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Yes,  a re-run of last years blog on mothers’s day, but I read it this morning and it still rings true.  I feel lucky that I had yet another year of doing what I love best, being a mom.  Thank you mom, for showing me how to do it right; I miss you.

I was going to just take the day off of the blog today, thinking folks would understand, as I am a mom and all…but I just couldn’t. Truth is, I’ve been feeling a bit giddy with good thoughts lately, so much so I feel I could burst. Like my birthday, this is another one of those holidays that is morphed by cancer into a Yippee Yahoo Celebration that I am here another year for my kids and that I got to be a mom for another year. This day is so big and juicy. And yes I am thankful for my mom of course, but for so much more in this wonderful world, wider than my arms can stretch. I feel effervescent and ginger ale-y inside and out. Like I have this wand in hand and am blowing an endless stream of bubbles, each sparkly one floating about me, carrying within it a story of my gratitude.

First I am thankful for this most amazing day here with my kids, for the fact that this again after five years, is a happy day for them and not a sad day; for my two little monkeys who have indeed made my life a barrel of fun every single day. Two sweet-smelling beings I could eat with a spoon and who I’m certain, hung the moon.

I am grateful for my mom who gave me so much, but most of all the gift of child whispering. Because to fully get this gift, I had to be on the receiving end of it for 30 years. Because of it, I am a solid and happy person who brings my best to the world. With it, I have a career that I love and am such a better parent. I am thankful for every birthday party she had for me and how she made me feel special every single day of my life; for teaching me the language of cupcakes and Disney and the true meaning of the word nurture. For teaching me that the very best thing a person can do in this world is to say something that makes a little kid’s chest puff up with pride. I am so thankful that I had her for a mom, however short a time it was. For how she loved and nurtured me to the tips of my toes, and for whose warmth I still feel surround me, especially when it is dark and it seems everyone else is gone.

I am grateful for my pop, who has done a peach of a job being a mom in all the major good and bad events of my life, you know, those ones when a girl sure coulda used her mom.

And I don’t know what I’d have done without all the women who absent my mother, have encircled me like a pride of lionesses; who with gentle swats of those giant paws, guide me when I stray.

But wait! There’s more!

I am grateful that cancer has taught me that driving carpool, and doing laundry, shopping for groceries and making five trips to school in one day is privilege not a chore.

I am thankful for my 85 year old friend Frances. For the days I appeared on her doorstep with two little screaming kids and said, “Please take them before the social services come to my house and take them away,” and she, without hesitating swooped them into her home. I am thankful for finding those kids an hour later sitting like the King and Queen of Siam in adult arm chairs with TV trays in front of them, a glass of milk and saltines on the tray, both calmed by the specialness good grandmothers give. I am thankful for Frances teaching me that sometimes, the time you spend away from them is as important as the time you spend with them. And for shoo-ing away with indeed a breath of kindness, the notion that I am the Worst Mother in the World on those days.

I am grateful for the first five minutes in the car every day after school, when the day just bubbles out of both of them. For teachers who have mothered them during the day and said kind things about them both to me, and for tests hanging on the fridge.

I am grateful for the day my thoughtful son said he would skip something after school so I didn’t have to make two trips downtown within an hour, and that I was able to say, “Absolutely not, that is what moms do Colton; that’s my job,” and that I meant it with every ounce of my being.

It simply takes my breath away that I was lucky enough to see my kid do something I never would have thought he would do, be in a Shakespearean play. I am thankful that I lived long enough to have complicated discussions with him about moral dilemmas of the world, to take him on college tours, to see the world turn his way finally, and to feel inside the complicated emotions that follow as he rather confidently takes those first steps out of my grasp; I am lucky to have lived long enough to now have a glimpse of kinda guy he will become.

I’m eternally grateful for the warm fuzzy of being here as my daughter “crossed over,” to be able to shop for dresses with her, and talk with her about boys, and mean girls and how not to be “that girl”; to see her little shoulders shake and feel her tingle as she cried for hours after she got a hug from Taylor Swift. To see her garden bloom, and witness her sweetness grow wildly along the trellis of her solid sense of self.

For warm cookies on a snow day, for fits of laughter between us three in a hotel room one night, for hugs after arguments, for the smell of clean laundry on their beds, for being able to discipline them, for seeing them tip their heads to have a medal put around their neck, for holding hair back for a sick kid, for just doing nothing, together. For being able to be able teach them that you don’t get everything you want, but when you want what you have, you have it all.

I am tickled for every Halloween that I got to carve pumpkins and wrap a boy mummy in gauze, and stand at the curb while a rather brave tiny princess walked up to the door by herself to say trick or treat.

There’s so much more…..

I am grateful that I get to in some small way, teach other mother’s how to mother children, and that I get to rescue children from mother’s who are just incapable of doing so, at least at the moment.

I am grateful that there is so much information in the world right at our fingertips, to help us all be better mothers. Our mother’s did what they knew how to do and while they had Dr. Spock, there was nothing to help the emotional life of a mom, not like there is now.

And yes, as much as I have been at war with it, I am thankful for my mom body, for my stretched out belly skin that will never go back to bikini land, but which served me well to get two healthy babies into the world. And for this body’s ability to ward off the evil that tried to steal my kids’ mom from them.

So for Mothers Day, with a gentle blow of the wand, I am launching three wishes into the world. Now be warned, I have been known to frequently wish for the impossible, but if you’re gonna wish, wish big.

I wish that all women whose past has inhibited their ability to be the mom they want to be, find a way to change that path. That all women grasp what a gift parenting is, and get that meetings and work and TV and girls nights out will always be there, but that making candy apples with a 7 year old won’t be. Every day is an opportunity to make their child’s chest puff up; I wish all women will see the, oh so quickly slipping through our fingers gift that this is.

I wish that we could all take a more focused, more compassionate look at other moms both near and far, and practice what action should follow that empathy in understanding how it would feel to not have food for your child, to not have medicine when they are sick and are crying in pain, or to watch your child die from malnutrition. That we consider kindly the women I have met who have taken a hit to spare their child being a target. That we grasp how hard it is for some mothers to find their way out of a mess, and realize that if we all used our own mothering ability to take the hand of just one other woman and guide her into the light, we could change the world.

The last, most special and delicate wish is this; for all the women for whom cancer has made the road to becoming a mother difficult in one way or another, I wish that their children find them. Children, our children, find us in so many ways. I wish that each and every child finds their way into the sweetness and the shining goodness and warmth that is being loved by a mom who thinks they hung the moon. Sometimes, when you look over here and the answers aren’t coming, you must look over there.

There are bubbles everywhere… floating softly about us, waiting…just waiting for us to reach out and capture…and cup gently in our hands, just as we do our children.

Come stop your crying
It will be all right
Just take my hand
Hold it tight

I will protect you
From all around you
I will be here
Don’t you cry

For one so small,
You seem so strong
My arms will hold you
Keep you safe and warm
This bond between us
Can’t be broken
I will be here
Don’t you cry

‘Cause you’ll be in my heart
Yes, you’ll be in my heart
From this day on
Now and forever more

You’ll be in my heart
No matter what they say
You’ll be here in my heart, always

I’ll be with you
I’ll be there for you always
Always and always
Just look over your shoulder

I’ll be there always…

Phil Collins ~You’ll Be in My Heart

I’ve been avoidant. 

Okay, maybe a little lazy with a capital Z mixed in as well. 

A little unfocused. Perhaps a little scattered and overextended.

But really.

Mostly avoidant.

Despite the urging and friendly Yoo-Hoo’s of others to come back out to play, I have dug my heels in and looked away. 

In fact, I have a confession to make. Please forgive me y’all. I’ve been avoidant of reading the other bloggesses blogs as well.

Truth is, way back yonder in December I promised I’d be back soon. And “soon” by any stretch of the definition well, “soon” has done come and gone. And I still sit here, avoidant.

At first I thought I just needed a little break. I really loved writing my lil blog every week, and kinda got to where it was a part of me. Initially, it felt good to empty out the trash can, and to spill out the rummage left behind in my head by cancer. I felt humbly, that I had figured out why I was still here. At first.

My little über analyzing brain has tried and tried to figure out what’s up with the delay of my return to the blogosphere. After a year of writing about the ick and nonsense and cancer drama, I can only describe to you more what I didn’t feel than what I did.

What I didn’t feel anymore was the gratification of the purge; I didn’t feel the expected satisfaction of succinctly tying up so many loose ends and setting them free. At the end of it, I no longer felt the organized glee of putting them all into neatly categorized drawers and boxes and sliding the drawers shut.

No, I didn’t feel the satisfaction of the emptied attic. It left me with nothing to do with my hands. And really, what’s the point of being the crazy old woman in the attic if there is no fodder, if there are no chests to open and frantically grab and wildly throw the contents about while screaming about cancer? 

The empty space, albeit peaceful, haunted me more some days than a head chock full of trauma bits.

I mean, who was I if I wasn’t the girl with cancer? What should I do with a mind born to dissect and analyze everything to death when there was thankfully, no apparent death to analyze? 

Perhaps (I entertained but for only a moment) I am a tad histrionic after all, thriving on drama and needing crisis to feel like I was alive, forever needing something to do with my racing mind and hands. Perhaps it’s why the stillness, which I did not really resent, felt odd.

What I felt was nothing. Not good or bad, not relief or angst. Nothing. A void. An absence of something that had taken up a whole lot of space. Emptiness where the cancer was, a big empty attic previously taken up by the cancer.

And a reluctance to refill the room with those thoughts again.

Early on in my cancer diagnosis, I was sitting in Grandmother Willow’s office. This was shortly after the dirty little secret of breast cancer was whispered in my ear; that the trick is not it getting rid of it the first time, but in keeping it away. Grandmother Willow was trying to stem my rapidly racing thoughts as they made loop after loop, trying to assure me that one day this cancer would all seem an afterthought.

Because I can sometimes be a Little Miss Know It All, I often tend to call bullshit on theories that don’t match up with my picture of the world, and that day was no different. I remember thinking maybe she was the crazy old lady in the attic because I could see nothing but a life from here on in with the grim reaper as my constant traveling companion, forever bound like members of a chain gang with his endless whisper distracting me for eternity.

I distinctly remember her telling me about woman who recently came to see her who, after a whole first session of spilling her current emotional history said, “And oh yeah, and I had breast cancer ten years ago.” “Oh yeah,” like she had forgotten about it. “Oh yeah,” like it was an afterthought.

“Bullshit,” I thought.

Sitting bald and frightened on her couch, it seemed inconceivable that cancer would one day take up so little room in my life; that it would become such a non entity in my identity. That in the game board of Lauren’s life, cancer would become such a non player in my current emotions on any given future day.

Yet, this is how I have felt these last months. I have felt the absence of cancer. 

After years of thinking about nothing but cancer, I have somehow managed to get to where it is not part of the complexion of my being. One day last week, a neighbor stopped to tell me she had gotten her port out that morning. I felt this blankness when she said it, not lack of empathy, but more a situation where I was unable to summon the empathy because I had forgotten how it felt to be in her shoes. I knew she must feel relief, but I couldn’t feel the taste of it in my mouth anymore. When I started to try to remember what I had blogged about ports, I couldn’t even remember what I had written. All I could remember was how hilarious it was that Wendy had made hers into a daisy.

When I went back to read that blog, I swear to you,  it was as if someone else had written it. Sometimes this happens with my mom; I can’t remember what she looked like until I look at pictures, and then I am surprised at features in her face that I forgot.

I was detached from cancer. Detached from the chain gang.

Years ago, big surprise, I had to take Concerta for my ADD. With that drug, the thought of food and hunger vanished. I’m not saying I wasn’t hungry or my appetite was curbed, I am saying that the thought of food no longer crossed my mind. I’d be sitting there feeling faint and go, “Oh, yeah, I haven’t eaten in two days.” This little pill took away the emotion and rituals and grooves in my brain that were attached to food and eating; it eliminated the craving and the timing and desire to indulge in this so familiar and daily ritual.

This little blog did the same with cancer. I don’t indulge in cancer much these days. But, it’s not healthy to not need food, nor is healthy to avoid part of your being.

I remember reading how Lance was in an doctor’s office finding out he was just covered with cancer. It seemed insurmountable, yet a few days later after he talked to doctor after doctor about what each intended to do with each and every metastasis he proclaimed, “We had talked this thing down to size.”

Blog by blog, a bite of the proverbial elephant (or grim reaper) at a time, I too had talked the memories and trauma, the cancer down to size.

While the bell can never be un-rung, somehow, somehow….swirling my pen around in the well un-cast the dye. Like a magnet, my pen pulled the dye cast long ago from the water, bringing it from pink to very, very pale, almost indiscernible pink.

Perhaps I lived my way into (at least some of) the answers.

Perhaps I am just reluctant, not avoidant. Perhaps I am detached; not sure that I want to re-attach, or how to re-attach without it filling the room up again.

Perhaps, I have just moved seamlessly, as we do with grief, into acceptance.

Perhaps, I have indeed outlived it.

So in these last months, my life has been filled with all the stuff of teenagers. Colleges visits, college apps, obsessing about the right high school and college choices, proms and dances, driving lessons, graduation preparations for two and undergoing some good old-fashioned teenaged drama teaching me I better grow some thick skin real fast. (Suddenly, I have become a whole lot less smart and a whole lot less funny.) My pop survived another wicked pneumonia, and Scout is still the best dog ever made at the dog factory. Through all of this, I have worn some very good friends down with my new looping obsession; my anticipatory grief that life is gonna change real soon as the kids and people and dogs I love fly away. But in all this, we are busy, busy, busy here at the ranch distracted by life not death; indeed life is moving forward at warp speed.

And oh yeah, six years ago I had cancer.

 

 

I’m back.

 A little at a time, so as not to fill the attic,

but I’m back. 

xoxo

Lauren

(Oh I know, last week was the last one, but it just didn’t feel right ending/starting the year without one to grow on!)

It happens every year. 

As I start to put the Christmas stuff away, I find myself wondering what my life will be like next year when I take it out again. Today, as I held each little ornament or snowman in my hand for a moment before bubble wrapping him up, I thought to myself, “The next time this is in my hands, what my life will be like?” Being a bona fide Suzy Sunshine I almost always feel hopeful, so I imagine things like that perhaps by this time next year I will have found true love and a lifelong partner, perhaps I will be a published author, and my son will be happy in college. Somehow this forward thinking helps me shape my goals for the year, not so much as resolutions per se, but in defining what I want to make happen in the next year of my life.

Many a year throughout the holiday season, a particular lyric in the song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas has resonated to my toes. The line is, “In a year our troubles will be far away.” Man, have I had some years that lyric just played over and over in my head and it seemed, was playing in every elevator and store I stepped into during the holiday season. I felt like God was reminding me that it would get better. Like say the year my husband walked out two weeks before Christmas, or say, the year I got diagnosed two weeks before Christmas. This year my life was even and good, so while the words didn’t pound in my ears like other years, I did see other people struggle during these holidays with family troubles and illness and such. This year, the song reminded me that the world is indeed fair, and that we all take our turn with that lyric for sure. And we can use that lyric to whine, or use it to instill hope and say. “Yes, the troubles will be far away, because I will make that happen.”

This practice of “envisioning” as I pack up the holiday stuff has served as a good exercise in establishing what I want and don’t want, what I need to eliminate and what I need to put effort into finding. It has also taught me a lot about what I wish for and understanding that God is in control of that.  Because each year when I unpack it all, I re-evaluate what I hoped my life would look like last year at this time, and almost always, it’s not like I envisioned; I never reconciled with my husband, I didn’t die of cancer. But almost always, it’s better than I could have dreamed.

My son and I giggled last week about how it would be nice if after life events and experiences, like the holidays, you could fill out a checklist and rate your experience. Handily checking off quantifiers like “met my expectations” or “exceeded my expectations.” He, being the statistical whiz that he is reminded me that however exceeding your expectations might not always denote a good thing. Another friend reminded me that expectations are planned failures. I dunno I think it goes both ways, I always expect the best and yes often do find myself disappointed…but I’d rather go through life expecting the best, than like Eeyore.

I prefer to think of it as thanking god for unanswered prayers.

I also drive my kids nuts as I get somewhat weepy too when packing up Christmas (and no not because it means the season of eating is over.) No, I weep when I think about how a few of the people and one dog I love oh so much are getting older. As I pack the stockings, I find myself wondering if a little paw print stocking will still be hung next year with care, and it makes me cry. But all the same, this practice pokes at me like the pine needles on the floor and makes me cognizant of the need to embrace every day with that person, or tripawd as be the case.

The year I got cancer, the packing away ritual was especially difficult and emotional. As I bubble wrapped my collection of Christmas kitsch, I only wondered, “Will  I be alive next year?” Would I ever unwrap this crocheted candle again, or would the task be done by tiny motherless hands?

Being thrifty, I am one to go out the day after Christmas and stockpile the usual suspects I know I will need for next year like wrapping paper, bows and those sorts of things. Occasionally in the post-Christmas shop, I come across some kind of deeply discounted Christmas decoration and I pick it up imagining how it will look on my mantle next year. In the days that followed that Christmas cancer diagnosis, I was in a store and came across this little five-inch tall concrete Santa. He fit solidly in my hand; his heft felt reassuring. He had a little divot in his Santa sack allowing a spot to put a votive candle, or perhaps a small red Christmas ball as he stood sentry on the porch steps for the holidays. I loved him, yet I vividly recall putting him down in the store thinking, “Why should I buy this; I may not even be here next year.” 

But eventually as with all things Lauren, several days later I climbed out of the catastrophic death spiral, getting a toe hold on the edge the canyon rim and hurling myself up over the edge onto steady ground.  I decided that if I didn’t believe in my future, no one else would, and certainly a number of cancer cells would be doing an end zone dance if I didn’t get on with it. 

So, while admittedly I didn’t buy wrapping paper, I went back and bought Santa. Curiously, I chose not to pack him away, perhaps unconsciously avoiding the internal talk of death in my head as he was rolled in bubble wrap. Instead, he stayed next to me on my desk all year. He was a sentry alright, a guard of a belief in a future, of belief in life and good things, and of belief that in a year my troubles would be far away. Until the next year, he solidly stood guard, seeming to onlookers with an empty pouch, but to me with a pouch full of expectations and a life ahead of me.

Go ahead everyone. Buy Santa. Expect the best. Make it happen.

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
This blogger was tired and so was her mouse!
The blogs of the year had been posted each week,
With the goal that 52 would end as the peak.

Yes, a goal had been hung, like a stocking with care,
A blog a week for a year, and she was quite nearly there!
“I’ll continue on,” she thought; but while all snug in her bed,
Visions of junior mints and a blog break danced in head!

Last January she came, dressed in pink from her head to her foot,
Her mind was from her cancer was all tarnished with soot!
When she started to write, old thoughts served to remind,
Of the icky days of old, but Oh! The gifts she would find!

When out of the blogosphere there arose such a clatter,
It seemed what she said, to lots made the matter!
So onto her laptop each week she flew open the sash,
And her WordPress publish button, she nervously mashed.

She said not a word, but went straight to her work,
Writing about PTSD, grief (and some really big jerks!)
For after five years, she had a head full of ideas and hair,
And the scars and the lessons of cancer to share. 

The keys of the keyboard; Oh! how they danced!
As the emotions of the big C trampled and pranced!
She wrote and she wrote of feelings both wise and quite fearful,
And a few posts about her wee ones, which made her quite tearful!

This new little blogger so lively and quick,
Knew in a moment, she was no longer sick!
Finding mirrors and perspectives alike in the blogosphere,
And humor, frustrations and commonly held fears.

And then in a twinkling she saw on her screen,
The comments of the bloggesses so sweet and serene.
New friends o’er the world were nestled all snug in their beds,
While Blue Geckos and Underbellies danced in their heads!

She made more friends than imagined (and all she quite fancies,)
Like Wendy, Katie, Marie and both of the Nancys.
Philippa, and Beth, and Brenda and again,
We mustn’t forget Jan, Terri, AnneMarie and Renn!

They giggled about chemo and “twang arm” and more,
And shared the experience of fear to your core.
They talked about thigh cancer and things lost and found,
And they shared cancerversarys, and how klunkers abound!

They shared their frustrations at finding a cure,
And found peace in numbers, of that I am sure!
They found new friends in the most extraordinary of places,
Like Yangon and Ireland, and lots with no voices or faces!

They talked about bedazzled bald heads and daisy dressed ports,
and they found in each other, a worldwide cohort!
They held virtual hands as “Captain Anxiety” danced in their heads,
And celebrated after those quite harrowing rechecks, the finding of NED!

But after working her goal of a year full of blogs,
She needed a break to refresh, from unleashing the clogs.
Yes her little chemo brain-brain needed a rest,
And she needed to cuddle her wee ones, in their little Who-nest.

And what to her wondering eyes should appear,
As she hit publish on this Christmas morning so dear?
As she glanced out from her laptop, while wishing for snow,
She looked back and saw, “Hurray! It’s your 52nd blog!” in the glow!

More rapid than Komen, all year the bloggers they’d came,
And she knew in her heart they’d continue the same!
So she rode out of sight shouting, “Carry on Y’all,
And blog away, blog away, blog away all!”

“On Philippa and Wendy, Annemarie and Renn
On Katie and Nancy, Beth, Terri and then,
Do you recall, the most famous blogger of all?
Marie the red-headed blogger; she led the blog ball!

For a month (maybe two) she’ll be gone but return,
With new blogs on life’s other travails, and fresh ideas to burn!
But for now laying a finger on her laptop to close,
A break from her blog, was the path that she chose.

As she hit “publish” today with a quiet Christmas morn’ tap,
She found her goal in her stocking, and settled for a long winter’s nap.
And she exclaimed with such love as she drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to y’all, and to all a good-night!”

 

Back soon,
xoxo 
Lauren

When all the noise is gone there is only God.  ~Author Unknown

 

This post was written the first Christmas after I had cancer; it still reminds me every year of what is important and and what is not.

 

See God does put us right where we need to be.

Yesterday was slammed for me and I still had yet to pick up the two CD players and the Yankees cap I needed to complete the list of my “angel tree kids.”  I was further frustrated as I planned to do the shop last night while Amelia carpooled to dance with another kid, and then she told me at the last-minute that surprise! It was parent’s night at dance and I was expected to go watch the practice and dance with her.

So off we race to Target at 4:45, trying to run in before dance with me wondering when in the world I would get to the specialty store at the mall for the Yankees cap.

We get to the CD player aisle to find the shelves COMPLETELY empty, I mean nada player to be found.  I couldn’t believe it.  Amelia says, “Just go ask the guy.”  Now when in Target have you ever gotten an answer other than “Sorry we’re out;” especially a week before Christmas?

So I find this kindly elderly black man, a Target employee at the end of the aisle. And I ask him about the two I want, a pink one for the girl and gold one for the boy.  He quietly scans the bar code of the empty shelf for the pink one and says, “Wait here, I’ll find it.” Off he goes, not to the stockroom mind you, but somewhere out of sight, and boom he comes back around the corner with one in his hand. Next, he scans the boy’s one, and again says, “Wait here” and he comes out not a half a minute later with the one I wanted in his hand.

I thanked him and said jokingly said, “Gee, you can’t make a Yankees ball cap appear can you?”  And he says, “Go over right next to the fitting room in men’s.” 

So Amelia and I start walking down that way and this HUGE spilling over the top filled cart comes out of the video gaming section and almost knocks into us. I mean it was filled to the brim with toys and games and clothes and food and a PSP. There was this little kid, like 7-year-old kid holding the side of it, absolutely dancing out of his skin; he was jumping up and down and an ear to ear grin. And with him is this crowd of adults laughing at his glee, and his mom, crying saying “Josh, this is just gonna be the best Christmas we ever had!” 

Turns out it was the Carolina Hurricanes Hockey team doing the charity shop with families.

Off Amelia and I wander, (very doubtfully mind you,) to the very far corner of men’s to find a small hat section we never even knew existed, and on the bottom shelf, there it sits; one Yankees cap.

 Go figure.

 And just like that, we remembered what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.

And just like that, we understood what may seem like a bother or a chore to knock off our lists as we are busy living our own busy lives, may be an action that can affect the world exponentially, in ways we could not even imagine, unless it is put in front of us.

We remembered that steadfast and even believing in the impossible makes it possible.

I was reminded of what a privilege it is to be able to buy gifts for my kids at Christmas to start with, and what a gift it is to be able to give joy to other people’s kids. And how really, that is why God put us here; to take care of our brothers and that God always puts you exactly where you need to be when you need reminding.

Reminding of what a privilege it is that your kid is healthy and can dance, and you can watch and are alive to dance with her.

I’d like to believe that if I went back to Target today, and asked about the employee to find to him thank, they’d say, “M’am, we don’t have an elderly black man working here.” And then, when I went to men’s section, they’d say, “We don’t carry Yankees merchandise.”

I won’t test my theory though; I’ll just choose to believe in my angel.

“And that’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown” ~Linus Van Pelt

Years ago, then President Kennedy made a speech about the space program and our need to keep advancing it. He referred to the story of some little boys running through the green, green fields of Ireland and coming upon an orchard wall that seemed perhaps too high to climb. Instead of turning back the boys took their hats and threw them over the wall, and thus, then had to climb the wall to go get their hats; the toss leaving them with no choice but to go over the wall to retrieve their caps.

I have always been a throw my hat over the wall kind of girl. Sometimes it’s because I am just dying to know what’s on the other side, sometimes it’s just for the thrill of the climb. Being an eternal sunshiny optimist, I think it’s mostly because I believe that what is on the other side of the wall is not better than what I have, but something new and different and grand to experience. Mostly though, just like those little Irish boys the toss is made to force me to do something I thought I couldn’t do, to make something happen, to experience something that would not have had I not done so. Truth be told, I get a wee bit agitated when there are no walls to climb, my fingers itch and fidget with a cap in hand, and I start to actively search out walls when that happens. 

When we are making our way through our life and come across the cancer wall, I think that most of the time our oncologists and surgeons rip the cap out of our hand and toss it over the wall for us. They lay out their neat tactical plans of how we will scale the wall and give us visions of how 85 or 95 percent of the people have made it over, and how they are living life on the other side of the wall. We want to visit this magical and unbelievable land on the other side and really don’t have much choice but to go after our cap to cover our bald heads; then too, to go after it is infinitely better than staying on this side of the orchard wall, where things appear to be dying.

But after cancer, as we continue onward through the vast field that is our life, what do we do when we come upon a wall? Do we bemoan the fact that it is unfair, because we already had to climb the big wall o’ cancer? Do we even have the strength or gumption to climb anymore? I mean honestly what’s the use if we are gonna die while trying? Do we avoid walls altogether? Do we see it as a positive or negative? An adventure or labor? 

Cancer makes us hesitate. It makes us want to hold on to what we have and clutch tightly to our caps because well, we might need it to cover our bald noggin again sometime soon. Cancer makes us afraid to plan and take on new things. Throwing our hat over a wall feels like buying green bananas. Cancer eats zest. Cancer makes us afraid. Cancer makes us tentative and bit distrusting of planning for the future. Cancer makes us think the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t. In the months just after treatment is completed it is hard to believe there are better days ahead, it feels counterintuitive to trust that the ice is thick enough to skate out on and into our future.  

After five years, I prefer to look back at that time of caution and fear as a time when I was just resting and gathering my strength. I remember it now, with my sunshine spin, as a place where yes I may have taken the cap off and considered the toss but in the end held kept it in my hands as I sunk down with my back against that wall to as they say in the south, sit a spell.

But I can tell from my perch high atop of yet another wall, five years and a million walls out from cancer that once you catch your breath and no longer need that cap to cover your head, cancer becomes a catapult sailing you high over the wall and into life after. Cancer catapults both our caps, and us. Cancer makes us want to experience everything that is behind wall number one and two and three and four. Cancer in the end, makes us adept and easy hat tossers, and skilled climbers with a penchant for finding even higher walls. Cancer makes us grateful for the toil of the climb.

To move from a place of fear, from a place of clutching our caps to our chest to a place where we are making the toss we have to believe that the days ahead are better than the days behind us. We must believe we are capable of making the climb and will live to see the other side in order for us to throw. We must be willing to give up the status quo and the safety of what we know, for perhaps the devil we don’t (which may in fact, be a devil of a good time.) We must toss our hats over with glee and sense that an adventure beholds us, not a tragedy. We must be excited about the climb. But mostly we must actively find our own walls by beginning to move through life again. That is what life is all about Charlie Brown; making the run to kick over and over, even though the ball may get pulled out at the last minute.

A tad impulsive I am yes, and admittedly I have been known many a time to toss before I totally think it through. Sometimes I have created my own walls just so I can toss. But I have found that ninety-nine percent of the time the climb is worth it and that the sweat and toil of working toward a goal remind me I am alive. If I thought about it too long, I might not make the toss; cancer has given me the luxury of not having a lot of time to think about it.

Life is in the preparing to climb. Life is in the climb. Life feels like drawing the deepest of breaths when you are on top of the wall. Almost always, I find not greener pastures but my hat, and lots more life experiences to fill it with.

There are a million things that cancer took from me but two million more I have because cancer, many found on the other sides of walls I would have never thrown my hat over had it not been for cancer, and many found while making the climb.

And heck, I’d rather die while climbing a wall than die while standing at the bottom, anxiously peering at it, clutching my hat, trying to screw up the courage to make the toss. As Mr. Buffet says, “I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.”

I didn’t survive cancer to just stand there. Neither did you.

Walls don’t come to us, we must go to them. As they say, ships in the harbour are safe, but that is not what ships are made for.

The prospect of a short life has made me to run gleefully to them, and throw my hat over the wall again, building my wings on the way down the other side.

Just not angel wings…not yet at least.

“One thing about trains: It doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on”

~The Polar Express

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Once when Amelia was just a tiny little cutie pie (as opposed to the even bigger cutie pie that she is now,) I woke up to a sticky note on my bathroom mirror. It said in little kid printing, “Thank you for protekting me.” Read the rest of this entry »

I know this blog is supposed to be about breast cancer and its emotional life, but take second look-see at the top of the page, at the fine print part that reads, “and life’s other trevails.” (I know, the spelling is subject to question) Read the rest of this entry »

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