Mending, wellness, writing

What Matters.

If you live on the cutting edge,
surely you’ll get cut.

If you live the simple life,
it won’t be simple.

If you sit at a desk composing words
the alphabet will mock you,

or you’ll drown in the currents
of the page.

Work hard. Be lazy.
Money will come and go

like green leaves in their season.
But don’t forget

the wise man and the fool
are blood brothers.

At the end
what matters

is the sun, the moon:
arterial red, bone white.

“Commencement Address” by Linda Pastan, from Insomnia. © W. W. Norton, 2015.

I have been a devoted fan of Linda Pastan since 1982 when I came across her book The Five Stages of Grief. Her words skewered me and bled me and set me free to grieve during my mother’s illness. This poem showed up today in The Writer’s Almanac — a sign, I firmly believe — and I am reassessing the next few days to figure out what matters to my well but rumpled soul.

I flew back to Seattle yesterday to my writing space, the crabby squirrels, chirping crows and waving neighbors. Awaiting on a lease and wondering if I will stay at this Nest for much longer. My words are stuck somewhere on the roof of my mouth — or brain — but I believe they will spill soon enough. I am well if a little battered by an oral surgeon, a bone spur in my hip and fears about what exactly does this long string of challenges mean.

But oh, the sunrises. The smell of the massive fir tree by my door. The hummingbirds flying by on the way to the sunflowers. The thought of fresh fish tacos on my cousin’s deck.

I sit today and absorb them all. This matters. And mends.

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Carcinoid tumor, on purpose, self image, space, wellness

On Purpose.

Yesterday, I went to an appointment that was actually scheduled for today.

I have misplaced my favorite glasses.

And I probably forgot your birthday last summer.

This has been my new normal over the last seventeen months. I hardly recognize myself or this tendency to lose stuff. I have been pulling the blankets around me, physically and emotionally, at the expense of the every day. Closing my eyes, overwhelmed by the after-effect of three rounds of surgery, the fluctuating test results, the pains that wake me in the night, the deadlines and word counts I can’t measure up to, the waistbands that cut over my incision areas and the bottomed-out exhaustion of lying awake all night while this movie reel spins ’round and ’round and ’round.

And then, I had enough of letting things happen to me and nothing being done on purpose.

I got up and began a purge, inside and out.

First, at the Seattle Nest; I threw away any paper I had not touched, filed or looked at twice in the last year. That freed up three baskets. Then I gave two of those baskets to Goodwill. I gave most of my clothes away. I kept only the shoes that made me smile. There is now a 1000 piece puzzle on a table in the middle of my living room space replacing books on writing. There is so much yarn. Fiction waits by my bed. I forgave myself the preferred diet of dairy, toast and fruit and went to the store for more cheese.

Then, inside: I had not been following my own cardinal rule — information is power — instead, I had been cringing away from the real time of my diagnosis, wrapping myself up in fear, lying awake to be sandy-eyed and worn out by daybreak, cowed by every pain and the bottomless fatigue. And pissed at myself, fully aware of this self-defeating cycle of fear=exhaustion=anxiety=more fears.

So last week I opened the hospital app, put in the passwords and read my medical reports online out loud for the first time. Did not wait for someone to tell me the results. I read them over and over, letting the now be all mine. Here is what I owned, here is what I said out loud,

I had a carcinoid tumor in my appendix, colon re-sectioning then a sick gall bladder over a twelve month period of time. That is a lot of surgery.

I may have more cancer.

But today? I  feel just fine. 

And remarkably, I felt better. I wrote 758 words that rocked. After a good cry, I slept my first solid sleep in a very, very long time and woke up to a magnificent morning.

Shelf space=heart space=real space.

In less than ten days I will kick the 50’s out the door and welcome in my next decade with open arms. I say bring it on, whatever I need to know and do, make me safe — whatever it takes — so I can stick around a little longer to stomp my footprint a bit deeper into the earth.

I am not sorry about the birthdays, the glasses or the appointments. People that care about me will not care about my failings and stick around. Appointments can be rebooked. I have ordered a stretchy skirt. And I have been longing for a pair of cherry red glasses, anyways.

This morning the September sun beats down on me, the crow with a white feather chortles to me from the railing, begging shamelessly for more dog treats. The sky is brilliant. I feel on purpose today.

I am still here.

 

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