survivor

Nancy's Point

A blog about breast cancer, loss & survivorship

After Twenty Years Cancer Research Blog

Exploring progress in cancer research from the patient perspective.

My Eyes Are Up Here

My life is not just about my chest, despite rumblings to the contrary.

Woman in the Hat

Cancer to Wellness in 1,038,769 Easy Steps!

Dglassme's Blog

Wouldn't Wish This On My Worst Enemy

SeasonedSistah2

Today is Better Than Yesterday

Telling Knots

About 30% of people diagnosed with breast cancer at any stage will develop distal metastasis. I am one.

The Pink Underbelly

A day in the life of a sassy Texas girl dealing with breast cancer and its messy aftermath

The Asymmetry of Matter

Qui vivra verra.

Fab 4th and 5th Grade

Teaching readers, writers, and thinkers

Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

making sense of the breast cancer experience together

Telling Knots

About 30% of people diagnosed with breast cancer at any stage will develop distal metastasis. I am one.

Entering a World of Pink

a male breast cancer blog

Luminous Blue

a mother's and daughter's journey with transformation, cancer, death and LOVE

Fierce is the New Pink

Run to the Bear!

The Sarcastic Boob

Determined to Manage Breast Cancer with the Same Level of Sarcasm with which I Manage Everything Else

FEC-THis

Life after a tango with death & its best friend cancer