How bizarre it is to know there are malignant cancer cells inside of you, just waiting, waiting, waiting for an MRI to provide more information so you can decide how to proceed. “Simple” lumpectomy, again, no nodes this time? That would be awesome!

Awesome. Really? isn’t awesome a relative term now! I guess most of life IS relative, dependent on your experiences in the past, your hopes for the future, your interpretation of the present.

Interpretation. A choice as to how to view your life. Perspective.

Bring on the day.


Prompt: 24 minutes: “Ageless”

May 16, 2013


Ageless is how I feel at 53. Such an odd number — not sexy, not old and wise, somewhere in between. Reaching back, just a bit, I am vibrant, sexy, the life of the party. Sparkly, beaming on the outside, in the prime of life supposedly. Yes, I did it well. Successful woman of the ’80’s in a man’s world, my daddy proud. Then I stopped that and became a mom.

Now there’s an ageless, timeless role. It begins so innocently, naively really. Tenderly rocking and offering love from your very breasts in the wee, dark hours of the morning. Pondering life, the confusing, terrifying, glorious miracle of birth, a new life, now dependent on you. Ill-prepared, you read books, ask mothers, doctors, friends — eager to shed a light on the footpath of this ageless endeavor.

And now, decades later, it is still an enigma. Well, that’s not totally true. I’m much less frantic at this stage. Yet less dogmatic than my own mother, stating her opinions as if the are THE right way. Some truths, comments, ideas of hers ring true, timeless, ageless. Then there are the ones you just can’t help but bite your tongue about, realizing she is of another generation, another world, that it is fruitless to try to explain, kinder to let her speak, believe, let her be.

photo of trees overheadAt 53 I am standing in the middle of the road, the intersection of life, spinning, looking up at the cloudless sky, tall pines and oaks sprinkling sunlight all around the cool shadows of time and space. Not ready to commit to a particular path, I choose to linger in this ageless place.

At Ageless, there is an appreciation for the older, wiser; an understanding of the ignorance of youth; a fear when you read the obituaries and many of them are younger than you now. At Ageless, there is still the hope of accomplishing something big, tell me it’s not loo late! To write that book, learn that craft, make that art that might endure even after I am gone — mere ashes on a mantle or floating in the sea. The sea, you see, IS ageless.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, the spirit lives on, the only “real” ageless I guess there is. A soul calling to meld with the nebulous spirit of eternity. Yet while I am in this earthly body, where I can talk to my daughters, listen to my parents, pet my old soul dog, make a marriage work, get outside myself, dig deep inside myself, tap into that ageless stream of life in the intersection of middle-age, I play in the scintillating, ever-moving patches of flickering light.

“This book”

Prompt: 25 minutes: “this book”

This Book

This book I’ve tried to finish, publish, get out there for so very long, still sits on my cluttered desk, pulled, wrinkled, from the bag I took with me to the fall writer’s conference this past weekend with high hopes of making headway in a seemingly never-ending process, like this sentence that can’t seem to find its ending. Period. Not. There’s more. There’s always more to edit, reword, rewrite, rethink. “Is it good enough yet?”

Ahh.. the real question: “Am I good enough yet?”

There’s the pit of the peach, the core of the apple, the stabbing, tingly feeling in my heart when I dare to release this baby into the world for other eyes to see. Will they like it? Will I be embarrassed or proud as I timidly show it to my writer friends to evaluate, judge, critique?

It’s dangerous business, this putting yourself out there on the page, like lying naked on the doctor’s cold examining table, paper crinkling under you, vulnerable, chilled, a bit anxious now that you’re here. New thoughts surface, concerns begin to pop around in your head like microwave popcorn during its last 30 seconds: wondering deep down that maybe they’ll find something you never knew to think about – some strange new diagnosis with a complicated name you’ll have to learn how to pronounce, and spell, to Google it. You arrived for this routine follow-up, not thinking to fear, but now suddenly it occurs to you they might find another suspicious lump or bump or something that needs an MRI, an ultrasound, a biopsy, hopefully just minor editing and not a complete rewrite.

This book I’ve been trying to birth is a pretty book. A coffee table, a gift book. A hopeful book. A book to inspire and uplift. The need to get back to writing it, honing it, word by word, has kept me fighting these last five years. I want to see it published before I die (which could be a very long time, mind you), and so I persevere. In between doctor’s visits, the time-consuming devotion to alternative avenues of healing mixed with traditional allopathic, insurance-covered appointments, tests, labs, imaging, I occasionally pull out The Joy of Shelling and reread, edit a little, research to fill in gaps, imagine it in print.

This book reflects the world I wish I could live in all the time – the pensive, calm, centered, connected place I think we all hunger for, though we often cannot name that restless feeling, that inability to focus, to stop flitting from this to that. A world in which we can just be! For heaven’s sake, the incessant need to do this and that can drive you crazy, really. Take this vitamin, see this specialist, “You don’t have a hematologist? Well, here’s a referral.” I realize the next day that yes, in fact, I do have one – my oncologist is also a hematologist! Whew! I can avoid filling out another long medical history intake form, and maybe write a few words on my book or my blog instead. To slide back into the fluffy, cozy covers of the inner experience – writing, shelling, meditating – it’s all the same: a welcome escape from medical appointments that drain me, suck my time, my life, my writing life. Reaching for my iPhone, Words with Friends and Scramble an easy diversion from the fluorescent, windowless, sterile rooms of answer-seeking, blood draws, IV’s, plastic orange urine collecting containers, saliva-soaked cotton rolls stored in the freezer until I can find a UPS site nearby so I can send them off to some lab in the mountains whose results will offer me new data, a new treatment plan, new hope of returning to a life of normalcy, now 22 years in my past.

Or maybe I should just finish this book.

“After the Storm”

Prompt writing: 20 min: “after the storm” GO!

After the Storm

After the storm, the clouds make way for a little light to peek through. Then a little more. The deep elephant gray morphs into a lighter ashen gray, then a bluish tint that gives the moving sky that cotton candy look. The wind still gusts, bending palm fronds in unison. But you can see beyond the dunes on the horizon, and the sea has calmed. No breakers crashing their powerful see-what-I-can-do white foaminess as they slam down in mighty display.

No, today the magnificent, dreaded Hurricane Sandy is moving north, sparing us here in North Carolina, gathering intensity to smack a mighty blow to the more populated northeast. I feel their pain, their fear, knowing well the all-consuming efforts to gather water, food, flashlights and batteries. Sandbagging, boarding windows, doors, sometimes escaping inland, awaiting your own “after the storm.”

After the storm, the real work begins – picking up the littered pieces of wind-tossed fragments of foreign lives now resting in your yard. Wondering where your own things are – a lawn chair here, a bird feeder there, a soggy library book floating in a muddy puddle. Hopefully not expensive boats smashed, ruined, piled high together on a shore of debris.

And what of other, more personal, less tangible storms? The storms of intertwining lives? Isn’t it just the same?

Shell-shocked at first that it really got that ugly, that crazy. Replaying the angry words over and over in your mind as you wonder what to do next, where to begin the clean up. You thought you were prepared, hell, walked around with some niggling part of you always at the ready, to protect and defend your sensitive heart at a moment’s notice.

Yet sometimes we just can’t anticipate the big ones. They’re temperamental, with a mind of their own sometimes, those life-altering storms. You’re not looking for them – no weather report warning you days in advance. No extra milk and bread and toilet paper security. No, just when you think there’s no need to have the candles and a lighter handy, a storm can just come out of nowhere really.

But there it is – all black and red and spewing hatred like fire from a dragon’s mouth, and you cower, closing down once again, raising the drawbridge to keep the “enemy” out, protecting your heart, or what’s left of it, from further wounds.

Sometimes you might lash out right back, not gonna take this shit anymore, escalating the war of words and painful barbs, as “love” takes some deformed shape you don’t recognize at all and you just keep adding insult to injury, determined not to get backed into a corner. You might throw your shoe, hoping to scare the storm away, force it back, those slippery droplets of venom leaking through anyway, flooding the space between the two of you, until you are both ankle-deep and one of you decides to end the madness.

After the storm? Well, what can you do, really, but pick up the broken pieces and weep.

“Shared Thoughts”

Prompt: “shared thoughts” 10 minutes. Go!

Shared Thoughts

Sometimes I just can’t help but share my thoughts, words exploding from my mouth like hot lava before I even realize what I’ve said. Can’t exactly stuff that lava back inside the volcano. No. Thoughts are out now. And so the argument begins.

Sometimes I just can’t get the words out and thoughts stay stuck inside my head, as if held inside while centrifugal force dizzies me, and the other person looks quizzically, like “What? What?” I just shake my head, not knowing how to begin, knowing that IF I begin, there will be no end, or a bad ending, or I’ll wish it would end. Or have never happened. The thoughts inside my head too scrambled for even me to make sense of them yet, so why blurt it out. No, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” That’s what my mother taught me. And it’s pretty good advice, it turns out.

That’s why I love my journals. And I mean LOVE my journals. Free therapy. A form of prayer. Reaching up to God through tears of pain or ecstatic joy or messy confusion. A way to get those thoughts out of my doggone head, sharing them somewhere, but not where they can do any damage. Or invoke some false message I’m not even sure I mean until I sit with if for a while, let it roll around for a bit like a snowball gathering substance until it’s big enough to make part of a snowman. Until it feels complete enough to stop, plant it on the lawn, a solid base from which to proceed constructing something of tangible substance.

 I breathe. I sigh in relief. I breathe a breath of gratitude, relieved to have come to a place where a thought feels complete. True. True for me. Thank you, God.

And so from there I can begin to see how I might, one day, be sure enough to share this thought. But in a constructive, snowman-making kind of way, not blurted out, a knee-jerk response in the heat of a moment. No, there’s wisdom in biting one’s tongue sometimes, letting thoughts swirl around inside a mouth clamped shut on purpose, as if swishing before you decide to either swallow it or spit it out.

The Wait

Monday, May 7, 2012 8:40 am

I am not a morning person. I am a night owl. I stayed up late last night paying bills since I had some mental energy, playing Words With Friends on my iPhone, taking a bath with my White Angelica scented Epsom Salts and reading Anne Lamott in the tub. I joined my sweet husband in the bed about 3 am. I know. I know. I know I need more sleep, but today is a big day and I just couldn’t get to sleep.

In an hour I will leave for UNC for my first appointment ever with a neurosurgeon. A neurosurgeon. Really? Who ever thinks they might have a brain tumor? Who ever thinks they might have to go through brain surgery, radiation, chemotherapy? Isn’t that just in Grey’s Anatomy? Movies? In the lives of friends of friends on Facebook? Occasionally a real friend or family member? But not you. Or your immediate family.

There have been so many prayers from so many friends and friends of friends of friends on Facebook and friends of my real friends and family members. Whole church prayer groups, prayer chains, women’s groups, book clubs, small groups.

I think I’ll ask this neurosurgeon for a new MRI. I’ll bet that sucker is GONE! In the name of Jesus, it is no longer THERE!