Archives for posts with tag: travel

Yes, I know that I already posted that today is the third anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis. But I wrote that post yesterday to mark the day, just in case I didn’t feel like writing. But it is now the real day, my family is still sleeping, and I have more to say.

I slept solidly last night and woke up well rested. However, I had nightmare upon nightmare. They basically boiled down to losing everyone and everything in horrible ways. I was uninvited to one of my very best friends weddings FOR NO REASON except that it was suddenly decided that I was a bad person. My daughter, in a moment of anger, made a false report of child abuse against me. She then realized the horror of what she had done when my psychology license was suspended but in nightmare land, the wheels of motion could not be turned back. There was also a weird little dream where I walked into Costco (nightmare!) and the store layout had been totally changed (nightmare times two!) I was then instructed by a woman at the makeup counter to use red lip liner on both my lips and along my eye lid. The last little dream may have had something to do with my daughter’s contraction of pink eye last week. The brain does weird weird things, let me tell you.

Not everyone is impacted by anniversaries of bad events the way that I am. And it’s not like I am sitting with a calendar, marking the days so that I remember. I have one of those brains that is very good at marking the passage of time. This is often a very handy brain feature. I am a good planner, for example. My good friend, Gina, died over 15 years ago, suddenly, a few months after giving birth to her son. It happened in August. Although enough time has passed that I don’t remember the exact date or the exact number of years,  I still often have a mournful feeling in my body near the date of her death. August is also the month of my mastectomy and another very bad day in my life. On August 8, 2013, I found myself at work suddenly crying uncontrollably, after which I realized that it was the first anniversary of my mastectomy.

August 2014 was hard because we were on vacation and I found myself extremely anxious being away from home. My psychologist suggested that we avoid taking vacations during the anniversary times of bad events. I went back and forth about going away this weekend, Memorial Day Weekend, because of its overlap with my diagnosis date. (Yes, people, I not only got my cancer diagnosis right before a three day weekend but before one perfect for making war metaphors.) I actually made a number of reservations in the last few months and then cancelled them. When my husband was gone for 10 days, earlier in this month, I decided that anniversary or not, I needed to get away for my own sanity so I made reservations that could not be cancelled without a huge financial penalty.

On Friday, we made the drive to the rental house. We left at 3:00 pm and I expected given the fact that it was a holiday weekend that it would take at least 2 1/2 hours to get there to allow for an extra hour of traffic. Our first surprise was that my daughter, who finds car trips to be incredibly stressful, was actually pleasant on the drive. Our second surprise is that the trip only took two hours. When we walked into the house, my husband, seeing the gorgeous view out the back of the house, to which is attached with a wraparound deck, exclaimed, “This is the best place you have every gotten for us, hands down.”

Yesterday, we had a wonderful day. My daughter was in a good mood, the best I have seen for months. She SPENT TIME WITH US. She actually sat down at the dining table to eat lunch and invited my husband to join her. She played on the beach despite the availability of Internet! Sometimes, when I have a wonderful day, it can actually be a bit dysregulating, especially if it comes after a particularly stressful time, as this vacation has. Although it’s mostly good, this is the time when I’m most likely to get emotionally sloppy with my friends. “You are the BEST FRIEND IN THE UNIVERSE!!!” It’s not like I’m not sincere but you know, there’s a time and a place for everything and sometimes I act drunk on emotion. Good thing my people love me and are understanding.

Today may be a hard day. Today may be a wonderful today. Today may be both hard and wonderful. I may even get bored. I am hoping that today will be a celebration.

The view from the rental house at low tide.

The view from the rental house at low tide.

The view of the house from the beach.

The view of the house from the beach. The decks are amazing. I want to have a seafood party at this house!

Scene from historic La Conner, WA, taken with the watercolor setting on my camera. I decided that might look nicer on a gray morning.

Scene from historic La Conner, WA, taken with the watercolor setting on my camera. I decided that might look nicer on a gray morning.

During one of my recent mind adventures, my memory took me back to the old 1960’s television show, The Flying Nun. It starred Sally Field as Sister Bertrille and took place at a convent on Puerto Rico. Due to her small size, the frequent winds, and her cornette (a particular style of nun hat), she could fly, hence the title of the show. After my mind took me to this show, my fingers took me to Wikipedia.

Sister Bertrille could be relied upon to solve any problem that came her way by her ability to catch a passing breeze and fly.

That sentence gave me a good chuckle and I thought, “How could the show’s writers sustain this premise?”

Plot 1: The convent eagerly awaits a visit from the Bishop. After an albatross makes off with the his miter, Sister Bertrille hitches a ride on a gust and saves the day by retrieving it.

Plot 2: Fire breaks out in the convent campanile. After accidentally breaking the tallest ladder in town, Sister Bertrille uses her flying power to reach the fire and put out the blaze.

Plot 3: A little girl’s kitten is stuck in a tree! The fire ladder is still broken. Sister Bertrille flies to the top and saves the day!

Plot 4: Run away kite!

See, not sustainable. Nonetheless, the series lasted two seasons. How did they do it? Also, how did her cornette stay on?

A fictional life needs substance to sustain itself. It can’t be utterly ridiculous.

A real life needs so much more.

Once upon a time, my blog was often humorous. Once upon a time, my blog was mostly about cancer. My blog has changed and my needs have evolved. My husband asked me yesterday, “Do you still think about cancer every day?” I told him, “yes” and I have thought about it every day since May 25th 2012. I mean this literally. Every day.

But thinking about cancer and being actively treated for cancer are different. I think back to what I needed to do during my active treatment and I can’t believe it. The extra work I had to cram into my schedule in order to take time off for surgeries, the number of surgeries, the telling people or not telling people about my health. The changing landscape of my body. The changing energy levels. The changing brain. The major unknowns about even the near future. One of the ways I dealt with the stress and fear with laughing at the ridiculousness of it. That is a coping strategy that is useful to me, it sustains me.

I think about sustainability and capacity a great deal. I want to be a healthy person. It is too easy for an active person such as myself to work too hard and to get my life out of balance.

But sometimes we just have to work really hard. Cancer treatment is one of those times. One of the hardest thing about this time as well as during other unpredictable and serious stressors in my life is that I don’t know how long I will have to work super hard in crisis mode. In the past, I used to tell myself that I would slow down once the stressor passed, for example, once I finished my Ph.D., once I got my career settled, once my daughter was older, once we bought a house, etc.

Those stressors never stop. Life is hard and complicated. Fortunately, I appear to be in good physical health and my mental health is strong. I have a safe place to live, a loving family, lots of friends, and a wonderful job. But it is easy to get caught up in moving too fast, worrying too much, and creating needless suffering for myself even in a life that in most respects is an embarrassment of riches.

As I’ve mentioned recently, right now I am focusing on having more fun with my husband. We do something, just the two of us, at least a couple of times a week. We went on a trip. We went to grown up prom. I have also started having more fun with my daughter. I think that the fact that I am more relaxed has had some positive impact on her among other things. Just last weekend she told me, ‘Mom, have you noticed that I am out of my “I hate my mom” teen phase?’ I have learned to accept these lavish gifts with understatement. “Hmm, I guess yes, I’ve noticed. Why do you think that is?” She replied, “I don’t know. I guess I just got older.”

I take these beautiful moments for what they are, moments. And they seem to be threading together into increased maturity. But her growth is not linear; it has peaks and valleys and plateaus. All of our lives are like this, even the most stable of us because there are so many aspects of life that are out of our control.

My family life is still full of unknowns. My husband and I still deal with major stressors and challenges both within our immediate family and in our extended family. We are part of what is called “the sandwich generation“. Sometimes I feel like we are the PB&J left on the bottom of a backpack for a week that ended up getting run over by the school bus.

Nonetheless, we are making time for fun. We have trips or fun visits planned for every month from May and September. My passport is being renewed as we speak. We will see two coasts, mountains, and two states. We’ll travel by planes, trains, and automobiles. We’ll be surrounded by friends, by cities, and by nature. And yes, friends, there will be photos, lots of them.

I am discovering that  I need to make time for peace and enjoyment. One of the least sustainable premises in real life is waiting for life to get easier.


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George Lakoff

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