my stomach is no longer flat, i worry much too much ’bout that,
one breast is missing, the other sags, neath my eyes are darkening bags.
can’t eat my favorites anymore, takes too long to get to the bathroom door,
bulging joints and creaking knees, getting up and down is no longer a breeze.
but i have my health and i have my mind and all of my friends are very kind,
so i’ll carry on and do my best until it’s time for my final rest.
i feel adrift. unmoored. untethered. disjointed. out of sorts. unfocused. unsure. confounded. dystopic. (not sure i’m using that last word correctly, but it just feels right.) my days dawn as they always do (and i am glad to be awake when they do) and i do what i always do, in almost the same order i always do them. thankfully, there has been no drama, and i have had to bear no catastrophe or calamity. thankfully. though i am working my job, walking my dog, knitting my yarn, tethered physically to my life and my activities, my mind and my heart are unmoored, unstable, willy-nilly.
i have started to meditate. i have done two 5 minute sessions. i bought my own zafu cushion to rest upon when i meditate. the 5 minutes is good – i am able to pay attention to my breathing pretty consistently for 5 minutes – but i can absolutely see myself increasing to 10, then 15, maybe more. the restful quiet and presence in each moment relieve me of my un- nature. for 5 minutes there is no worry or boredom or anxiety. it is just breath and air and light.
afterwards, the gap between what is true and what is unnecessary fiction, has disappeared, at least for a while. afterwards, the gap between where i am and where i want to be has closed, at least for a while. i’d say there’s something to this meditation thing.
every now and then i experience a feeling of disappointment and unwomanliness, a feeling left over from my mastectomy 20 years ago. the events of the summer of 1997, and most of the rest of that year, were not captured, on film or digitally, and there are no memory books with clever captions and die-cut shapes and designs. i have never been able to recall much about that time, except for the bouts of chemo (unbelievably emetic, each and every time) and radiation (which was painless, but strangely made me feel like a slab of meat under a warming lamp).
for the most part, i think no thoughts, have no memories of that time in my life. i plowed through all the appointments and hospital visits and soldiered on through healing and attempts to “make believe” i hadn’t lost a breast. the reconstruction was a fiasco, several months wasted on stretching (painful doesn’t begin to describe it), insertion (hooray!) and then removal due to the skin’s failure to heal (the “renowned” plastic surgeon attributed it to my fair skin and it’s weakened state from radiation). the only other option, if i wanted to give the impression of being a “normal” woman, was a prosthetic, which i have worn for 19 years.
lately, and on occasion in the past, i’ve found myself comparing myself to other women. no matter what the situation, my fake boob always puts me at the bottom of the list. whether the other woman is a little heavier or has bad hair or never smiles, at least she has both breasts. that is, to my mind, a win.
is it vanity if one is overly concerned with negative body image? one definition is “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance…” another is “the quality of being worthless or futile, as in “the vanity of human wishes.”
what i hope to attain before i die is acceptance of myself, inside and out, with more emphasis on the inside. this vessel is not going to improve going forward, that’s for sure, but there is hopefully more ahead for my heart and soul.
even though the sun is shining and the birds’ gleeful song somewhat engaging, i can’t shake the feeling that today will be a difficult day.
my dreams picked me up and threw me against a wall, over and over, and i awake bruised and wary.
what will the day hold? how much disruption and confusion is ahead of me? can i leave the effects of the dreams, the low-grade malaise, behind me?
being in the world, awake, aware, gradually sweeps the after-effects of the dreams away, and i can look ahead with some optimism and purpose.
i’ve been thinking about the gap. heard colin beavan on dan harris’s 10% happier podcast today. he’s an interesting guy who wrote a book called “no impact man”, about his conscious decision to live as environmentally “friendly” as possible for a year. interesting stuff. what struck me the most in his conversation with harris was what he said about racism. he said that his zen school is 90% white. there were recently two teachers who rose to a new level of practice, and the others in the school ask them difficult questions as part of the ceremony. one of the teachers was caucasian. the other was a person of color. beavan’s question to the person of color was something like “what do you recommend we do to make our school more diverse and inclusive?” later, as he was thinking about that, it occurred to him that he automatically asked the person of color the question, as though it was up to him to come up with ideas. beavan wondered why he didn’t ask the caucasian teacher the question.
that made me think. why is it the responsibility of those who suffer from racial profiling to fix the problem? and because they are marginalized – be they people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender – they don’t have the political or social capital that is needed to make changes. their voices often go unheard. it seems to me we all need to band together to exact change. we need to use our white privilege to get the message out, march with those in need
the 4th of july is not a favorite holiday of mine (too hot, too loud, too crowded), but i did always like hearing “the star-spangled banner”. the soaring notes at “the land of the free, and the home of the brave” often gave me chills. it never occurred to me that such a claim was hyperbolic – i just sang along like a good citizen. recently, however, i have come to the realization that my blind embrace of the song and its tenets is due to my white privilege.
i recommend that you watch a video from The Root called “no country for me”.
i don’t think that we should be allowed to call this country the land of the free until that freedom extends to everyone. as long as the indigenous tribes and their sacred lands are at risk, as long as people of color are still profiled unfairly, as long as any religion other than “christian” is suspect, as long as members of the lbgtqi community is vilified and worse, this country is not the home of the free.
part of the way through for me, it seems, is to create something every day. it needn’t be a masterpiece, or something never before created. it just needs to come from within and to be done with intention.
that would make a good mantra – intention. how much is lost, i wonder, to things done by accident, or by rote, without thinking? when i used to drive to work, there were times when i didn’t even remember passing certain exits, or landmarks, because i was virtually on auto-pilot, my mind on something other than the road. i would miss the glorious garden of daffodils along the highway in the spring, or the first of the christmas lights on the big tree in front of the hospital in the winter. i drove through life without seeing it. the important thing was getting to my destination.
now that i’m in my waning years (which i hope are plentiful), i can see how foolish that was. not unusual, as many i talk to feel the same way, but definitely foolish. how good would it be to be born older (and wiser) and grow younger, so that we could use all of the wisdom we acquire. we would know not to let our minds wander, know not to take things for granted, know the importance of living with intention.
i am going to breathe more. on purpose. quietly and by myself.
stress has decided to take up lodging in my mind with all of its friends during the past several months, and they have definitely worn out their welcome. their encampment has shown me that there is a very serious schism between what was and what is, mentally speaking. so, i am going to mind the gap, with intention, and hopefully find a new way.
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