Why I Marched

img_1721

The election was a gut punch for me. It hit me hard and the future felt dark. I heard about the Women’s March on Washington later that week and knew I had to go. It felt like an imperative to me.

I shared that plan with a friend when we were taking a cooking class last November. What had been planned to be a fun evening ended up being a somber discussion about the state of the country and the impact the election had on each of us. I told India that I was planning to go to the march because it was a tangible way to demonstrate how I felt about the president-elect and the plans he was laying out for our country. She said she had been feeling too down to even think about it, but might consider going.

After the class, she told me about how her husband’s family, who are Japanese Americans, had already experienced comments of discrimination, telling them in Trump’s America, they should go back to where they belong. Their family has been in the US for generations and already endured the internment camps during WWII. A few days later, she texted me and said I’d better be serious about going to DC because she was now committed. Her sisters-in-law were on board and if I wanted, I had a place to stay with them in Philadelphia. I reserved my flight that day.

I didn’t hit me until about the week before just how big the march had become. The numbers expected in DC were several hundred thousand – and there were marches in almost every major city. I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the outpouring of frustration and resistance that was generating this very unified reaction. This was bigger than me being pissed off. This was bigger than a few women who felt compelled to stand up. This was a movement on a massive scale. And I was thrilled to think I’d be a part of it.

One thing to know about me – I hate crowds. I hate them because I have enough claustrophobia that I find them overwhelming. I avoid them whenever possible, and for me to voluntarily sign up for something that involves a boatload and half of people is really out of my comfort zone. That’s how much this march mattered to me.

My trip east was through Chicago. I started to see pink hats at O’Hare and realized that flights directly to DC were packed with women. Since I was staying in Philadelphia and taking a Rally bus into the capital, there were fewer on my plane. But the fact was clear – people were mobilizing. I felt encouraged and uplifted. I arrived at my hosts’ home and immediately felt welcome. They’d been making signs to carry – the group consisted of 6 of us ranging in age from 73 to 33 and included Americans of Japanese,  Chinese, and  European descent. We were all there to say we weren’t OK with policies and plans the new administration intends to enact.

For me, I was there because I can speak up. I don’t fear my government because I have been privileged all my life. There are other voices, however, who don’t feel that same way. I intend to stand up for any voice that feels threatened or marginalized or at risk. That means people from every walk of life and interest. I will not sit by while groups are targeted and think “well, that’s not me, so I’m OK…” The time to speak up is now.

img_1720

The march itself started out for me at 4:30 a.m. We had to be at the bus by 5:15, as I’d volunteered to be a bus captain. That meant helping to get the buses loaded and then be a point of contact as needed. We had 45 people on our bus and we were the lightest of the 5 buses that left that part of Philadelphia. In all, 1400 buses were expected in DC. The ride there was about 2.5 hours and we arrived at RFK stadium about 9 a.m. From there, we walked to the Armory metro station and headed into town. The crowd was thick getting into the station and the trains were packed, but everyone was cooperative and helpful.

We got off at the Federal Center stop and walked toward 6th street. Once there, we saw the crowds and heard the speakers, so we moved in as close as we could. We ended up standing in a section where pea patches had been set up, so we made sure to not stand on the plants. After listening to several of the speakers, including Gloria Steinem, we decided to move and we headed back toward 6th street. This was harder than expected, as the crowd was shoulder to shoulder and moving through them was an effort. We decided to look for a toilet and ended up at L’Enfant plaza where there was a little more breathing room.

img_1728

Everywhere we went, there were marchers. And to a person, they were helpful, supportive, and positive. Even with all the people, there was no time where I felt concerned about safety (other than the sheer volume of people). We ended up heading toward the American Association of University Women, as they’d offered their offices as a place to step out of the crowds for a break. Once there, we were able to use their restrooms, recharge phones, have some snacks and watch a live stream of the event. We watched several speakers from there, including Maxine Waters. She was amazing. We left AAUW to head back toward the rally and meet up with Anna. We had lunch with her and as we left the restaurant, we saw the rally had finally begun moving – and it was coming right toward us. We joined in and marched from I street all the way down Massachusetts to where it finally petered out at about Union Station. People were cheering us on, the marchers were chanting and waving. I had an overpowering feeling of ‘this is what it’s all about’.

At the end of it all, the count was almost half a million people there in DC with us. There was a women’s march on every continent around the world – 600 marches in 57 countries. An estimated total of 5 million people marched – and in the US, the marches were in cities everywhere, almost 470 cities spread throughout the country, not on the coasts as you might hear from some news outlets. This was a global movement and the marches were only the beginning. Activism is alive and well and something that will continue on. I know it will for me.

img_1731

Everywhere we went, people were exuberant. The pink hats were a common theme, along with some of the best collection of homemade signs. It was great fun to read what people had put together. I used one that was created by local artists from Kirkland and added another from NOW on rights for LGBTQIA. The march was a pot pourri of ideas and issues, but that’s what made it great. The metro workers were kind and helpful, the police and National Guard waved and supported us, the atmosphere was rich with positive energy. I thought to myself at one point that I needed to soak it up like sunshine to sustain me in the dark, cold days ahead. This resistance is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m in training to make it to the end.

img_1730img_1726

We arrived back in Philadelphia at 9:30 p.m. and I was exhausted – still buzzing, but bone tired. I had to fly out the next morning, and slept soundly knowing I’d done my part. My trip home was great – I saw lots of women in both the Philadelphia and Chicago airports and connected with them, sharing stories and our enthusiasm. One woman asked me to sign her poster – she was an artist and was trying to gather as many signatures as possible. She was taking the poster back to an art gallery outside of Chicago to hang on the wall. I was thrilled to add my name to the board.

Stepping out of my comfort zone was rewarding. I spent 32 hours travelling and was in DC for about 9 hours. It was a whirlwind trip, but I helped make history. And I will keep working to effect change however I can – and I do it because of what I believe in, for the people I love and for those whose voices need to be heard. This is just the beginning. I have been reactivated and I will not stand by quietly.

To all the people who marched on January 21 and to all who will stand up for the right things when the time comes, I salute you.

Why Women Rock

Twain Quote

In my “About Me” section on this here blog, I have a list of 25 Things About Me. Number 5 on that list is “I sometimes think that I relate better to males than females but I wouldn’t revoke my membership in the sisterhood for anything. Women rock.” and that sums up my thinking about my women friends to a tee. I have some amazing women friends and I count myself lucky to be in their company.

Some of these women have known me since I was a child – Laurie J. and I met in second grade. Lori M. and I were college roommates. Others are from high school, college, various jobs I’ve had along the way in my career – but all of them have a singular theme: With these women, I have given up pretense. I am my true self, imperfections and all. That is why they are so meaningful to me.

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure (and it really was just plain old fun) to spend a weekend in Coronado with 23 women from my college days at Stanford. Some I knew really well. Some I was just meeting that weekend. But the fun part was we could all be ourselves and show up at breakfast in PJs or running clothes or fully decked out and ready for the day and be equally accepted. It’s the best feeling in the world to be with people who just let you be you.

group 3
This group has been doing this in one form or another for over 25 years. It was something that started as people realized seeing each other only every 5 years at a reunion wasn’t going to cut it. Now it happens when someone plans the weekend, not on a set schedule. Sometimes it is only a handful of women going somewhere truly exotic – but at the core, it is this bond of familiarity that keeps people coming back.

My first outing with the group was white water rafting in Oregon about 15 years ago. Lori invited me and I figured it was a great way to spend a few days with her, never really factoring in the rest of the group. I had a great time with everyone and I felt comfortable being in their company. I remember one trip to Lake Tahoe a few years later where I was really struggling with my sister’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and had a very heartfelt, honest conversation with one of the women there who happens to be a doctor. Her compassion and truth touched me deeply – and helped me prepare for what was ahead in a way I might never have been able to do.

Group 2

When we get together, there is always laughter and stories and wine and food. We are a loud group to be around, but the kind of group you look at and think “I’ll have what they’re having.” We just have fun. We talk about kids and work and parents and challenges and successes – no subject is off the table. And your feelings are always allowed.

This particular group includes some amazingly accomplished women – doctors, lawyers, finance professionals, education professionals, stay at home moms – it’s a cross section of talent. This diversity means you get some really different perspectives and ideas. I have loved seeing how conversations ebb and flow when I am with these women. And following one get together, someone shared this article, an excerpt of which is below. Apparently, we’re not the only ones to believe in the power of female friendship.

A friend of a friend wrote last summer that she just finished taking an evening class at Stanford. The last lecture was on the mind-body connection – the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.

At first everyone laughed, but he was serious.

Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences.

Physically this “quality girlfriend time” helps us to create more serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well-being.

Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going. Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes. But their feelings? Rarely.

Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters/mothers, and evidently that is very good for our health. He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.

There’s a tendency to think that when we are “exercising” we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged – not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!

Talking with a girlfriend is as good as going to the gym? Sign me up.  In another article sent by one of this last gathering’s attendees focuses on the value of women friends as we grow older. It’s safe to say I don’t need any convincing at this point – I know the power of these friendships first hand. They have held me up through all the slings and arrows of life’s misfortune and cheered me on when I was riding high.

227128_2006090921901_1532514918_32167117_6372996_n

I have women friends that I do weekends away with who are from earlier in my life and we can pick up where we left off in a heartbeat. It’s comforting to be with people who know your whole story and see you for not just who you are today, but that younger woman you once were. That makes me feel connected in a way that is truly special. It’s something I realized I really missed when I lost my parents and sister – these women know me through and through. As I’ve gotten older and wiser, I know it matters to be fully known by someone else.

I’ve often thought that I would love to be able to gather all the women who are special to me in one place for a Grand Salon – to have them mix and mingle with the sole purpose to be to bond with each other and become a larger support system. That may have to stay a dream, but I think it might be time for me to at least plan the next weekend adventure.

I remember my mom talking about “the girls” when she would plan an afternoon of bridge or a lunch at our house. These women were from her younger days, the mysterious time of her life when she wasn’t just our mother, but her own person. Those girls have all passed away, but mom kept her female friends going strong until her own death. She must have figured all this out long ago.

I plan to follow her example and so to my dear friends, old and new – thank you for being in my life, thank you for all you have shared with me, and thank you for letting me be me. Every single one of you rock.

 

50 Happy Things for 2015: Bloggers Unite in Flood of Gratitude

Me, at the beginning

Me, at the beginning

Me, today

Me, today

 

 

 

50 Things I’m Grateful For

LIFE
1. For the gift of life itself, thanks Mom & Dad!
2. Being alive – for my health
3. For learning to live with my limitations but not being defined by them
4. Being loved and loving others
5. My senses – being able to smell, see, taste, touch and hear all the wonders around me
6. My heart – for feeling things, for beating every second of every day
7. Freedom to choose my life’s path
8. Being told I could be anything I wanted to be and believing it
9. Taking the time to relish simple and pure moments
10. Safety – I don’t take that for granted
11. My home – and for feeling warm and cozy on a cold night.
12. My garden – for healing my wounds when I need it mostgarden
13. For learning when to say enough; for knowing when to keep trying.

 

 

 

FAMILY & FRIENDS
14. For my parents again, for being wonderful examples of how to live a good life
15. For my brothers and sisters – my first tribe and my support system
16. For my children, for being my heart and soul3 Amigos
17. For my first husband, for the gift of our two oldest children
18. For my husband, for staying the course and working toward true partnership; for our shared history
19. For my very best friend in the entire universe (the world just wasn’t big enough), Lori. You know why.
20. For my dear friends who hold me up and smack me down when I need it most. Thank you all.
21. For the family I’ve created along the way – those people who are a part of my life and history
22. My pets. My life is enriched by them daily, in spite of the shedding, the puking, the scratching – they are true and loyal and pure love
23. For my memories – all the people who have come and gone from my life, leaving behind their imprint, some large and some small. My life is better for having known them.
24. For our family reunions each Labor Day – they are an anchor in my life and my story
25. For becoming more compassionate with age and knowing how much each of us carry with us as we go through life

EXPERIENCES
26. My upbringing in a chaotic, action packed household – it shaped me and made me resilient.
27. My education and love of learning – I can’t imagine what I’d be like without that
28. Spending four years at Stanford. What an amazing place and what amazing people I met while there. I am still pinching myself about that time.
29. My time as a mother – something I thought I wasn’t going to be very good at, but the single thing that has made me a much better person.
30. My work – my accidental career in technology, as an entrepreneur, and mostly as a mentor to others. I have enjoyed it more than I ever imagined.
31. Living in the Northwest surrounded by some of the most beautiful places in the whole world. How lucky is that?
32. Learning to arrange flowers – who knew this would be a passion?
33. My recommitment to being a writer and the courage to say it out loud.
34. Travel – what a joy that has been – seeing the world, being in places I’d only dreamed of being.Slano
35. Sports – I can’t go through this whole list without that! They are a central part of my life experiences, as a player, as a coach, as a fan.
36. Reading – this is my daily vice; I can’t imagine a world without books to read.
37. Helping others. Nothing makes me happier than when I put others first to be of service.

MISCELLANEOUS

38. Coffee…it is a daily pleasure
39. Chocolate…no longer daily, but still something to savor
40. Creating things – food, art, a garden – these are the small creations that make life a joyIMG_00000425
41. Seeing the sunrise or sunset and being reminded that beauty is everywhere
42. Taking the time to walk barefoot in sand or grass and remembering the miles I ran barefoot as a child
43. Seeing a smile on a relative’s face who has become the spitting image of my grandmother or aunt who are no longer with us
44. Continuing to learn and stretch my mind
45. Relaxed moments of companionship, whether with people, a good book, or my furry friends
46. For the rain and the good it does the earth
47. For the sun, which is so welcome after the rain
48. For the ground, for what grows is both beautiful and essential to life
49. For believing that miracles can happen and that sometimes the impossible can be achieved.
50. For Life. I’ve now come full circle.

Thanks to Dawn Quyle Landau at Tales From the Motherland for initiating this!  You can find other bloggers’ posts here.  To participate, follow these rules and then click on the Blue Frog Guy below.

If you’d like to join in, here’s how it works: set a timer for 10 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list (the timer doesn’t matter for filling in the instructions, intro, etc). The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015, or 50 thing that you feel grateful for. The idea is to not think too hard; write what comes to mind in the time allotted. When the timer’s done, stop writing. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s OK. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! When I finished my list, I took a few extra minutes to add links and photos.

To join us for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Click on the blue frog at the very bottom of this post. 3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. 4) Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List. Please note: the InLinkz will expire on January 15, 2015. After that date, no blogs can be added.

Please note that only blog posts that include a list of 50 (or an attempt to write 50) things that made you feel Happy or 50 things that you are Grateful for, will be included. Please don’t add a link to a post that isn’t part of this exercise; I will remove it. Aside from that one caveat, there is no such thing as too much positivity. Share your happy thoughts, your gratitude; help us flood the blogosphere with both!

May your holidays be filled with happiness and gratitude!

http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=592585

 

Ring in the New…

Capture

As we come to the end of 2014, many people feel the pressure to do more – to set goals, to compare, to somehow quantify their journey in some meaningful way. I get that. I’ve done it. Even WordPress feeds into that by providing you with statistics on your site – which I find interesting and have shared in the past. But in looking at it now, another year wiser, I am not simply looking for quantity in my activity, but quality. Am I focused on the right things? Am I spending time where I need to spend it, not simply to boost my numbers?

On the whole, my blog had more visits and page views. That’s good. The bad is that I had a two month hole where nothing was posted and I was otherwise occupied with living my life – some of which included writing, but not blogging. Being a recovering over-achiever, I was annoyed to see that gap. I suddenly felt pressure to do MORE. Then I slapped myself back to reality and said “Not more, but better.” It’s so hard to stay on the path of quality when we are a hamster wheel driven society.

Yesterday, I had the luxury of being alone in my home for almost the entire day. That hasn’t happened in a long time. And I enjoyed it immensely. I did a few things on my chores list in order to justify my existence and get my Norwegian mother out of my head, then I made a conscious choice  to read as much as I wanted and to be as lazy as I needed. And it was wonderful. I enjoyed the peace and quiet, and realized I was completely comfortable, one cat curled up next to me, the dog at my feet, a cup of coffee at hand and a good book in front of me. I looked outside and saw blue sky and evergreen trees and had a moment of pure bliss. No one needed me, no one expected me, and I had nothing on my schedule that demanded my attention. That was a perfect moment. I need more perfect moments like that.

I doubt I could handle that much freedom every day, but as a once in a while thing, it was a treasure. On desperately busy days, I will look at it, like a scene in a snow globe and remember the feeling of being safe, warm, and just where I wanted to be and it will replenish me enough to carry on.

This year, as we countdown the final seconds, I will be thinking about the quality of my days and my writing. I want more perfect moments ahead and fewer crazy making ones. I want the right words to come, not just enough to fill a post or a page. I want to look back a year from now and know that I have done, if not more, then better. That’s the only goal I plan to set for 2015. It will have to be enough.

My Writing Process – A Blog Tour Interview

books

My Writing Process – Blog Tour

This is something new for me. I agreed to be a part of a Blog Tour where writers write about their writing process. Try saying that three times fast!

First, a big thank you to Kory Shrum for introducing me to this idea. If you haven’t heard of Kory, you soon will – her book Dying for a Living releases this month. This is a story of a woman who has died 67 times before, a Necronite who acts as a surrogate for others in the death process. Look for her book from Timberlake Press starting on March 4.  Check it out on Amazon!

Now on to the questions!

1) What am I working on?

My current work-in-progress is a story I started many years ago. It’s about a mother – daughter relationship that faces a major challenge when the daughter brings home her new boyfriend and he turns out to be an old lover from her mother’s past. The central question is “What does the mother do?” Should she tell her daughter or does she keep it quiet? What would you do?

The novel, Broken Parts, is a story of a mother’s love for her daughter and the lengths she will go to ensure her happiness. Loving, though misguided, Ann’s desire to protect her daughter, Caitlin, ultimately causes her to lose sight of her own needs. It is only in recognizing that she has factored herself out of her own life does Ann realize what she’s lost. Told from both Ann and Caitlin’s point of view, the story raises questions around honesty with oneself and others, along with lost chances and new beginnings. Woven through the story is the use of Algebra, which in Arabic means the reunion of broken parts, or finding the missing value.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to think that my writing paints a picture but still allows the reader to use their imagination to fill in the blanks. I don’t want to dictate everything to them; I am assuming the reader will be clever and can infer some things. I know as a reader, I prefer that style to being beaten over the head with too many descriptions or colorful details. I want to create some of the world for myself!

3) Why do I write what I do?

Because it is what I love to read! Some would say I’m addicted to reading – and have been all my life. Simply put, I read what I like and my writing stems from that same interest – I find I read a wide range of books, but the key elements for me are relationship driven stories. The central part of our human existence is how we interact and relate to others and that theme is universal.

4) How does your writing process work?

One of my motivators recently was finding boxes of typewritten pages in my mother’s bedroom as I cleaned out her home following her death. I knew she was a writer, but I never realized how much she’d done. Her work never went beyond a dream. I wanted to do more with mine and not leave boxes behind for my own children to wonder over. Now that I’ve made that commitment to myself, I am working toward a more disciplined approach – committing to writing regularly, with a word count in mind, as I begin new drafts of new work.

So clearly, my previous model was not one to follow. I started this story long ago and wrote myself into a corner. I went to a writer’s retreat and found some tools to get myself out of that corner. Once I got myself unstuck, I wrote the ending of my story first. That helped me figure out where I wanted to take it, then I went back and carved out chunks from the original manuscript to use in the reworked storyline. And then I just let the rest pour out until I had draft one done. I shared it with a few trusted readers, incorporating their feedback and comments. I shared out draft two to a few more readers. I polished it each time, using some of the feedback but working hard to stay true to my own instincts and voice.

Then I took a leap of faith (Insanity?) and shared it with an agent who had asked to see it when it was ready. Following her response, I made more changes and worked on character development until they felt more real to my readers (they were all real in my head!). I hired an editor to read through it for content development and to help me with some of the dialogue. I sent that draft to more readers. The feedback on this latest draft has been very positive, which makes me happy. I have some ideas for things I could still do, but am now in the “let it sit” zone again. I need more time for perspective.

Ultimately, I look at the process a little like photography. You use the best tools you have to take a picture of a subject that interests you. You develop it and highlight the colors and balance to make it shine. Then you crop it to bring the eye’s focus to the intended elements and suddenly, you see something that is even better than what you may have started with. I am learning the writer’s craft more with each pass, working to be more patient, and striving to put something together that not only tells the story but tells it well.

Please visit these other great writers on the Blog Tour next week:

RWF Rochelle Wisoff-Fields
Rochelle Wisoff-Fields calls the Kansas City, Missouri area home where she lives with her husband Jan. Married over forty-two years, they have three sons, two daughters-in-law and one adorable granddaughter, all of whom are scattered from one coast to the other.

Over the past decade Rochelle, a graphic artist, has discovered her passion for creating word pictures as well as visual ones. Both her original artwork and short stories have been published in her eclectic debut anthology, This, That and Sometimes the Other by High Hill Press. A few of her short stories have been included in other High Hill Press collections, Voices III, Echoes of the Ozarks VI and Voices IV. In November 2013 twelve of her flash fictions were included in Echoes of the Ozarks IX.

Her novel, with the working title Please Say Kaddish for Me, is under contract with Jeanie Loiacono of Loiacono Literary Agency.

AAAlicia Wallace
Alicia Audrey is a writer, editor, and blogger living and working in Nassau, Bahamas. She writes flash fiction and short stories, and is currently working on her first (women’s fiction) novel. She runs on chocolate, Coca-Cola, and tea.

RGRussell Gayer
Russell Gayer has two fans. One is a 12” 3-speed oscillator made by Westinghouse in 1967 and the other features a tongue-depressor handle and picture of Jesus. Most of his life has been frittered away in the pursuit of laziness and procrastination, both of which slip through his grasp since he refuses to put forth the energy to close his palm. In his made-for-TV-reality-show lifetime, Russell has been a dashing rock-star wanna be, a starving carpenter, a Hall of Shame softball player, and a poor excuse for a fisherman. His only saving grace is marrying way over his head. The fact that poor, sweet Connie has tolerated his antics since 1975 is a testament to her angelic patience and sympathetic heart. His grown children, Greta and Jesse, look at their Dad and shake their heads, praying that most of their DNA came from Mom.

January 10

So it’s your birthday
And what have you done?
Another year older,
A new one just begun…
me through the years
Reprising the great John Lennon here for a moment as I reflect on what my brother likes to call my “55th successful revolution of the sun”.  Yes, it’s my birthday.  No, I’m not having a party.  I am working hard to stave off a pity party.  Something about this year seems to hold special portent.  The double digitedness of it, maybe?  The fact that I am halfway through my (gasp!) 50s?  That this is an age where many people I work with begin to leave for retirement?  All of the above and possibly more.

What I don’t want to dwell on is all that I’ve lost in the past five years.  Back then, I hadn’t lost my dad, my mom or my sister to cancer.  I was physically fit, having completed a sprint triathlon the summer before and did another the following summer.  I hadn’t been diagnosed with an incurable liver disorder or lupus.  I hadn’t experienced a major breach of trust that almost ended my marriage.  I felt hopeful, optimistic, and ready for whatever came next.

Today, the headline that comes to mind after listing all that crap above is “All that you’ve lost”, which sounds like a lyric from a U2 song.  Clearly my mad skill for lyric memorization is coming in handy today.

But I need to change my thinking.  I don’t want to dwell on what I’ve lost.  I want to dwell on what is still possible.  I am 55.  I am alive.  That last item alone should be reason to celebrate.  While I may not have my health the same way it was, I don’t have a terminal cancer diagnosis, which is what my sister had at this age.  I have my kids in my life and they are all well.  I continue to like my job and don’t plan to leave it immediately – but I do have thoughts about when I might want to go and that sets off another set of thoughts around possibilities like “what’s next?”.  I have ideas.  I have dreams.  I have goals.  All of these are good things. So I need to nip any sense of pity in the bud and remind myself of all the good that being alive brings.

Birthday Toast
I remember standing up to raise a toast at my 50th birthday party, where my friends and some of my family had gathered.  I looked around the room and saw people from almost every major part of my life – elementary school, junior high, high school, college, various career junctures – and I thought how very lucky I was to be connected to so many who knew the story of my life.  I thanked them for being a part of that story and when I think about it today, I would want them all at a party this year, were I having one.  Plus, there are new people that I would like to include.  As I go through each year, I get richer and more blessed.  I will dwell on that, and I will think about possibilities, not what’s been lost.

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change”

This lovely cliché is attributed to the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who predated Plato. I needed to look this up for something at work that I was writing about and found the actual translation of his work is, more accurately:

“Upon those who step into the same rivers flow other and yet other waters. All things…are in flux like a river.”

Trans. John Mansley Robinson, An Introduction to Early Greek Philosophy, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1968) p. 91, Fragment 5.15 and p. 89, Fragment 5.10.

And so I view my life.  It is a river that I step through and the water that moves by me has been going on for all time.  I gather those drops that I need to sustain me, I hold them for a time, then, like all drops of water, they evaporate to become clouds and come back to the river as rain.

I am lucky.  I am blessed.  I am alive.

Erin_UK

Um….What?

For anyone who’s taken the time to read all of this blog, you will know that much of it has been writings I’ve done about losing several members of my family to cancer in a very short period of time.  Between May of 2010 and September of 2011, I lost my dad, my mom, and my sister.  It was a heck of a time, overlaid with some marriage challenges and general life bumps and bruises.  It took some doing, but I made it through and figured I’d had my time in the ringer.  It’s why my icon on this blog is a Weeble ®.  I may wobble, but I don’t fall down.

The past few months, I’ve spent focusing on my needs – like writing, remodeling, yard work, travel – as well as keeping busy working full time at a fairly demanding job and raising 3 kids.  But I’ve felt like a slug for several months and instead of tackling things after dinner, it was all I could do to stay awake.  That isn’t me.  Three years ago, I did my second triathlon.  OK, it was a sprint triathlon, but it was still a pretty major effort.  Today, I couldn’t imagine doing one.  I am that run down.

First, I thought it was depression.  That seemed somewhat plausible.  Then I figured it was overlaid by age-related issues and hormones in flux.  But enough weird symptoms kept popping up that I decided to list them all out and take them to my doctor and ask him what the hey hey sha na na was going on. I needed to figure out if this was just life as it was going to be or something strange happening to me.

Growing up as one of 5 kids, my mom had her hands full with boo boos and owies and playing nurse to all the scrapes and cuts.  This was back before everything was child-proofed.  We played with knives and climbed metal playground structures over cement.  We had a few bad spills along the way.  My mom didn’t really want to be bothered unless you were REALLY hurt.  I would take my injuries to her and she would tell me it was barely visible.  Imagine that – to me, I was gravely injured and to her, it was a minor mark.  She called me a hypochondriac a couple of times (my mother never believed in talking down to her kids – we all knew really big words early) and I learned not to take every little item to her.  This still lives in my head when it comes time to talk to a doctor.  My list, however, told me that I wasn’t just making stuff up.  There were a lot of odd things at play.

He took my concerns seriously and ran blood tests to see what might be the cause.  I told him about the autoimmune issues in my siblings and he did some special tests to isolate those results.  To make the long story somewhat shorter, after multiple referrals, additional tests, and a biopsy, I now know that I have a reason to be fatigued.  I have both Lupus and a new-to-me autoimmune disease of the liver.  While neither of these is an immediate death sentence, they are both chronic conditions that will stay with me for the rest of my life – and will affect the quality of my life.  What this means to me is still not completely clear.  What I do know is that I need to change many of my lifestyle patterns – I need to minimize stress (no real idea how that’s going to happen…), I need to stop enjoying wine and the occasional cocktail, I need to change my diet to eliminate some bad foods for me, and I need to take medication for the rest of my life.  I’ve gone from being a healthy person to being someone with a “condition”.  Shit.

Image  Image  Image

I am still processing a lot of this.  I don’t really know how I feel from one moment to the next.  I am sad, fearful, angry, anxious, unsure, optimistic, and back around again as the days go by.  I force myself to look on the bright side, then I want to smack that positive person and say “Stop celebrating something that is ultimately a suck-fest.  This is not a prize!”  So I dwell in the depths for a while and then look for something to take my mind off it.  A drink is no longer an option.

I have had a sense of impermanence since my parents died, and my sister left us when she was only 57.  I know I don’t have forever to be a part of things.  I am counting on at least another 30 years, however.  And I want them to be good years.  Not years of enduring a modified lifestyle that lengthens my time but makes it less enjoyable.  I want to celebrate my children’s milestones – cheer them at graduation, dance at their weddings, hold my grandchildren, toast their successes – and be there for those golden years I’ve heard so much about.

I am struggling with it all, wondering what I might have done to deserve this.  And I realize in asking that question, I am being about as ridiculous as can be.  It is just a function of biology, not divine retribution for anything I might have done or not done.  I am simply the lucky recipient of this particular set of genes with this particular autoimmune combination.

I have a lot to learn about what lies ahead.  I am going to continue to work at optimism, balanced with realism so as to not piss myself off.  I will list all the things I want to do and get busy.  I will take inventory of my life and make sure I am living it with intention and with passion.  I will listen to what I need to do to take care of myself and not burn out.  I will accept that this is what is and no amount of bitching about it will change things.  I will suck it up and get on with living.  In short, after another round of knock down punches, I’m going to have to bounce back up again and be the Weeble ® I know I can be.

But seriously – again?  Really?